Bobbing brings back the fun
  |  First Published: December 2015

Bobbing sure is a different method to catch cod! That said, it’s a popular method of fishing from the many riverbanks in western Queensland, where water is too discoloured or tightly entangled with snags and bank-side structure for lure casting. While bobbing is a form of baitfishing, it’s very different to leaving a set rod and relaxing with the latest copy of Fishing Monthly while waiting for a bite!

The fish in our western rivers can be so shut down at times, that you can begin to seriously doubt that they are actually present. Bobbing can shorten the waiting time by stirring the fish into action. Bobbing involves attracting fish to a moving bait and is very useful where there’s no room for a cast and retrieve style of fishing. This technique is very effective on golden perch, cod, silver perch and of course, carp. Bobbing can produce results at surprising times of the day, just when you thought the fish were shut down. Cod, in particular, are associated with a dawn or dusk (or after dark) bite; however, they can be bobbed at any time.

Gnarly terrain

A look at one of my photos will show the sort of terrain where bobbing is most successful, and trust me – there sure are lots of these places along the Macintyre River near Goondiwindi. Start with an area where there is a safe bit of bank to stand on with at least a metre and a half of water or more, right against the bank. Our native fish like to reside in some depth. Current flow is not necessary as there is usually none anyway. There also needs to be plenty of cover nearby in the form of fallen trees, logs, roots and the like. The more cover the better, so if lure casting is impossible, you’ve found the perfect spot! Shade is also very important to both the angler and the fish. The angler wants comfort, the fish requires some cover to lay up in so combine tight territory with good shade.

Basic tackle does the job

Bobbing requires a long but strong rod, a big fat bobby float with 10kg line running through it, a pea sized sinker and a split shot on the trace between float and a 3/0 or 4/0 hook. A light weight sort of rod around 3m long is fine, but remember, the chosen rod needs to have some strength about it. Beach-style rods are good here; aim for a rod stronger than a whiting rod, but certainly not as strong or heavy as a tailor targeting surf-casting rod. The 3m length of the rod, incidentally, allows the angler to keep the float moving at some distance from the bank, as well as having enough substance to effectively play a fish from the rod without letting it run.

What sort of float? One of those big polystyrene jobs that could be used for bobby corking around the rocks is your best bet, but one can make do. I’ve seen wine bottle corks used with good results! The plan is always for the angler to repeatedly bob the float to make a considerable surface commotion, this attracts a fish to the moving bait. The more commotion the better, these curious fish won’t scare easily.

Where’s the reel?

A bobbing rod is not usually set up with a reel. The reason for this is that the float is fixed in place on the line by a split shot each side of it (to hold it in place) with the trace down to the hook usually over a metre or more in length. The float must be kept from moving up or down the line, more so than in any other style of fishing, so as to make decent repetitive plops at it hits the water and also to keep the bait jigging up and down in the one spot to entice the fish to have a go. This style of set-up also comes down to tradition – bobbing rods always have the line fixed to the rod, without a reel in use.

The area you are bobbing will be very tight country, so letting a fish run from a reel is going to see it snagged smartly and with the angler up on the bank this is game over – fish gone. Bobbing plays the fish to a standstill on pretty strong line with the angler hanging onto the rod (big smiles all round) until the fish gives up the struggle then it can be lifted straight up out of the water. Ever taken a cod like this? No, then you are in for a treat as it’s a lot of fun!

Landing nets are not required as 10kg cod are not usually taken by bobbing as they are bit too wise, but plenty of smaller ones and golden perch will queue up for a look at a bait bouncing tantalizingly up and down under a bobbing float.


To bob for native fish continuously the angler needs to ‘bob’ by lifting and quickly dropping the rod’s tip. Hold the rod at a right angle to the body straight out at arm’s length with the hand somewhere back of the winch and fit for comfort. The idea is to get the float splashing the surface nicely so it’s plop, plop, plop, in quick succession for a short time in each chosen spot. As you might imagine, a reel, even a very small threadline job, is going to be heavy enough to upset the rod’s balance, and may even get in the way. So how is the line fixed? Simple, it’s tied onto the rod around the area where the reel would sit. Lots of turns of line, lots of knots and the line will stay put! You know the saying – if you can’t tie knots, tie lots!

Bobbing is a different, very laid back style of fishing that really comes into is own in a lot of our west of the range rivers. I’ve done it everywhere from Yelarbon to Yaraka and bobbing always seems to work.

The idea is to select a likely spot, try to work out the depth and adjust the float up or down via the crimped on split shots and with a bunch or worms, or a shrimp or crayfish for bait. Simply bob in that spot for 10-15 minutes and see what happens. If there are no takers select another spot and repeat the process. The idea is to stir up dormant fish and it’s good to move the tackle along a little here and there while continuously bobbing. The bite will be sudden, swift and sure. One second the float is moving, next thing it’s under.

Bear in mind that a big fat yellowbelly or legal sized cod is going to put up a great fight when it’s tethered to the rod in this manner but that’s part of the excitement of bobbing for natives. A hand to hand fishing style that has nothing to do with finesse but a lot to do with fun. When fishing a western river it’s great to cast lures around the more open areas at prime times of dawn and dusk but as the day brightens it’s easy to head for a good bit of bank with ample snags and do a spot of bobbing just for the fun of it. Remember to take some heavier line along just in case a few of those big old speckled bruisers are on the job.

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