If you think using a float to catch walleyes is something that only youngsters and inexperienced anglers would do, trust me, you're missing out on some of the finest fishing opportunities Northern Ontario has to offer.
On the other hand, if you are fishing with kids or introducing new anglers to the sport this National Fishing Week, when Ontario residents can fish licence free from July 4th until July 12th, using slip floats or sliding bobbers is the quickest way I know to catch everything you need for a wonderful walleye shorelunch.
But, what is a slip float you ask?
It is nothing more than a colourful bobber that has a hollow plastic insert running through the centre of it, so it slides all the way down to your hook when you go to cast it out. As the lure settles toward the bottom, on the other hand, your line slips through the centre until it hits the appropriately named "bobber stop" that you've snugged onto your line.
So, if you're fishing in 24-feet of water, for example, you might place the bottom stop -- either a tiny rubber plug or a bead ahead of a piece of knotted line -- so that it halts the bobber and suspends your lure about a foot or so up and off the bottom. It is simplicity personified but with your bobber set correctly, you can fish from shore or off the end of a dock, place your lure in front of the fish's faces and fish all day without ever get snagged or caught on the bottom. So you don't need a fancy boat to get in on the great walleye action.
How cool is that?
On the other hand, however, if you do have a boat load of youngsters, you can anchor upwind of your chosen spot so you're free to attend to everyone's needs. And when the kids tire from reeling in all the walleyes, or want to enjoy a drink or snack, you can stuff their rod into a holder and everyone is still fishing as effectively as a big league pro.
As a matter of fact, those top gun walleye sticks learned long ago that when they find the fish frequenting clear water or bunched up big time on the windy side of shallow, treacherous main lake structure, they can either anchor upwind in deeper water, or hold the boat in place using the "spot lock" function on their trolling motor, and present their offering to the fish without alerting them to their presence, or risking damage to the boat.
So slip bobber fishing for walleyes may be the stealthiest method you could ever use.
Plus, when you fish with slip bobbers for walleyes, even when they're cruising over boulder rock bottoms, you spend virtually all of your time fishing as opposed to retying broken lines and replacing lost jigs.
As you might suspect, slip bobber fishing is ideally suited to spinning tackle, especially a 6-foot 10-inch to 7-foot 6-inch medium or medium light rod, with a reel spooled with 6- to 10-pound test line.
Here is how easy it is to put it all together.
Start by putting an adjustable bobber stop on your line, and then add the float followed by a small red bead. Next, tie a small barrel swivel to the end. Now, attach a two-foot leader comprised of 6- to 10-pound test Maxima Ultragreen monofilament or Maxima Fluorocarbon line. I tend to finish off the rig most days by tying a jig to the end of my leader but when the walleyes are extremely fussy, I'll use one of the colourful and sticky sharp Gamakatsu Walleye hooks with a split shot snugged onto the leader above it.
Because the bobber adds considerable weight, and slides down your line to the swivel, it is a cinch to cast. Using a longer rod increases the distance even more.
Once you've pitched out your rig, you'll notice that your float will typically lie on its side as your jig settles to the bottom and the line runs through the centre of it.
If you've set your bobber stop correctly, however -- I always fine tune its position on my line by dropping it alongside the boat -- the float will suddenly stand up to attention when it hits the bobber stop.
From that point on, you can let your lively lip- or dorsal fin hooked minnow, crawler or leech wiggle enticingly near the bottom, drift with the wind and waves, or if it is calm, reel it back to the boat or shore ever so slowly.
One last detail: when you spot your float suddenly start to bounce up and down and then pulled under the surface by a walleye, don't be in a rush to set the hook. Instead, reel in your line until you can actually feel the fish and then set the hook by sweeping the rod smartly sideways.
It is really that simple, that effective and that deadly.
So, whether you're fishing for walleyes from shore or from a boat this National Fishing Week, hosting family or friends, experts or novices, add slip bobbers to your Northern Ontario walleye agenda. I guarantee, you'll never leave home without them again.