Casting Bubble Tactics

When it comes to business or matters of the heart, we've all had forehead-smacking moments when we thought, "If I'd only known then what I know now!"

We can't send you back in time to buy shares of Microsoft or sweet-talk a young lady, but we can recommend a device that lets you take advantage of simple techniques you learned as a kid and all the fishing knowledge you've accumulated since: A casting bubble.

These inexpensive, plastic gadgets make it possible to cast the tiniest flies, bits of bait or lures incredible distances with any spinning, spin-casting or baitcasting gear by adding aerodynamic weight to your fishing line. Bubbles are oval or teardrop-shaped, hollow and designed so that your line passes through them, allowing quick adjustments to the length of line between them and your hook or lure. Our favorites feature an elastic tube that secures your line with several twists.

With water added for even more ballast, they cast like bullets, telegraph nibbles like a bobber and trace your bait's path through moving water like a fly angler's strike indicator. Bubbles cost relatively little, but prices vary depending on your fishing area. And they will repay you many times over with fish you otherwise might not catch. Here are some of our favorite situations for using them.

BOMBS AWAY!

When you're shorebound and need more oomph to reach fish, the extra heft of casting bubbles can add yards of distance and will get the most out of a balky old spin-caster or inexpensive spinning reel. They also come in handy for boaters stalking schools of fish in salt or fresh water. When noisy boats send the fish skittering to the depths, twist on a bubble and launch a sneak attack with extra-long casts.

Bubbles even address the bane of all bank fishermen -- snagging and losing tackle -- by controlling depth like an old-fashioned bobber. However, because tangle-free casts are darned nigh impossible with more than a rod-length of line between your bubble and lure or bait (anything over 2 to 3 feet is pushing your luck), they're best for shallow work.

SWAT THAT FLY!

Casting bubbles allow you most of fly-fishing's advantages without investing in new gear and techniques. Stealthy presentation and drift control afforded by fly lines, leaders and long fly rods are out, but the use of flies open new horizons for spin-fishermen. Modern fly designers can dress a hook to mimic everything from ants to anchovies, and so you can "match the hatch" in still waters or streams.

For the truly predatory fish, nothing beats a popping bug for sheer fun. Sidearm your bubble so that it plops down close to visible cover, with a bright bass bug in tow. Let the ripples fade and work it like a topwater plug or chugger. You need at least 2 feet between bubble and fly. For even faster action, panfish poppers draw rapid-fire strikes from bluegills in warm weather.

If topwater action wanes, tie on a sinking fly -- a chenille panfish killer, Woolly Bugger or large wet fly -- or a jig for crappie and other panfish. Set the depth so your lures ride a few inches above the bottom. Twitching your rod tip imparts a swinging action few game fish can resist, and the addition of worms, minnows or other enticements, turns a jig into topnotch fare for practically any fish. Micro-jigs tied from marabou and local fly patterns fished this way will catch almost as many fish as any traditional fly-fishing gear will catch.

MOVE ON ALONG!

As a kid, you likely used bobbers in still water, but now that you understand current seams, eddies and those tantalizing outside river bends, wouldn't it be great to make sure your minnows, worms or whatever practically drifted into the waiting mouths of fish? Anglers who study the current, make well-placed casts and feed plenty of slack line can attain a natural-looking, dead-drift into fishy spots, and you can even stop the bubble's downstream progress and let your bait swing across the current and rise like a fly-fisherman's streamer or soft-hackle fly. This presentation is deadly, and works just as well on warm- and coolwater fish.

Casting bubbles can't fully replace fly-fishing, or skillful presentation of bait and lures in just the right spots, but they will give you longer casts and add flies to your bag of tricks. Best of all, they'll bring back fond memories of your good ol' days and the folks who taught you how to fish with bobbers.

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