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It is time to talk about the most misunderstood and therefore most misused piece of fishing equipment a fisherman owns. No, it is not plastic worms, jig heads, bait casting reel or split shot weights; it is the bobber, or as most of the rest of world refers to it, the float.

Everyone has seen these red-and-white orbs in his or her tackle box or attached to the fishing line on that favorite fishing pole and never thought much about them, but when used correctly they are among the best ways to catch all varieties of fish from bluegills to northern pike.

The float system is designed to present the bait at a given depth and keep it there, ideally in front of the fish. It also doubles as a strike indicator. Most people make their biggest mistake when choosing the shape of the float. Mick Thill, an old friend who was considered the “Master of Masters” when it came to float fishing, explained it to me this way: asking a bluegill to pull a 1-inch round bobber under the water is like a person trying to pull/push a beach ball under water.

When choosing a float, one should always use the smallest available for the conditions and bait. It shouldn’t be so small that the bait pulls it under water.   A correctly balanced float has split-shots on the drop line so that the float is neutrally balanced. It creates the perfect strike indicator: When a fish first hits the bait, the first thing that happens – that would never be seen with a round bobber – is the float rises up. Most fisherman miss this moment. Then, if the fish really likes the bait, the float goes down and the hook can be set. Mick Thill became a three-time world champion by setting hooks on the upward movement before the fish could decide to drop the bait.

On the next visit to the tackle store, look for the smaller floats with the slender profiles and give them a try. You will catch more fish when you get used to them.

Until next time, keep a tight line.

Visit Dick at hookedonfishing@comcast.net.