by Angling Times |

Mesmerising - that’s the only word that can describe the vast array of different shaped, coloured and sized pole floats lining fishing tackle shop shelves.

With so many different designs to choose from it is no surprise that lots of pole anglers – inexperienced and experienced alike – choose the wrong float for the venue and weather conditions they are faced by.

In this simple guide to what’s what in the world of pole floats we’ll banish the mistakes and ensure you always choose the right float…


The main part of the float is called the body and there are dozens of different shaped designs on the market – each one is purposely made to perform a different task in different types of fi shery. To make it easier for you to identify the main ‘families’ of pole floats and understand what job each does we have selected and explained the six main shapes…

1. Dibber

A short float that’s ideal when presenting a bait in shallow water tight to the near or far bank of a commercial lake or canal. Do not use in a river. The fat tip makes the dibber highly visible so they are popular with anglers struggling to see a fine-tipped float. Best fished slightly overdepth with a split shot touching the bottom to anchor the float. Not great in windy conditions as the short stem doesn’t stabilise the float.

2. Body-Up

The fat body and distinct shoulders make this a very buoyant float that is suitable for fishing rivers, it ‘rides’ the current well and allows the angler to hold back the float against the flow to slow down the speed the hookbait goes through the swim.

Make sure the bulk of the weight added to the rig is bunched in the last third of the line to ‘bomb’ the hookbait to the bottom of the river and stop it getting lifted away by the river’s flow.

3. Round

A popular and versatile float. In the smaller sizes (up to 1gram) it is best used in stillwaters, especially if there is a wind blowing.

The wide, buoyant body and the long stem helps keep the float stable in the water in rough conditions. In the larger sizes (1.5 gram and above) this float can also be used in slow flowing rivers.

4. Pear

An elongated pear-shaped body gives this float some stability in canals and commercial fisheries. The slender shape helps make this a responsive float that efficiently registers bites from shy-biting species like roach, skimmer bream and crucians.

Good for use with maggots, casters and pinkie hookbaits especially at this time of year when bites become more subtle.

5. Body-Down

A more pronounced shape than the pear (see above) with a fatter body for greater buoyancy and stability in windy conditions. Best used in swims at least six feet deep and the bulk of the shotting should be placed in the bottom third of the rig.

6. Shallow

A short, small bodied float with a fat cane tip for buoyancy and visibility. Made for presenting hookbaits in the mid-to-upper layers of commercial lakes.

From left to right: Dibber, body-up, round, pear, body-down and shallow.


The thin stem poking out of the base of the float’s body is called the stem. The weight and buoyancy of the stem effects the behaviour of the float and dictates when they should be used…

1. Cane

Similar to nylon - very light and strong. Use for shallow rigs but not in strong winds when the float will get blown around a lot.

2. Wire

Great when fishing in windy conditions. A long, wire stem helps keep the float stable while it also helps ‘cock’ the float quickly in the water and reduces the amount of shot needed.

3. Carbon

Similar properties to wire stems but they are lighter, this can help if you want to fish a very sensitive rig.

4. Nylon

Very light and strong. Best for ‘up-in-the-water’ rigs when you want the bait to sink very slowly.


From left to right: Cane, wire, carbon and nylon.


The tip inserted into a pole float is called the bristle. The material each bristle is made from performs a different task, as this guide explains…

1. Carbon

Very sensitive because they sink, only the buoyant body keeps the tip above the water. Brittle and easily broken. Great when using small baits for shy-biting species but floats with a carbon tip are difficult to shot up, you must be precise. A thin smear of Vaseline rubbed on the tip can make it slightly more buoyant.

2. Cane

Buoyant, and strong. They are ideal for using with heavier baits, such as meat and corn, as the buoyancy helps to hold up the bait.

The strength is useful when fishing tight to lilies, weed or rushes for big carp, if the float is dragged through the vegetation the tip won’t get broken. Thicker tip allows for greater visibility.

3. Nylon

More durable than a carbon stem, slightly buoyant and therefore easier to shot up and use. Available in a variety of thicknesses, the fatter the nylon bristle the more buoyant they are.


From top to bottom: Carbon, Cane and Nylon.

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