by Bob McNally
If you don’t use slip floats for fishing, you probably should. And if you do use slip floats but haven’t tried new sensitive, “high-tech” models made of balsa wood, it would be wise to give them a chance.
Why? Because it’s almost a sure bet you’ll catch more fish if you do. This innovative float system is deadly, simple, and effective year-round.
Simply stated, these well-balanced, versatile and very specialized high-tech balsa slip floats produce bass, walleyes, panfish and other fish species for anglers when plain, old-style bobbers fail. This is because the new breed of today’s modern slip float is so sensitive, so specialized, so perfectly designed, that it can detect even the smallest nibble from the most finicky-feeding fish. These innovative and remarkable fishing floats allow anglers to present baits and lures to fish that are impossible to present offerings correctly to any other way.
There are a number of different slip-float styles offered by companies such as Lindy, but all allow a fishing line to slide through them, either through the center of the float, or through rings or holes strategically placed on it.
When a slip float hits the surface following a cast, the lure or bait spirals down enticingly, pulling fishing line through the float quickly as it falls. Fitted onto the fishing line above the float is a small knot called a “float stop,” designed to jam against the hole or ring in the float, which thwarts the fishing line from running through a float, and thus halts the fall of a lure.
By sliding a float-stop knot up or down the fishing line, the depth water a lure or bait is fished is perfectly controlled. So an angler can effectively strain the entire water column, presenting a lure at whatever depth fish are holding in.
With a slip float, you can effectively present baits and lures in 2, 10, 20, even 40 feet of water or deeper. And by altering the size and style slip float, you can fish in calm ponds, rough reservoirs, small slow-flowing streams and broad, swift rivers.
Small jigs and lightweight natural baits are used with light line and small floats for panfish and when finesse fishing for bass and walleyes. As lure and bait weights and lines increase in size and weight, the size slip float is increased, too. So big shiners, suckers, chubs and other baits can be used as well.
In water with current, floats are best fished from a stationary position, like an anchored boat or from a dock. Ideally, a sliding stop knot should halt the lure or bait just a foot or two above bottom. Rigged and fished this way, river current pushes a float and lure far back under dock pilings or under overhanging trees and brush, to places an angler never could normally cast a lure. A bright-colored slip float bobs and moves around a piling here and there, near a dock cross support, and bumps against bulkheads. Periodic twitches of a rod tip imparts action to a lure or bait suspended below a float.
With a modern, balanced, sensitive high-tech slip float, you can put a lure or bait right at a fish’s eye level, even over snaggy, weedy or mossy bottoms that make a mess of other presentations. Modern floats make all fishermen better anglers, and they open a new world of possibilities in numerous angling situations.
One important key to successful slip-float fishing is matching the right size float to the lure or bait employed. Small slip floats just a couple inches long can be used with 1/32-ounce jigs and/or natural baits for spooky fish like trout in clear water. Such little lures and baits suspended from small, very sensitive floats allow anglers to work a single spot in the water column for as long as necessary for finicky, suspended fish, a deadly method for tempting reluctant trout into hitting. Small, weighted fly-rod nymphs and little streamers also can be fished with a slip float and are a breeze to cast with light spinning tackle due to the weight of a float.
Many anglers using old-style bobbers find casting difficult, especially when deep water is fished because the distance a bobber had to be positioned above a sinker and bait made for an unwieldy, lob-cast motion. But because a slip-float rests just above the lure before a cast, a float and lure cast like one single unit. So an easy, normal, accurate casting motion can be made. Once a float and lure land at the target they separate, with the sliding float staying at the surface, the lure or bait dropping to the desired depth pre-set by positioning the stop knot on the fishing line.
The additional weight of a slip float greatly improves casting efficiency when small, light lures are needed. This proves helpful in fishing clear or shallow water where long casts are needed. The use of a big slip float can aid in catching schooling summer fish feeding on small baitfish. The added weight of a float helps reach distant fish when small, light lures and baits are required.
The applications for slip-float use in many kinds of fishing are almost limitless. The technique is deadly for suspended fish in flooded timber. A compact float-and-lure can be drifted easily in river current to work bridge abutments or dock pilings. Flip floats can be cast upwind of shallow submerged points and mid-lake humps, then drifted across fish-holding areas without disturbing them with boats or motors.
In thick cover, rigging a slip float with a soft plastic weedless grub or mini-tube lure having a light slip-sinker or split shot is deadly on big fish that hold around deep edges and pockets in submerged hydrilla. The key is to locate the deep sunken edge by utilizing the lure and float as a depth finder. Cast amd let line out until the float lays over on its side. This shows a bait is on bottom. Adjust the slip-float knot closer to the lure, make another cast, adjust the knot again if the float lays over. When the float remains upright after a cast, the bait is hovering just off bottom. Then a slow retrieve is begun, and you can be sure the lure or bait is brought back just above deep weeds, which invariably draws strikes from predator fish.
Some high-tech slip floats glow in the dark, so they shine for low-light and night fishing.
Choosing and using high-tech slip floats is not difficult once anglers learn some basic principles, and you’ll find applications for using them for multiple fish species through all seasons of the year.
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