The Float Fishing Setup

Float Fishing Rig, everything below the Bobber Stop

This tip is a quick visual on a common Float (or Drift) Fishing setup. It’s important to note this does not include the Rod or Reel style.

Float: Floats are generally plastic, cork or foam. They keep your hook/bait drifting correctly down the river. The way your Float sits or reacts on the top of the water will provide you with a lot of information.

Bobber Stop(s): Depending on your float style, it may/may not need a bobber stop. For slip floats that slide freely up/down the mainline, they will need a Bobber stop in order to set the depth for your setup. The bobber stop above the float determines the depth of your bait/lure. I also like to use a 2nd bobber stop directly below the float so I can most easily see my float depth (and also find less issues with casting).

Mainline: This is the primary line on your reel. This line should ALWAYS be a stronger weight than Leader line. For the best Monofilament and Braid fishing lines check out these pages:

Weight: Another key piece of the drift fishing setup. There are many styles of weights. The weight ensure the float sits up right, and gets your bait/lure down to the bottom/to the fish.

Bead: Acts as a buffer between the mainline knot on the swivel (or duo-lock) from the weight. If you have a weight that slides up and down the mainline it will damage the knot.

Duo-Lock / Snap: This is optional piece, you can attach mainline directly to swivel as well. If you like to pretie leaders with swivels already attached, the duo-lock allows for a quick change up. This is particularly helpful in colder fishing conditions where dexterity for knots isn’t great.

Swivel: This small metal piece connects your mainline to leader and prevents line twists.

Leader: This is a short line that runs from the mainline to the hook. This line strength should be less than Mainline. Choosing a leader based on water conditions and species is important for more information on leaders, see our 5 Best Fishing Leaders.

Corkie, Bead, etc: This is optional. It could also be a tuft of yarn connected to the hook by an egg loop.

Hook: The hook could be any type of lure: Bait hook, Jig, Spoon, Spinner, etc. In the example illustration, this is a bait hook that would have some sort of bait (fake or real) attached to it.

Click to expand

How to Drift Fish with a Float

I love this style of fishing, it’s one of the most common tactics I use on moving water. Having a float to perfectly present a lure or bait just above the bottom, aka. the fish strike zone is a deadly tactic. Plus the visual of watching a float go down is always a blast as well.

There are many little details that go into drift fishing and even perfecting some of the smallest ones will set you a part from the other anglers. Seriously, I’m not blowing any smoke, here are some of these tips to consider when drifting with a float.

Mend your fishing line

This might be one of the most important tips to master when float fishing. Understanding and doing this well is the difference between a beginner/average angler and a more advanced angler. What I mean by “mending your line” is keeping the least amount of line out between your rod tip and top of the float. You don’t want big bows and extra slack line in the water. The 2 most important reasons for properly mended line:

  1. Better Hook set. If you have extra line in the water and you set the hook you won’t have that direct connection to the hook and fish. Your hook set may not reach the hook at all, and you’ll have to reel in line before you can set the hook. There’s nothing more frustrating than loosing a fish to unmended line.
  2. Creates a natural drift. Excess or slack line will slow or speed up your float and the bait/lure you’re presenting below the float will not move through the water naturally. Whatever you’re offering must look and flow natural in the water so not to spook the fish let alone induce a bite.

Watch your Float!

Your float should be pointing straight up when it’s coming down the water channel. If the top of the float is angled (“pointing”) down river that means you’re setup is catching and dragging along the bottom. Here you’re fishing too deep, you’ll need to shorten the depth of your float setup by 6 inches and then cast to the same section of water. Keep repeating this process of shortening your setup by 6 inches until you see that the float moves through the water and is pointing straight up. Also, poorly mended line may also have your float down river, see next section on this.

How deep the Float should sit in the water?

On almost all drift floats there is a line or color change on the top section of a float. This float line or colored top section should act as the indicator of where the water line should be. Meaning, the only section of the float you should see is above that top line (color) when the float is moving down the water column.

If the float line is well above the water and you can see half the float, then the float is sitting too high. Fishing a high sitting float makes it harder to detect subtle bites as it won’t fully submerge (go under the water). To get your float sitting deeper in the water column apply more weight below OR use a smaller float.

If the float line is below the water, you likely won’t be able to see much of the float at all, in this case your float is sitting too low. In this case you’ll have a harder time seeing your float to see what it’s doing (dragging, going down, etc). To get your float sitting up higher use a lighter weight below it OR use a larger float.

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