Nuances of the float fishing game….

Posted: December 5, 2012 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead, Tutorials
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I hope I can effectively communicate some alternate methods to you today surrounding float/bobber fishing efforts and that maybe one of more of them are new to you thus helping you improve your float/bobber game. I’ll break it down as clearly as I can and hopefully appeal to anglers of all skill levels.

Option No. 1: Fixed float no weight

Summary: You’ll find many anglers who cut their teeth on very small rivers will have this method perfected. Kevin Gray comes to mind in my immediate circle of anglers as someone who has schooled me on the proper way to fish this method. It’s most effective in water having a propensity for spooky fish, slow flows and shallow depths.

Rigging: Most often rigged with a very light mono main line fished straight to the jig with the fixed float pegged directly above the jig OR a braided main line with an equally light mono bumper (length of bumpber depending on water clarity, speed, etc) attached directly to the braid via Double Uni Knot…again NO terminal weight on this rig. Typical float styles would be Thill Balsas, small Canadian dinks or sliding floats pegged on either side to create a fixed float. Float sizes extra light. Jig sizes typical.

Gear to use: This rig absolutely must be fished on a light spinning outfit as the castability is dependent upon only the relatively insignificant weight of the small float and jig itself, combined. Your total weight when using a typical 1/8oz jig might be 1/4oz. Again that’s jig and bobber combined weight.

Method suggestions/benefits: Position yourself as far away from the target area as you can and place your cast a good distance in advance of the fish’s current location. You’ll most often be using this technique in summer fishing or very low water winter scenarios. Less than ‘walking speed’ is recommended. This method tops out at roughly 3-4 feet preso depth.

Option No. 2: Fixed float tapered shot for weight

Summary: A true Canadian float rig. The fixed float will most likely be a dink (cylindrical soft foam float with angled, plastic coated holes allowing main line to be wrapped candy cane style through and around the float.

Rigging: Similiar to the fixed float no weight described above…this method will use no terminal swivel. You’re either going to run a mono mail line directly to your jig or a bumpered mono section to your braid…then attaching to your jig. Weight used will be tapered split shot sizes 3/0 to BB depending on conditions. The first shot should be placed roughly 18-30″ above the jig based on water clarity.

Gear: Spinning or casting outfit depending on the amount of weight you are using and the casting efficiency of your particular reel.

Method suggestions/benefits: Look for faster riffle water to best suit this float style. Evenly spaced water depth without any large drop offs or slopes. Use this technique where bottom contour is even. Some boulders are okay. If running the dink…make sure you have enough shot to prop the float directly upward. Common bite detection other than typical ‘bobbers down’ will include ‘push strikes’….meaning the float will simply pop up and lay sideways. Hammertime if that happens. (This is my Dad’s favorite method so feel free to ping him here on this comment thread with any questions)

Option No. 3: Sliding float w/ in-line weight

Summary: A must-have technique for winter steelhead anglers fishing in average to moderately high water conditions which may offer a range of depth and speed opportunities.

Rigging: Bobber stop, bead, float, bead, inline sinker (weight with barrel swivel built in on either side) leader, jig. Those of you fishing plastics on jig heads would use this rig almost exclusively.

Gear: Spinning or casting although I honestly recommend spinning outfits for nearly all steelhead float apps. Salmon is a whole different story. Braided main line is my main line suggestion tied directly to the terminal lead (in-line weight) which means your stop, float and beads are on running on the braided main. Typical leader sizes are 8 to 12lb.

Method/Suggestion: By using a 3/8th’s to 1/2oz float and corresponding in-line sinker you are able to present your jig in tougher to reach strike zones the above options won’t allow as easily. Your target water is sunk fast often accommodating a lighter jig a better presentation. I enjoy a lot of 16th’s fished with this method. Many of which dig fish out in very deep water, by jigging standards; 8 to 12 feet specifically. The heavy terminal sinker will get down quick allowing the lighter weight jig to ‘kick out’ behind the sinker. In deeper water you’ll want to fish a longer leader (up to 40″) and in shallower water a shorter leader (18-24″).

Option No. 4: Bobber dogging bait or plastics

Summary: Best suited for nearly blown out conditions or naturally deep, swirly and tough to reach holding water

Rigging: Imagine a typical drift rig (Slinky or pencil lead off of a main terminal swivel) with a moderately long leader..say 36″ or less of course with off colored water…and then add a sliding float system on the main line above it.

Gear: Casting outfits by far works the best for the Doggin’ method due to the need to hold you float in pockets behind boulders or on hard current seams and the constant free spooling required to stay there. Threaded plastics or bait are your best doggin’ options.

Method/Suggestions: You will be setting your bobber stop twice as deep as the water depth you are targeting. A direct contrast to the other Options discussed. The purpose for this is to allow your terminal lead to ping or drag the bottom which will be translated visually to a jerky bobber on the surface. Your bobber should be ‘darting’ quickly up river indicating the lead is in constant contact with the bottom. The fish will chase the plastic as it’s presented drift-style and most often strike as the swing of your drift begins. The fish will always be hooked in the corner of the mouth resulting in very few losses.

Phew. Any questions?

Christopher Heller has been writing bobber fishing articles for sea running fish since 1994 and is the owner/founder of….a seven year labor of love designed to educate and entertain anglers of all skill levels.

This article will be added to the Stories/Articles page with access gained from the home page of this website.

  1. Marcos Soliz so says:

    Excellent article!simple and to the point .been recently trying to get a steelhead on a bobber & jig,opposed to my usual methods of drift fishing & tossing hardware.this will help in my favor a lot .great work Chris!thanks for the knowledge!

  2. Nick NIchols says:

    I am so glad to have been introduced to this site. I have been digging through years of Chis Hellers archives on here, and have found nothing but informative and useful information delivered in such a way that it brings a smile to your face or at least an inner giggle. I have been able to relate to a lot of the stories shared. Thanks again for all the great and educational info. Keep up the good work and it has been a REEL pleasure following all the great fishermen and women that contribute to this fantastic site. I hope to grace the pages of All Around Angler someday with a picture of a steelhead or salmon of my own.

  3. Chromehammer says:

    Beautiful article! Doesn’t get more detailed and concise than that ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Padron says:

    Nice work homie!! Bobber down.

  5. Dumptruck says:

    Money!!! Money!!! Money!!!

  6. daheller says:

    Nicely written article with some solid information. It is amazing how many ways there are to float fish and to think that hardly anyone was doing it a few years ago. I wonder what will come along next? Sal

  7. The Hustler says:

    “That was bottom…No that’s a fish!!!” Nicely put Helcat. Very informative and a good reference to return to when checking your method.

  8. Hellcat says:

    Thanks everyone! I’m glad you dig!

  9. Great info Chris! Well presented and well written. Great instructional/educational piece ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Strick says:

    Ditto. Great stuff, very detailed. Right on the $$. Great reference as well. Probably should just get this on a yearly rotation.

  11. Sean Shea says:

    Great article Chris..we just had a chat about all of this. Its always nice to refresh on all of this info..bobber down fellas!

  12. Hellcat says:

    Thanks for the comment, Shea! I’m glad you found some value in my ramblings…lol.

  13. Matt O'Connor says:

    Definitely a good article. I’m intrigued to try the Bobber dogging method.

    I am also curious as to what your thoughts on running a sliding weight with a sliding/adjustable bobber and jig setup might be?

    And lastly, what preferred knot are you running for tying on jigs? I’ve been using the quick knot I learned from this site, but wondered what else people might commonly used? Some sort of Loop? Maybe give more swimming action?


  14. Hellcat says:

    I shall reply in detail tomorrow my good sir. Thank you for your comment!

  15. supertrucker says:

    good article hellcat. i was at fishermens marine a few months ago and i introduced my self to your friend donaca as i remember seeing him in your video’s . he told me that i should come fishing with you guys some time. hopefully some time i could hook up with you guy’s to learn some tricks of the trade as far as jig and bobber fishing take care!

  16. Hellcat says:

    Absolutely, Brother! Are you on FB as well or no?

  17. Hellcat says:

    Matt I’m very sorry I delayed my answer to your question. I don’t know how I missed it. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and that it made sense without photos. Mission accomplished. Tell me first what you bobber rig looks like currently?

  18. supertrucker says:

    yes im on facebook. the store out here by where i live has all rods on sale for 30 percent off. was thinking of getting a float rod what would you recommend the 9 ft 6 or 10 ft 6. they have all the major brands. thanks

  19. Hellcat says:

    Hit the FB button on my home page and request me. And on the rod question…10.6

  20. Matt O'Connor says:

    Hey Chris,

    So my most recent setup has been a 10′ 6″ Float rod with a spinning reel running 14lb Fireline, Tied to a barrel swivel and usually to a 12lb, 24″ leader. That tied to a jig with or without a pink worm, or sometimes a yarnie or bait on a bait/egg loop hook with bait weight. Float wise, usually a 1/2 – 5/8 oz sliding float rigged on the Fireline, and a barrel type sliding weight. All balanced between jig, or bait weight and the weight below the float above the swivel. Hopefully that all makes sense…

    Been thinking I need to switch to the in line weight setup. Originally I had a bunch of those sliding barrel type weights for Lake Trout bait Plunking so I went El cheapO’ and rigged that way.


  21. The Hustler says:

    MattO it sounds like you are dialed, bud. I do like the inline weights myself, but I don’t know that it is any better than what you are running. 14 lbs fireline all the way. Love how it is so easy to mend. Chris’ recommendation.

  22. Headrush says:

    Good Artical, looks like I need to try few new things out when it comes to floats.

  23. BHoov says:

    Love this article most informative float fishing piece around

  24. Hellcat says:

    Thank you so much Brandon

  25. Les Baxter says:

    Your information is greatly helpful and the article helps and reinforces that my gear isn’t the reason my Bobber doesn’t fish on. Is it possible for you to post pictures of how to rig in this article for those of us that like to see examples while reading? I know I’m a hands on guy who likes to see as doing vs just reading. Once again, I am absorbing your helpful information.

  26. Jim Reed says:

    Still trying to figure out my Bobber and Jig game, but this as well as what you have shared with me and many others over the months will help out BIG TIME!! Thanks again for sharing H3LLCAT!!

  27. Hellcat says:

    Thank you so much for your support over the past two years brother. The REED’s are for REEL!

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