Notes About Panfish Floats

Whether you call them bobbers, corks, or strike-detecting-livebait-suspending apparatuses, there's no denying that they're tools that serve us well when it comes to positioning baits in precise locations and for detecting bites. Floatfishing for panfish is one of the best ways to cast light baits a long way into tight spots around cover. And with so many float options available designed to perform best under specific conditions, it's easy to fine-tune your presentation to perform in a variety of conditions and locations.

According to In-Fisherman editor Matt Straw, "Floats work better than any other presentation for positioning your bait in and along cover, like weededges, weed pockets, timber, or brush. They're also one of the best options when fish are neutral or negative and you need to keep the bait hovering in the same spot for a long time before panfish take the bait."

Fixed floats are adequate down to depths of about 5 feet. Set deeper, the rigs become awkward to cast and make landing fish difficult. Slipfloats are easier to cast, and the desired depth can be adjusted simply by sliding the bobber stop on the line. Once the stop is set, the float freely slides up and down the line, so you won't have to reset the depth until you move to a new location.

The basic rule when choosing a float is to use the smallest size possible. In other words, select a float that has enough buoyancy to support the weight of the bait and be pulled underwater by a fish without much resistance. "In shallow clear water, for instance, I change to a small stealthy float, like Thill's Mini-Shy Bites," Straw says. "The tiny float doesn't make much commotion when it hits the water and it goes down easy. Even light-biters take it under without hesitation."

That said, there are a plethora of floats specifically designed to perform best in current, waves, clear water, and at night. For instance, in windy conditions, waggler-style floats, which feature a balsa bulb at the base for stability, are ideal for keeping your bait stationary on a spot.

"When wind is a factor, a standard float tends to ride too high on top of the water and waves push the float and your bait too quickly past the fish," Straw says. "Wagglers are designed to keep the buoyant part of the float under water and prevent the wind from pushing your bait past key spots too quickly. After casting, sticking your rod tip below the water and reeling in the slack sinks the line, slowing your float movement in wind and waves and giving panfish time to find and eat your bait."

The color (or lack of color) of your float is more important than most people consider. Under certain light conditions, specific colors are easier for anglers to spot. Clear plastic floats are ideal when fish seem suspicious of floats, particularly in clear or shallow water.

Straw: "I use different colored floats based on the day and how fish are reacting to the float. On bright days, I prefer orange or pink floats. Under low light conditions and on cloudy days, chartreuse tops are easier to see. In clear calm water when the fish are ultra spooky, I like to use clear plastic floats, casting bubbles. Some companies make clear plastic floats with a hint of red or chartreuse and a few make clear floats with the just a small portion of the top painted orange, like Redwing Tackle's Phantom."

Lighted slipfloats designed for nightfishing also work well on dark days or in waves. Most common are those with lithium battery inserts that cause a diode to glow red at the tip of the float. Several companies also make attachments that allow you to add a replaceable cyalume light stick to your favorite float. There are also floats coated with phosphorescent paint, but they must be recharged with a flashlight or camera flash at frequent intervals.

Fine-tuning any fishing presentation is the key to making it more effective. Selecting the right float based on fish behavior, water and weather conditions, and the panfish you're trying to catch is likely going to increase the number of times fish pull your float under. And when it comes to catching panfish, few things bring back that giddy inner-child feeling like a disappearing float.

Continued -- click on page link below.

Notes About Panfish Floats (cont.)


Bagley -- For light-biting panfish, the Bagley Shivers Float, designed to match European competition floats, is ultrasensitive and ideal for panfish. Their Night Rider float features a removable fluorescent stem that can be replaced with a chemical lightstick. Along with a variety of other panfish floats, Bagley makes a nice Bodied Waggler for combating windy conditions.

Betts -- Weighted and unweighted BillyBoy Balsa Floats are available in pencil, cylinder, and oval shapes that are ideal for panfishing. The Float-a-Bubble is a stealthy slipfloat casting bubble ideal for targeting panfish in the shallows or ultra-clear water.

Carlson -- The aerodynamic Wing-It float is designed to cast far and accurately. Fixed and slipfloats available.

Eagle Claw -- Eagle Claw offers a selection of panfish style balsa stationary and slipfloats. They also make a 1-inch clear Plastic Spin float ideal for launching light lures a long distance.

Gapen -- The Crappie and All-Panfish floats feature brightly painted long stems for visibility. Both float styles feature the Gapen Slip-in-Lock system that allow you to use them as either slip or stationary floats. To use as a slipfloat, simply insert the line through a slot on the bottom of the stem and pull the rubber sleeve just over the slot opening. To rig stationary, wrap the line around the stem slot and slide the entire sleeve over the slot.

Northland -- The Lite-Bite balsa slipfloat is a good all-around float that has a fluorescent stem for visibility.

Rainbow Plastics -- Cast your favorite panfish bait farther with Rainbow's A-Just-A-Bubble. Designed to be used as a stationary- or slipfloat; add the proper amount of water inside the bubble to increase or decrease the float's buoyancy and casting distance. Available in clear, fluorescent red, red-white, opaque chartreuse, and translucent green.

Redwing -- The Phantom float is a clear plastic float with an orange top and a line-loop on the bottom of the stem that allows for both fixed- and slipfloat fishing. Their TSL Floats, available in four sizes, offer excellent buoyancy plus a glow-in-the-dark tip that makes it easy to see in low light.

Rod-n-Bobb's -- The Boss Bobber has a stem wrapped with an extra-sensitive stainless-steel spring, allowing the stem to move freely up and down through the body of the bobber. The body of the Boss serves as a platform that slowly submerges as the stem is gradually pulled down, after a fish inhales the bait. With the Boss, any resistance spreads gradually from the surface of the water to the top of the stem, exactly the opposite of traditional floats. This unique bobber design allows fish to easily negotiate baits because resistance is spread out. Rod-n-Bobb's lighted LuckyJack bobber delivers a light that's 21 times brighter and lasts for over 21 hours. Convert most any float into a night-float with their Bobber Beacon that fits all sizes slip or stick bobber stems and round plastic bobbers of any size.

Thill (Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle) -- The new Thill Gold Medal Supreme line of floats, like the Mini Stealth, Stealth, and Super Shy Bite, feature Lindy's easy on and off X-Change line attachment that allows you to add or remove the float at any time. They can also be used as either a fixed or slipfloat simply by moving the sleeve partially or completely over the line slot. Ebony black underbodies teamed with the yellow and orange-painted top offer the perfect balance of stealth and visibility. The Mini-Shy Bite and Mini Super Shy Bite are two top producers for ultra-hesitant panfish. For nightfishing, add a Thill Float Night Light (available in green, red, orange, and blue), which has a universal adapter that converts just about any float into a lighted float.

Today's Tackle -- The Ice Buster Bobber features a piece of red plastic that holds the line attachment point of the slipfloat below water, preventing the float from freezing to the line. String-tied bobber stops are best for setting the depth. The most unique feature is that you can trim the foam stem to match the weight of the bait, customizing the float to make it almost neutrally buoyant and nearly undetectable to fish. Their Wave Buster bobber has an adjustable plastic sleeve for precision balance and the added weight allows for long casts.

Plastilite -- The Mr. Crappie Popper (Bass Pro) is designed to attract crappies to your bait. The high-visibility float not only has internal rattles but also features a concave end that allows you to "chug" the surface and attract crappies. Slightly eccentric in appearance, but it works.

1 Today's Tackle Ice Buster, 2 Northland Lite-Bite, 3 Bett's Billy Boy Balsa, 4 Bagley Shivers Float, 5 Bagley American Classic, 6 Redwing Blackbird, 7 Gapen All Panfish, 8 Gapen The Crappie, 9 Thill Super Shy Bite, 10 Stops, Snubs, and Beads, 11 Plastilite Mr. Crappie Popper, 12 Thill Mini-Shy Bite, 13 Carlson Wing-It, 14 Thill Mini-Stealth.

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