Know your stuff | Float and method feeder questions!

Question 1. The issue of pole float shapes is a bit of a minefield to me! Can you offer some advice on which types of float work in every given situation?

A minefield it most certainly is, as floats can range from a tiny dibber taking just a single small shot to a massive round lollipop float for rivers with a 50g-plus weight capacity. The starting point in your quest should be to work out the type of fishing you do – on rivers, commercial carp fisheries or canals. 

This will narrow down the float styles and sizes needed, but within each category there are still a lot of options. Picking the right float for the job boils down to five things: weight, body shape, body, stem and tip materials, and if you were to pick six floats at random you’d find a mix of all these considerations. But what difference does a plastic bristle make from cane, and why is a wire stem better than carbon?

1) Bristle material   The bristle will show up your bite and so it is perhaps the most important part of a pole float. Several materials are used to achieve varying degrees of sensitivity and visibility, with plastic or glass fibre being the most common. These are relatively easy to spot at up to 16m and quite sensitive, but to show up really shy bites, you can buy floats with a fine wire tip – although they are very difficult to shot up correctly. Cane is sometimes used, and this is quite heavy and offers little sensitivity. That makes it handy for fishing big baits where carp are the target.    2) Body material   Balsa wood makes up most floats you find on the market, as this wood is incredibly light but strong enough to last many years of sensible use. However, modern technology moves at a pace and there are now pole floats with high-density foam bodies that are virtually indestructible, and even bodies made from clear, tough plastic. These two body materials are most commonly seen on carp waters when floats can be dragged through snags and need to come out the other side unscathed.   3) Body shape   There’s everything on offer, from a slim line pencil shape to a round lolliop found on flat floats. It stands to reason that the more bulbous a float body is, the more buoyancy it will have, suiting it to deep moving water or windy conditions.   Common shapes are pear, rugby ball or round. A slim body offers delicacy as there’s less resistance to a fish when the float is pulled under. These slender floats are normally used on shallow lakes, canals and drains where small fish are the target in good weather conditions. They’re also extremely popular on commercial fisheries for carp and F1s.   4) Weight   The weight that a float will take is dictated either in grams or styl weights, so you may see 0.5g printed on a float’s body or alternatively, 4x14. The higher the number, the more weight a float will need for it to settle correctly. A heavier float will work best in deeper or flowing water, helping to get the bait to the bottom quickly and then giving you the control to present it properly.   A light float taking perhaps 3x10 will only need a couple of tiny shot for it to cock and so is ideal for shallow water near the far bank of canals or the margins of commercial fisheries.   5) Stem material   Choose from three materials – wire, carbon and glass fibre. Wire is very stable and makes the float cock quickly, ready to show a bite. However, it adds weight to the overall float, and is normally found on floats for rivers or deep water. Carbon is lighter and weaker but makes the float cock slowly, and that’s perfect when you want to fish shallow water or with baits presented on the drop. Glass fibre is much newer and very strong, so many homemade floats destined for commercial fisheries have this as their stem.

1) Bristle material

The bristle will show up your bite and so it is perhaps the most important part of a pole float. Several materials are used to achieve varying degrees of sensitivity and visibility, with plastic or glass fibre being the most common. These are relatively easy to spot at up to 16m and quite sensitive, but to show up really shy bites, you can buy floats with a fine wire tip – although they are very difficult to shot up correctly. Cane is sometimes used, and this is quite heavy and offers little sensitivity. That makes it handy for fishing big baits where carp are the target. 

2) Body material

Balsa wood makes up most floats you find on the market, as this wood is incredibly light but strong enough to last many years of sensible use. However, modern technology moves at a pace and there are now pole floats with high-density foam bodies that are virtually indestructible, and even bodies made from clear, tough plastic. These two body materials are most commonly seen on carp waters when floats can be dragged through snags and need to come out the other side unscathed.

3) Body shape

There’s everything on offer, from a slim line pencil shape to a round lolliop found on flat floats. It stands to reason that the more bulbous a float body is, the more buoyancy it will have, suiting it to deep moving water or windy conditions. 

Common shapes are pear, rugby ball or round. A slim body offers delicacy as there’s less resistance to a fish when the float is pulled under. These slender floats are normally used on shallow lakes, canals and drains where small fish are the target in good weather conditions. They’re also extremely popular on commercial fisheries for carp and F1s.

4) Weight

The weight that a float will take is dictated either in grams or styl weights, so you may see 0.5g printed on a float’s body or alternatively, 4x14. The higher the number, the more weight a float will need for it to settle correctly. A heavier float will work best in deeper or flowing water, helping to get the bait to the bottom quickly and then giving you the control to present it properly. 

A light float taking perhaps 3x10 will only need a couple of tiny shot for it to cock and so is ideal for shallow water near the far bank of canals or the margins of commercial fisheries.

5) Stem material

Choose from three materials – wire, carbon and glass fibre. Wire is very stable and makes the float cock quickly, ready to show a bite. However, it adds weight to the overall float, and is normally found on floats for rivers or deep water. Carbon is lighter and weaker but makes the float cock slowly, and that’s perfect when you want to fish shallow water or with baits presented on the drop. Glass fibre is much newer and very strong, so many homemade floats destined for commercial fisheries have this as their stem.

Question 2. On the Method feeder I get lots of little taps on the tip. Are these carp or small fish, and should I strike at them?

These are probably small fish such as roach and should be ignored. Even in winter, a bite will be a proper pull round on the tip – it’s extremely rare for a carp to give a finicky bite. 

You may also get drop-back bites, which are normally caused by a fish moving the feeder back towards you or down a slope. Reel in and recast if this happens. It’s also worth casting more regularly, as the idea of the Method feeder is to get fish to investigate the ball of feed within minutes of it landing. If nothing has happened after five minutes, cast in again.

Question 3. I get a lot of lift bites on the pole but never hook any fish when this happens. Why?

There’s probably something amiss with the rig if it’s showing lift bites. Unless you’re deliberately trying to achieve this, you’re better off fishing a simple shotting pattern of a bulk of weight set close to the hook and then a couple of smaller dropper shot spaced equally apart underneath. 

If you do get a lift bite from this set-up it will be caused by the fish picking up the bait and actually dislodging that large bulk of shot, which means there’s a good chance you’ll hook it on the strike. If you’re after skimmers or F1s you can use something called the double bulk which, as the name suggests, is two separate bulks of weight set close to the hook. 

The first is closest to the float and the largest, to get the bait down and cock the float. The second is much smaller, perhaps only made up of two or three No10 shot. This normally sits just off bottom with the hookbait and hooklength fished overdepth. When a fish picks up the bait, it will dislodge this small bulk and the float will pop up. Simple!