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Different Kinds of Floats and Bobbers

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All anglers have, at one time or another, fished with a float. Floats, commonly called bobbers, work and are fun. Watching the little taps as a fish starts to nibble at your bait and then seeing the float go under are two of the most exciting experiences in fishing. Some fishing snobs look down on float fishing, but nothing is more pleasant than sitting on a riverbank with a friend or one of your kids and passing the time of day while watching your float. This scenario is a combination of doing nothing and doing something, which, when you get right down to it, is a lot of the fun of fishing.

The most basic float is a red and white plastic globe with a little spring-loaded button on top. To use this type of float, you push in the button and then hook your line around the hook that protrudes when the button is pressed. These floats have two obvious places to thread your line, and that’s what you should do. Leave a loose end of line (about a foot or two in length) after the bobber to attach your hook. If your loose line is longer, casting gets difficult.

After your hook is on, add some bait and cast. You can’t cast as far as you can when all you’re using is bait and some lead weight.

The advantages of floats are numerous:

  • Floats keep your bait suspended, which works especially well for fish like crappies or bluegills that tend to suspend in schools.

  • The bottom of a body of water tends to be the snaggiest place, and a float will keep your hook above the worst of it.

  • A float can drift with the current or wind, presenting your bait to more fish.

  • They serve as great indicators of a strike, allowing you to set the hook effectively.

Casting a standard float gets tricky if you place the bobber more than a foot or two above the hook; yet fish are often suspended in deeper water — say, 6 feet down in a pool 15 feet deep. Slip floats are the answer. Slip floats aren’t spring loaded like standard floats. Instead, they feature a hollow core that allows the line to be threaded down through the center of the float.

In this way, the line slides through the float until it hits a bobber stop, which you can easily place and adjust on your line. Bobber stops made of rubber can be purchased, as can pre-tied bobber stops made of thread. Or you can tie your own with a spare piece of line. The bobber stop has to be small enough to fit through the guides of the rod (so you can cast the rig smoothly), and large enough to stop the float. To facilitate this process, a small plastic bead is often added between the float and the bobber stop. This helps prevent the bobber stop from going through the float. The baited hook and a split shot or two help pull the line through the float until it hits the bobber stop. Now you can fish any depth you want, merely by adjusting the placement of the bobber stop. This is an ingenious way of taking float fishing to another depth.

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To adjust to a variety of bait and water conditions, floats come in many shapes and sizes. Some floats are fat to increase buoyancy and hold up heavy baits, such as live baitfish for pike. Others are slim and take only the slightest weight to sink — perfect for light-biting fish like cold-water crappies. Some floats are built to handle heavy current. Some are tall to be seen from great distances. Others, designed for night fishing, either glow in the dark, have notches for lightsticks, or feature battery-operated lights that appear as tiny beacons on the dark water! Some anglers make their own floats out of everyday balloons. The options are endless.

Fishing with floats is a game all its own, but, like all things fishing, experience and time on the water will open your eyes to the possibilities. Know this: Every fish in the water — from the bluegill to the shark — can be taken on a float rig, if it’s presented properly. And sometimes, a float allows you to present a bait in just the right way.


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