There’s something magical about a fishing with a bobber.
When I see one twitch, jiggle and go under, I immediately turn 5 years old.
I’m on the weedy bank of Uncle Leonard’s farm pond, barefoot and overalled, with a cane pole and a JFG Coffee can of worms, mesmerized as I watch my little bobber tugged under by a 3-inch bluegill. Talk about exciting.
Decades later, I’ve never gotten over it.
I’ve fished all around the world, caught 30-pound pike in Canada, wahoo in Hawaii, snook in the Everglades and brook trout in Wisconsin – and I’m still drawn back to bobbers.
Dunking minnows for April crappie or casting crickets over a bluegill bed in May is pure bobber heaven.
Fishing buddy Bob Sherborne scratches the same itch. Give Bob a bobbing bobber, and he’s happy.
When I was a child, bobbers were called corks for an obvious reason – they were made of cork. They were brown and unpainted and became water-logged after a while.
Some old-timers used porcupine quills for floats, because they were so sensitive – the quills, not the old-timers.
I never thought to ask where they got porcupine quills up in the Cumberland Mountains.
About the time I was old enough to slip off to the fishing hole by myself, plastic floats hit the market. They were red and white, easy to see even with a chop on the water.
They were fragile, and a slight crack would ruin one. But with care, a plastic bobber would last all summer. If our line got snagged, we didn’t break it off. We couldn’t afford to lose our bobber. Store-bought bobbers cost a nickel, and nickels were hard to come by. We’d wade out and retrieve our snagged hook and bobber.
It’s hard to explain what makes bobber fishing so enchanting. I can usually catch more fish – especially crappie – on plastic jigs than with bait under a bobber, and without the hassle of buying minnows and trying to keep them fresh and frisky.
But there’s more to fishing than catching a lot of fish.
Part of the lure of bobbers is the thrill of the unknown. You never know what’s taking the bait when your bobber goes under. I once set the hook on what I supposed was another 12-inch crappie like ones we’d been catching, and a 10-pound striper almost took my fishing rod away.
It’s fun to catch catfish beneath bobbers. Cats don’t peck and nibble – they immediately yank the float under. When an aggressive catfish takes the bait, you don’t know if it’s a six-incher or a six-pounder.
I suppose the greatest appeal of bobber fishing is nostalgia. It takes you back to a simpler, more carefree time – when all you had to worry about was 2nd-grade arithmetic, catching the eye of a freckled little Jezebel with pigtails, and hooking whatever was messing with the worm at end of your line.
That’s why I bother with bobbers.
Longtime outdoors columnist Larry Woody is a three-time winner of the Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year award and is the author of several books, including “Along for The Ride.” Woody covered NASCAR from the early 1960s until late 2007 in addition to SEC sports, minor league baseball, the Tennessee Titans and the Vanderbilt Commodores.