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Float 'n Fly Technique

by Bob Sirois

A Float and a Fly

Many anglers have read about this technique in many fishing publications or possibly on one of the online message boards, but have you put it to the test. I doubted it's potential until I watched my brother-in-law fish this rig late one fall. It was during the closing days of November back in the late eighties. The water was a cold 49 degrees and I don't think the air was all that much warmer. We were at my Rod & Gun club pond because the bass at that time of year stack up in very predictable locations. We went through 3-1/2 dozen live shiners in 45 minutes anchored up on my favorite late fall secondary point. Then the bait was gone and we were having limited success with artificials. My brother-in-law broke out a float & fly rig and started catching quality bass at almost the same rate. You don't have to hit me over the head and I climbed on board the Float & Fly bandwagon. This technique has proven itself time and time again when the water is cold, when bass are extremely pressured or when conditions are tough. The rig really shines when it comes to catching quality smallmouth bass, however it’s extremely effective on largemouth, pickerel, crappie, bluegills and even perch.

Some of the common mail order catalogs offer Float & Fly kits, however I opted to have a friend make my jigs which insures me a better quality hook. You want to use the lightest jig possible for the conditions at hand, with weights of 1/32 to 1/16 oz. being the norm. A slightly heavier 1/8 oz. head might be necessary in windy conditions or when fishing greater depths. An online search will result in numerous sources of craft hair jigs, which are the standard offering of most seasoned F&F experts. I have a friend make my jigs using what he has on hand and that is typically bucktail, so a variety of materials will work as long as you keep it simple. A good quality fine wire hook is important to insure a quick and easy hookup. I'm personally partial to the Owner Cutting Edge hooks. You don't need to get fancy with the dressing, with a single color in black, brown or white bucktail being sufficient. If you have craft hair or other synthetic materials on hand, then experiment with jig styles, but keep it simple and sparse. The bucktail should be close to twice the length of the hook, with the overall jig about 2 to 2-1/2 inches long. On page #200 of the 2002 Bass Pro Shops Master Catalog, you will see two types of bobber stops. At times I like one over the other and conditions and line test will determine which style works best. Since they are very inexpensive, I suggest you pick up a supply of both and experiment. On that same page order a couple three packs of the 3-3/8" and the 2-3/4" Thill Center Slider (Thill item M), which will cover most conditions and your good to go. All you need now is a 6-1/2 foot light action spinning or baitcasting rod if your able to cast light tackle with baitcasting gear. I should note that it is more common to fish this rig on a fixed bobber, rather than the slip bobber I’m using. That requires a rod in the 8-9 foot range, to be able to cast the rig, which to me is just one more rod I really don't need in the boat. I find I have good success with the slip bobber and don’t have to cart around an extra long rod. Certainly you should experiment as there are merits to both approaches.

Float n flyTo rig attach a bobber stop to 6-8 lb mono, run the line through one of the small beads that came with the bobber stop, then through the slip bobber and then tie on your jig. Not all 8 lb mono lines are the same diameter and you might find some will not allow a light jig to pull the line through the slip bobber, especially in windy conditions. You might find you need to use 6 lb, or use an 8 lb mono with a 6 lb equivalent diameter. Have a bottle of scent handy and your ready to go. Set the bobber stop to suspend the jig just off the bottom, the top of the weed bed or the depth the fish are suspended at. Put a couple of drops of your favorite scent on the jig and let her fly (no pun intended). Even before that first cast however, set the rig in the water beside the boat and make sure the jig has pulled the line through to the bobber stop. Take note of the position and angle of the slip bobber. When you cast it out, make sure the bobber has that same attitude, because at times the eye of the jig can tend to get stuck at the bottom of the slip bobber or a combination of wind, waves and line diameter, might be preventing the jig from dropping to the correct depth. The attitude of the bobber will tell you there is a problem, in fact the attitude of the bobber is the name of this game. Speaking of attitude, I've found that with the correct setup, the best attitude is approximately 45 degrees. You don't want the bobber sitting vertical in the water, if it is you likely have a jig that's too heavy for the bobber. If it's too horizontal, the jig is too light and likely will have difficulty getting to the correct depth.

After you make that first cast, you will be wondering, how do I fish the damn thing? The best action is no action. You basically let this rig sit and let the wave action work the jig up and down for you. In fact this rig actually works best with a slight chop on the water. Patience is the name of the game, especially in cold water. Let the rig sit for a minute or two and then move it only a foot or so in small rod tip movements to give the jig a little action. Then let it sit again. You just repeat this until you are out of the strike zone, but the key is patience and concentration, especially in water temperatures below 45 degrees. To be successful you need to stay focused on the bobber at all times. It might be pulled completely under, but that's not likely to happen in cold water. More likely the bobber will just move a little differently. It might be pulled vertical but not under or suddenly lay flat on the water even though you are sure the jig can't be sitting on the bottom. Immediately sweep the rod and reel to set the hook. Don't think this is a bait for just panfish and an occassional small buck bass. I've caught largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and pickerel approaching 6 lbs and yes livewells full of yummie crappie. I doubt there are many fish that wouldn't fall for this subtle presentation, assuming you have the patience to try it. Don't think you have to be smallmouth fishing over the deep end of main lake points either. Every spring my brother-in-law and I start the season with an annual crappie fry. The method we use for those early spring crappie might surprise you, but at the same time show you how versitle this rig can be. Early spring crappie move into shallow coves with weed and wood to warm up and prepare for spawning. To make a long story short, when they make that move, we use the F&F rig set up for a depth of 12-18 inches, while fishing the warmer water in the back of these shallow 2-3 foot deep coves. It's not surprising that between the crappie action, we pick up our share of good size bass and pickeral, who have also moved into those warmer coves.

Give this rig a try if you want a way to put some bass in the boat when the water is cold or when fishing get tough.

This article brought to you by

Ledge Runner Baits

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