The float is one of the most common items in any angler’s tackle box, but selecting the right float for the conditions at hand can be one of the most confusing decisions an angler makes. What’s more, choosing the right float can mean the difference between a great day on the water and a very frustrating day.
Remembering a few basic facts can drastically reduce the confusion involved in selecting a float, which meets your needs on a given day.
Let’s first remember that a float is used to suspend a bait at a particular level in the water and to signal that a fish is taking the bait. A float can also add weight to increase casting distance. Using this information is a great starting point for float selection, because it helps you examine how a float will best meet these needs, given the conditions of the water and the species of fish you are pursuing.
In simplest terms, there are two types of floats. There are fixed floats, which are connected to the line and stay in that position on the line, and there are slip floats, which slide up and down on the line. The fixed float is best suited for shallower water, while the slip float is perfect for deeper water.
Of the two types of floats, the slip float is the most versatile, because it allows you to tie a stop 20 to 30 feet, or more along your line, cast freely and allow the bait to suspend at just about any depth. In contrast, the fixed float limits the depth at which you can fish to roughly the length of your rod.
Regardless of whether you choose to fish a slip float or a fixed float, the most important factors in the selection process are size and buoyancy. If a float is too large, the fish will experience resistance when trying to take the bait, and chances are good that it will drop the bait. That resistance could also result in the float not going down when a fish does strike, which means you will miss the fish. If a float is too small, it may not stay buoyant, which means you could miss a strike or think a fish is biting, when it is not.
The profile of a float also affects its resistance. Very slender floats will be pulled down more easily than a wide float, and offer more sensitivity for a light bite.
Water conditions should also factor in your float selection. In windy conditions or if there is a strong current, you will likely need a larger or more buoyant float. If the water is clear and calm, a smaller or narrower float will reduce the chances of spooking the fish.
When casting for distance is an important factor, select a heavier, slip float. Remember, the weight of the float does not always coincide with size and buoyancy.
The best strategy in selecting a float is to experiment, before you begin fishing. Test various floats to see how they ride in the water. Make sure to bait your hook and secure any split shot or other weight to your line to get a true measurement of how the float performs. Ideally, just the colored top section of the float should be above the water. If you follow this step, you will be on your way to becoming an expert in float selection and destined to catch more fish when you use a float.