Float fishing is probably the most common fishing method. When done the right way, it can be extremely effective for catching almost any fish. Float fishing implies attaching a float to the fishing line, which serves several purposes:
- it can suspend the bait at a predetermined depth.
- due to its buoyancy, it can carry the baited hook to otherwise inaccessible areas of water by allowing the float to drift in the prevailing current
- the float also serves as a visual bite indicator.
Fishing with a float is simple, if these basic steps are followed: - find a place suitable for this method. Calm waters with slight current or no current at all could be a good place to start, so keep exploring. "Read" the water and try to find submerged structures (logs, rocks, weed beds) or "transitional" areas (from shallow to deep water, from muddy bottom to sand/gravel bottom etc.). - read about your target fish! It is a bottom or a surface feeder? What is its preferred food? What is the expected size range? Does it prefer mid-day or dawn/dusk are better fishing times? Knowing these details will help you make the right decisions about leader length, hook size, bait and time of day when you can make your catch. - figure out the water depth in the chosen place. This can be done by setting the leader to maximum length (in game it's 99 inches/2.50 meters), cast and observe the float position. If the float sits horizontally, reel the line in, decrease the leader length by 5 inches and cast again, as close as possible to the place of first cast. Repeat until the float sits "diagonally" (at 45 degrees angle). You just found the water depth! Now, depending on your target fish's feeding habits, time of day and weather, you will know how long the leader should be. - when you have your tackle set, cast and see what happens. If fish do not react, slightly adjust the leader length or change the bait.
Always keep in mind that there should be a balance between bait size, hook size, leader length and target fish. And remember that in-game fish aren't just dumb clusters of pixels; they have senses, react and behave like real fish, with with real instincts and awareness! E.g. It is completely illogical to use dragonflies or frogs as bait, on a 60-70 inches leader. These creatures stay on the water surface, so a deeply submerging them is just "foolish" from a fish's standpoint. Same thing goes for using crawfish on very short leaders, as they are usually found living on the bottom. Also, it is completely illogical to use small baits on big hooks (e.g. blood worms on #3/0 hook) or big ones on small hooks (e.g. big minnows on #8 hook); you will miss many strikes or lose many baits.
Leader length is perhaps the most important thing in float fishing. Finding where fish is feeding is mostly "trial and error". Knowing feeding habits helps, but sometimes unusual things may occurs (e.g. carp is, by tradition, a bottom feeder, but in warm, sunny days it feeds close to the surface). So, be persistent, but not stubborn! Try different depths until you find the best one for that time of day and those weather conditions. If after sometime the fish stops biting, make small adjustments in leader length until you find the new feeding depth.
Float's shape is also important, for two reasons: the casting distance and the buoyancy. Slim float is good for short casts and "non-reactive" baits (bread, balls, pea, cheese etc.) or small live baits (worms and maggots). Oval float is a good "all-rounder", suitable for almost any bait and almost any distance. Chubby float is the best choice when you need long casts (its own weight helps put the bait in places otherwise unreachable with slim or oval floats) and for heavy baits (big minnow, crawfish, leeches or spawn sacks). Sport float is best choice when it comes to finesse: thin line, small hook, small bait, targeting finicky fish. Ball bobber is the "classic" choice for catfish, but can be also used with great success for other large-sized fish like salmon, steelhead or striped bass. These are general principles, but sometimes, you will see that fish nibbles your bait, tries to run with it, but then suddenly drops it. The buoyancy of the floats oppose resistance to fish and that makes it "spit" the bait and run. In such situations, changing the float to a thinner one or to a different model, can be the solution. You may also try to change the hook for a smaller one, it might help.
Try to have patience and make one change at the time, until you find the perfect combination of bait, hook, leader length and float. And then you can fully enjoy the pleasure of float fishing!