“Braided lines and fluorocarbon have really made the technique much easier to use. “For my main line, I use 6- to 8-pound test Fireline Crystal braid,” he added. “The braid works much better on spinning reels and its white color makes it easy to see on the water. At the end of the braid, I splice in a 15-foot length of 6- to 8-pound Triplefish fluorocarbon line using a double uni knot. “Obviously the rig wouldn’t be complete without the fly,” he said. “You can use almost any crappie jig and have success but I’ve found that custom tied flies work the best – namely Float N Flies hand tied by David Lester of Natures Tackle Box in Atlanta, GA. “David has been tying flies for years for both fly fishermen and bass anglers. His flies last longer than mass-produced crap- pie jigs due to the whip-finish knot he uses to tie the fly off and he also uses head cement on the thread. The other reason for using custom flies is the fact you can have any color made to help match your hatch or make specific colors that are good on your body of water. David also uses a proprietary material he calls “chigger hair” which gives an action not seen in normal fly tying hairs. He also adds 3-D eyes to his baits and all the heads he uses he pours with Mazuo sickleback hooks. These hooks have a slightly wider gap and longer shank than any commercially produced flies on the market. Also, I use exclusively a 1/16-ounce fly for this technique.”
“Leader length is without a doubt the most important part of this technique,” he said. “It varies and takes some experimentation but here are some guidelines to start off with. “If you’re fishing with partners in the boat make sure you are both using different leader lengths. It makes no sense for two anglers to be fishing the same depth when you can use each other to experiment and find the correct depth the fish are feeding. A 10-foot leader is a good starting point plus or minus 2 feet. However I have gone as long as a 24-foot leader and as shallow as 6 feet. Most of the time, though, I usually use a leader between 8 and 12 feet long.” “As far as retrieves go, that’s something you have to determine each day,” he said. “Sometimes they wants a faster retrieve and other days they want the fly deadsticked.”
rigging and Casting
“The rig is simple to set up but casting it is where it gets dif- ficult,” Bucca said. “For the rig, take your float and clip the fat end of the float towards the fly and the skinny end towards the rod tip. Float placement is critical with the rig and is determined where the fish are in the water column. Place the float anywhere from 6- to 20-feet from the fly depending on where the fish and bait are located. “Casting the rig can be tough but if you follow these steps you’ll soon become a master,” he said. “First off, start with the float about 3 feet from the tip of the rod and with a sidearm motion, make your backcast. As the float and fly hit the water behind you, make your forward cast. What happens here is because the float and fly are in the water on the forward cast, they provide resistance to the rod tip and load energy into the rod. “As the cast is started, the float goes first and the fly follows. In order to prevent the fly and float from tangling during at the end of the cast, it’s important to feather the line coming off the reel. What this does is slow down the float and the fly passes the float in the air, much like a fly fisherman lays out his line.”
“The float-n-fly technique revolves totally around fishing sus- pended fish in the wintertime,” Bucca said. “Spots are known for suspending and especially the bigger fish. Yes a swimbait will work on these fish but when a cold front has moved through an area and the fish become inactive, they are less apt to hit a swimbait. That’s where this technique shines. “Find areas like bluffs or underwater humps and points where the fish have stacked up,” he said. “Make sure you know the depth where the fish are hanging and adjust your leader length to coin- cide with the depth they are at or a little shallower. The beauty of bluffs, in this case, is the fish doesn’t have to move far to find its comfort zone. “Another great target is sunken brush piles,” he added. “One thing I’ve noticed over the years how effective brush is for big spots. The big thing, though is the bigger fish tend to suspend over the brush rather than get in it. This makes a perfect case for the float-n-fly.
Using tHe teCHniqUe
“Knowing when you’re bit can be a tricky deal with this technique,” Bucca said. “This is why the balance between your fly and float has to be perfect. Of course there are the times when a fish tanks your float and there’s no question as to whether or not you’re bit but then there are the times when the fish are fin- icky and actually rise towards the float after taking the fly. This is what is known as a ‘lift bite’ and if your float and fly are not properly bal- anced, you’ll never know you were bit. “With a properly balanced rig, the float sits vertically in the water,” he said. “If a fish eats the bait and moves up in the water column, the float will fall on its side. This is probably the most difficult bite to detect but most of the time, these bites result in a trophy-class spot.
“After spending the last 8 years fishing the float-n-fly rig, I can say it is one of the most effective techniques for catching trophy-sized spots anywhere in the country. It may be a technique that utilizes light line, light rods and small baits but believe me, it will catch more and bigger spots, especially when the weather turns cold. BW