Float fishing

Float fishing is a simple method of catching fish and can be used to catch almost all species of fish in all types of water. In order to float fish you are going to need some specific pieces of end fishing tackle. When float fishing an angler doesn’t need too much gear, which is good as it allows you to travel light and not have to carry a lot of weight.

Floats for float fishing

As its name suggests, float fishing requires a float, or a bobber, therefore it is impossible to float fish if you haven’t got a float or a bobber. Floats come in a variety of different colours, shapes and sizes all of which have their own uses. The different types of floats are vast and consist of things like pole floats, chub floats, waggler floats and pencil floats amongst many others.

The type of float you need will depend on the type of water you are fishing, i.e. moving or still, the weather conditions, i.e. windy or still, the range you are fishing, i.e. near the bank or far away from the bank, the size of the hook bait, i.e. large or small etc. etc. Unfortunately there is no one float that will be best in all conditions therefore you ideally need a selection of different types and sizes of float. Fortunately, floats are not expensive, they take up little room and they are easily stored so carrying a large selection of floats will not pose too much of a problem.

A selection of floats for float fishing.Floats come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Here are just a few. 

A selection of colourful fishing floatsCredit: yackers1

Floats are fragile and easily broken so in order to keep them safe and useable you should keep them in a plastic tube with a cap at each end. These float tubes are readily available from all good fishing tackle shops and are cheap. This makes them an essential purchase.

Rubber float bands for float fishing

Float bands are another key accessory for float fishing, however many anglers seem to overlook this. Some floats have wire eyes at the bottom, which are used to thread the float on to the main reel line. When floats are threaded on to the main reel line in this way they are locked in to position using a “locking” split shot that is nipped either side of the wire eye. Locking the float in this way will work, but it is not ideal. If you want to change the depth of the hook bait you need to remove the two locking split shot, move the float and then reapply the locking split shot. Each time the locking shot are removed from the line and reapplied the line is weakened slightly, which may cause to line breakages and lost fish.

Rubber float band. These little bands are essential for float fishing although they are often overlooked by many anglers.

Rubber bands for float fishingCredit: yackers1

Rubber float bands are the best solution to the above issue and they are so simple to use. You need to slide a rubber float band on to the main reel line, thread the line through the float’s wire eye and then slide the rubber float band over the top of the float. The rubber float band will lock the float in place without the need for the locking split shot. With the float set up in this way it is possible to slide the float up and down the line in order to change the depth of the hook bait. The depth can be changed very quickly and without damaging the line in any way.

Some floats do not have a wire eye at the bottom and the only way to attach these floats is to use two rubber float bands. The rubber float bands are threaded up the main line before pushing one over the top of the float and the other on the stem of the float.

Split shot for float fishing

When float fishing it is important the float works correctly and to do this it needs to be weighted so the tip stands proud of the water, and this is achieved using split shot. If you don’t use split shot the float will lay flat on the surface of the water and will not work properly.

Different sized floats require different amounts of split shot in order to make them stand up so you will need a large selection of different sized split shot. Fortunately, most floats will state the amount, and size, of split shot required to make the tip stand proud of the water. For example, if a float has 4BB stamped on it you need to put 4 sized BB weights (or the equivalent) on the line. The amount of split shot stamped on the float can be used as a guide and should be adjusted where necessary. For example, if you want a lot of the float tip standing proud of the water you need to add less weight. If you want less of the float tip standing proud of the water you want to add a bit more weight.

Split shot weights are essential to cock the float and make the tip stand proud of the water.If you don't have split shot you won't be float fishing.

Split shot weights for float fishingCredit: yackers1

As well as making the float tip stand proud the split shot are also used to provide a bit of weight to make casting easier. If there is no weight on the line it will be difficult, if not impossible, to cast out. However, if there is some weight on the line casting out will be very easy.

By placing some split shot near the hook it is possible to sink the hook bait quicker, which is useful when fishing fast flowing rivers and streams.

Fishing hooks for float fishing

If you haven’t got a hook there is no way you are going to get the fish in right? Fishing hooks are an essential bit of kit and it is important to have a variety of different sizes of hook to match the species of fish you are trying to catch as well as the type of bait being used. If you are fishing for any species of any size you need a small hook, as this will allow you to catch small fish as well as any larger fish that may come along. If you are fishing for larger fish you need big hooks in order to stop the smaller fish from swallowing your hook bait.

Just like all types of fishing, you need fishing hooks for float fishing. You should only ever use barbless varieties, as pictured here.

Fishing hooks for float fishingCredit: yackers1

Fishing Hooks are available in barbed and barbless varieties. As the name suggests barbed hooks have a small barb which will stop the hook from coming out of the fish’s mouth once hooked. Barbed hooks are barbaric and should only be used when the fish is going to be taken home and eaten. If you are using catch and release barbed hooks should never be used as they make unhooking a fish exceptionally difficult and seldom come out cleanly. A barbed hook will damage the mouth of a fish and it is inhumane to damage a fish and then put it back in the river to swim away.

Monofilament line for float fishing

When float fishing you need to tie the hook to a length of line that is weaker, i.e. has a lower breaking strain, than the main reel line. Having a weaker hook link will ensure you only lose the hook (and not the float) should you get snagged up. Similarly, if you hook in to a very big fish a weaker hook link will break before the main reel line.

The breaking strain of the hook link will depend on the species of fish you are trying to catch, the size of the hook being used and the breaking strain of the main reel line. As a general rule of thumb the larger the fish targeted the stronger the hook link should be. If the water is particularly snaggy, i.e. full of weeds, lilies, branches and other debris, a stronger hook link should be used, regardless of the target species.

A plummet for float fishing

A plummet is simply a heavy weight that is attached to the line to determine the depth of the water. Using a plummet is exceptionally easy and all you do is set up the float rig, thread the hook through the eye of the plummet and then stick it in to the cork on the bottom. You then cast the float rig and plummet in to the water. If the float disappears out of sight and under the water it is set to shallow. If the float lies flat on the surface of the water it is set too deep.

If the float is set to shallow you need to slide the float further up the main reel line away from the hook. If the float is set to shallow you need to slide the float further down the line and toward the hook. You need to keep adjusting the float until the float sits nicely in the water. At this point the hook is on the bottom and the distance between the hook and the float is the depth of the water.

It is important to know the depth of the water so you can place the hook at the depth you want it. If you want to put the hook bait on the water’s bottom you know where to set the float. If you want to put the hook bait a metre off the water’s bottom you know where to set the float. If you want to put the hook bait a metre below the water’s surface you know where to set the float, and so on.


Float fishing is a great method of catching fish and it is very popular. One of the best things about float fishing is that you don’t need a lot of specialised and expensive equipment. The above list is cheap, cheerful and more than enough for you to get started.