Float 'n Fly Technique
by Bob Sirois
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
its 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
Im 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 dont have to cart around an extra long rod.
Certainly you should experiment as there are merits to both approaches.
To 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.
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