When most people hear float n’ fly they think smallmouth and it makes sense. The float n’ fly was developed by Charlie and Eddie Nuckols in Eastern Tennessee. This technique was aimed at targeting suspended smallmouth and spotted bass when the water temps started creeping into the low 40’s. It works because bait fish struggle to stay alive at these temperatures. What a lot of folks don’t know is this technique also works well for big largemouth.
The traditional setup consists of a 1/16 oz fly (jig), weighted bobber, fish dope (scent) and a three way swivel. It’s fairly simple. Tie your line to the three way swivel and connect the weighted bobber to the swivel . Next, determine the depth you want the fly and apply the fish dope (optional – no need to get into the scent vs. no scent argument). Starting off with what you think will be the deepest depth will make your life easier and you will waste less line while out on the water. If you don’t know I would wait.
It’s very important to use a weighted bobber with this setup as this is what gives the fly it’s action. In the picture above you can see the lead insert on the bottom of the bobber. Billy Boy Bobbers and Bob’s Bobbers are two popular choices.
The flies are designed to suspend horizontally below the bobber. They can be made of duck feathers, deer hair, mylar tubing, or synthetic hair. Cumberland Pro Lures, Punisher Lures and Spro are a few manufactures I like to use. I’ve had a lot of luck with flies made out of duck feathers. If you enjoy creating your own lures these type of jigs are fairly simple to tie.
Using soft plastics on a small jig head is a unconventional approach that works. If you go this route you do not need a weighted bobber; the soft plastic is heavy enough to provide it’s own action. Pictured above is a Confidence Baits Reaper (far right) and two custom soft plastics poured by Jeff Little.
I recommend using a 8 ft- 12ft medium light rod with a fast action. Most of the major manufactures make a rod designed specifically for this presentation. Light line is also important. I use 10lb Power Pro with 8lb fluorocarbon as the leader material. The braid floats which helps with working the bobber and the fluorocarbon leader helps the fly sink . You need to let the rod do most of the work and be patient when trying to land a fish. You are dealing with very small light wire hooks that can bend easily. Can you find the fly in the picture above?
I suggest targeting main lake ledges as Largemouth tend to suspend in these areas during the winter months. Once you’ve located these type of areas determine the depth and prepare your leader. The trick with a successful cast is waiting until you hear the fly hit the water on your back cast and then load up and make your forward cast. Casting out of a kayak is especially difficult. I recommend facing either side of the kayak in the direction you want to fish and cast side to side. This will help prevent your fly from catching the stern of your kayak.
Once you’ve made your cast slowly twitch the bobber back to the boat. Remember, you are trying to imitate a dying bait fish. If there is a little chop on the water let it move the bobber for you. If the bobber goes down it usually means a fish is on. If it lays on it’s side the fly is either hitting the bottom or a fish has come up from below the fly. Setting the hook is as simple as just pulling the rod up straight over your head. Be gentle; you do not want to rip the fly out of the mouth of the fish.
I hope this article has been helpful. Get out there and give it a try. You may end up catching a lunker like the 7lb largemouth pictured above.
Please practice CPR! See ya on the river!