The Total Guide to Drifter Float Fishing for Pike

by | Last updated on: Apr 3, 2022 | Published on: Mar 21, 2022 | Float Fishing | 0 comments

Little in angling is more impressive than a large pike, but finding these fish isn’t always straightforward. There are many methods available to us as pike anglers, but drifter float fishing for pike has to be one of the most effective when we’re trying to cover lots of water in search of pike.

Drifter float fishing brings the bait off the bottom through the use of float. A drifter float is designed to catch the wind and drift the bait across the water; for this reason, the pike drifter float rig is considered a very effective way to locate the fish. You’re not committing to a single spot because the bait is going to cover a lot of water, sometimes even drifting into areas impossible to reach from the bank. It’s particularly effective on unfamiliar waters. Drifting a float will allow you to become familiar with the hot spots and feeding areas, which you can then target with static rigs once found.

Not only will your drifting float explore various locations, but you’re also able to adjust the depths at which you’re fishing, meaning you can also explore the layers of water. Once again, this increases your chances of finding some feeding fish.

Conditions: When to Try This Rig

I always prefer to fish for pike in cool, overcast conditions. Ideally, you would have a gentle breeze to help manoeuvre your drifter float around the swim. Drifter fishing isn’t an ideal approach on a really bright, still day. When using a drifter float rig, target areas with reasonable amounts of open water. It’s not great in a small, confined space. Similarly, it’s a method you could use on a large river but probably not on small rivers or streams.

My ideal drifter float fishing setup for pike

The Rod, Reel & Mainline Setup

As with most pike fishing, you’ll need a robust rod and reel setup that’s capable of casting fairly heavy rigs and baits. I would recommend the Korum Snapper Cult Deadbait Rod. This is 12ft with a 3.35lb test curve, so a pretty powerful outfit.

I always use a braided mainline on the reel. You’ve got to consider that the float might drift out to a reasonable distance, so the lack of stretch in the braid will help you set the hooks when fishing at range. You’ll also want to ensure that your mainline floats on the water’s surface. You definitely do not want a heavy sinking mainline; this will create a large underwater bow in the line between you and the float, which will prevent a good hookset.

The Drifter Float Rig: Step by Step Guide

Step 1

Add a float stop onto the mainline. This is used to set the depth at which you’re fishing.

Step 2

Thread on a dart style float (this one is 20g)

Step 3

Add a quick change weight (20g)

Step 4

Thread on an 8mm hard bead

Step 5

Use your favourite knot to tie on the wire trace


I like to use a single treble hook, size 8 or size 6. 

Best Baits for the Drifter Float Rig

A range of dead baits work well on the drifter float, both coarse and sea fish. I tend to ‘match the hatch’ and therefore use roach a fair amount on my local lakes, although sea fish such as smelt and sardines also draw in bites. I find I get the best results trying to present something that looks as natural as possible.

I tend to use smaller dead baits on the drifter float instead of the large baits that I ledger on the bottom. A smaller bait allows me to use just a single treble hook placed in the dorsal fin area of the bait. I think the bait you use is less important than how you present it. A single treble set as described will position the bait horizontally in the water, again mimicking a natural baitfish more accurately.

Drifter float fishing for pike – an excellent method on a large lake

Adjusting the Depth

It’s essential to understand the depth at which you’re fishing. You want to know if you’re fishing near the bottom, mid-water or in the upper layers of the water. Initially, it would be best if you guessed the depth. Make a series of casts, continually moving the stop knot away from the float after each cast. Once the float lays flat on the surface, you know you’ve reached the bottom. Now acknowledge the distance between the bait and the stop knot – that’s the depth of the water.

I would start by bringing the stop knot about a foot closer to the float, bringing the bait slightly off the bottom. By now, you should have observed the wind direction and got a feel for the direction of the drift.

Great areas to drift into

Cast into the wind, and now you’ve started your first drift across the water. Your first few casts might be close in, and then you can slowly work your way further out into the lake with each cast. Once you’ve reached your maximum range, you can repeat the process but fish more shallowly. Be sure to let the float drift out of casting range (as long as you can still see it). Leave it to drift slightly under overhanging trees and bushes; these are areas where pike may be laying, ready to ambush baitfish, and so are great areas to drift into.

Drifter Float Fishing for Pike: 6 Top Tips

Below are my six top tips to consider when using a pike drifter float rig:

  • Choose a swim that has room to drift
  • Use a float that catches the wind
  • Explore various parts of the swim
  • Adjust the depths
  • Present the dead bait in a natural horizontal position
  • Try fishing over depth once you’ve found the fish


You may be returning to a water that you’re very familiar with, where you know the hotspots and exactly where the pike will be. However, we’re searching for these fish more often than not, and drifter float fishing for pike is one of the most effective ways to find them.

So, get yourself a bit of space, rig up with a drifter float, and a carefully presented dead bait could not only find you the pike of your dreams, but your float could drift into an area where they hold up all winter.