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The Spring Bobber Surge
By Jason Mitchell
Fishing trends often appear to follow cycles. A trend or presentation will be hot or 'cutting edge' for a few years before something new emerges. Often with fishing, we are not reinventing the wheel but just putting new concepts or using new technology with what worked yesteryear. Spring bobbers are nothing new by any means. In fact, spring bobbers have been a part of ice fishing as long as I can remember. I am sure many of you can remember back in the day when you could hardly buy a spring bobber and had to make your own using the spring found in a pen. I can also remember when spring bobbers were fairly common and popular. I won’t say that everybody used a spring bobber back in the day but they sure were easy to find amongst the gear of many serious panfish anglers. Then the winds of change blew.
Improvements in graphite technology began to creep into the realm of ice fishing. Rod manufacturers began building high modulus graphite rods specifically for ice fishing. There was a notion if you will that many anglers believed spring bobbers weren’t necessary if you used a sensitive enough rod. Noodle rods have also always been around in some panfish circles and similarly fished like the spring bobber systems in the sense that you watched the tip of the rod. There was a stretch of say… ten years where spring bobbers basically fell off the radar in large parts of the Midwest.

The author, Jason Mitchell believes attempting to master several presentations can make ice fishing very productive and enjoyable

In the past couple of years however, anglers are rediscovering the advantages a spring bobber system can give anglers. There has been a surge of popularity with spring bobbers amongst some panfish circles. The advantages vary between different fisheries, presentations and bites. The common variable however is that an angler can often see the bight much easier than feeling the bite in some situations. Another factor to consider when using spring bobbers is the movement on the jig itself. There is a bob or swim that anglers can manipulate with the forgiveness of a spring bobber that is impossible to duplicate with a straight-line jigging rod. Bottom line, there is a time and place for spring bobbers.
There are situations where spring bobbers work better than high modulus graphite rods or noodle rods.
Having said that, there are also several other presentations that aren’t conductive to a spring bobber system. There is no right or wrong. Anglers get used to doing something a particular way and taste some success so they stick with the equipment and technique that has worked in the past. There are two parts to any presentation, manipulating lure spin and giving the lure movement to attract and trigger fish along with detecting bites. What we have to remember is that there are many different kinds of bites. There are so many different patterns happening under the ice that gives each school of fish different characteristics. Even on the same body of water on the same day, the mood can change drastically as either fishing pressure or light penetration changes throughout the day.
Basically in a nut shell, there are times when an aggressive pound using a high modulus jigging rod is the hottest game in town and in that situation on that day, a spring bobber or noodle rod could cost you fish. Another day where that same aggressive hard pounding spooks fish and the movements have to be much more fluid and subtle… and the fish just float up to the lure and feed up barely moving the spring up. This day, a spring bobber shines while people fishing in different styles around you don’t get bit or they didn’t know they were bit. Still another day, any movement sends fish fleeing and the moves on the lure are almost micro maneuvers done under a microscope. Still is the word and your leg is soar from bracing the rod while trying to maintain so still while your Fish Trap flaps from the wind… a scenario where some sort of noodle rod may shine. Now throw in different tight lining techniques, float applications, running and gunning versus staying put on top of fish that have to be coaxed and there are a lot of different directions a person can lean just with panfish.
If I can convince you of something however, don’t ever make the mistake of believing one presentation is better than another. There is no right or wrong if you are having fun and something works. What we try and encourage anglers to do is master several presentations. Chances are if you do any fishing, you are probably good at something. Once you have mastered one presentation and feel comfortable, move onto something else. Be able to fish like different people. You are going to have your own style if you spend some time on the ice. As soon as your style isn’t working, force yourself out of that comfort zone and force yourself to fish like somebody else. Be able to watch somebody else that is catching fish and learn how to mimic their actions and cadence so that you can take somebody else’s song so to speak and sing that song. Learning and becoming a more knowledgeable angler and a better angler is what keeps me fishing. They key for my own learning is staying versatile and remaining flexible on the ice. Have fun mastering different presentations. Fish with people who fish differently than yourself. Learn about different styles and presentations used on the ice and be able to move through this presentation spectrum. You will become a much better angler.

Editors Note: The author, Jason Mitchell is a legendary guide on North Dakota's Devils Lake and designer of a lineup of premium, cutting edge ice rods (www.jasonmitchellrods.com) that have become extremely popular with avid, hard core ice anglers.
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