Fishing Floats What You Need To Know
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Fishing Floats

Anyone new to angling is likely to be completely baffled by the selection of floats available in tackle shops these days. There are wagglers, stick floats, loafers, pencils, dibbers, balsas, toppers, Avons and sliders.

There are floats with wire stems and cane bristles, cane stems and nylon bristles, carbon stems and cane bristles. There are floats which are designed to carry just two or three tiny shot, and there are floats which need 0.35oz (10g) of weight or more to set correctly.

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Even if you ask for a waggler in your local tackle shop, it is not a request. You might be asked if you would like an insert or a straight waggler, a bodied or loaded waggler, a crystal or a peacock!

There is an amazing array of floats available in tackle shops. Most anglers build up a collection of various typs and styles for using at different venues and when fishing for specific species of fish.

All of these strangely named floats are designed for specific situations and different types of fishing. The question is, where do you start to negotiate your way through the float-fishing maze?

For a start, there is no way that the beginner can expect to understand the uses of all the floats on the market. Indeed you could fish for a lifetime and never need to use 50 per cent of them. A better idea is to try and understand a basic range of floats and the theory behind them.


Wagglers are attached to the mainline at the bottom end only, locked in place with split swot. Thry can be used on rivers and stillwaters. Wagglers are floats which are attached to the line through a ring at the bottom end.

The float is locked in place with a split shot on either side, and then more pieces of shot are added until only about a 1/2in (1.25cm) of the bright tip is showing above the surface film.

They are used on both still and flowing water, with different types functioning best in different depths. As a basic rule, the further it is necessary to cast and the deeper the water, the heavier the waggler that is required.

Loaded wagglers are also available. These carry weight already within the base of the float, so that less shot is needed to cock them in the water.

Stick Floats

Stick floats are designed for use on running waters and are attached to the line with silicone rubbers. Stick floats are for use in running water. They are attached to the line by hollow rings of soft silicone in what is termed ‘top and bottom‘ fashion.

That simply means that the line from the rod is fastened to the top of the float, rather than to the bottom, as in the case of wagglers. This arrangement allows the angler a great deal of control over the behaviour of the float as it runs downstream, with the possibility of slowing the float down or even holding it still against the water’s flow.

Using this method it is possible to ‘tease’ the bait and alter its presentation, thus tempting bites from shy or wary fish.

Stick floats may be manufactured from cane (for close-in work) or lignum (for casting greater distances) or be wire-stemmed (for turbulent water).

Pole Floats

Pole floats are attached with the line running first through a small eye at the top of the stem and then through two silicone rubbers on the stem. It is impossible to cover the entire range of available pole floats in a short space, such is the massive range available to the angler.

However, the majority are attached to the line by two small silicone bands on the stem below the body, with the line passing through an eye in the top half of the float. If the float’s shape is ‘body up’ (with the bulbous body of the float near the top of the stem), it is designed for use in running water so that it can be held back in a flow. If it is ‘body down’, it is a stillwater float.

Generally speaking, wire and carbon stems are used for fishing on the bottom and offer good stability in choppy water, while cane-stemmed floats are used for fishing on the drop or in the upper layers of the water.

Pike Floats

Pike floats must be big enough to suspend a live or dead fish without sinking. Pike floats are much bigger than wagglers, pole floats or stick floats, basically because they are designed to have a sufficient buoyancy to suspend a live or dead fish underneath without submerging.

Many pike floats have a hollow centre through which the line is threaded. This allows them to slide up the line until they meet a small stop knot, set to match a pre-determined depth of water.

Top Tip

Beginners should steer clear of floats with wire bristles (fine stems), which are a nightmare to shot correctly. It is better to choose floats with nylon or cane bristles instead.

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