What is a fishing float?
I think everyone knows what a fishing float is but just in case I'm
wrong a very basic description is; a fishing float is attached to
the fishing line and used as a visual indicator. When the float
moves about or goes under the water this tells the angler the fish
is 'interested' in the baited hook.
There are many different types of floats available for different
fishing situations. Waggler floats for stillwater fishing, stick
floats for river / running water fishing, leger floats, loafers, bubble floats, pole floats,
etc. The price of a float, depending on the type, is generally
around 50p to a couple of quid.
Most floats have a weight marking on them and this is a guide to
what weight the float will carry (what shot it needs to cock the
float). I have yet to come across a float that has the exact correct
weight marking printed on it so use this as a general guide.
Whenever you are float fishing you should always try to fish as
light as you can.
Fishing light means using a float that needs
the least amount of shot but don't fish too light if conditions, such as the
weather, make it awkward and difficult to cast or control your
float. In this situation it is better to have a heavier, properly
The waggler is one of the most used
fishing floats anglers use. This float is mainly used for stillwater
fishing but can also be used for fishing running waters.
waggler can be either, 'straight' or 'bodied'.
The straight waggler is tube like and usually made from clear plastic
(sometimes called a
The bodied waggler is similar to the straight waggler with a
bulbous body that aids its stability in windy conditions.
Waggler Float Shotting Patterns
Remember: Fishing is always trial and error. This
applies also to shotting a float.
The waggler is attached to the line through the eye at the bottom of
the float and split shot is used to lock it in place. Shotting
patterns can differ but for general fishing with wagglers the rule is
80% of the weight around the float and the rest placed from 2 thirds
of the way
down the line towards the hook.
see diagram below.
On some occasions you may be fishing close in and the
bigger fish are on the bottom but you are being pestered with small
fish taking your bait on or near the top of the water. In this
situation I bulk the shot nearer the bottom of the line with a tell
tale dropper near the hook - second image in diagram. Bulk shotting
enables the bait to drop through the water faster and hopefully gets your
bait past the small fish at the top. Casting is done with a gentle
under arm motion.
Shirt Button Style
If fish are taking the bait on the drop then another
shotting pattern to try is the 'shirt button' style.
In the shirt button style the shot is spread evenly
down the line from the float to the hook (with a smaller dropper
shot near the hook)
Stick Float used for
river fishing or flowing waters.
About the Stick Float
Stick floats generally have a tapered body and are attached to
the line using float rubbers which makes it easy to adjust the float
position on the line.
The stick float is fished in a down stream direction. The current
at the top of the water will be faster than that nearer the river
bed so after casting, hold the float back a second or two to let the
line and hook fall through the water ahead of the float. To keep the
hook in front of the float, depending on the speed of the current,
hold the float back every now and then. You can also fish
at the same speed as the flowing water. This is called TROTTING. The
rig for trotting must be set up with the bulk of the shot around a
foot from the hook and the hook just trailing the bottom. Use a
largish float such as a loafer for trotting. Let the rig flow with
the current and if it starts to go under in a certain are, before
shortening your set up try holding it back a second or two. The
baited hook should rise up and continue to run through the water.
Stick Float Shotting Patterns
Generally stick floats are made up of a tip, body and stem and these
can be made from different materials. Stick floats rarely have an
eye for attaching it to the line and two float rubbers are used to hold the float in place
One float rubber is placed at the
top of the float and one at the bottom but I recommend using three
with one in the middle (if one breaks this third can be used in its
place, saving the hassle of having to slide another rubber over the
hook and shot, up the line to the float). Shotting patterns
vary a great deal depending upon the water conditions in which you are
The general setup for shotting a stick float is to space
it equally down the
line with the heaviest shot nearer the float
and progressively smaller shot going down the line to the hook. With
this style, when casting, the line will fall through the water more
naturally in a smooth arc with the bait drifting in front of the
Shirt Button Style
If fish are feeding in the upper layers of water and taking the bait on the drop,
the 'shirt button' style is a good tactic. Described above under the
Waggler, the shot is spaced out on the line evenly between float and
hook. This shotting style is only really for slow moving waters and
allows the bait to fall slowly through the water and is ideal for
catching fish feeding in the top layers of water.
Bulk shotting is placing most of the shot lower down the line nearer
to the hook. see diagram. This pattern of shotting is mainly used on
faster running waters. If using the general style or shirt button
style of shotting on a fast moving water the current could keep the
line and bait up in the water. Bulk shotting your float will help
get round this and get the bait down to the bottom. The faster the
water the nearer to your hook you will have to place the shot.
Shotting styles for the Stick Float
As with all types of fishing floats the pole float
comes in different shapes and sizes. Here is a description of three
Shotting patterns for pole floats are the same as for
wagglers and stick floats with the exception that an ollivete is
sometimes used in place off bulked shot.
Please bear in mind that shotting examples mentioned are not set in
stone! As with all types of float fishing, it is trial and error on
what is the best way at the time of fishing for shotting your float. This will
depend on where and how you are fishing and if you are getting bites
or not. Despite what the textbooks say, never be
afraid to try something different.
Starting with the dibber, this is the smallest of pole floats and is
ideal when used fishing a bait in shallow waters. They are also a
good choice for fishing the margins or tight up against a reed bed,
island or the far bank of a canal.
Although a small float, the dibber is buoyant enough to let you fish
big baits off the bottom. Another advantage is, the big tip of the
dibber makes it a lot easier to see than a fine-tipped float.
Shotting a dibber is similar to a waggler and depends on if you are
fishing up in the water, on the drop or on the bottom. See previous
chapters and images on shotting a float.
This is probably one of the most used pole floats of all. A very
buoyant float that can be used with all baits and is an ideal float
for using on running waters. Generally the shotting is an olivette
or bulked shot two thirds of the way from float to hook.
The two floats shown on the left in the diagram are similar in shape with the difference being one is a thicker version
and used on commercial fisheries and can carry a heavier bait.
The shotting for
this is bulked two thirds of the way down the line from float to hook.
see bulk shotting diagram above.
The thinner pear shaped can also be bulked shot or shirt
button style. When shot correctly the thinner version can be quite a sensitive float,
especially ideal for fishing canals for roach and skimmer bream
using maggots, casters, punched bread etc for hook baits
Another popular float is the Pellet Waggler and a description of
this can be