Pole Float Confusion?

Confused? It’s not surprising with the vast array of pole floats out there to temped you, and if your like me you just can’t help yourself. ‘you can never have enough floats’.

There are loads of ready-made rigs out there these day’s many of which are really good the Middy Xk55 range are some of the best I’ve used. But there’s nothing like making your own rigs up, tailoring a rig for a venue yourself then catching on it always add’s to my enjoyment.

So where to start, is there a float that covers all bases, what size of float, what do I need? these are some of the many questions you might ask yourself.

To start with I would ignore all these floats that say this is for corn this is for pellet and this is for meat. Yes some shapes are better for certain baits but it can get to confusing to start with. The only venue that shape is more important is rivers, but we’ll touch on this later.

So how do you select one float from another?

You can make things easier by looking at a floats make up and design so lets start there.

Pick up any pole float and they’ll all be a variation of a shape. round, pear, straight, and diamond. They will all tend to be made of balsa, nylon, plastic, cane and wire. All these variations make a float act and work in different ways. We could go well in to depth with this but lets start with some easy to use basics.

Float shape

A round shape will give better stability than a straight stick shape. But a straight stick will give better bite detection than a round shape as there is less resistance. So a round bodied float would be better in flowing water  than a straight float. Some floats look tear shaped, going thinner towards the top know as body down. With tear shape down the thinner top cuts through the water better giving less resistance in the wind and more stability to the rig. An upside down tear shaped is known as body up, these are good for flowing waters as the water pressure that is created on top of the body helps to keep the float from riding out the water when held back. They’re also useful when laying line on the bottom of a windy still water. Straight floats can make good canal floats as they offer little resistance to bite indication and on the strike help hook shy biting fish. Most float bodies are a variation on the above, how ever slight giving you an idea to what they are best suited for.


Wire stems will naturaly add a pre load to the float making it sit up quicker as well as adding more stability in rougher conditions. Where’s a nylon stem is more neutrally bouyant making the float want to half lay on its side, but a little tap and it will sink slowly. Carbon is very simular to nylon in that it’s not heavy yet sinks slowly. Carbon is far easier to make very fine long stems helping to giving good stablity but the down side is it breaks easily. That said being thinner than nylon but not heavy like a wire carbon stem carbon gives you quite a bit of flexablity with in one float, bit of an all rounder.

Float tops / tips

Most pole float tip’s will be made from plastic, in different thickness’s to give different amounts of bouyancy. This can help with trying to fish heavier baits or fishing over depth to combat tow or flow. Some plastic tips are hollow this aids seeing them at a distance as the light almost makes them light up, hollow tips will also add a degree more bouyancy. As with float stems wire is some times used as it wants to sink. Wire tip floats are mostly used for very sensitive canal floats, these floats can be extremely hard to set up and use. Carbon is also used which gives very much them same result as wire although carbon is easier to set up. A fine smear of vasaline helps keep a delicate float from sinking when you don’t want it to. Nylon is also used, this is a little in between plastic wire and carbon as nylon is more neutrally buoyant, it will sink with the slightist of taps. Its far easier to set up than a wire and carbon tipped floats but gives very good sensitivity.

So is there such a thing as an all-rounder that suits just about all venues like lakes ponds and slow to medium flow rivers?.

In sort yes there is, what you’re looking for is a round-bodied float or sort of rugby ball shape. The best stem to look for is a nice long carbon stem, the tip of the float wants to be plastic.

The long carbon stem and plastic tip with give good stability in all sorts of conditions with all sorts of baits. Making it ideal for fishing most waters, fished shirt button style you can get a nice even steady fall or by grouping shot together to create a bulk you’ll be able to get a hook bait down quicker.

Bulk shotting by grouping the shot together or by using an olivette will work better when fishing moving water or deep lakes. A bulk placed around 2ft from the hook, with a few small dropper shot between the bulk and the hook length loop will force the bait down to the depth of the bulk then the last 2ft will sink slowly. On flowing water holding the rig slightly back will cause the last 2ft to flutter up and down in the flow.


Selecting float sizes

Floats 4×8 / 0.06 gram 4×10 / 0.12 gram are generally used for canal fishing small delicate floats fished in the very shallow far shelf with tiny baits like squats.

4×12 / 0.21 gram 4×14 / 0.4 gram sized float will cover many still water venues from around 4ft to 5ft deep, any deeper than this I would go for a minimum of 4×16 / 1/ 2 gram float.

Pushing 10ft I would be reaching for a 4×20 / 1 gram float. Rivers much will depend on the flow and depth, While learning on the river I wouldn’t go any smaller than 1 gram. If on lowering the float in the water with a slight tension on the line the float keeps lifting / laying up in the water the float is to light. I think this is an area that we will cover in a seperate topic.

On commercial style day tickets waters most fishing is up in the water or in really shallow margin areas. Look for a round bodied float with a short nylon stem and plastic tip. Shot shirt button style the float will normally lay flat on the surface before slowly sitting up right as each shot sinks. A bigger float capacity will help if the wind gets up aiding you to hold position. Add depth to the rig to drag bottom like an anchor if the water starts to tow with the wind.image

Shotting pole floats can be difficult, the use of small shot far from helping. One of the best things you can get for setting up pole floats is a Dosapiombo. This simple little device has neutral bouyancy in water, all you to do is clip your chosen pole float in to the top and place in a jar of water that is deep enough to allow the float to sink to the correct depth. I use a glass vase as shown in the picture below.

Slowly add shot or styles to the Dosapiombo until the float sits in the water at the correct height. The table below will help give you a rough guide on which size shot to use. One thing to bearing mind it that tap water in denser than river or lake water so you may need to remove a weight once at your chosen venue.

Why not down load and print off my easy to use guide to pole float shotting. It gives you a guide into float capacity in shot and Styls as well as an two options on shotting patterns. A prefect reference when your setting up your pole float.

You can also find more about setting up pole floats by jumping across to my Youtube channel

Pole float size         Weight                    Equivalent in shot

3 x 10                         0.10g                          2 x No’10

4 x 10                          0.15g                          3 x No’9

4 x 12                          0.2g                            5 x No’10

4 x 14                          0.4g                            6 x No’8

4 x 16                          0.5g                            8 x No’8

4 x 18                          0.75g                          3 x No’3

4 x 20                          1g                                4 x No’3

5 x 20                          1.25g                           5 x No’3

6 x 20                          1.5g                             6 x No’3

All calculations are approximate

Want to know more, keep an eye out for the next chapter on Pole float confusion an in depth look.

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