How To Pick The Best Pole Float

There is no one “best pole float” as it will all depend on where you are pole fishing (canal, lake, river) and what you are fishing for (big fish like carp or silver fish). It will also depend on where in the body of water you are fishing (shallow water, deep water, margin fishing, or the far bank).

In this article, I plan to talk about the best float for each situation. That’s not to say you won’t catch fish by using another float, it’s just that these pole floats when fished in the right situation will hopefully give you better results.


Size of the float

The size of the pole float will affect whether or not it’s the best for the situation.

Let’s think about it for a second, and I know these 2 analogies are a bit extreme but let’s take a bucket of water as one place you want to fish, and the north sea as the other. If you wanted to fish on the bottom of each you would only need a very small pole float to fish in the bucket, and you would need a much bigger float to fish in the north sea.

Do you see what I mean?

Therefore, if you are only fishing in shallow water that is quite calm, then you only need a small float.

Here is a quick guide to the most standard size of pole floats. Some companies list the sizes as grams, while others use the 4×10 method.

These can be converted via this simple table below. However, I have written a whole other article about these which can find here.

4 x 10 = 0.1g

4 x 12 = 0.2g

4 x 14 = 0.4g

4 x 16 = 0.6g

4 x 18 = 0.75g

4 x 20 = 1g

Shape Of The Pole Floats

The shape of the float body will have a massive impact on your catch rate. Just like the weight of the float, if you get this wrong, you will miss bites or maybe not even see bites that other anglers are getting. In a match situation, you could easily lose the match by choosing the wrong float body.

Slim body shape

Slim floats are probably the most versatile that could be used for most sorts of fishing. They can be used in deeper water if you choose a larger size but will also work well in the margins. If I had to pick just 1 style/shape of float from this list as the only one to use, then this one would be it. Jamie Hughes (3-time fish O’Mania winner) is actually quoted in one of his videos that he uses this float for 90% of all his fishing. These style floats are like a stretched rugby ball and can also be called a chianti float.

Rugby Ball Shape

This is quite similar to the diamond-shaped floats below as it offers stability when fishing on the bottom and they generally have a longer bristle. It’s not a float size I use that often as a lot of the venues I fish and generally not over 5ft in depth. If a venue was 7 feet of water or more then a rugby ball shape would be one I would consider using. It would also be suitable for windy conditions.

Diamond Shaped Floats

These are quite large pole floats and because of that, they are suited better for larger baits such as paste fishing (more about that here), meat fishing, larger baits or pellets. These pole floats have great stability which means they are less likely to move around when large fish are rooting for food near your float.

They also have very long stems which means when you get the shotting pattern right the body of the pole float is hidden well under the water, which again helps with stability.


Dibbers are used for fishing very shallow in the water, for depths of up to about 2ft. It’s not wise to use these to fish on the bottom of a lake as the bristle of the pole float is not sensitive enough. I like to use these once I have the fish feeding really shallow on a hot summer’s day.

Short floats or stumpy floats

These are generally carp floats for use for margin fishing or tight against the far bank. These are floats you want to use over 3ft in depths and ideally work well in 2ft or less.

The Preston edge floats that you see above are one of my favourite floats and the carp shallow floats can be used for mugging, fishing on the deck in shallow water, or fishing up in the water using a pellet. They are perfect for big fish.

Different Types Of Pole Float Stem

Just when you are starting to get your head around different body shapes, we now move on and confuse you even more by talking about the different stems. The good news is, it’s not as confusing as the body shape and it can be broken down into 3 categories.

Wire Stems

Wire stems are used for when you want to get the hook bait down to the bottom quickly without any messing around. A wire stem will sit upright straight away. A wire stem is perfect if you are fishing bigger baits or pellets on the bottom, but it’s also good for sweetcorn, meat, and even maggots.

Carbon Stems

Carbon is the lightest stem type available. These are made to give the bait a slow fall through the water.

An example of when to use these is when you are maggot fishing and you want the fish to follow the bait through the water. Having a carbon stem means the float settles slower, which in turn makes the presentation of the bait slower through the water.

Fiberglass Stems

These are the strongest type of stems and you will find these in a lot of the floats that are designed for margin or edge fishing. When fishing in the margins (especially in summer) you are more likely to hook into larger fish, which are more likely to go tearing into the reeds or lily pads. A glass stem will be a lot more durable for these situations and will be less likely to break. These are definitely ones that I refer to as my carp floats.


The last thing to quickly cover is the bristle.

I try and keep this very simple.

In the winter, when you get shy bites are more sensitive and harder to spot I will go with a finer bristle (1mm to 1.5mm).

In the summer when I am targeting larger carp or bigger fish and don’t need to be as delicate I will use a thick bristle (2mm to 2.5mm). A thicker bristle will also give you more stability.

Anything else I will just see what is happening on the day and the weather conditions.