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  • Writer's pictureNorth Dakota Wildlife Federation

Stay Afloat



Slip floats are one of spring’s timely tactics for a variety of fish, from pre-spawn crappies

to post-spawn walleyes. However, deploying them correctly requires a bit of knowledge

and experience from setting them up to watching them go down. Make sure things slide

smoother this season with the right slip float setup for the job and make a few extra

tweaks to ensure these precision presentations work properly.


All Tied Up

In most instances, a slip float combination consists of five elements: a bobber stop,

usually of the thread variety, a bead to buffer the thread against the slip float, the slip

float itself consisting of balsa, plastic, foam or other floatable material, and then a

weight, most often in the form of split shot, and then a hook.


Start the combination by running a bobber stop onto the line via the plastic tubing the

thread is wrapped around. It’s best to start the process on a flat, horizontal surface, so

that if you lose a grip on any component, it doesn’t slide off the line. Once the tube is in

place, slide the thread stop off the tube and up the line, and slide the tube down and off

the line. Dispose of the tube properly. Then tighten the thread of the stop so that it is

firmly in place on the line about two feet up from the end of the line.


Next thread a bead onto the line. If beads did not come with the bobber stops selected,

a 4 mm size bead will often do the trick, as the hole is small enough to catch the thread

stop. Slide the bead up to the bobber stop and see that it catches and is held on the

bottom of the stop, confirming proper size and placement of the two components. For

an easier threading of the bead and the slip float that follows, use a clipper to cut the

end of the line with no tag or squishing of the monofilament.


From there, thread the slip float onto the line, noting that you’ll have to push three

inches or so of line through the center of the float before it comes out the bottom.

Again, a neatly trimmed line is easier to thread in this instance. Once the float is on the

line, slide it up with the bead to the bobber stop and then pinch a small split shot about

eight inches up from the end of the line to hold all three items in place. You can then tie

the desired hook in at the end of the line, or a jig, if that’s the planned offering.


Once the hook is tied in, you can add in enough split shot to keep the bobber exposed

about one third above the water line. Over time and with experience using a certain slip

float, you’ll know the amount of weight needed to make the cork visible on the surface,

but also make it easy for a biting fish to pull it down without considerable resistance.


From that point, the bobber stop can be slid up or down the line to accurately target the

depth where fish are holding below a boat or at a point in the water being cast to.

Remember, move the stop up the line for deeper presentations, and down for shallower

ones. Also consider trimming the long threads of the bobber stop down to smaller tags

that are less likely to tangle if they get wrapped on the spool of the reel, but are still long

enough to pinch and pull.


Notes for Floats

As line diameter and pound-test gets bigger, larger slip floats will likely be required, not

only for the size of the fish being pursued, but also to accommodate the thicker line

sliding through the center hole of the float. Larger floats will also require more weight to

offset their buoyancy, so more or larger split shots will be necessary. Remember too

that positioning more weight closer to the hook will restrict minnow movement and

moving it up the line and lessening it will allow baitfish to swim farther and more

aggressively under the rig. The latter is great when fish are active during warm stable

weather and the former works best when fish are more lethargic, say after a cold front.


While they can be used in just about any conditions, slip floats shine when there’s a

light wind dappling the surface of a water. The ripples caused by the breeze provide a

natural motion to the offering below and can attract active fish. Just watch the float

closely for any movement that is out of the ordinary and set the hook when it starts to go down or the bobber’s normal floating pattern goes awry.


With these tips and a bit of practice, the slip float rig is a powerful option for panfish and

gamefish in spring. If unfamiliar with such a setup, practice assembling it a few times

before tying it all in permanently and learn to make adjustments of the rig on the water

for best success.


By: Nick Simonson

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