Choosing the best Thill Float for a particular fishing situation could easily become overwhelming, with so many styles and sizes of floats available. A good way to “shorten the playing field” and figure out which floats are well suited for the job is to think about primary float functions and how each applies to the lure or bait you are using, the waters you are fishing, the conditions that prevail, and the techniques you are using.

Strike Detection

When a float darts out of sight, it’s time to set the hook. Strike detection is the basic float function that we all know well, and with it goes detection of less decisive hits and at times knowing when the bait is bumping bottom. Strike detection is also the function that calls for the most variance in float styles and sizes.

Some fish are very light biters and they’ll let go in an instant if they feel any resistance. For such fish, you need a sleek float and one with nearly neutral buoyancy with your offering beneath it so that you see everything and the fish feels very little. Other fish do a lot of batting the bait around before they really commit, and you actually might want a float with a bit more resistance so you don’t yank the bait from the fish every time one tugs on your bait.

The size of whatever you are suspending also is a major factor. You need far greater buoyancy to suspend a 3/8-ounce jig or a big string of weights on a steelhead rig than you do for an earthworm on a hook with a single small split shot on the line.

Conditions play a big part as well. For still-water fishing on a calm day, you can use a float that barely suspends your offering. Wind and consequential waves and currents that tug at your offerings both necessitate a float with greater buoyancy for the same offering. Generally speaking, more elongated floats cut the current best when they drift to allow truer strike detection when you are drifting your rig in a river.

A final consideration related to strike detection is visibility. Bright colors generally work best, and two-toned floats help you detect subtle strikes when the fish move up instead of down and just tip the float. Beyond color, float size and profile affect visibility. At times you might want a bigger float than you otherwise might need because cast distances, waves or dark skies make a small float hard to see. For night fishing, lighted floats are obviously the easiest to see!

Depth Control

For most applications, a float suspends your jig or bait at a particular depth. Often, the objective is to keep the offering a certain number of feet below the surface, based on where fish should be or appear to be on a graph. At times, though, the objective is to suspend the offering just off the bottom, and the bottom depth might vary some as you move. When that’s the case you need a float that is easy to adjust and one that is unweighted, so it only stands up if it is off the bottom in order to help you know when you are in the zone. If your offering is pretty light, a narrow-stemmed float will stand up the most easily.

The depth you want to fish also dictates whether a set float or a slip float is best. Generally speaking, a set float is simplest and provides the best results as long as the distance between the float and the bait isn’t too great for reasonable casting. For deeper fishing, a slip float becomes necessary.


Occasionally, an important function of a float is to add castability to a micro-jig, weightless bait or other very light offering. If all else is equal in those circumstances, you want the smallest float that allows you to comfortably cast your rig to where it needs to go. If you need long casts, use an aerodynamic shape and possibly a float with a weighted end.

At times castability is a concern in the other direction. The dueling weights of a float and a weighted offering that are a few feet apart create an awkward offering that tends to tumble more than it sails. In such cases, a little round float that doesn’t add much weight of its own or create much awkward resistance tends to work best.


A final less common but sometimes important function of a float is to impart action to the bait below it either as the float bobs in the waves or when it is reeled or jiggled. In such cases, a float that rocks significantly does more to bring the offering to life than does a more stable float.