In the summer, I often see people fishing with float fishing sets bought in the high street. Many fishing sets are basic and barely have enough equipment to catch fish. So what follows is how to set a float to catch fish in a lake, with a basic fishing set and no prior knowledge of fishing. I am going to assume you have a kit that comprises of a rod, reel and line as opposed to a pole that does not use a reel.
Rod and reel fishing sets come with either normal floats or loaded floats. Loaded floats have a metal piece on the bottom of the float, normal floats don’t. Have a look at the floats in your kit and identify which type you have.
Which float to use
Ideally you will have a selection of straight floats in your fishing kit. If you have, then select the second largest. If you don’t have any plain straight floats, then use any straightish float that has an eye in the bottom for the line.
Audio version of this article
Attaching a normal float to the line
With the fishing reel attached, thread the line through the middle of all the rod rings. Then thread the float onto the line, through the eye in the bottom of the float. Select two medium sized sinkers [split shot], put one either side of the float, with the float about 18 inches (45 cm) up the line.
The sinkers should have a slit cut into them. Place the line in the slit and squeeze the sinker shut around the line. Close the sinker between your fingers, please don’t use your teeth or pliers.
Attaching a loaded float to the line
To hold a loaded float in place, rubber float stops are used, sinkers would add too much weight to the setup. Float stops come mounted on a loop of wire. Pass an inch or two of line through the loop and pull the first float stop off the wire and onto the fishing line. Next thread the float onto the line, then a second rubber float stop. The float should now be trapped between the two float stops, slide all three 18 inches (45 cm) up the line.
Attach the hook
Some fishing sets come with hooks tied to a length of line with a loop at the end. To join the hook line and the main line, tie a loop in the end of the main line using a figure of eight loop knot. Do not use an overhand knot, because they weaken the nylon line too much.
Please see my knots page How to tie five good fishing knots, it has the figure of eight loop knot along with other useful fishing knots.
The strongest way to join the two loops together, is to pass the main line through the loop in the hook line. Then pass the hook through the loop of the main line. Other methods will weaken the lines too much.
Hooks without line attached
If your fishing kit has loose hooks, then tie one on using a Palomar knot. The Palomar is a strong easy to tie knot that will work with any sort of fishing line. The Palomar can also be found on my knots page, How to tie five good fishing knots.
Testing the water
Most fish can feed on the lake bed, so to have the best chance of catching, your hook bait should rest on the lake bed. To ensure this happens, you need to know how deep the water is. Usually a special weight called a plummet is used, but I noticed many beginners fishing sets don’t have one. If your set does come with a plummet, take a look at my film Plumb the depth of a lake for fishing.
What follows is a way of finding the depth and setting the bait to rest on the bottom, without using a plummet.
Set the float first
At the moment you should have a float on the line, fixed at about 18 inches (45 cm) up the line from the hook. If you swing the line out into the water now, the float will either lay flat on the surface or perhaps poke out of the water several inches. This is because there are not enough sinkers [split shot], on the line to pull the float down properly.
Add three medium sinkers (probably size No.4) to the line, eight inches above the hook. Swing the float out again and check how the float is sitting in the water. Add or remove medium sinkers to the group above the hook, until ¾ inch (2 cm) of the float shows above the surface.
Find the depth
Unless the water is very shallow, the hook will not hang down far enough to reach the lake bed. Bring the float back in and move the float up the line away from the hook by 12 inches (30 cm). Swing the float out again to the same spot and see how it sits in the water.
Keep moving the float up the line by 12 inches at a time, until eventually the float is far enough up the line, to allow the group of sinkers to reach the lake bed. When this happens the float will pop-up or even lay flat on the surface.
Because the float has popped up, we know the sinkers are definitely laying on the bottom, along with the eight inches of line to the hook. Some final adjustments are now needed to set the rig up perfectly.
For the float to work properly, the group of sinkers should not rest on the lake bed. What we did before was only to find the lake bed, some adjustments are needed.
Move the float 6 inches closer to the hook and swing the rig out to the same spot. If the float has now settled with ¾ inch (2 cm) of tip above the water, the group of sinkers are no longer resting on the bottom. But if the float has not settled correctly, bring it back and move the float another 6 inches closer to the hook.
If you have followed my directions to the letter and always swung the float out to the same spot, it should now be correctly set to fish on the bottom.
I appreciate that when reading my instructions the process of setting the float up seems a bit lengthy. But if you understand what I have described, if you can see the process in your minds eye, then I suspect you will take no time in setting the float. If you cannot quite get what I am saying, then follow my directions exactly and use the measurements I have suggested. The result will be a float rig that works, even though it is not perfect.
The perfect setup
If you fully understand what we did to find the depth, then fine tune the rig until 4 inches of line lay on the bottom, leaving the group of split shot 4 inches above the bottom. To fine tune the rig further, you can separate the the group of split shot. Leave one shot at 8 inches from the hook, move the rest a further 12 inches up the line. The result is a standard Waggler rig.
The standard Waggler rig has a straight Waggler as the float, a single split shot above the hook called the tell tale shot, and a group of shot above that called the bulk shot. This simple rig is designed to catch fish feeding on the bottom and has caught countless fish. Please see the related links at the bottom of this article for more on float fishing.
Further quick tips
- If you can, fish on the East or North East side of the lake.
- Place your float two foot (60 cm) from a weed bed.
- If there are no weeds, fish straight out in front, but be aware the water may get deeper.
- Throw in some bait as free offerings to attract the fish. A small handful every 20 minutes should do.
- Good baits to use are:
- Sweet corn, tinned or frozen.
- Luncheon meat, cut into ¼ inch cubes.
- Frozen prawns cut into ¼ inch pieces.
- Soft hook pellets.
- Constantly watch the float for a bite.
- When you see the float move, hook the fish by lifting the rod up, this is called a strike.
- Strike the fish with a positive sweep of the rod, not a violent snatch.
- Do not touch a fish with anything dry.
- Never lay the fish on anything hard.
- Never stand up holding a fish, remember, fish are slippery.
- Place fish back in the water, never throw them.
- Do not put your hands in your mouth, eyes, ears etc.
- Finally, try not to fall in, it scares the fish away.
Best of luck.