Why Bobber the Wobbler?
We've been blessed these last few years along the Columbia River with great runs of King Salmon. This fall season brings good weather, great fishing, and mostly a party-like atmosphere among the hog-lined anglers waiting for their rods to load up with big salmon. Honestly, it's one of my favorite times of year to guide as it's fairly easy to get my anglers into lots of quality fish. The boat anglers have been fishing the same ways for years, but last year I started playing with floats and for me, I'll never fish the old school way again.
Presentation & Mechanics
The fishery in the Columbia has consisted of anglers using lures called “wobblers” with large weights that help keep the lure in the fish's travel lane. The action of the lure is a side to side wobble that for whatever reason, either irritates, or entices the fish to grab the lure while swimming by. A basic rigging for this fishing would be about a 5 foot long dropper line and a 5 foot leader (5x5) to the wobbler with anywhere between 6 and 24 ounces of lead, depending on where you fish.Now, I can go on and on for hours about the color, size, speed of wobble, single or treble hook, and scent to use but this article is going to pertain to the presentation of the lure to the salmon.
When fishing the Columbia there are very few places that are flat for long distances. There are lots of humps, holes, and ledges that move the salmon from one area to another as they push into the current finding their way upstream. Of course we want our lures in their path and that's one of the big advantages I've found for using floats while wobbler fishing. The current for the most part is less right along the bottom of the river compared to the surface. How much less depends on if that area is affected by a hump or hill upstream of it. When salmon travel over these humps the current theoretically is stronger at the top of the hill and less at the bottom or in the hole.
When a boat anchors in a hog line the common thing to do is try to present your lure behind the boat on top of a slight hump. This way when the salmon is charging over the hump your lure will be right in its face, provoking a strike. If your lure is too high above the fish he'll swim by and may not even notice. Or if it's too low, your lure could be laying on the bottom rendering it useless. I believe that salmon for the most part charge over a hump and slightly lower themselves in the current and continue up stream to skirt barely over the top of the next hump. Those spots where he's charging over the humps I think are where you get the most strikes as your lure is probably right in his face. As for the valley in-between? I think this is the gray area that bobbers help with.
The Set Up
My basic set-up for bobbering wobblers is a 3x3x3. A 3 foot dropper, attached sliding to a 3 foot line to the bobber, followed by 3 feet to the lure. (See Picture) This set-up has outperformed every other set-up on my boat in almost all conditions. I often have to fish 6 rods and I must stagger the distances from the boat to avoid tangles with hooked up fish and other angler's lines. What this means is at times, some of my rods are not on the hump. When this occurs I've noticed that some days my bow rods get 80% of the strikes and my back rods get the other 20% and vice versa. Where the hog line is positioned determines which rods will most likely be the “hot” rods that day. I've also noticed that some days in the boats close around me that only lures that are let out a certain distance are productive.
If you're running a 3x3x3 I found that almost all rods were performing close to the same for weeks during the season. Yes, last year we were having a great year. The first day we wobbler fished in Woodland for was August 3rd. 5 Chinook later and 4 coming in on the only rod with a bobber proved something to me when there wasn't many fish around. I moved the rod to multiple spots and distances back to prove my thoughts on bobbers.
The big advantage to this is when the current is stronger at the tops of the hills the bobber is driven tighter on the line and therefor sits closer to the bottom where fish are trying to push by. When you lure is in a valley with less current, your bobber has less resistance on it so it floats higher and gets your lure in front of more fish.
There is also another great advantage to the 3x3x3, with the shorter leader the fish are easier to land. With the 6 feet of line from the slider and the 3 foot dropper the weight is pulled higher than the fish being netted. With a 5x5, 6x6 or 10x10 when the rod is lifted the weight is hanging there, asking to be tangled. With experienced anglers this is no problem but with inexperienced anglers this is just one more thing that can cause and embarrassing mistake with a huge king on the line. Being in my line of work, the less chances to have something go wrong the better!
I've experimented to see if adding or deadening the action on the lure with the type of bobber has noticeable differences. I've used extremely large and small bobbers but I kept finding that a size larger than a golf ball and somewhat streamlined worked the best. This was true for all rods and all positions in the boat and along the bottom. If you have too big of a bobber you'll require more weight to stay on the bottom, too small and I don't think you'll have the floatation necessary to keep your lure high in a valley.
This is not something new to the anglers on the Columbia. Bank anglers for years have been doing this for the same reasons as described above. Consider it a bit of an insurance policy. Your lure is always off the bottom no matter the current, even when the tide is just barely starting or finishing up. If there was one thing that last year proved it was that bobbers absolutely don't hurt your chances, I’ve decided I would never fish wobblers without floats again!
However, this is not a guarantee or a answer to the salmon fishing riddle. You'll still need the right lures, scents, locations, timing and luck to put fish in your box. This is just a tool to help get your lure in front of more fish. You can have the best salmon lure in the world, but if a fish doesn't see it, you'll never have a chance.
Be safe, courteous, and most of all, have fun out there.
By: Cameron Black Gone Catchin’ Guide Service