I like to float bait in the current for many species. I particularly like float fishing and drifting bait for trout, salmon, and redbreast sunfish. This article explains a bit about more advanced split shot techniques. Of course, you can just bite on some split shot and be fishing but to increase catch rates (and big uns) there’s some finesse that can be learned to add numbers and size to your creel.
Float fishing itself is nothing new. People have been using a float to fish bait for who knows how long. The first written reference to float fishing was written in 1496 by Juliana Berners in her Treatise on Fishing with an Angle. Most likely Juliana was using bait instead of pink jigs for steelhead but the methods are still roughly the same.
Today we have a wide variety of fishing floats made from many materials. Fixed floats are not hard to find but they are not the most versatile. Mush depends on how they are affixed to the line. Slip floats are generally the most versatile. Using adjustable float stoppers an angler can quickly and effortlessly adjust the fishing depth to quickly adapt to new fishing conditions. This may however mean that the split shot need to be readjusted, added, or removed.
Adding more split shot and adjusting split shot is the easiest. Removing split shot can nick your line (remember that adjustable split shot can twist and tangle your line in the current) and result in losing a nice fish. Removing the lower split shot is easiest if you can cut the swivel and split shot and retie the mainline where you cut off the split shot.
Several styles of float stoppers are available and most of that decision is a personal preference. Float stoppers can also easily be made with rubber bands or twine tied in a nail knot above and below the float. Bands that wedge the float to the line are cheap but need to be replaced and can more easily result in lost floats. They make changing float size fast though.
Drifting bait in current initially seems like an easy affair. However many conditions can easily make the bait presentation look less than natural, and as a result, spook wary fish into not biting. Big fish didn’t get old and fat by being stupid. Present your bait and lures as natural as possible and with as little reason as possible for them to pass it by.
Round split shot without removable ears helps keep the line from twisting in the current. As the adjustable ears on the shot catch the current it can cause the line to twist continually. Even with a swivel attaching your leader it can lead to problems with presentation and tangles in the mainline and leader. This is why it is suggested to use a smooth round split shot, especially in very much current.
Standard shotting generally has the successively smaller split shot placed evenly throughout the line down to the swivel. Evenly spacing the progressively smaller split shot produced acceptable results and will work quite well. Placing the largest weights up closer to the float will help cut through the current better and produce a more natural bait presentation. Lighter split shot lower in the water column will help the bait drift beyond the float so that the fish will see the bait before it sees the terminal tackle and float. Standard shotting works well in faster water. There is usually no split shot used on the leader in this method.
Tapered shotting is very similar to the standard method of attaching split shot to your line. In tapered shotting, the distance between each split shot is longer than the previous larger split shot. Spreading each progressively smaller shot further apart helps create a much more natural drift in slower water. This technique is especially useful in colder water where fish may be less inclined to bite. Delicate bites are easier to connect with for species like trout and salmon. There is usually no split shot used on the leader in this method.
Accelerated shotting is the opposite of the tapered shot method. The accelerated shotting method is useful in heavy current. Placing more of the shot closer together further down the mainline helps get the bait down quickly. This method helps balance the task of maintaining a natural drift presentation and getting the bait down quickly. Many times in fast water fishing you get a very short period of drifting time to small hotspots that may be holding large fish or lazy fish that don’t have to move out of a narrow water column to feed. A small split shot can be used on the leader to help get the bait down if needed.
Slip Float shotting is the most different of the shotting methods. Deepwater float fishing in current can mean bait needs to get down fast. Fishing kelp beds along the Southern California coast this method can be useful. Bunching the split shot along the swivel will allow the slip float to fall down to the beginning of the leader and split shot-making long-distance casting much easier.
Slip floats are adjusted using a rubber stopper or twine tied in a nail knot. One stopper above the float adjusts the fishing depth. A stopper below the float controls how far down the line the float will slide once you reel in. Adjusting this close to the split shot but above the lighter leader will greatly reduce twisted tangles. One or two split shot on the leader can help get the bait out and down faster, especially on species that are not line shy. This method works well on deeper fast water.
Split shotting techniques can help your fishing results quite a bit. It can easily result in a good day out or catching nothing. It may, at first glance, seem like a very trivial thing but remember those 10 percent of fishermen that catch 90 percent of the fish? They pay attention to details like split shot spacing and float fishing. To increase your fishing prowess you should too.