It’s a deceptively simple design—a high-floating sphere that suspends a fishing hook in nearly any depth or type of water—but the history of fishing bobbers is littered with intrigue and scores of one-off designs intended to catch more fishermen than fish.

1886 Year the Jumping Jack bobber is introduced. The human-shaped float flaps its arms when a fish bites.

#2,820,317 U.S. Patent number awarded to Harry Basil Irwin, father of the classic red-and-white plastic bobber. Irwin assigned his rights to the Dayton Bait Company in 1954.

250 Number of float models in the 1921 Percy Wadham’s Specialties fishing catalog. Most of Wadham’s floats were made out of celluloid.


Paul Bunyan’s Bobber
The world’s largest bobber presides over Pequot Lakes, Minn. The former water tower is dressed in red and white, and city leaders claim it’s fishing tackle from the outsize Northwoods legend.

Approximate number of U.S. patents issued for fishing bobbers. One of fishing historian Todd Larson‘s favorites: an 1891 model with a bell that tinkled when a fish bit.


Dizzying Variety of Vintage Bobbers
Jamison’s Whistling Bobber:
This float makes a shrill noise when a fish strikes.
Bob-ER-Lite: Fish-activated illumination makes it easy to see at night.
Shell Bobbers: These high-riding floats mimic shotshells. “Ready, Aim, Fish” is the tagline of manufacturer Fishing Ammo.
Naked Mermaid: This scandalous bobber was introduced in the 1940s.