SLIP FLOAT SET-UP
By Ken Poor
Most of us got our introduction to fishing sitting on a rock or riverbank with an old bamboo pole and a red and white fixed plastic bobber. The fixed bobbers is easy to use and a good way to introduce a child to fishing. But the fixed floats have their limitations and drawbacks.
If you are fishing deeper than 3 or 4-feet, when you reel up your line you will have to much line out to control and land your fish. Additionally, it’s hard to cast your line when there is a 10-foot-long leader under the fixed float. The slip float rig is the solution to the that problem.
The slip float is an effective technique for fish holding on the bottom or suspended at just about any depth. When rigged properly, the slip float rig compacts as you reel in your line. After you cast the rig, the line slides through the slip float until the slip float hits the bobber stop knot causing your bait to suspend at a pre-set depth.
The small size of the bobber stop knot allows it to pass freely through the rod guides when you reel in your line or cast your line. The bobber stop knot stop should be snug on the line, but be able to move up or down with only moderate pressure. Remember to wet the line before moving the stop to prevent overheating your line.
For adults, in most cases when you are first learning how to use a slip-float a good quality 6-foot spinning rod and reel spooled with 6 to 8-pound test monofilament will be your best choice. For kids, use a rod about the same length as the child is tall. After you are more familiar with this technique you may want to add a longer spinning rod, up to 8-foot in length, a bamboo pole, or a crappie stick, either one can be as long as 16-feet.
In addition to your rod, reel and line, the components needed for a slip float rig include a bobber stop knot, bead, slip float, split shot, and a hook or jig. There are several types of bobber stops on the market available in most any store that sells fishing equipment. Some bobber stops are made from rubber or plastic, but the most common types are made from yellow or orange string or yarn.
Thread the line from your rod through the plastic tube that holds the stop knot. Slide the bobber stop up the line close to the depth you’d like to fish. The distance between the bobber stop and the hook is the depth in the water the hook will hang. Slide the stop knot off the tube and onto your fishing line. Be sure the tube moves towards the end of the line and you slide the knot towards the pole.
Take both ends of the stop knot string between your thumb and finger and pull until the knot is snug on the line. The knot should move under mild pressure but not slip up and down on its own, or be so tight it doesn’t move. This knot will be the point the bobber cannot pass. Clip the tag ends of the bobber stop knot strings to about 3/8 inch. Slip the tube off the line and discard.
Bobber stop knots are easy to tie and I often make my own. The technique is simple, tie a bobber stop knot onto a plastic straw and then cut the straw in about one inch lengths. With a little practice, you can easily tie two dozen bobber stops in an hour.
The next step is to slide a bead onto the end of your fishing line. Beads can be either glass or plastic. The hole through the bead must be smaller than the bobber stop knot so that the bead will slide freely on your line until it reaches the bobber stop knot and then stop. If you don’t use the correct size bead, the bead and the float will slide right past the bobber stop knot. When you buy your beads to make different types of rigs, make sure you are buying beads with holes that match the pound test of the line you will be using.
Slide a slip float onto your line. A good quality slip float will have a smooth hole through its center. Rough holes can prevent the rig from working properly or even damage your line. To attach a slip float, simply run your line through the center of it. Always select the smallest slip float that will work for the conditions you are fishing. The smaller the float the more sensitive it will be.
Slip floats are available in a number of different shapes, colors, and sizes. Standard slip floats are available for panfish, bass, walleye, trout and catfish. Larger and specialized floats are available for other applications such as muskie, big catfish or striped bass. Pole floats can be effective for bigger bait, bigger fish, and the times when you need extra casting distance.
A glow stick can be attacked to a pole float for night fishing with either a specialized holder or something as simple as a rubber band. Some other floats are made with glow in the dark paint or internal lights.
For the slip float purist, the next step is called balancing the slip float. After the slip float is on your line, you have to attach weight, usually split shot, to your line. The split shot is attached to your line about 12-inches above your hook.
The purpose of the weight is to pull the line down through the float until it reaches the bobber stop knot. If you do not attach enough weight, the line may not slide through the slip float. If you attach too much weight, you will sink your float. The float should just barely float. If properly balanced, when a fish takes your bait it will feel very little resistance as it pulls your float underwater.
A variation to adding split shot for weight is to slide your line through a sliding sinker and then tie the end of your line to a swivel. The purpose of the swivel is to allow you to easily attach and change leaders. The slip sinker and leader are typically used with large floats when fishing for big fish with sharp teeth, such as walleye, northern pike or muskie.
The slip float rig is completed by tying a hook or jig to the end of your line. The size and style of hook or jig depends on what type of fish you are fishing for and the type of bait you are using. The bait you use is determined by the species of fish you are fishing for and the season.
A light-wire Aberdeen hook or small jig is a good choice when fishing for suspended crappie with small minnows. An octopus hook may be a better choice when fishing leeches or night crawlers for walleye. The circle hook is usually used when fishing with live bait or liver for catfish.
Various types of jigs are often used in place of a hook especially when fishing for crappie, walleye and panfish or bream. If you change from a hook to a jig it is very important to adjust the weight of your slip float rig. Tie your hook to the end of the line as you normally would with any other rig. When using monofilament line, use a Clinch Knot and with braided line use the Palomar Knot. After you complete the slip float rig, slide the bobber stop knot to the desired depth. Remember to wet your line before you slide the bobber stop knot. Next reel in your line until the bead, slip float, weight and hook are about an 18-inches from the tip of your rod and make a cast. The bobber stop knot should easily go through the eyes of your fishing rod. The slip bobber allows you to cast just about as far as you normally would.
Pay attention to your rig after it is in the water. The line should slide out through the float. When the bead and float reach the bobber stop knot, the bobber should stand up in a vertical position. If the bead and stop do not reach the float, either you have not used enough weight or you have set the bobber stop knot higher than the maximum water depth. Adjust your rig until it is set up and works correctly.
The slip float rig is an excellent choice when fishing along weed edges, open pockets in weed beds, around brush piles or tree stumps and anytime you mark suspended fish on your locator in open water.
When fishing with a slip float rig don’t cast directly to the spot you want to fish. Cast up wind and let it drift to the spot you are targeting. Ideally the bait should be 6 to 12 inches above the depth the fish are holding at. Fish will move up to take a bait, but are less likely to move down to feed.
After you make your cast, wait for the bait to sink and the float to go vertical before you reel up the slack line. If you reel up to soon, you may pull the rig away from the spot you were casting to. Pay attention to your float. Set the hook if you see any movement, up, down, or sideways.