April 18, 2023
Sometimes, the most effective action is no action.
Take, for instance, the float-n-fly rig. Sure, you must cast it, but for the most part, the rig does the work for you. (More on this in a moment.)
Western pro Aaron “Legit” Britt is a master at the float-n-fly technique. (Henceforth, “FNF” for brevity.) In his experience, targeting spotted bass that are keying on petite forage can prove challenging.
“In our spotted bass lakes, these pond smelt are very small,” Britt said. “We’re not trying to imitate shad; we’re trying to imitate that pond smelt. The (FNF) just a convenient way of doing that.”
Pond smelt, juvenile shad, those tiny minnows that dart in and out of grass edge—the general scenario probably manifests itself in countless scenarios coast-to-coast. That’s why the FNF presents a tool worth keeping in your box.
When To Use It
Britt tends to favor the FNF during the temperature extremes of summer and winter.
“When it gets really hot, the fish get lethargic and when it gets really cold, they get lethargic,” he said. “Generally, during these times of year, the fish will suspend on steep, bluff walls.”
Makes sense; when fish don’t feel like moving, even when their bellies are rumbling, the easiest meal is always the most appealing. The fish doesn’t have to move fast, it doesn’t need to crack the bait like a frog bite. They open their mouth, suck in what appears to be a wayward baitfish and then it’s back to sulking—until you set the hook.
Noting the angler benefit of FNF conditions, Britt said: “It works best when the water is cold or hot because they’re generally stationary. When they do move, they’re moving up and down; they’re not moving (long distances) off the bank to a point.”
Now, the Moping (aka Damiki rigging) technique that Jeff Gustafson used to win the Bassmaster Classic proves highly effective for vertically targeting fish, but what if you can’t get over the fish? What if sonar pings, boat shadows or the general fishing pressure is bugging them out?
The FNF might be worth a look.
Elsewhere when the fish are suspending over brush piles, anglers have plenty of options; but when the topwaters, jerkbaits, swimbaits, shaky heads and dropshots fail to deliver, showing the fish something beyond the traditional stuff might earn an extra bite or two.
The FNF is, essentially, the same thing as a slip-float crappie rig; just heavier line and tackle. Britt adds a bobber stop, then a slip float to his leader and finishes by tying on a Spro Phat Fly. Setting the bobber stop up or down his leader determines his fishing depth.
When deployed, the lengthy rig might appear to be a serious casting limitation, but not so. As you load up, the bobber slides down to the bait and remains there throughout the cast. When the rig hits the water, the weight of the fly (basically, a hair jig) pulls the leader through the float until it reaches the bobber stop …
“The cast is really easy, I can wind the bobber all the way to the tip of my rod and cast it wherever I want it,” he said. “That bobber stop goes all the way through my guides.”<?p>
Tackle: He throws the FNF on his signature series 742 iRod Legit Finesse Swimmer rod and a Shimano Stradic 4000 with 20-pound green Seaguar Smackdown braid and a 15-foot leader of 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu leader.
“Generally, I want my leader a lot longer on most applications, but (with the FNF rig), it only goes as far as the bobber stopper,” he said. “If I have a bunch of fluorocarbon behind that bobber stopper, all it does is sink.”
Regardless of when he picks up the FNF, be it prime time or an odd time, Britt finds this deal excels in shade. He’s also big on proximity.
“You cast it out there and get it as close to the bank as you can,” he said. “Once you pull it out, the bait will be off the bottom quite a bit, but on that initial cast, you want it as close to the bottom as you can get it.”
If the fly drops and the bobber remains on its side, that means you’re actually too shallow and the bait is laying on the bottom with a slack leader. Simply pull the float out until the fly has enough depth to straighten the leader and allow the float to reach the bobber stop.
Patience also plays a big roll.
“I’m a big fan of (taking) about 25-30 seconds a cast,” he said. “You can wiggle it a little, or let the wind work it for you, but the most natural presentation seems to be the best.
“A lot of times, they’ll hit it when you’re not doing anything. If you don’t get a bite in about 20 seconds, reel up, make another cast about 8 to 10 yards ahead and just keep repeating that process until the float goes down.”
The Moment of Truth
The problem with slower techniques is that the pent up anticipation often leads to overzealous bite response. Britt’s suggestion: Keep your cool.
“The right reaction is there’s no hookset—you just start reeling and you wind ‘em on,” he said. “The hook is so small that if you try to set it, a lot of times, you just pull it out of their mouth.
“When I see that bobber go down, I point my rod right at that bobber and reel until the line gets tight and then I just pull my rod up.”<?p>
Rinse and repeat—cast again and catch another one.