Looking at the finished float many anglers confuse it with the "drift beater" but a closer look will reveal that it is entirely a different float. It is first and foremost a reversed balsa wood waggler. If you cut of the sight tip, you are left with a perfect reversed taper balsa waggler.
The sight tip can be clearly seen in rough water whilst the body is so streamlined that the float casts like a dart without wobbling. It's stem supporting the sight tip is thin allowing for good registration of lift bites. The sight tip, being made of balsa wood, goes under relatively easy. I think that it is a mistake to use polystyrene for a sight tip as it is too buoyant and takes a strong bite to submerge this material.
I doubt if you will see these in a tackle shop as, to my knowledge, they are not made commercially. Mine are all made by myself or Pat Tarrant. For this reason, I have included a full set of instructions on making the float so that readers can make their own. Alternatively readers can always give Pat a ring on 01322 337628 and see if he can make them up for you.
The starting material is a length of rounded balsa that can be purchased from a modelling shop. The length and diameter of the balsa wood will depend of the desired size of the finished float. However, a word of warning, be careful not to select too soft a balsa wood as it will break whilst turning.
I use an electric drill clamped in a vice to turn my wood. I turn the bottom first, leaving a peg to fit an adapter or to whip on a eye. I always start with coarse glass paper, finishing with a fine grade glass paper. I then work back to the drill chuck turning the tapering stem. Once I have finished the stem, the balsa wood is removed from the drill chuck. The wood in the drill chuck is hand shaped using glass paper to produce the sight tip. It is important that you work in this order as there is a good chance that you will break the float if turning it in any other order.
I use cellulose-based sanding sealer to waterproof the balsa-wood and water-based acrylic paints to finish the float. These water based acrylic paints are quick drying and easy to use. I use small pots of Humbrol acrylic paints from a local model shop costing just under a pound.
Once the body is fully shaped, it's given two coats of sanding sealer and allowed to dry. A coat of black acrylic paint is given to the body whilst the tip is given a coat of matt white acrylic.
The tip is then painted orange. I normally mottle the body with green paint to give a very pleasing effect. To finish the float, I like to give the whole float a coat of clear varnish to protect it.
The float can be fished with a quick change adapter so that it can be easily changed to a heavier version if conditions worsen.
Most of my fishing with this float is on large gravel pits that tend to be rather deep, demanding the use of a sliding float. A stop knot is tied at depth and the float slid on the line. The bulk shot which needs to be heavy to pull the line through the float ring is placed about 8 to 9ft from the hook. Typically the bulk shot will be between 4 and 6AAA. There are only a few number 6 shot spaced out between the bulk shot and the hook.
On the large gravel pits that I target using these reversed balsawood sight tips, the main species that I catch are tench and bream. However it certainly pays to prebait these waters for a few days before fishing. I use a lot of mashed up bread with corn, trout pellets and any other bait that I have left over for these baiting up sessions.
The heaviest catch that I ever made using one of these floats was 184lb consisting of 17 bream and 14 tench from a heavily prebaited swim on a local gravel pit. Although I had initially started to prebait with the bread-based feed, there were too many people watching me and I knew there was a real danger of being swim-jumped. I therefore changed over to baiting up with 6mm mini boilies. This proved expensive but very worthwhile. I had prebaited for a week on the bread based feed followed by three weeks on the mini boilie.
The day before my big catch I had had six tench to nearly eight pounds with four bream to just over seven pounds. The tench were of a higher average weight than the bream. Unfortunately I saw an angler on the far bank scanning me with his binoculars. I guessed that I was about to be swim-jumped and I was right!
The following morning I arrived at about 5 a.m. to see an angler rushing to my swim. There was no chance of beating him so I did not unload and went back to bed. Later, after doing some shopping, I returned just as the "swim jumper" had packed up and was in the car park. He told me that he had blanked and that I must have fished the swim out the previous day. Even though he had blatantly swim-jumped my prebaited swim, I got the impression that he blamed me for his blank. He even asked me what bait I was on as nothing had taken his block-feedered maggot. I told him home made boilies, to which he replied that the club should ban them as they were stopping ordinary anglers catching. I even pointed out to him that I had never seen more than two anglers on the lake at any one time and commented how odd it was that he had fished where I had been fishing. I got no reply.
When I arrived to fish it was mid morning. Before setting up, I threw in a few handfuls of mini boilies and to my utter surprise tench could be seen boiling just below the surface! Clearly I was not going to leger the swim with a matched pair of rods as I had on the previous day. Instead, out came my 15ft Harrison float rod with one of the sight-tipped wagglers locked in position by the bulk shot and set at about 2.5ft deep in the 14ft deep swim. A single 6mm boilie was hair rigged to a size 12 hook and I cast out to land on top of 12 mini boilies that I had just thrown in. The float went away immediately as a 6.5lb tench took on the drop. The next two casts also produced good tench before the swim went dead. All I had to do was to go a couple of feet deeper and I was again catching fish. The pattern repeated itself until I was catching fish at the full 14ft depth.
I was still regularly catching at full depth when the angler who had fished the swim earlier turned up to witness me still catching more bream and tench. He could clearly see my hair-rigged mini boilie blown outside the mouth of a big tench. Again he commented that "Boilies should be banned to give other anglers a chance". "It's not the boilie that is doing the damage but the amount of prebaiting that I have done" was my rather irritated reply. "I prebaited with my own mini boilies to stop other anglers getting the benefit of all my hard work prebaiting if they fished the swim" I explained.
"Yes but you do not own the swim. This is a club venue and anybody can fish here" commented my swim-jumping friend. "Too true. That is why I prebaited with my own bait. I don't want to be prebaiting for other anglers. If they want they can go and prebait another swim with their own bait" was my honest reply.
The angler then commented about my sight tip waggler and how well
it was performing, now that it had turned rather choppy. It certainly
performed well and was clearly visible giving excellent bite indication. I showed him the float and he commented he had not seen one in any tackle shop.
As he departed the angler commented that he was going to bait up his own swim on the pit but I never saw him fishing on that venue again.
I think the catch illustrates the value of prebaiting and the importance of being careful in your prebaiting. There is no point in baiting up a swim for other anglers. It pays to check to see if other anglers are fishing the venue and if they are likely to fish your selected swim. If this is likely then prebait with feed that other anglers are unlikely to use. Often just colouring or flavouring a known bait will do the trick.
Last season, I spent a lot of time on another large gravel pit. This pit was slightly larger than the water mentioned earlier and held a fair stock of large carp with some terrific bream. The bream were largely neglected by the few anglers fishing the venue. They were out after the carp and regarded bream as a nuisance fish. I therefore decided to prebait with a cheap bread-based groundbait with corn and trout pellet added. The carp anglers could clearly see me baiting up and deliberately kept clear of where I was fishing. It was as if I had the plague.
I fished over the feed in about 13ft of water with a sliding sight tip waggler and a variety of simple baits ranging from worm, corn, bread, maggot and caster. No bait shone but they all caught bream. However, I never managed to really bag up. The fish that I was catching were ranging from 61b to 91b and all looked youngish fish for their size. I also noticed that a high proportion of my fish were taken on the drop as my float was settling down.
One of the carp anglers then came over from the far bank to have a chat. Once he was convinced that I was only interested in the bream, he started to be much more free with the information he was passing on. He had been fishing the water for many years and had done well with the big carp but was being pestered by big bream. I told him that I had deliberately avoided filling in with mini boilies as there were too many carp about and I would have to fish much heavier to stand any real chance of landing one. "Trout pellets are the key" the carp angler told me. "The carp boys have put so many in that the bream have got the taste for them and take them as natural food. To some extent maggots and corn are alien baits as hardly any go in. I've seen good match anglers prebait with match-type baits and fail whilst the carp anglers are bagging up, fishing boilie over trout pellet" he explained.
"I'll follow your advice and just feed in pellets and fish with banded pellet on the hook" I replied.
I fed a lot of trout pellets in over the next few days with no other feed and then returned to fish it. I fired out about a pint of trout pellet before starting and kept a regular supply going in at regular intervals. It didn't take long before I started to catch bream with some nice roach-bream hybrids. Certainly my catch rate was up and I was building up a good bag when my carp angling friend reappeared.
"I see that you are doing much better. Did you follow my advice?" he asked.
"Too true and it's really working" I replied.
He explained that he and several of his carping friends had been putting up to six sacks of trout pellet a season into the water.
"That's a lot of bait and explains why the bream are on it. Unfortunately I am on holiday for the next two weeks and then back for a week before going off for another weeks holiday, so I will miss out on most of the bream fishing" I commented.
"That's a lot of holiday. Have you won the lottery?" asked my carp fishing friend.
"No, but the next best thing. I have just got early retirement from teaching after nearly thirty years service". I replied.
"Well done, so, no doubt you'll be back next year?"
"Absolutely" I replied.
As I write this article, I am just finishing off a range of the sight tip wagglers ready for my return to that pit. This time it will be really heavy feeding with trout pellet from the start