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Updated on December 20, 2011


In this article I will teach you the basics of how to fish a jig under a float (or a bobber as I like to call it) for steelhead. This technique is easy to learn, can be extremely effective and can be used in almost any body of water anywhere that steelhead are found.


As I mentioned above this technique is easy to learn, very effective and can be used almost anywhere, but there are more benefits than these. One of the biggest reasons I personally like to fish a bobber and jig is because of the fact that you don't lose a lot of tackle due to the fact that you gear very rarely comes in contact with the river bottom. Another reason that this style of fishing is great is that you have the ability to fish many different types of water, although there are some types of water that are better suited to this technique you can fish from fast flows down to the slowest flows, it is hard to do this with some other techniques. There is also the anticipation that builds as you watch the bobber float down the river into the spot that you are expecting the fish to be holding, and when the bobber goes down the excitement really begins as the silver bullet called steelhead streaks down the river and engages you in a battle you will never forget!


The set up is fairly straight forward the first thing to go on your mainline is a bobber stop which you can adjust to set the depth you want to fish, next will come a bead which prevents the bobber from sliding over the bobber stop, most slip floats come with a stop and beads, if your float does not come with them they can be bought separately, next slide your slip float onto the mainline, the size of the float will depend on how much weight you will have below the float a 3/8oz float fits most of the situations I fish, follow the bobber by another bead, this second bead will prevent the tube that goes through the bobber from splitting when it hits the swivel on your weight, next tie the inline weight onto your mainline, the amount of weight will depend on a variety of factors but I have found that a 1/4oz fits most situations. Now tie your leader to the other end of the in line weight, leader length will depend on water depth and 8-12 pound test is sufficient in most cases, next tie the jig of your choice onto the end of the leader, in most situations I use an 1/8oz jig which puts the total weight at 3/8oz and is the reason for the 3/8oz bobber.


The first thing you want to do when you arrive at your chosen spot on the river is to try to guess the water depth and set you bobber stop to that depth, I always try to start a little shallow to prevent snags, after the first drift you will be able to tell if your jig is dragging the bottom by watching your bobber, if the jig is hitting the bottom your bobber will tilt with the top pointing downstream, if this happens adjust your bobber stop down six inches until you are not hitting the bottom anymore. If you are not hitting the bottom on the first drift adjust your bobber stop up until the jig just starts to hit the bottom in a few places then slide the stop back down six inches and you will be at the right depth, after some practice this will only take a couple of drifts to get it right. Next you want to get a drag free drift which means that the bobber is drifting with the natural flow of the currents, in order to do this keep as much of your mainline off of the water as possible, (a long rod and a braided line that floats makes this much easier), keep as much slack reeled up as possible and if a belly forms in your line downstream of your bobber you will need to mend your line by lifting the rod tip and pulling the belly out until the line is straight again, this prevents the line from pulling the bobber across the current and also keeps you in direct contact with the bobber which will allow a better hook set when a fish takes your jig. You can also extend your drift downstream by releasing more line off of the reel to reach pockets of water that are not easily accessible. Now begin casting to all the spots that could potentially hold a steelhead, don't spend too much time fishing the same water, unless you know that there is a lot of fish moving through, make just enough drifts so that you feel confident that you have covered all the likely holding spots and the move to the next hole, doing this allows you to cover more water and increases your chances for success. Now for the moment you have been waiting for... when the bobber disappears below the surface of the water give a good firm hook set and its fish on!


Another great tactic is to suspend bait below a bobber, the technique is the same but instead of using a jig use bait such as salmon roe, sand shrimp, coon stripe shrimp, prawns, nightcrawlers, or crawdad tails. This is a great alternative to drift fishing bait as your bait will stay on the hook longer because it is not bouncing off of the river bottom as often and it is very easy to see when you get a hit unlike drift fishing where it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between a rock and a fish.


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There are many different styles of jigs on the market today from many different company's that are made from many different types of materials.

Shown here are just a few examples.


Here are some excellent jigs to get you started!


There are many different styles of floats or "bobbers" on the market today from many different company's that are made from different types of materials.

Shown here are just a few examples.


Here Are Some Great Floats To Get You Started


This article was written to give you the basics of how to set up and fish a bobber and jig and should give you enough information to get on the water and catch some fish, but there is so much more to learn if you want to catch a lot of steelhead consistently, such as learning how to read the water, what types of water are going to be the most productive, what color jigs to use in what situations, and so much more. Now it is time to get out on your local river and put these techniques to good use, remember to have fun, enjoy the outdoors and share your knowledge and love of the outdoors with your kids, grandkids, wife, or anyone else who has an interest. Good Luck! and Happy Steelheading!

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      mrlindeman 6 years ago

      This is a great article!!!!! Float fishing is one of my favorite methods. Jigs tipped with shrimp is a killer for summer steelhead. The North Santiam here in Oregon is a top fishing river.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Makes me want to be out there fishing for Steelhead. Nicely done.

    • reaphavok profile image

      Joey McClurg 6 years ago from Illinois

      be sleepin with da fishes! Good lens -=)