Float Fishing: More Action Than Lures

Many of my students come to me to learn to catch fish. They have bought into purchasing the hottest lure, many times over. Sadly, it seems like the only bites they get are at the bait shop counter.


Humans feel like they need a couple more lures and they would catch more fish. They need all 72 colors and 8 different weights of lures. Stacks of tackle boxes later, they find they still need more. More fish.


Floats offer much more fishing action than lures. There is no better way to catch fish than using live bait suspended on a proper float. Lures get all the press because the lure companies sponsor the tournaments on TV.


You see, there is no sponsored event by a famous nightcrawler company or minnow breed. Otherwise, we would have the “Bluegill Masters Championships” sponsored by “Chunky Wax Worms” and “Flash Minnow Co.” It might be much bigger than the Bassmasters for TV ratings—a lot more regular guys would tune in. Better yet, a shore-fishing U.S. Championships. There are a lot more people that fish from shore. If you are interested in starting a massive new craze, TV reality series and new sport for ESPN, get in touch with me.


We just want to catch something


Most who go fishing want the basics. We want to catch something. We can start there. Some want to catch a bunch. Set the hook on a bunch of fish. Some want to catch bigger fish. Others yet enjoy a mix of the above.


Proper float fishing and live bait (including hook baits) will catch you more fish and larger fish. The float allows you to see the bite and to set the depth on your bait. Precisely putting your bait at the depth where the fish are feeding is essential. Even if you fish on the bottom, getting exact lengths helps you catch many more fish. Lures tend to go to their one depth range and then you need to switch lures to go to another. Floats are completely adjustable to fish the entire water column.


You can fish bait on a float very slowly. The bait’s natural movement or scent will trigger more takes from fish than plastic or rubber. The slow dropping of a natural food is the most tantalizing bait offering you can ever fish. Lures are heavier than natural baits. Their Achilles heel is they are so heavy. Fish much prefer natural movement and especially natural taste. Fish know what real food looks like.


I know the above are true because I have done side-by-side scientific tests with artificial bait with attractant and live baits. The live bait performed at close to three times the artificial. My data and the number of lost fish (not quite hooked) in my experiment proved to me that the fish were spitting out the artificial. They hated it. The fish took it for a split second, then spit it out in many cases. This caused missed hooksets. The fish held the natural bait and liked it, based on the lack of missed hooksets and false bites.


The better bite


The natural, live bait was hung onto longer and more often than the artificial.  My experiment also created more activity on my live-bait area (next to and upwind from the artificial). While the results showed the artificial bait was three times less liked by the fish, I think the result could have been even worse.


Because my live bait was causing attractive fish activity, I think more fish were swimming into the artificial experiment area (6 feet from the live-bait section). The sound of feeding fish and particles of the live bait were causing more activity and more active fish hitting the jar bait. (Even though they hit it three times less than actual live bait). I am certain that my experiment showed that using artificial bait would make for a much slower day of fishing. I would only use this if I were in an artificial-only fishing area or if all my bait had died and I had no other option.


Float for more bites


A common misconception is that using a bobber (float) is boring. Float fishing offers the most fishing action on the planet. With just a small amount of home preparation, you can get to the water and very quickly be fishing. At home, I will think about the water I am going to fish and prepare for that. This would include which species I am going to go for, deep or shallow water, and the baits I want to fish. Several days before, I am tying my rigs, putting floats in water to balance the split shot and then tying the leaders based on the bait. While this doesn’t take much time, having custom leaders is the most important item in your tackle arsenal.


Custom leaders


If my lake is really clear, I need fluorocarbon. If the weather is cold front or early spring, I am going with really thin leader line and size-16 hooks. If I am using minnows, I need a slightly larger hook—such as size 10. If the lake has thick weeds, I need to tie some 4-pound leaders in order to pull the fish above and sometimes through the weeds.

With the gear prepared, not only do I get more time to fish when I hit the shore or boat, but I also am more confident.


My neighbors sometimes don’t even ask why I am catching so many fish. They sometimes just up and leave. Other times, they will only ask “what bait are you using”.


Natural bait. They seldom ever ask about the leader, split shot and hook size. I mean, they can see the float.


Not all bait shops created alike


Oh, that’s another thing—there is a difference between bait shops or suppliers! Great bait comes from stores that take better care of their live bait. If you find one, support it. Many other stores get tiny tubs of bait from suppliers. They keep all the bait at one temperature—even though wax worms like 50 degrees and nightcrawlers prefer 34 degrees. My favorite two stores have multiple refrigerators and they even feed their ‘crawlers for a week prior to selling them! The result is not your big box store ‘crawler, it is an anaconda. Thick, powerful and healthy. Support your local bait store and get ready for action with some new floats. Great, healthy, live baits equal great fishing. Sad, dying bait equals something closer to using lures. Slow fishing.