There was a day when a float 'n fly was the sole province of cold-weather smallmouth anglers who used long leaders, 9-foot rods and fished in water temps under 50 degrees. Not anymore.
In the Big Bass Zone (BBZ) universe, this finesse application of bobber and jig is removed from its historic pigeonhole and placed prominently as a bookend to big-bait techniques. A method of last resort it's not.
While the float 'n fly is clearly a tool for tough bites, it can be easily overlooked when the bite shifts into go mode. This is when numbers can make a difference – where wading through smaller fish for a handful of big bites is the most successful strategy.
Best Fly Conditions
A short list of the reasons to use a float 'n fly would include:
1. Tough bites – Agreed. Yet, as already mentioned, the ability to assess strong action and see that numbers are the path to bigger fish is key.
2. Matching the hatch – There are times when bass lock into a specific size and coloration of baitfish. So don't try to dance around the reality of the situation. Give them what they want.
3. Precision depth and speed control – With a conventional snap-on bobber, the float 'n fly is a very precise weapon in the 1- to 8-foot range with a 7-foot spinning rod. This is true spot-on-spot, targeted fishing.
A second option for plying deeper water is the use of a slip-thru bobber. Even if you choose to remove the bobber altogether, the fly is still a highly effective lure. Whatever the case, a float 'n fly gives an angler maximum presence at a verified depth. And, as the fly moves in pendulum fashion as the bobber is pulled forward, the presentation speed can be varied from ultra-slow to erratic and fast.
Some of the plus factors that can help you evaluate float 'n fly conditions are:
1. Water clarity – Granted, clear water in cold conditions helps bring fish up from greater depth. No argument there. But remember that darker water moves fish tighter to cover, as do frontal conditions. Finding even a sliver of opportunity on any given day can put a few more fish in the livewell.
2. Wind – Not only does wind provide the usual positives in stimulating fish activity, but enhances lure movement. With a float 'n fly, this movement goes beyond just that of the bait itself and extends to directional changes created by wind drift of the bobber and line.
3. Bait in the water column – Bait being chased in the water column or suspending at specific depths is one of the best scenarios for float 'n flyers. This is when maintaining an extended presence in the strike zone can pay huge dividends.
The Right Fly
Over the years, the BBZ focus has been directed toward finding year-round opportunities for the float 'n fly. Unfortunately, most packaged jigs weren't designed with the float 'n fly tactic in mind. There were deficiencies. As a result, Bill Siemantel took his ideas to Spro to develop a fly that addressed every requirement of the technique.
Available later this year, the Spro BBZ Phat Fly features a balanced line-tie so the bait will suspend horizontally beneath the float, which allows the bobber to correctly respond to the slightest input. No longer will you have to worry about repositioning your knot on the line-tie to produce the proper response.
To complete the illusion, the BBZ Phat Fly has been precision engineered with detailed molding and paint schemes on the head, a lifelike doll-hair skirt and Gamakatsu 1/0 hook. Available in five patterns (baby bass, bluegill, chartreuse ghost, blue-back shad and ghost), and two weights (1/16- and 1/8-ounce), these lures offer ultra realism and deliver strike-generating performance.
The best bobbers for float 'n fly fishing are the pear-shaped versions sold by most tackle outlets including Bass Pro Shops. They come in two sizes – 7/8-inch and 1-inch – to accommodate different wind and depth conditions. For example, a 7/8-inch model with 4-pound fluorocarbon or 5-pound Maxima and a 1/16-ounce fly gives you a balanced system. This is critical.
The pear-shaped bobber must ride vertically on the surface so that any strike, no matter how subtle, can be instantly detected. While many hits are strong pull-downs, this is not always the case. Balance between float and fly is everything.
Try It Now
In terms of seasonal considerations, we're just now moving into one of the best periods for the float 'n fly. In pre-spawn, bass are generally too keyed on crawfish to make this a killer option. As fish move onto the beds – and especially when they're slightly suspended over bedding areas – a float 'n fly can generate some smokin' strikes.
And when the wind picks up, it can be the perfect backup to sight-fishing – not only for blind-casting over beds, but for plucking off the spawners just getting ready to move up.
After the post-spawn lull, the float 'n fly becomes a mainstay once fish move up onto flats. When water's in the 68- to 78-degree range, the real bonus is the flush of bass, bluegill and shad fry that cloud up in these zones.
Such opportunities exist throughout the summer months right up to the end of fall (late October) when the more traditional cold-weather applications take over.
While the BBZ promotes the pursuit of big bass, we put just as much emphasis on catching fish of any size. We recognize that swimbaits and tubes will have their days, but in between your epic moments will be a good number of head-scratching ones.
Remember, the float 'n fly will produce big fish. Yes, you may have to cull through a few to get them, but rest assured the big ones will come.