Float Fishing For Trout: The Only Guide You’ll Need

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If you’re fishing a moving creek or river or you just want to have a relaxing day at the lake, fishing for trout with a float or bobber is a great choice. It’s such a simple and easy way to fish, but the best thing about it is that it’s also one of the most effective ways.

You can go to pretty much any body of water with any gear and throw on any type of bait and possibly catch something. That being said, your odds will increase if you use the right rod, the right fishing line, and the right hooks for the job.

I’ve had some decent success with a number of different gear combos, but I was curious to see what actual guides use. I called a local guy in my area and we’ll be talking about what he recommended.

Best Fishing Rod For Float Fishing

The best float fishing trout rod is a 7-8 foot spinning rod with fast action and light to medium-light power rating. Going with a 7-foot rod will be perfect for smaller creeks and tighter spots while an 8-foot rod will be better for open areas and larger rivers.

Rod Length: When it comes to rod length, the ideal length is between 7 and 8 feet long. The size you go with will depend on what type of fishing you’re doing, but whatever size you go with should land you some fish.

There are times when I’m fishing a small creek with trees and bushes behind me. It’s kind of tough to cast an 8-foot rod, so if that’s the case, going with a shorter one will be best for you. You could go even smaller (5.5-6 feet), but I’ve found that a 7 footer is a perfect size.

If you’re going to be fishing an open body of water or have a lot of room to cast, going with an 8-foot rod will be a good choice. For steelhead, you’ll want to go a bit longer, but for smaller trout, 8 feet is good.

The reason you want a longer rod is that it’ll let you cast farther and it’ll also help you control the line better. You’ll get a more natural-looking presentation and will be able to float your rig for a longer distance.

Reel Type: For smaller trout, you’ll want to use a 3000 or less spinning reel. You won’t be using a lot of line and you don’t want to overpower the fish. I like spinning reels best because they’re better for casting light lures and baits.

Rod Power: The perfect rod power is going to be light or medium-light. These fish really aren’t that big and you’ll want a lighter rod to be able to cast a good distance.

Rod Action: The rod action you’ll want to have is fast action. All this means is that the majority of the rod will bend towards the tip. This will help you get more casting distance, you’ll be able to feel bites better, and you’ll have a bit more backbone to get a good hookset.

If you want to know what gear we like to use, you can check out our favorite trout gear here. It’ll cover rods, lines, and a number of other stuff. Also, here’s just a quick table showing the best fishing rods for float fishing:

ReelLength (ft)PowerAction
Trout (Small Creek)Spinning7L-MLFast
Trout (River)Spinning8L-MLFast
SteelheadSpinning
Baitcaster
8.5-10.5MFast
SalmonSpinning
Baitcaster
9.5-10.5MFast

Best Fishing Line For Float Fishing

braid fishing line

The best type of fishing line for float fishing is a high visibility braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. For trout and other small fish, using a 10 lb braid with 4-6 lb fluorocarbon leader will perform the best overall.

Main Line: For any type of float fishing, you’ll want to use braid as your main line. The two key things you’ll want your line to do is:

  1. Float on the water.
  2. Easy to see.

The first thing you need your line to do is to float on the water. When your line floats, you’ll be able to control your line (called “mending” the line) and make sure everything is floating naturally.

Monofilament is pretty buoyant too, but it’s not going to float as well. It’ll start to sink a bit, the water will drag it, and your float will follow. That’s not very natural-looking and is why braid is a lot better.

We like to use heavier than needed line because they’ll float better. It’s super important that your main line doesn’t sink, otherwise, you’ll have no control over your line.

The second thing you’ll want to look for in a fishing line is that it’s pretty visible. Most monofilament is clear (you can find some colored), but a high visibility braid (yellow is most common) is so much easier to see.

When you can easily see your line, you’ll be able to see if your line is floating inline with your bobber or if you need to mend or reel in a bit of line. Both really important.

Leader: Braided line is pretty visible in the water and the abrasion resistance isn’t that great. That’s where fluorocarbon comes into play. Here are the main benefits:

  • Fluorocarbon sinks.
  • Fluorocarbon is the least visible.
  • Fluorocarbon has the best abrasion resistance.

The main thing we want our bait to do is to float naturally below our float. We don’t want our line to drag it around, and because of that, fluorocarbon is the only real option. If you’re fishing for something else, here is the best fishing line to use for float fishing:

MainLeader
Trout10 Lb Braid4-6 Lb Fluorocarbon
Steelhead50 Lb Braid15 Lb Fluorocarbon
Salmon50-60 Lb Braid30-40 Lb Fluorocarbon

Best Hook For Float Fishing

The best hook size for float fishing trout is between size #6 and size #12. Size #6 hooks are ideal for large lakes and rivers while size #12 hooks are perfect for small streams and ponds.

Hook Size: The hook size you’ll want to use will all depend on where you’re fishing. I normally like going as small as I can, but anything between size #6 and #12 should do the trick.

Hook SizeWhen To Use
6Large lakes and rivers
8Large streams and lakes
10Ponds and mid-sized streams
12Small streams and ponds

Hook Type: The most common baits to use for float fishing are worms, eggs, or Powerbait. For those types of baits, you’ll want to use a worm or baitholder/egg hook.

These hooks are designed with barbs on the shank of the hook to hold worms on the hook or are shaped in a way to keep eggs from falling off. You could use other types of hooks but you’ll probably spend a lot of time putting new bait on your hook.

My Favorite Hook: There are a number of solid choices out there but the two I normally use are the Mustad baitholder hooks or the Gamakatsu worm hook (on Amazon). You can’t go wrong with either of them.

Best Rig For Float Fishing

The setup for float fishing is pretty simple and I’m sure you’ve used something similar before. Once you have things rigged up, all you have to do is figure out the depth of the water and adjust your float. Here’s what the general setup looks like:

Step #1: The first thing you’ll want to do is attach your float/bobber to your main line. The type of float you use is completely up to you, but I l prefer the long/skinny ones over the round ones. The Thill Slip Float (on Amazon) is an example.

I like using these floats because it’ll be easier to see bites and it’ll also be easier to tell if you have the right amount of weight on your line. Your float should be sitting vertically in the water, and if it’s leaning one way or the other, you need to add or remove weight.

Step #2: The next step is to add a barrel swivel. I like these Spro Ball Bearing Swivels (on Amazon). These are designed to stop your line from twisting and will also keep your float from sliding down to your hook.

I like going as small as possible with my swivels, but especially for trout. You don’t want a big piece of metal floating around that might stop something from biting.

Step #3: After that, you’ll want to attach a 3-4 foot fluorocarbon leader. Fluorocarbon is the only choice because it sinks the best, it’s the toughest, and it’s the least visible.

If you’re fishing a shallow creek then you should go closer to 3 feet. If you’re fishing a river or lake, a 4-foot leader will be the better choice.

Step #4: This one is pretty simple. You’ll want to attach your hook.

Step #5: The final step is to attach your split shot weights. It all depends on how deep you’re fishing and how fast the water is moving. You’ll probably need to mess around with this for a bit.

The main thing you want your presentation to do is to float naturally through the water. Your float should be floating perfectly vertical, which means your hook is under your float.

If you just want one split shot, have it 1-2 feet above your hook. I prefer having multiple split shots that are at least 3 inches apart. Having more than one will help keep your presentation vertical (which is ideal).

Best Bait For Float Fishing

The best bait for float fishing trout is a worm, either real or artificial. The ideal worm size is 3 inches long, and if you’re using artificial worms, a natural-looking brown or red will produce the best results.

My go-to has always been real worms. They seem to catch the most fish, but the downside is that they come off the hook easier than fake worms. The tradeoff is worth it for me.

If you don’t have real worms, the Berkley Power Honey Worm (on Amazon) is a good choice. To put them on your hook, all you have to do is wacky rig them. Just poke the hook through the middle of the worm so it’s hanging off both ends.

Other options you could try are eggs, Powerbait, or a fly. Everywhere is different, so it might be worth giving something else a try.

How To Float Fish For Trout

  1. Estimate how deep the water is.
  2. Set float at that depth.
  3. Cast your line.
  4. Keep your rod tip up.
  5. Keep your line and float straight.
  6. Mend your line if it bows.
  7. Reel in and repeat.

Step #1: The very first thing you’ll want to do is guess how deep the water is. You probably won’t get it right at first, but try to get some sort of idea.

Step #2: After that, you’ll want to set your float at that depth. If you think the water is 3 feet deep, start your float 3 feet from your hook. If you don’t get any bites, try going a bit deeper. If your hook keeps dragging on the bottom, go a bit shallower.

Step #3: You’re now ready to cast your line out. If you’re going to cast a good distance upstream, you’ll want to reel in some of the slack (there shouldn’t be much slack when it drifts past you).

If you’re casting in front of you, you don’t need to reel in any line. You want your line to float naturally, so that’s why you don’t want your line super tight.

Step #4: When you’re drifting through the water, you’ll want to keep as much line off the water as you can. When you have line in the water it’ll get dragged around and so will your float and hook.

The point of having a longer rod is that you can do this easier. Keep your rod tip up and you’ll get a much more natural-looking presentation.

Step #5: When it comes to line management, the only thing you really need to do is keep your line and float in a straight line. If everything is in a straight line it means there isn’t any weird drag going on.

A lot of the time, your line will start to bow. The water will start pulling your line ahead of the float, and when this happens, it’ll start pulling your float and hook. You can easily see this when your float tilts to one side and isn’t vertical anymore.

When your line does start to bow, you’ll want to mend your line. All this means is that you lift your rod up a bit and loop it towards you. Your line will straighten out again and you’ll be ready to drift some more.

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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