I'm the kind of angler that's always looking for the edge. Not satisfied with what I find at the corner bait shop.(except really good bait) With the help of the Internet, the whole world is an open catalog. Sometimes, seeing how other's do things, is easily adaptable to my fishing style.
I'll tell you a story.....
When super Braid line first came out. Spiderwire, as many still call the line. As if a single brand name is the generic name for the entire industry...."sorry folks, there's hundred's of brand names out there."
But yes, Spiderwire was one of the first, if not the first super braid line out on the market. It's just called "braid" today. I'm a bit ole school and still call it "super" Braid. To discern it from Dacron Braided line. Which today, most young fisherman have never used.
But, one of the nicest things about it was, it "FLOATED". Unlike Mono, that sinks. Gets water logged, heavy and then breaks. (or at least it used too.) Even mono has come a long way over the years. But, for me. All my reels eventually ended up being spooled with the very thin, strong, no stretch, waterproof, floating, super line! (remember those qualities....I'll be getting back to them.)
Then, as the years went by I knew there had to be a better Float-rig system out there in the world. So I went to the source. "The Pacific Northwest." Yes, the home of the float-riggers....where I believe it all came to be. Using large and small specialty floats, to present small baits/lures in raging water to giant Salmon. Using long rods, making long casts. Hooking up, really big strong fish.
"Hmmm. That's what we do." The St. Johns river has strong currents, and big fish. The real difference is that sometimes I set my float 20 deep! At first I found funky looking clear plastic, stealthy looking, shallow water type floats, to be used with a small plastic worm or jig for fish like, Steelhead. But as I looked further. I found floats that were WEIGHT rated!!
What? Weight rated???
(remember that "term".)
In Jacksonville (the largest of the back woods cities back then, with no tackle outlets, outside the usual bait shop) all we used was big, clumsy, long, and heavy balsa wood floats that never had a weight rating. Meaning; what "trout lead" (sinker) weight would you use with what float? It was totally experimental. Unless you knew through trial and error, which weight went with which size float.
My buddy, Pelican. Who co-hosted with me on our radio show "All about Fishing" and was a constant fishing companion was damn near blind....he wasn't, but he acted like it. Pelican, would use a 20" long pole float made from balsa wood. I used to call it his telephone pole, rather than his float. But he loved a two ounce trout lead. And said, "I can see that float way behind the boat." He actually convinced me of it's overall qualities. While float-rigging the open river and jetties. But to carry and stand up properly with two ounces of lead, the float had to be MASSIVE.
Seriously, old school. Pelican could, and would kick my ass, sometimes. With his slower drifting, perfectly vertically presented float-rig, to a pack of Trout hunkered down, in deeper water. His two ounce trout lead (sinker) on his float-rig really worked, great. While I was using a one ounce weight, and a float that I "trialed and error'd" with, till I got it exactly right. Because I wanted a smaller float. And didn't like that telephone pole. It took away from the fight of the fish, I felt.
So what's the correct weight? It's actually a personal preference. But, according to today's high tech float manufactures, and those super float-riggers in the Pac-Norwest. The float, should be held at least half way under water, if not three quarters underwater when perfectly weighted. It's all about presentation of the bait, really. No matter if it's a half ounce, one ounce or a 2 ounce trout lead you're using.
So what did I find as I started to look outside of J-ville, for something better than ole Pelican's Telephone pole floats?
I found the Salmon Stalker float, made by Premier Plastics. And distributed by Cabela's.
I eventually even talked to the designer on the phone a few times. While Premier just makes them. They contract a designer/engineer, to come up with all the particulars. And this is the man I talked too. Interesting fella, with a really cool job.
R&D, is what he did with tackle, lures and of course floats. I love R&D. It's also what I like to do. And I thought I found my "end all" to the telephone pole and two ounce float problem.
So what was so great about the Salmon Stalker floats?
First of all, they're EVA foam. Not balsa. With that, they are smaller, not as long as Pelican telephone pole floats. BUT...can hold a two ounce Trout lead (sinker), and are less than, half the size. Not something Pelican approved of. He liked being able to see his float easily. Which I could understand for a "blind man". But really all he needed was GLASSES!
Foam, floats higher than balsa wood. PLUS, they come "weight rated". YES, weight rated. No more experimenting, with a handful of Trout leads to find the best weight for a particular float. Or more like, which is the actual way of doing it; finding the right float size for a particular size weight.
I wanted to use a two ounce, like Pelican. But refused to use a float so big and clumsy.
And NOW, I found the answer. Just order a two ounce Salmon Stalker, and it's ready to go with my two ounce trout lead. No more fussing around.
You'd think, this would become a tackle trend. When manufactures make their pole/slip floats. All they have to do is one extra step and see what is the best weight is, or max weight for a particular float.
But Noooo, today you'll walk into tackle shops and see a line of floats, usually Billy Boys, by Betts, and a line of different torpedo shaped trout lead sinkers, with a swivel attached on one end, that are used with the float-rig. And still have no clue what weight goes with what float!
But that same company (Betts) has finally jumped on the band-wagon, and now has float floats, too!
I know, that's a radical comparison, but you get my point.
I have stood in B&M bait and tackle on a Saturday talking to someone about float-rigging for Trout, walked over to the Betts Billy Boy Balsa floats and we had to make an educated guess at what float goes exactly for what trout lead sinker. Everyone agrees, they should tell you on the package!
Pacific North West style floats, DO tell you what weight to use. And even though some have joined in on the foam slip float revolution. Maybe they'll read this and tell their customers what's the best weight to use.......probably, NOT.
I've come along way in my research on floats, and float-rigging for all fish that eat live shrimp, down yonder here in Jacksonville, Florida.
I don't even use Salmon Stalker floats any more. I've R&D'd myself right on to another style of slip float. Finding an even smaller, more buoyant foam float, than the Salmon Stalkers.
The Salmon Stalker brand floats are EVA foam. The same stuff that the grips are made of on my Shakespeare Ugly Stik Float-rigging rods. Although it floats better than the balsa types, it's still a bit heavy. Because of the EVA density. And when trying my best to "get away" with using the lightest action rods I can with two ounces of lead. I don't want additional weight of any kind, on my rod tips.
Yeah........I'm that ANAL. But remember, I'm successful also. So being a real picky float fisherman, lead me on another search.
So, now I'm using some "hand-made" floats that weigh, hardly anything. While made out of a different kind of foam, (You'll have to fish aboard the Jettywolf to see and use them.) They're still a bit of a "trade secret", right now. So don't bother asking. Maybe later, I can let the "float outa the bag...."
Now, remember I was discussing super braid line? Well another reason to use it for float-rig fishing is because it floats on the surface. Hence, it floats with your float.
Mono eventually sinks. And with today's super braid lines, it makes complete sense, to NOT have line that sinks.
Wanna know another big positive with super braid line and float-rig fishing? You'll never have your reel line break, when busting out of a snag.
Yep, if you use super braid, and get your float-rig hook stuck in structure, just pop it off, and tie on another hook and your back in business. And even when using a heavier leader material off your trout lead sinker, going to your "horn hooked" live shrimp. You'll be able to break the mono off, because the super braid won't snap.
But still, you should be using a sacrificial length of leader. Light in poundage. No more than 20 pound mono. I'm spooled up with 30 pound super braid line, and it's plenty strong. To pop off a hung hook.
Another nice thing about the ultra thin super braid line is that 30 pound braid, is the diameter of 8 pound mono. So it's given me the opportunity to use small, light weight, ultra high speed retrieve, low profile reels.
Holding anywhere from 180 to 220 yards of 30 pound super braid line. No fish, I want to catch will take all that line out! And today's low profile reels like the Shimano's all have easily adjustable weights on the end of the spool, so I don't have to worry about whicked backlashes anymore, from the beginners on my boat. I have the reels adjusted to not backlash via the wonderful adjustments these reels afford.
So, there ya have it. That's what I love about float-rig fishing. It's so much more than just blindly casting your junk into the water and hoping for a bite.
It's a science. It's research and constant development. Although, I may have have reached the end of the road, as far as a perfect and complete set-up. But ya never know!
I tell my customers all the time while float-riggin', "there's many similarities to fly fishing especially when float-rig fishing, in good current." It's just that I didn't make the baits (flies) at home on a table.
Momma Nature makes my bait. And it's always, alive.