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Selecting a Float

With the huge range of shapes and sizes available, float selection can be a baffling topic. Luckily, there are a few easy steps to follow in choosing the correct float.
1) Understand the difference between River and Still Water floats.
2) Choose the correct diameter float for the conditions.
3) Choose the correct size of float for the conditions.

The first step in float selection is to understand the differences between river and still water floats and how they react to wind and current. River floats are designed to be rigged "top and bottom" and still water floats are designed to be rigged "bottom only".

"Top and Bottom": The float is attached to the line at the top and bottom of the float with silicone tubing, so the line runs along the length of the float.

"Bottom Only": The float is attached to the line at the bottom only so the float can swing freely. The float is held in place with the use of split shots on either side of the eyelet. This style of float is commonly known as a Waggler, because it tends to waggle when cast out.

Both current and wind create tension on the main line which will move the float and bait unnaturally. If the main line is caught in the current, it will pull the float along the surface, dragging the bait through the water behind it. In windy conditions, the main line will pull the float out of position and away from the fish. Using the correct type of float will help resolve either situation.

A river float rigged "top and bottom" keeps the main line above the water and prevents the main line from being affected by the current. This allows the float to trot downstream naturally. In windy river fishing situations, increasing the size of float will help to counter the effect of the wind.

A still water float rigged "bottom only" keeps the main line underwater and out of the wind, allowing the angler to hold the bait in the exact position required. This style of float is extremely useful in still or very slow water, but any slight current will pull it under.

The second principle in float selection is the greater the diameter of the float, the greater its stability in the current. Thin floats are very sensitive, but offer little resistance to undertow and current, often washing under and leading to false strikes and poor presentation. Wider floats are great for riding over and through rough current, allowing for very effective and accurate presentations, but unfortunately offer more resistance and less sensitivity to fish strikes, increasing the likelihood of missed fish. The key in choosing the correct diameter for the water conditions is to use the thinnest float that will perform effectively and the widest float that won't put the fish off.

The third principal for float selection is selecting the proper size (buoyancy or carrying capacity). Typically indicated on the side of quality floats, the size is usually marked in grams or shot sizes. The larger the float, the more shot that is required to cock it properly (so that only the coloured top section is above the water). This allows larger floats to be cast further, to run the bait deeper and to hold the bait down through faster water. Unfortunately, larger floats offer more resistance to biting fish and reduce the sensitivity of the presentation. In general, use the smallest float that will perform effectively - ensuring that it can efficiently get the bait to where it needs to be.

A great example to help better understand these principals is to compare two floats of the same buoyancy rating (2 SWAN = 3.5 grams). The Drennan Bobber No.3 (the green float shown above) is a wide float that attaches top and bottom and the Drennan Giant Waggler No.4 (the clear float shown above) is a very thin float that attaches bottom only. In practice, the Bobber would ride easily through all but the roughest rapids, since it is rigged top and bottom and has a relatively wide diameter. However, when fished in still water the Bobber would skip across a windy surface and cause significant resistance to any biting fish. The Giant Waggler is a far more effective weapon in still water. It is more sensitive due to its thinner diameter and rigged bottom only it is more stable against wind. However, in current the Giant Waggler would be dragged constantly underwater, making it ineffective in all but the slowest rivers.

In practical terms, always carry a selection of float sizes, diameters and styles. This allows you to use wider and larger floats when the water conditions require them and back to thinner and smaller floats when they don't.

Paul Almanza
Anglers International Inc