How and when to use a pole float for catfish

There are many species of catfish. There are also many ways to catch the various species of catfish commonly pursued by anglers. The pole float is one of the things used by people targeting catfish in parts of the US. It can work very well. Despite that, a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of pole floats or how to use them. If you’re interested in learning how and when to use a pole float for catfish, read on.

What is a pole float?

A pole float is essentially an elongated slip bobber. Sure some of them are weighted or even lighted, but the fact remains that a pole float is a slip bobber in the shape of a pole. I have explained how to rig a slip bobber in the past so I won’t go over it again in detail. I will tell you more about the specific applications of the pole float for catfish anglers though.

Pole floats are large floats. They can hold up a lot of weight. At the same time they are compact. Since your line runs through the flats they are actually pretty aerodynamic too. If you’re properly rigged up, you can cast a pole float rig a country mile.

pole float

Pole floats are mainly used when pursuing big catfish. They are especially well cut out for big flathead catfish and blue catfish. When you’re going after those fish you often use very large fish for live bait. If you’re rigged with a regular old bobber it won’t work. The size and strength of your bait will pull the bobber all around or even submerge it. So you’ll be thinking you have a bite when in reality your bait just took your bobber under.

You can fish very large live bait under a pole float without those kinds of concerns. It would take a heck of a fish to sink a large pole float. In fact it would take the kind of large fish like a big bruiser blue or flathead that you’re targeting.

Why should you use a pole float?

Pole floats are also used to regulate depth just like any other slip bobber. Imagine you want to keep your bait four feet below the surface. Or imagine you want to keep it five feet off of the bottom. How are you going to do that? You could cast out a sliding sinker rig with a long leader but that’s no guarantee of anything. Your bait fish might swim into some rocks on the bottom and stay there or die and lay on the bottom.

When you rig a pole float you can decide how deep you want your bait to go. If your bobber stop is set so that only ten feet of line can go through the pole float then you can be positive that your bait won’t be any more than ten feet deep in the water. Sure the bait fish can swim upwards into shallower water but even then it would struggle and be appealing to catfish.

How do you rig and fish a pole float?

As stated above, you rig a pole float like any other slip bobber. It is just a big larger. So you run your line through a bobber stop. Then you slide on a bead. Then you run your line through your pole float. Next you slide on an egg sinker and another bead. After that, you tie the end of your line to a swivel. On the other end of the swivel you tie on a piece of line to be your leader. At the end of your leader you tie on your hook. Finally, you put the bobber stop where you want to set the maximum depth of your bait and you pull it tight on the line. That’s it.

Depending on where you fish, you might see people using all sorts of other gear along with their pole floats. Some people string on elaborate combinations of tubes and foam. This is really unnecessary. Mainly it seems aimed at helping them see their float if it is far out in the way. When a fish takes the bait, the whole rig stands up and is visible above the water.

The fact is that big catfish usually take the bait hard and fast. If you’re fishing with a reel with a bait runner feature as you should be, you’ll hear your line going out off the reel fast. So you listen for the take as much as you look. When night fishing you might not even see your float at all. Still you know when you have a fish as your line starts screaming off of your reel. Or, if you don’t have a baitrunner reel and your drag is set too tight, you might just hear a loud splash as your rod is pulled into the water.

When going after catfish with live bait it is best to use a circle hook. With a circle hook the hook basically sets itself as soon as their is tension on the line. Circle hooks also have the advantage of normally sticking in the corner of a fishes mouth instead of hooking them deep. That helps a lot if you want to practice catch and release fishing. In combination with a baitrunner reel, circle hooks can really improve your fishing.

Which pole float should you choose?

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Although pole floats aren’t commonly found in every bait shop around, you can get your hands on them pretty easily nowadays. The internet has done wonders to make all sorts of equipment available to the average angler.

There are a lot of different pole floats around. They work well in different situations. There are weighted and unweighted pole floats for example. The unweighted floats are fine for a lot of uses since the bait and egg sinker add weight, but if you want to really get your rig out far or you’re battling a lot of current the weighted versions can help.

There are also glow in the dark pole floats, pole floats with internal lights, and even pole floats with rubber attachments for glow sticks. They are all fine if you want to see your float in low light. The floats with the extra attachments are perhaps to be avoided though. The extra attachments can get tangled in your line which can be a mess at night or even cause you to lose fish. On top of that, the glow sticks can fall out and pollute the water. If you want to use a pole float that is visible at night, try the Little Joe Night Bright.

The regular old high visible pole floats are the best all around option. You can see them in most conditions and they have been working well for many years. There’s a reason they’re still sold today. These Little Joe Pole Floats are a great choice.

8 Responses to “How and when to use a pole float for catfish”
  1. Mark Lash July 25, 2018
    • Angler August 17, 2018
  2. Griff August 5, 2018
    • Angler August 17, 2018
  3. Dave Mordini October 5, 2020
    • Angler October 5, 2020
    • Denice August 21, 2023
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