Frisch: The do-nothing bobber rig catches fish

The last couple winter fishing seasons, the importance of minnows presented in a “do nothing” fashion under bobbers has been obvious to Mike Frisch in catching more crappies and walleyes.

Mike Frisch Winter Crappies.jpeg
Mike Frisch with a couple winter crappies. Crappies are among the fish susceptible to “do nothing” bobber rigs. Contributed photo
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Jigging presentations and the various lures used with those presentations get most of the attention when catching fish through the ice is discussed.

That attention is certainly deserved as jigging methods and jigging lures catch lots of fish through the ice. The last couple years, however, the importance of minnows presented in a “do nothing” fashion under bobbers has been obvious to this angler and my fishing partners.

The past two winters I have spent lots of hours fishing for winter crappies. Small jigging spoons and tungsten jigs tipped with various baits have certainly been productive. However, as the seasons have progressed, crappie minnows fished on small, plain hooks have produced better than jigs and spoons on most trips.

As winter progresses, the crappies that are left have not only seen a variety of jigged lures but are also those that are a bit more wary and often require more subtle, natural appearances to trigger a bite. Those fish are the ones that can, at least at times, be tempted into eating a minnow presented on a hook.

Additionally, last winter on a trip to Red Lake where walleyes were the target, spoons and glide baits jigged aggressively produced many fish. However, some fish, particularly several during the middle of the day, were caught on minnows fished below bobbers.


These mid-day walleyes, like the mid-winter crappies, weren’t as aggressive and so jigs were less appealing. Nevertheless, minnows struggling in their faces were a bit too tempting for some, even when the walleyes weren’t actively feeding.
While bobbers fished for crappies and walleyes are often considered “do nothing” rigs, there are some things that make these simple presentations more appealing to the fish and even more effective.

First, both small jigs and plain hooks with split shot weights added above work for presenting minnows below bobbers. For me, I often favor a plain hook as I think this is the ultimate in a subtle, natural presentation.

Also, when baiting minnows on those hooks, I prefer lightly impaling the hook under the skin and behind the bait’s dorsal fin. A lightly hooked minnow will stay lively and swim better which is often more appealing to the fish.

Even when a minnow does swim well, I still like to change it out regularly as a tired minnow may not be as appealing to the fish as a fresh, more lively offering is.

Finally, the use of the right bobber is important. I prefer using Ice Buster Bobbers.

These feature a slip bobber design which works great for precisely presenting a bait at a chosen depth and they make fish landing easy too. Plus, the Ice Busters can be trimmed so that they barely float and are super sensitive.

A barely floating bobber is a better fish catcher because it easily slides under the water making it less prone to spook a wary fish than it’s bigger, more buoyant counterpart is.

Don’t forget to add a “do nothing” bobber line to your arsenal utilizing some of the suggestions just offered. Some days, that addition will add a fish or two to your catch, while on others it might mean the difference between a few fish and no fish.


As always, good luck on the ice and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.

Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit for more “fishy” stuff.

Mike Frisch

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