Bobber Dogging / Float Drifting for Salmon and Steelhead

Posted by Rick Denham on 4/1/2014 to How to articles

Bobber Dogging with Rick Denham

Drift fishing has been an old time favorite for steelhead fisherman for many years. It is a simple yet effective technique, drawing the attention of many through the years. Float fishing has recently begun to expand in its popularity as well, with its easy to learn nature for beginners and experts alike. However, both of these techniques are best utilized under different situations and water conditions to maximize results. What if I told you there was a way to utilize the best of both worlds; to benefit from both technical aspects and catch more fish. It is not some new fad, gear buying, expensive technique. In fact you can use this technique with the steelhead gear you already own. I am talking about Bobber Dogging or Float drifting as some call it.

Bobber dogging has been around for a few years now, but its popularity has been rapidly growing in the recent seasons. One in part due to its effectiveness, and the other to the fine tuning of the rigging being done. Picture Bobber Dogging as drift fishing with a visual indicator. Your float will not ride vertical in the water like normal float fishing; you will see the float lying horizontal as the weight glides across the bottom. This is due to the preferred rigging of the technique. In most water situations and conditions bobber dogging will be best rigged as a sliding setup. Personally, I prefer the sliding float set up as well. The depth can be easily adjusted without having to re-tie any setups. You want to focus your setup to make occasional contact with the bottom just like in drift fishing. This can be achieved by setting the bobber stop about a foot to 2 ft deeper than the water you are fishing. So as an example, if I am fishing an 8ft deep run I will set my float to be fishing 10ft. This will give the weight a chance to make contact with the bottom.

Lets take a look at the rigging:

Just like when using a float fishing set up, you will want to run braided line for the mainline and then run a 12 or so foot section of 12-15lb mono. On the mono section, I like running a Cleardrift float, either in a 25 gram or 30 gram depending on the water flow. (A more buoyant float will help to keep the weight from hanging up as much). As mentioned this will be rigged as a slip float, so you will have one bobber stop rigged on the mono above the float. I then like to run a soft bead down to a three way swivel then to my leader rigging. The soft bead will help protect the knot on the swivel as well as the bottom of the float when fighting a fish. For weight I have found the most effective to be the stick weight. These weights, due to their slim profile and wire form, help to glide in and around the rocks as opposed to getting stuck as lead tends to do when drift fishing. I created a video on how to make them if you are interested. (

When you get down to the business end, any drift gear will work. 3-4ft leaders will keep you fishing effectively, but water conditions can dictate need for change for leader length. Yarnies, bait, beads, or even pink worms will all work with the bobber dogging set up. This is one of the many upsides to the versatility of the technique. XFactor Tackle makes some great products that work very well with this technique and setup type. I have found that the medium and mini egg clusters are a great size to run with a #2 or 1 hook. I also noticed that while the clusters work great by themselves, adding a small corky, single xfactor egg, or puff ball can help add a little flotation to the bait. The single salmon eggs rigged either as singles or doubles give a profile change that can be the ticket in the right conditions. In the picture below these have been some effective low water colors for me in the last few seasons. One thing to point out, don't count out the Steelie Slayer! This can be a very effective bait when a profile change in size or color is needed. You can fish this bait on the same setup without having to change a thing. The shrimp tail teaser is an effective bait for fishing this technique as well. Jeff, here at Xfactor, has a line of baits that are so versatile and effective. I know I always have a few rigged and ready to go.


At the end of the day, having bobber dogging in your fishing arsenal can help you not only catch more fish but cover more water effectively that might be passed up by the traditional techniques. This means possibly turning a zero fish day into a redemption day. As you spend more time using this technique you will have a great feel for covering different water depths and ranges while using the same rigging. That will equate to less time out of the water rigging up and more time catching fish.

Good luck out on the water! God Bless and Fish on!

Pro Staffer

Rick Denham

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Aaron holt
Date: 11/25/2014
When using the stick weights about how much do you want?
Date: 11/25/2014
Hey Aaron, Thanks for the question. The goal is to have the weight (stick weight or otherwise) match the weight of the float you are using. Just keep in mind that with this technique you need to use enough weight to tap bottom every so often so that you know your in the zone. As always fishing conditions will dictate how much weight you need. A small postal scale is very helpful in making up accurate weights, once you get the hang of it you'll be able to know right away how much lead you need for each situation your in. I hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just ask.
joe k is ok
Date: 10/1/2015
nice write up rick the dog is very effective
Sean Martin
Date: 2/11/2018
Is the yarn in the egg loop or pulled thru those beads?

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