Over the years I have spent many hours on the rock ledges of Australia’s east and west coasts chasing many species of fish, using many techniques to try for anything from blackfish and drummer to yellowfin tuna and many other critters. Among the most effective methods to present a bait to any fish so it can see it and eat it is by bobby cork.
My fishing apprenticeship started at that notorious ocean sewage outfall, the infamous Bondi Murk. While it was a very unhygienic place to fish, it was also a remarkably productive place to wet a line. It was at The Murk where I first saw a bobby float used to catch blackfish instead of a stick float or pencil float.
I had tried many times to use a stem float but seemed to manage to get my trace tangled up around the float more often than not. So when I first saw these little pear-shaped or spherical floats I decided I had nothing to lose but another float!
The guys at The Murk used to fish with a fixed bobby. They would set the depth of the bait by pushing a match or toothpick into the centre hole, jamming the line against the inside of the float. This worked quite well if you didn’t jam in the match too tightly, stopping you from winding the fish or bait up to where you needed it. The line had to be able to pass through the line without much pressure.
Fishing this turbulent piece of water took some skill, acquired only by consistently casting into the evil whirlpools where the fish congregated.
To fish the whirlpools or boils we would use 6kg nylon mono line straight through to the hook with the small bobby cork set at 4m to 5m, depending on the tide. We had to fish that heavy because of the size of the fish we could encounter.
But with the line wedged into the cork with a match and set at that depth the whole thing was difficult to cast. The best way to get the bait out was to peel off some line, throw out the bait by hand and then flick out the bobby cork before the bait hit the water. It took a lot of practice.
Once the cork hit the water we could steer it into the strike zone by using the flow from the eddy to drag the excess line to one side until it was in the spot. It was cumbersome but it worked.
But that was a long time ago. Now I live on the Shoalhaven River and focus on a variety of species besides blackfish, but I still like using a bobby cork rig. Some people have been surprised when they have seen me bobby-corking for bream and flatties along the drop-offs and around the oyster leases on the river but the system still works.
Suspending a whitebait on a set of small ganged hooks under a small drifting bobby cork has proven a very rewarding method. I also use prawns, cut WA pilchards, worms or nippers to catch a whole heap of species. You can even suspend a fly, a soft plastic or a squid jig instead of a bait.
A rough bottom doesn't matter when you use a bobby cork, either – just ensure the bait is set shallow enough so it doesn’t foul up and you’ll be catching fish in places where other methods won’t work.
These days, no matter what I’m targeting, I first slide a little rubber stopper onto my main line. These little beauties come on a ring of about 10 and cost about $2. You feed the line through the loop that the rubbers are fed onto in the factory and then slide the rubber back up your main line. You then slide your bobby cork up the line, accompanied by a suitable sinker to give the float enough buoyancy. I then use a swivel and a small trace below the sinker and allow the bait to hang naturally in the flow.
The beauty of the rubber stopper rig is that you can vary your depth to suit the bottom depth by just sliding it up or down. The stopper passes freely through most sizes of rod guides to give you a deadly running float rig.
Fishing this way allows the bait to last a lot longer without being dragged all over the bottom before eventually coming off or getting slagged.
Because there are so many scenarios where a bobby cork can be used, it pays to have a selection of sizes to suit all conditions. This can get a bit expensive so I decided to make my own. It’s a simple thing to do and you’ll end up with a bobby for every occasion as well as having a lot of fun making them.
Here’s a quick way of producing a top bobby cork (kids: check with a responsible adult before undertaking any of this).
• A length of 25mm square balsa wood
• Five-minute Araldite or any quick-setting epoxy glue
• Coarse and fine emery paper
• Plastic tubing for centre line guide – electrical wire insulation will do
• 1/8” drill bit
• Electric drill
• Safety glasses
• White undercoat or sealer
• Fluoro paint
• Two-part epoxy to stop the paint wearing off
• Something to hold the balsa so it can be attached to the drill and rotated. You could try a large galvanised nail but I found the tang off a 3/8” round file about 100mm long to be best. If using a nail, the galvanising will help to stop the wood spinning on the bail.
1. Cut balsa to the desired length.
2. Drill a 1/8” hole through the centre.
3. Insert the nail or file tang into the balsa hole and push it on firmly. The corners of the file tang will grip the wood better than the nail.
4. Carefully put the electric drill in a vice until it is firm. Don’t overtighten or you could damage the drill or electrocute yourself.
5. Put the nail or tang into the drill chuck and tighten.
6. Start the drill and begin shaping the bobby cork by sanding the block gently with coarse emery paper, then use fine paper to finish it off.
7. Cut the plastic tube so that when it is inserted into the bobby cork it protrudes about 10mm either end of the float. Coat the tube with fast-setting epoxy and carefully inset it into the centre hole, wiping off any excess and being careful not to get any clogging the tube.
8. Fill any oversize hole in the balsa with epoxy.
9. When the glue is dry, give the float a coat of white sealer or undercoat and allow to dry. This paint will allow the fluoro paint you apply next to really shine through. I like fluoro orange or green for my floats but that’s up to you.
And that’s it. Told you it was simple!
1) Keen luderick fisher Roger Marley knows the value of bobby corks.
2) Geared up for DIY, with 5-minute Araldite, paint, balsa wood and blue tubing.
3a, 3b, 3c) Shaping the float.
4) Drying after painting and epoxy.
5. A drummer caught using a home-made bobby.Reads: 7223