Advice From A Pro
There are a number of different factors that will determine the best Centerpin floats for you and some floats are much better than others.
The Best Centerpin floats will be easy to see, help you gauge your depth, help you control your speed, and be sensitive enough to help you detect subtle bites from a steelhead or trout. A great Centerpin float will help you catch more steelhead and trout.
The size, speed and depth of the river as well as the fish will determine what the best centerpin float is. The color, size and the shape of your Centerpin float can also be important which is why I recommend and discuss a variety of Centerpin floats in this article.
The best Centerpin float that I use myself and for all my river guiding for steelhead on most rivers is the Raven FM 6.2 float seen below.
The best anglers know that you don’t just watch your Centerpin float drift down the river, you have to work your Centerpin float in a way that it will catch you more steelhead. To learn how to present your float and catch more trout and steelhead check out my Centerpin Fishing For Beginners page
Best Centerpin Float Colors
Having the right colored Centerpin floats will help you see the float better.
Bright orange shows up under both sunny and cloudy conditions and is what I use 99% of the time.
In any situation when there is a lot of glare on the water’s surface orange floats are the easiest to see.
Some anglers believe that chartreuse is the best float color on cloudy days and orange is only good on sunny days, but even cloudy days can have a lot of glare on the surface of the water which is why I use orange floats all the time.
Best Centerpin Float Sizes
I use different sized Centerpin floats for different river speeds and depths.
When I say the size, I actually mean the weight. Floats are usually measured in grams and bigger floats hold more weight and can be easier to see.
I also use different sized floats for clear water where the fish may spook easily or where the water is slow and shallow and doesn’t require a lot of weight.
I also use different sized or shaped Centerpin floats to help my clients see the float better and that includes times when there is a lot of glare on the water.
Older anglers or anglers that don’t have great vision may benefit with a larger float.
The Best Shape For Centerpin Floats
There are a lot of different brands of Centerpin floats with different float shapes and I have tried dozens to see which ones work the best.
I believe the shape of your float is very important because if you are a very good float angler that catches a lot of fish, then you know that your float does a lot more than just suspend your bait and let you know that a fish is biting.
If you want to catch more fish then you need to learn how to trot. Trotting is lightly holding your float back to slow the bait down and present the bait ahead of the float.
To do this well a good Centerpin float will have a pointy top like those seen in the picture above in the middle and to the right side. Just make sure you get a float that is made for steelhead and trout with a proper point and not one that is too long or too short.
A Centerpin float with a pointy top will allow you to see the angle of the float better than a flat or rounded top like seen on the left and that pointed top will help you control your speed and your leader angle which is very important for more fish.
It’s also very important to find the bottom with your bait so you know that your bait is deep enough and in the strike zone.
The angle of the float helps you determine if your bait is suspended or dragging the bottom or out in front of the float too far. If that pointed top keeps tilting and pointing down the river you are likely dragging your bait so the pointy top makes it easier to read what your float is telling you.
Floats with larger tops that are more ball-shaped with a point may also be best for anglers that do not have great vision.
The smaller top floats can be very hard to see at times and are usually not recommended, however, some anglers like them because they sit lower in the water and are less likely to get pushed around by heavy winds. Personally, I don’t believe that’s a common issue which is why I don’t ever recommend flat top floats or low-profile floats.
Float Angles For More Fishing
Having the float angled properly when fishing will greatly increase how many fish you will catch so it’s important to know this and some floats help you do this better.
There are certain angles that are bad and will mean less fish and certain angles that are good and will help you catch more fish. Check out the How To Centerpin Fish page for details on how to fish your float properly.
How To Weight A Float Properly
Your float should be weighted properly or balanced properly in order to get the best results. This means the weight on your leader.
A Centerpin float should be weighted enough to sink it to the colored section or just below the colored section for best results.
A float not weighted enough may fall over and lie flat on the surface which is not a good thing.
Adding enough weight to the leader will also allow you to cast further and get the bait into the strike zone faster but adding too much weight will sink the float or make it sit too deep to be seen easily.
Knowing how much weight is not that difficult. To know how much weight is right for the float that you use is as simple as adding a few split shots to your leader and then putting your float into the water to see how much it sinks. Then, keep adding 1 weight at a time until it’s up to the colored section. Then remember how many and what size weights you used for that size of the float for next time.
To see how I set up my leader and weights and the best weights to use go to my Float Fishing Leader Set-up page (Video coming Soon)
Clear Floats or Solid Floats- Which Is Best?
There are advantages and disadvantages to clear and solid floats.
Solid floats are great for many situations and I don’t believe the fish see them or get spooked by them in faster and deeper waters so they don’t affect how many fish you will catch.
I use mostly solid Centerpin floats for almost all river situations over 3 feet deep except when the water is gin clear and low, or slow, or when the fish are easily spooked.
I will only switch to a clear float and change to an appropriate size when the water is so clear that the fish can easily see the float and might be spooked by it.
Clear Centerpin floats like the Drennan float on the right may be harder for some anglers to see but there are some clear but larger topped ones that can be seen by the angler better, but that also means they may be seen by the fish too.
These two Centerpin floats in the picture are my go-to floats for almost every river that I fish all around the great lakes region. The Raven FM float is perfect for any river of 4 to 12 feet deep and the Drennan Loafer float is great when I need stealth.
GUIDE TIP: If the water is clear enough for the fish to see your float it’s probably clear enough for the fish to see your leader and your split shots so make sure you use the right leader size. Its also important to use the right split shots and the right leader set up so check out my Best Steelhead Leaders page to make sure you are using the right sizes and the right set-up.
Float Caps And How To Attach The Float
Float caps are what we use to attach the floats to the line.
A float cap that fits well will be easy for you to slide the float up and down the line but snug enough that it won’t move unwanted when setting the hook.
It’s important to adjust your float to get close to the bottom and into the fishes strike zone so once you find that zone you don’t want your float moving every time you set the hook, so snug is better than loose.
You can buy pre-cut float caps or ones that come in lengths and then you can cut them down to about 3/8 of an inch. Some float caps come in multiple sizes because some floats are fatter at the top and narrower at the bottom. Make sure the caps you use are snug fitting.
Simply put the caps on the line first and then put the caps onto the bottom and top of your float.
GUIDE TIP: You need at least 2 caps on a float but I use 3 to 4 caps as seen on the floats in the picture because if one breaks I have a back-up and I won’t need to cut the line then add another float cap and then retie. The 3rd cap also makes the float more secure so it doesn’t move unwanted.
The Best All-Around Floats For Steelhead
The Raven FM Float is the best all-around Centerpin float for most rivers around the great lakes and for the small to medium-sized steelhead rivers in the west.
Even though FM stands for Fast current – Medium depth this float will work in slow and deep water and I know this for a fact because my clients catch a lot of steelhead in very slow water at depths of 10 feet deep with this float.
For smaller rivers of 20 to 30 feet with most or all pools under 6 feet deep I would use the 4.2-gram size.
For bigger rivers of 25 to 50 feet wide and with average pool depths between 3 and 8 feet I would recommend a 5.0 or 6.2-gram size float.
For bigger rivers of 40 to 100 feet wide I would suggest a 6.2 gram float or switch to the Raven FD 8 gram float.
I would also say that if you are an older angler with limited vision or you are fishing rivers with very long drifts over 100 feet at times, then I would suggest using the 6.2 gram floats for all rivers between 20 and 100 feet wide.
For rivers that have depths up to 15 feet I would suggest the Raven FD Model in the 8.0gram or 11 gram float.
Just having the right float doesn’t mean you will catch more fish, you still need to fish it effectively.
Best Clear Water Floats For Steelhead
These Drennan Loafer floats are my preferred float for clear water steelhead and trout fishing.
I’ll drop down to a 3 inch float for low clear trout water, and up to a 6.4 gram float for deeper water.
The float on the far right is a 6-gram float that is 5 inches long, and the picture on the far left is a 2-gram float that is about 3 inches long.
These floats require the special Drennan Float Caps due to the sizes of the top and bottom of the float.
Best Deep Water Floats For Steelhead
For deep water you need an extra long leader and often extra weight which means a bigger float is required.
One of my favorite floats for rivers that are 10 to 16 feet when I’m using a rod that is 12 to 14 feet long is the Raven FD 8 gram or 11 gram float.
To help you cast easier when you want a leader of 13 feet or more and especially if your rod is under 12 feet long it’s often best to use a slip float like the Drennan Piker Float or the Raven FX float in the 11 to 15 gram size. For the Raven FX use the Drennan float caps
This is the only time I will use a slip float because it does not have a pointed top to help you control your speed and to help locate the bottom with your bait.
For slip floats you will need float stops. How to attach a slip float – Coming Soon
Best Economy Floats For Steelhead
If you are looking to save some cash these are floats that I have used and would use again.
The Sheffield Floats are constructed of crystal clear plastic with your choice of Flo. Chartreuse, Flo. Orange or Flo. Pink hi-vis tops. The clear plastic material makes them nearly invisible in the water and at the same time very durable. These floats have a slot in the bottom section to put the line through, and come with silicone tubing to hold the line in place on the top and bottom of the float.
The Eagle Claw Clear Steelhead Floats are constructed of clear plastic making them nearly invisible in the water. The tops are painted with hi-vis paints for excellent visibility above water. The Eagle Claw Clear Steelhead Floats feature a hole through the bottom stem that allows you to thread your line through for extra secure placement on the line.
Best Place To Buy Floats
I’m a big fan of FishUSA.com because they often have a better selection of river fishing gear for steelhead than anywhere else and I often find them to be cheaper. I do recommend that you check out the prices and the Amazon Steelhead Floats selection and Bass Pro Shops steelhead floats selection just in case you can get a better price.
Just don’t get the wrong float because there are some really crappy ones out there that will limit your success and if you are going to do it, do it right!
Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any question, recommendations or if there is something I can do to improve this article.