Float-and-fly Q&A

Stephen Headrick

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

It's getting to be that time of year — the time of year when I get asked lots of questions about float-and-fly fishing. It's one of the techniques that I'm most closely identified with and one that really helped to launch my tackle company, Punisher Lures.

In thinking about this week's column, I decided that the best way to give you the information you need for better float and fly fishing would be to offer a little Q&A with the most common questions I get.

Here they are:

What is float-and-fly fishing and where did it come from?

Float-and-fly fishing is very simple. At its heart, it's just a technique that allows you to suspend a small jig (the fly) beneath a bobber (the float) to bass that are suspending and feeding on various baitfish. As for where it originated, it first came to popularity in East Tennessee, but crappie anglers have been doing it for decades.

Do you need special gear to use the float and fly?

As with any other kind of fishing, the right tackle is going to make things easier for you. A good float-and-fly rod will range between 8 and 12 feet in length. It will be really soft — almost like a noodle rod. A good spinning reel is important, too. If you're not familiar with backreeling (see my last column), you'll need a really smooth drag to fight a good smallmouth.

Will any float work?

Anything that will suspend your jig will serve as a float, but you'll be even more successful with a float that's properly balanced. I use Bob's Bobbers. They were designed by my friend Bob Coan, and they're the perfect float for this technique. Bob has cut them open and repositioned the weight so they balance perfectly. This means the bobber rests on its side until the jig bottoms out, then it turns upright. If a fish takes it down, set the hook — any bobber can tell you that. But Bob's Bobbers will turn on their side if a bass grabs your fly and moves up with it, so they're great strike indicators.

What line should I use?

I used to use monofilament all the way, but technology has changed and I've learned a lot. Now I use 8 pound test Berkley Fireline Crystal as my main line. I tie it to a three-way swivel that clips to the bobber. To the other part of the swivel, I tie a length of 4- or 6-pound fluorocarbon that goes to my fly. This rigging gives me everything I need — strength, near invisibility and a solid connection all around.

How long should I make my leader?

Trial and error goes a long way here. As a general rule, I tend to start with a leader that's about 11 feet long. If I'm not getting any action, I'll drop it down to 13 feet. If I'm getting bites, but they're moving up with the fly, I'll shorten the leader.

How do you cast that monstrosity?

Casting a float-and-fly rig definitely takes some practice. Start with the bobber about a foot from your rod tip and with your fly out in front of you. Raise the rod tip and bring it back like you would on a normal cast, but let the fly hit the water behind you before you come forward to make the cast. This helps the rod to load and propel the whole mess forward. It takes some getting used to, but stay after it and you'll start to gain some accuracy.

Does the float-and-fly really work?

Oh, yeah! You'd better believe it works!

It's going to make you a better smallmouth angler.

Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me atStephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.

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