Float fishing with a pole…don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Float fishing with a pole…don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

One of the simplest fishing thrills is to watch your float go underwater as a fish takes your bait. If you haven’t tried it the feeling’s hard to describe but it can be such a rush that some people do no other type of fishing.


In Australia we don’t do a lot of float fishing but in Europe and Asia it’s real big.


The reason for its  popularity is part historic and part function.


Historically, before the invention of fibreglass, carbon fibre and graphite the only rods around were handmade cane, bamboo and wooden fishing rods…these weren’t sensitive or flexible. They didn’t give the angler much feel of what was happening with their hook and bait so they often wouldn’t know if they were getting bitesor what the heck was happening!


Using a float was a whole lot different.  Small floats could be set up so the fish felt no resistance when they picked up a bait….they had no idea there was an angler at the other end of the line and would swallow with confidence….it was a very successful way to fish because the float showed every little hit by a fish…so some anglers became absolute experts.


Fast forward to modern times and the development of sensitive quivertip rods, berley cages, method feeders, graphite lure rods, soft plastic lures and fish attractants….and float fishing looks a bit “old school”…

….but ask some highly successful float anglers and they’ll tell you, on its day, nothing beats a well presented float bait.


My own experience is that it can be a great way to catch fish. At one point I float fished exclusively and I gotta say I caught a lot of fish…many of them big!


I even did a bit of night fishing where I attached an isotope to my float so you could see it in the dark….

…watching your lit up float go under water and disappear in the depths at night was a real buzz.


I still float fish when I get the chance and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to try something a little different. 


You can fish a float in running water but it takes a little more skill so the first place to start is in still water.


The thing that most people don’t understand is that even with a float, most of the time, you are still fishing on the bottom. The float has to be attached so that it lets the bait lie on the bottom so the moment the fish picks up the bait the float moves….

so if you are fishing deeper water you’ll need a longer rod.


There are rods specifically made for float fishing. I have a few ranging in size from 3.6meters long up to 6meters long….and they can get much longer….

…and being long they take quite a bit more experience in handling – but don’t worry, there’s an alternative…

…the POLE!


Long before fishing reels were invented anglers tied line to a long, thin piece of wood or cane and fished with this. The pole does the same thing…but a lot better! Modern materials have made them light, very flexible and strong.


Like other fishing gear, poles can be cheap or expensive. Anglers in Europe use poles worth thousands of pounds. In contrast you can buy really cheap poles for under $50 and they still catch fish.


The great thing about the pole is that it’s easy to put your bait right where you want it … there’s no casting so you can be a lot more accurate. Then if you chuck berley at your float it’ll sink to where your bait is ….this really helps bring the fish to your bait.

Like all other fishing you have to choose your spot carefully. You want an area that’s deep enough to hold fish that you can reach with the pole….but that’s not difficult. There are plenty of dams and lakes about that have deeper sections you can reach with a 4 to 5 meter pole.

The way to set up the pole is called “fishing to hand “ this just means your line and your pole are the same length . You can then lift the pole and swing the hook to your hand to bait it. When you hook a fish you do the same thing if it’s small….if it’s big fish you’ll need a net. This avoids trying to lift a fish heavier than the pole or line can bear.

Setting up you tackle is simple. Thread a pencil or thin float on your line and thread float stops above and below it to keep it in place. Next, press on enough split shot to sink the float up to its stem. Finally, tie on your hook….and you’re ready to go.

If you’re going to fish on the bottom, which is recommended, you need to check the water depth. You do this by pressing another split shot on the hook so its heavy enough to sink the float. When the float disappears under water bring it back and lift it higher towards the pole tip so it can handle deeper water . Swing it back in the water to see if it sinks. If it is at the right depth the stem should be the only thing showing.

Keep repeating this till you get the right depth.


Once you’ve got the right depth you can bait your hook and start fishing.


The way to attract the fish to your bait is to use berley. Make up some berley into golf ball size balls. Throw out 2 or 3 of these right over your float so they sink and land next to your hook bait. Leave it for 10 minutes and If you don’t get a bite, throw out another ball of berley. Keep repeating this for about an hour. By that time you will have a nice pile of berley sending out smells into the water. If there are any fish around it should start to attract them.


When you get bites…you’ll know!  Your float will move around. It will either go under or lift up. When it does, lift your pole so the hook sticks in the fish’s mouth.

When there are a few fish around this can be pretty exciting.


To keep the fish interested remember to chuck in a berley ball every time you strike…

….and after you strike, even if you don’t hook a fish, remember to bring in your bait and inspect it. Make sure it’s still there and looks good, if not, put a new bait on.


Float fishing at times can be the most satisfying way to fish. There’s something about watching a float go under that has a bit of “magic” to it.


With a bit of experience you can float fish quite a few different types of water. Some of my favourites are bay beaches for – garfish, whiting, bream and mullet, lakes for – redfin and trout…and still backwaters in rivers for just about anything….

….and don’t thing float fishing is just for small fish. You can catch big fish if you have the right gear….I’ve caught carp up to 7kg on float gear as well as big trout, eels and bream.


So why not broaden your fishing experience with a bit of float fishing?

….you just might find another passion in your life.



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