By: Tom “CrappieTom” Sawvell
We’ve seen a lot of traffic lately
about fishing plastics and which
floats work with what. Lets try to
simplify this a bit for everyone…
Floats are like the baits we use…
everyone has a pet. I have used a
million different floats over the
years. Some work well when
fished one way and yet another
might shine when fished in a
completely different way. There are no solid answers….we all
butter our bread in different ways.
I happen to find favor in the Thill mini-stealth float as many of
you know. I think this is the best float for fishing panfish with
plastics that was ever developed. I have fished with some of
the Gapen products and now limit the use of those to when
the grand kids are fishing and are using bait. The trimmable
foam floats, Wave busters, found here at FM’s tackle City are
another good bait float in my opinion. The generic float market
will even offer up some great tools if you look hard enough.
But Thill, in my opinion, makes a mess of good floats to cover
every kind of fishing application imaginable.
As we get into the float arena, lots of things need to be
covered. In dealing with panfish, it is the up-ward hit that
becomes an issue. Hits of this nature are very tough to detect
if the float doesn’t possess the ability to transmit that
information visually to you. And this can be achieved in only a
couple of solid ways….a float that “relaxes” or lies over on it’s
side or the float that allows itself to rise up in the water. Those
stick shaped floats from Thill with a narrow balsa body come
to mind here as do those with the “bulb” shaped float very low
to the water with the stick sitting quite high. The latter float
requires the angler to “balance” it with split shot and this is
one reason I simply have not used it much. I want my line/ lure
presentation as light and unfettered as possible.
The foam trimmable floats mentioned along with the narrow
bodied balsa floats from thill are the second best option if
fishing the mini-stealth is hard for you to get accustomed to.
The trimmable foam can be cut down for balance. The balsa
floats come in several size options and are easily recognized
by the need for two of the rubber bands to secure the float to
the line. (A little note here now, those who think that the stick
balsa floats will lay over if just one band is used will soon
meet with frustration as that flopping body on the cast will
wind you up in an ugly fashion!) The foam float is more a slip
float but seems to work moderately OK with jigs down to the
1/32 range and provide free line passage.
When rigged properly, these stick floats will simply become
much taller at an up ward hit than when it is at rest and has
the weight of the jig under it. This “lift” is fairly recognizable if
the water is not rough. And indeed, if the hit from underneath
provides enough lift, these too will lay down on the surface.
There are other floats out there that will serve this same
purpose, but they are not near so sensitive as these being
mentioned and sensitivity matters here. I make no denial here,
that I do carry a number of this style of floats in the box along
with my favored mini-stealth. Sometimes they do have their
My justification for pushing the mini-stealth is simple. Where
an upward hitting fish might only cause a rise of a 1/4 inch,
the mini-stealth WILL fall right over. If the other floats
mentioned need to rise an inch to do that and you cannot see
that 1/4 inch of lift, you are going to miss that fish unless it
hooks itself on the bait ejection.
There are countless float makers and countless styles of
floats to choose from. The three that I have mentioned to
extent here only reflect those floats which I personally use for
my crappie and panfish fishing with the mini-stealth being far
and away the favored float. Will others work for you? You
have to make that decision. But when deciding which one to
use, stop and give some serious thought towards what any
float will do for you if the hits are coming from underneath and
continue up. That up ward hit is by far and away the most
difficult hurdle to cross in the hit-detection department and is
the single reason why many people are simply not fishing
artificials like hair, maribou and plastic successfully.
The choice of float is but one component towards being a
successful panfisherman. Rods, reels, lines all become key
elements in catching these fish. But that float on a properly
balanced rig will tell you more than anything will. If you let it.