bobbers

Fishing bobbers bring back memories. 

There’s something magical about a fishing with a bobber.

When I see one twitch, jiggle and go under, I immediately turn five.

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 got 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 kid, 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.