We have migrated from a round, unpainted cork with a hole in it some fifty years ago to the array of todays somewhat sophisticated floats. Round floats; long floats; red floats; styrofoam floats; hardwood floats; they come in every size and shape imaginable.
Popping corks, a variation that allows an angler to work a cork like a lure, serve two purposes. They attract the attention of the fish with their popping, water splashing movement, and they let you see the fish bite.
The latest generation of floats to become popular is what some people call the thunder generation. With a variety of names, many seeming to involve the word thunder, these floats provide a somewhat different approach to fishing with a bobber.
They are made to be tied between the line and the leader, and unlike a typical float, they cannot slip up and down the line. The float portion itself is an oblong, egg shaped piece of fluorescent styrofoam on a piece of heavy wire. The float portion can move about six inches or so, and generally has some type of brass or glass noise making beads on it.
Under the beads on some floats is a stationary weight of some type, and under that weight is another three to four inches of wire. Some versions have no extra weight, but either way, the whole thing ends up being about ten inches long.
They look a little cumbersome, and they have the appearance of being able to catch more fishermen than fish, but dont let the appearance fool you! These specialized cousins to a bobber work well in a variety of shallow water circumstances.
Tied to the bottom of the float, the leader can be from one to as long as four feet in length, depending on the water depth. A leader anything longer than four feet makes the entire rig very difficult to cast.
These floats are designed for relatively shallow water, as you can tell. A live bait such as a shrimp, pinfish or mud minnow will be able to swim freely just above the bottom as the float carries it along in a current. Feeding fish find the bait and swim away with it. Often the live bait is on the bottom because the leader is longer than the water depth.
As the float moves, simply jerks of the rod tip make the brass and glass beads sound off under the water, attracting nearby fish. These floats dont need to go below the surface before an angler sets the hook. When a fish takes the live bait, the float will move in another direction, an indication for you to set the hook.
The weight of the entire rig, especially the ones with a built in weights of their own, makes distance casting very easy. This allows you to stay in relatively deep water and cast far up onto a mud flat, something that cannot be accomplished with other types of floats. You reach fish that were heretofore unreachable.
In addition to live bait, these rigs work extremely well with a jig and grub arrangement in slightly deeper water. Simply tie a jig with your favorite grub tail to the end of the leader. In this mode, the float must be worked a little harder with more action to move the grub. The noise, grub movement and commotion all work together to draw strikes. If you can get a good wind drift across a flat, simply fish out the back side of the drift, and keep the float action going.
More anglers are catching onto these new floats, and more of them are seen tied to long rods these days. They are almost the standard floats today in lots of locales.
Every time I think we have invented all the tackle we ever will, someone comes up with another idea. These thunder rigs are no exception, and they really do work to make noise and move a bait. More importantly, they catch fish!