Bobber rig that does nothing catches fish

Jigging presentations and the various lures used with these presentations attract the most attention when discussing catching fish through the ice.

This attention is certainly deserved because jigging methods and jigging lures catch a lot of fish through the ice. Over the past two years, however, the importance of minnows presented in a “do nothing” manner under bobbers has been apparent to this angler and my fishing partners.

The last two winters I have spent many hours fishing for winter crappie. Small jigger spoons and tungsten jigs with various baits have certainly been productive. However, over the seasons, crappie minnows caught on small single hooks have performed better than jigs and spoons on most trips.

As winter progresses, the remaining crappie have not only seen a variety of jigged lures, but are also the ones that are a little more wary and often require more subtle and natural appearances to trigger a bite. These are the fish that can, at least sometimes, be tempted to eat a minnow presented on a hook.

Also, last winter on a trip to Red Lake where walleyes were the target, spoon and slide bait produced plenty of fish. However, some fish, including several mid-day, were caught on minnows caught under floats.

These midday walleyes, like mid-winter crappie, weren’t as aggressive and so the jigs were less attractive. Still, the minnows thrashing in their faces was a little too tempting for some, even when the walleyes weren’t actively feeding.
While bobbers fishing for crappie and walleye are often thought of as “do nothing” rigs, there are a few things that make these simple presentations more appealing to fish and even more effective.

First, small jigs and single hooks with split shot weights added above work to showcase minnows under bobbers. For me, I often favor a single crochet because I think it’s the ultimate in subtle, natural presentation.

Also, when baiting minnows on these hooks, I prefer to lightly impale the hook under the skin and behind the bait’s dorsal fin. A slightly hooked minnow will stay lively and swim better, which is often more attractive to fish.

Even when a minnow is swimming well, I still like to change it regularly because a tired minnow may not be as attractive to the fish as a fresh, more lively tender.

Finally, using the right bobber is important. I prefer to use Ice Buster Bobbers.

These feature a slip-float design that works great for accurately presenting bait at a chosen depth and they also make it easier for fish to land. Plus, Ice Busters can be trimmed so they barely float and are super sensitive.

A barely buoyant float is a better fish catcher because it glides easily underwater, making it less likely to scare off a wary fish than its larger, more buoyant counterpart.

Don’t forget to add a “do nothing” bobber line to your arsenal using some of the suggestions just offered. Some days this addition will add a fish or two to your catch, while others it could mean the difference between a few fish and no fish.

As always, good luck on the ice and don’t forget to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure.

Mike Frisch hosts the popular television series Fishing the Midwest. Visit for more “sleazy” stuff.

mike frisch

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