Float or Bobber?

The controversy continues. Float or bobber?

True, those red and white round things are as American as baseball. But, the problem is bobbers often seem big as baseballs, too. They’re normally too large to sense the light bite of a neutral walleye or finicky bluegill or crappie.

Ted Takasaki with a smallmouth.

Enter the European immigrant, the “float.” Built to be balanced precisely, they send a signal to an angler whenever a fish touches the bait. The key is a process knows as “shotting.” Lead shot is added until the float responds to the slightest tug. The fish takes it underwater without even noticing it’s there. Lindy-Little Joe offers two videos on the topic. Visit www.lindylittlejoe.com for details.

Floats are especially designed for specific uses and conditions: in rivers, lakes, with wind or no wind. A knowledge of which floats to choose from can increase your catch.

Floats are also a great way to introduce young anglers to the sport.

Floats Ideal For Kids

There’s no better way to put live bait in front of lethargic fish. Just ask Minnesota fishing great Al Lindner who recalls a day watching a group of anglers catch walleye after walleye while anchored over a rocky hump still-fishing with floats. Lindner struggled to catch a fish or two using Lindy rigs just a few yards away.

Or ask fishing educator Spence Petros. Once on his way to give a seminar in Wisconsin, he stopped to fish from shore below a dam. He cast a Fuzz-E-Grub only to get snagged. Another cast, another snag. There was no third time. He put on a float and adjusted the depth until he was just off the bottom.

“I wound up with a muskie and three walleyes,” Petros said.

One of Petros’ favorite spots to fish is a Wisconsin stream featuring an undercut root system. There’s always a steelhead there among the snags in about 2 feet of water. A skilled fly fisher might reach the place with a sinking fly if he’s quick. But, Petros plucks fish after fish from the spot using a 12-foot rod and a Thill Center Slider by Lindy-Little Joe.

“When fish will not chase a crankbait and jigs get hung up, a float becomes the logical choice. I’ve caught just about everything there is on them. There are so many applications,” he said.

Petros goes smaller early in the year when panfish are sluggish. He uses a Mini Shy Bite float and casts tiny spoons with a slice of Power Bait to shallow water. He pulls it, then lets it flutter down, pull and flutter, pull and flutter. He says it’s deadly.

Don’t be intimidated by the large variety of floats on the market. It’s easy after a little study. The distance needed to cast, the depth desired to fish, whether water is moving or still, and the fishes’ mood dictates choice.

The first rule — pick the smallest float you can. If the float gives too much resistance, fish will spit out the bait if they are on a tough bite.

Rule two — fixed floats are more sensitive than slip floats. Fixed floats will signal a “lift bite” when the float stem moves slightly upward as a fish comes from below. Crappies do that often. Put a small split shot a one-half-inch above the hook. The float will rise up as soon as the fish moves the bait that far.

Fixed floats also signal “drop bites.” When a fish takes falling bait, the pencil-shaped float begins to stand up but stops. You should then set the hook.

Slip floats are great for fishing in deep water below a boat or in areas with widely varying depths.

The Most Popular Styles

Here’s another tip — floats with buoyancy located in the middle or on top, like the Thill Turbo Master or the Thill River Master, are best for current. Floats with the buoyancy on bottom, like the TG Waggler and Shy Bite, are best for non-current conditions in lakes and reservoirs. Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular styles;

* The Stealth series — The Mini-Stealth is great for fishing shallow water or through the ice. The Stealth gives good casting distance in the wind.

* The Wagglers — The TG Waggler is made from balsa to be extra buoyant so it needs extra shot. That lends it greater casting distance. It’s great for still or slow-moving water. The TG Bodied Waggler is made for heavy winds and waves in lakes and reservoirs. Add weight until only a small portion of the tip remains above the water.

* The Shy Bites — Just as their name implies, the Mini Shy Bite, the Shy Bite and the Super Shy Bite are for finicky fish in shallow water, such as bedding panfish. They also make great ice floats.

* River Master — Held in place with two silicone sleeves, you can quickly change the size of the River Master you use to match current speed and depth. It’s best for slow or medium flowing rivers and streams.

* Center Slider — The standard of slip floats, it’s for fishing any depth in current or still water. The Mille Lacs Center Slider features a lengthened shaft for bigger, wind-swept lakes.

* The Turbo Master — This one combines wood buoyancy with a wire stem to slow drift in moving water. It comes in three sizes that can be quickly interchanged.

* Brute Force — A float with lots of buoyancy for big baits like spawn sacks and cut bait and jigs. Try it for walleye, salmon and steelhead.

* Power Float — Another choice for big baits for species like catfish.

* Muskie & Pike Sucker Rig — Supports a much larger bait yet has less drag. It features a small “pilot float,” which slides freely above the main float to signal the direction of the fish even after the main float disappears below the surface. That’s a plus to keep away from snags.

Remember: match the float to the conditions. Choose the smallest one that will do the job, and “shot” it to make it as sensitive as possible. Then, watch your catch rate soar.

Discover a fine assortment of freshwater fishing gear at Sportsman’s Guide today.

Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson write a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Ted has many fishing achievements, including a victory at the 1993 Mercury Nationals and the 1995 Professional Walleye Trail Top Gun award. He reached the pinnacle of both angling and business when he was named PWT Champion in 1998 and president of Lindy Little Joe, Inc., of Brainerd, Minn., a year later. (Ted’s sponsors include Ranger Boats, Mercury Outboards, Pinnacle Rods and Reels, Bottom Line Electronics, Minn Kota, Stren, Normark, Flambeau, Master Lock, Gamakatsu, Aqua Vu and Nautamatic TR 1.)

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