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Fishing Float Selection

How to Choose Fishing Floats & Use Them to Catch More Fish

Floats or bobbers come in many sizes and shapes and in fixed and slip-float configurations. This float fishing guide removes the mystery.

The mention of bobber fishing commonly calls up a mental image of an idyllic pond setting with a youngster watching a cork on the water’s surface. However, floats (commonly called bobbers) have come a long way. While the basic mechanics remain the same, many of today’s floats are designed to be more bite-sensitive, are created for specific purposes and are integral to many anglers’ arsenals.  

Depending on the intended angling technique, a float could be part the presentation for any freshwater fish. Bluegills, crappie, smallmouth bass, white bass, trout, bowfin and catfish are among the fish I have targeted with a float. The line-up of Thill Floats encompass a variety of floating bite-indicators for still-water, current, and long-distance casting.

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bobber fishing for crappie

Pro Bobber Fishing Tactics for Pre-Spawn Crappie

Pre-spawn crappie fishing delivers some of the best action of the year, and the fish’s behavior lends itself ideally to fishing and jig beneath a bobber.

A childhood thrill returns to Terry Blankenship every spring when pre-spawn crappie fishing heats up at Lake of the Ozarks. The Missouri guide and tournament angler recalls how excited he would get watching a bobber zip underwater when he was a kid, bobber fishing for crappie. Blankenship continues to experience that excitement today, albeit with a more sophisticated bobber setup.

“We all love our bobbers,” Blankenship said. “Bobber fishing for crappie is a little bit like topwater fishing for bass. It’s just something, if you have done it a bunch, you are kind of focused on that bobber, and when you are fishing with artificial lures instead of minnows you have to be pretty observant and pretty quick with it. It kind of keeps you a little tense if you feel like you are in a position to get a bite. It winds up being pretty much like the excitement of a topwater bite because of the way crappie sometimes hit it and knock it to where it goes down so fast, but other times they just barely nudge it or turn it sideways.  That’s why you really have to pay attention to it.”

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Lee Pitts with Crappie

Winter Crappie Fishing Tactics that Shouldn’t be Overlooked

Learn the value of a float and a jig used together for mid-winter crappie fishing and how two guides use float strategies to put more fish in the boat.

“Often they won’t pull it under,” Lee Pitts said about the float portion of his Float and Fly rig. “It’ll just tip a little or start easting sideways.”

Pitts knows. As a crappie guide on legendary waters of Weiss Lake, Pitts spends most winter days on the water. Winter delivers some of the best action of the year, and one of his most productive crappie fishing techniques when the water gets cold is the float and fly approach, which refers to fishing a jig beneath a set float for slow, subtle presentations at a prescribed depth.

Beaver Lake crappie guide Greg Robinson also relies heavily on floats for winter crappie fishing. That surprises many people, Robinson noted, because they only associate bobbers with extra shallow water. However, Robinson and Pitts are commonly presenting jigs 6 to 10 feet deep. The key is that the float suspends an offering in the strike zone and allows for the extra slow and subtle presentations that are sometimes needed for winter crappie fishing success.

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child with bluegill

Simple Float Fishing for Spring Bluegills

Here’s what you need to know about an easy and dependable way to catch fish during spring from ponds, lakes and streams throughout the country.

Whether you are beginning to learn how to fish with a float for bluegills and other panfish or a seasoned angler who has the technique dialed to a science, you simply cannot beat the feelings of anticipation and relaxation of fishing with a Thill float and live bait.

Float fishing with live bait has been a choice of anglers dating back to the 1800s. It is one of the earliest direct line-to-pole techniques thought of, and has withstood the test of time while remaining a popular choice among many anglers of various skill levels around the world.

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Slip Floats for Bigger Summer Bluegills

Walk the banks of a typical pond, slow-moving stream or lake cove this time of year, and you’re apt to see bluegills holding in shady spots and close to brush, stumps, weed edges or any other cover. Most won’t be very large, though. What you cannot see is that many bigger ‘gills probably are holding in similar spots and still fairly close to the bank, but a little farther out and just deep enough to stay out sight.

The good news is that those larger bluegills (plus closely related sunfish, such as shellcrackers, longears and redbreasts) are typically easy to find and catch and offer fun summer fishing. A small slip float, such as a Thill Americas Favorite Series float (1/2-inch, pencil, slip), is the main tool for delivering an irresistible live cricket or worm just off the bottom in a little deeper water. You’ll also need a float stop on your line to control depth, a split shot or two and a No. 6 or so hook.

Specific depths vary relative to overall bank pitch, water color, bottom make-up and availability of cover, but the fish will generally be near the bottom in 4 to 12 feet. Even the shallow end of that range stretches comfortable casting with a set float, but with slip float, there is no awkwardness in casting, and the bait goes exactly to the depth you set it for every time. It’s also simple to adjust depths by sliding your stopper on the line. If you aren’t getting bit, try working slightly deeper. If the float doesn’t stand up, you’re on the bottom. Set the stopper slightly shallower.

Some fish will hold around obvious cover, like tree branches, weed edges or dock corners. Others will hold near rocks or stumps you can’t see. Cast or pitch to the obvious stuff that’s just out from the bank, but also cast to open water directly out from where you see small sunfish or where you notice rocks or other cover on the bottom in the shallow margin.

Whether you’re walking the bank or fishing from a boat, fish in search mode initially. If your bobber doesn’t dance after a couple of minutes, twitch the rod a couple of times to move the bait slightly and make it dance. Wait another minute or so and then reel in and make another cast. As you fish, adjust your depth, vary distances of casts from the shore, and keep moving until you start getting bit.

When you do catch a fish or get a good bite, work that area thoroughly and take note of things like the cover, the slope and the depth. If you catch more, and they are the size you are seeking, stay put until they quit biting and then search for similar spots. Otherwise, keep searching and collecting clues as you go. With this simple approach, it shouldn’t be long before you figure out all you need to and can enjoy some fun fish-caching action.