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What is a spring bobber?
The best ice fishing spring bobber is a simply little device that acts as an extender to your rod. The line passes clean through the spring bobber and then the spring bobber functions as an extension of the tip of your rod. This gives your rod some much-needed extra sensitivity that in turn allows you to be better aware of lighter bites that could otherwise go unnoticed.
How they came about
New to ice fishing? Check out Ice Fishing 101: How to Ice Fish
Spring bobbers were originally fashioned out of the spring coils that you find in ballpoint pens. Some bright fishermen simply got the idea to take one of these and attach it to the end of their rod when fishing for panfish so they could better see the bites. Panfish bites can be notoriously light. Many spring bobbers nowadays still harken back to this same coiled design. Other crude spring bobber materials that have been used are boar hairs.
Visual cue for small fish bites
Spring bobbers provide fishermen with a visual cue that alerts them to biting fish. It is all about visibility when it comes to spring bobbers. Many fish bites are barely noticeable and may go totally unnoticed by fishermen. Spring bobbers prevent you from missing these bites. This can vastly increase the number of fish you catch on a given trip.
What makes spring bobbers ideal for ice fishing?
Fish may have weaker bites in the winter
Spring bobbers will alert you to small and slow fish bites from panfish and other small fish that otherwise might not be easily noticed otherwise. This is doubly important during the ice fishing season when fish bites can be a lot weaker and a lot less noticeable. Spring bobbers are so popular for ice fishing that many ice fishing rods will even come with their own built-in spring bobbers.
Other important functions
Spring bobbers also allow for a little give in the line when a fish bites so that the line doesn’t break and the hook doesn’t tear the lip of the fish. Another important thing spring bobbers do is smooth out the motion of the jig so the lure or bait moves more naturally in the water. This is called “swimming the bait”, and it mimics the motion of the many small aquatic prey that make up the natural food sources of many fish. Spring bobbers will absorb all of your jerks and any flickering motions of the wrist and also dampen any twitching that might accidentally be occurring.
What makes a good ice fishing spring bobber?
Good fit for your rod
A good ice fishing spring bobber needs to fit nice and secure on the tip of your rod. Some spring bobbers claim to fit on any size rods while other spring bobbers are made specifically to only work with certain size rods. The spring bobber needs to fit snugly so as to ensure the utmost accuracy of the bite detection. You will not get much use out of your spring bobber if it is flailing around on the edge of your rod before you even drop your line.
Good fit for your lures
It is also important that a good ice fishing spring bobber is just the right size for whatever lure you are planning on using. This means that you may need a larger sized spring bobber if you are going after a larger sized fish. Spring bobbers come in all different sizes, and some even come in packs of multiples that include different sizes. Many spring bobbers are also adjustable. They can be adjustable by either a small margin or a wide margin. You may want to go with a spring bobber that is adjustable by a wide margin if you are planning on using many different sizes of lures.
How to use a spring bobber:
How to attach a spring bobber
Many different methods
Spring bobbers may have many different mechanisms included with which to attach them onto the end of your rod. They can snap on, slide on, or even be secured onto the rod with shrinkwrap tubing. The shrinkwrap tubing will simply fit over the spring bobber and the rod together. You will then heat the shrinkwrap tubing to shrink it down so it securely holds the spring bobber to the rod.
Superglue, tape, and thread
You can substitute shrinkwrap tubing with superglue or strong tape such as electrical tape. Fine thread such as the kind you would use for fly tying can be wrapped around the point where the tip of the rod and the spring bobber meet to guarantee a strong hold. You may also wish to supplement spring bobbers that proport to simply snap or slide on to your rod with any of the above methods for a stronger hold.
Keep it snug
If the spring bobber doesn’t attach well to your rod with whatever method is specifically instructed, you can just get some tape or glue and do the job the old-fashioned way. The most important thing is to make sure the spring bobber is nice and snug. The sensitivity of the spring bobber will become totally irrelevant if it wobbles around at the tip of your rod.
How to catch fish with a spring bobber
Watch for bites
Simply drop your line once the spring bobber has been properly and securely mounted onto the tip of your rod and begin to carefully watch it. You aren’t just waiting for the bobber to be pulled down. Larger fish may pull the bobber down once they go for the bait, but smaller fish will actually slightly push the bobber up when they go to place the bait in their mouths. These are called negative or neutral bites.
Negative and neutral bites
Negative and neutral bites are one of the most important reasons for spring bobbers. Anyone can tell when a large bass has taken their bait, but negative and neutral bites are often pretty much imperceptible. Smaller and weaker fish can simply sneak in, nibble on your bait, then take off without you ever knowing.
The best ice fishing spring bobbers we tried
#1 Best Spring Bobber: HT Enterprises Slab Stopper
Affordable and functional
The HT Enterprises Slab Stopper goes for $4.98 on Amazon and includes two per pack. They are very small and ultra-light. This provides all the sensitivity you will need to detect even the slightest negative or neutral bite. The HT Enterprises Slab Stopper features a soft-screw mounting system that can fit all rod tips and stays nice and secure. This is a coil spring bobber, so you will have to be careful not to get your line caught up in it. Coil spring bobbers can also bounce around a lot if you aren’t careful. They are some of the most sensitive spring bobbers, however, which makes them a very attractive type of spring bobber for many fishermen.
Great sensitive ice fishing spring bobber
Our experience with the HT Enterprises Slab Stopper was wonderful. This spring bobber works great and does everything you could need it to do. Negative and neutral bites were noticed with ease. We were able to catch plenty of fish that we would not have been aware of without this great spring bobber.
Fit perfectly onto every rod we tried
The HT Enterprises Slab Stopper fit right onto the tip of our various rods without any problems. We were sure to bring a couple of rods of different sizes just to test out the supposed versatility, and we had no problems fitting this spring bobber on any of them. This is definitely an incredible value and no amount of functionality is sacrificed to keep that attractive price point. This would be a wonderful and very affordable ice fishing spring bobber.
#2 Best Ice Fishing Spring Bobber: Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber
Pricier but noticeably sturdier
The Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber goes for $12.61 on Amazon. This makes it the most expensive option we looked at for this article, and it only comes with one. The reason this one costs a bit more, however, as it is definitely the most structurally sound of the bunch. This is a great lightweight spring bobber with a sturdy titanium wire design and an easy-to-see bead that gives the perfect visual cue to accompany those negative and neutral fish bites. It fits on all rods, just like the HT Enterprises Slap Stopper.
Adjustable for jigs of different weights
One thing that makes the Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber worth the money is that it is adjustable so it can be used with jigs of different weights. This prevents you from having to buy multiple spring bobbers of different sizes.
Not a perfect fit but definitely a good experience
We liked the Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber quite a bit. At least we did once we are able to get it secure. It didn’t fit good on the first rod we tried it on so we ended up having to use a bit of tape. Not too big of a deal, but not what you expect given the higher price point. This also made it a little tricky to try out on different rods. We luckily had purchased a couple, so we were able to open up another one to try on a slightly larger rod. We still had a similar problem and ended up taping that one as well.
Very sensitive yet sturdy
The Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber performed very well once we got to work and put it into action. It was just as sensitive as the HT Enterprises Slab Stopper if not a little more so. It was certainly a lot sturdier and we could see getting a good amount of use out of it. The easy-to-see bead was the perfect visual cue to notify us of the negative and neutral bites of the crappies. This one was overall almost worth the higher price point.
#3 Best Spring Bobber for Ice Fishing: Eagle Claw Slab Stopper
Multiple sizes for one small price
The Eagle Claw Slab Stopper goes for $3.76 on Amazon. It is a coil spring bobber, like the HT Enterprises Slab Stopper. One pack includes three differently sized spring bobbers, being small, medium, and large. This sounds great in concept, but let’s see how it worked out.
Functional for the price
Our experience with the Eagle Claw Slap Stopper was pretty good. It certainly costs less than the HT Enterprises Slab Stopper and you even get one more, but it just doesn’t work quite as good. This spring bobber is a little stiff and didn’t seem nearly as sensitive as either previous option we’d looked at. Even the smallest size had trouble fitting on any of our rods, so we once again had to go the tape route and do the job ourselves.
Not the most sensitive
It definitely seemed like some bites might have been going unnoticed, because we were having to wait a bit longer with this one than we had to with the previous ones. We were still able to catch plenty of fish, but it was hard to shake the feeling we could’ve gotten more. That’s not to say it didn’t work, though, as there were still a decent amount of small negative and neutral bites it was able to pick up on. Overall an okay value for only $3.76.
#4 Best Spring Bobber for Ice Fishing: HT SFMB-2 Slab Stopper
Cheap price and cheap build
The HT SFMB-2 Slab Stopper goes for a mere $2.00 on Amazon and includes two. It is an incredibly basic dollar store variant of the spring bobber that still provides some decent functionality out on the ice.
Good on a budget
Our experience with the HT SFMB02 Slab Stopper was at least worth the $2.00 it cost to purchase. It certainly worked alright and we were getting a decent amount of fish, but it definitely felt a little cheap when compared to the rest. This would be a good budget option for someone who is willing to sacrifice a little bit of functionality and sturdiness. It didn’t fit too snugly on our rods, but at this point, we were used to pulling the tape out.
The best ice fishing spring bobber
HT Enterprises Slab Stopper was the best
Our favorite ice fishing spring bobber was undoubtedly the HT Enterprises Slab Stopper. You will need to be okay with using a coil spring bobber, however. It wasn’t as fancy as the Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber and didn’t feel quite as sturdy, but it fit more snugly on our rods. This would definitely seem like the best value for the money as far as ice fishing spring bobbers are concerned. Highly recommended.
The best of the rest
The second best ice fishing bobber would have to be the Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber. This would be the best choice for someone who doesn’t want a coil spring bobber. Despite the higher price point and the fact that we had to use a little bit of tape to keep it secure, it functioned very well and was the sturdiest and most durable feeling spring bobber we tried.
The Eagle Claw Slab Stopper was another coil spring bobber that was a good value, but the functionality left us wanting. Nothing felt quite right about this one and even the smallest size didn’t fit perfectly on any of our rods. The HT SFMB-2 Slab Stopper would be a good budget option, but unless saving money is your main concern you’d be better off going with any of the above. It certainly did its job, and for $2 that’s really saying something, but we couldn’t see this lasting more than one fishing trip.