Floats (also called bobbers) are designed to attach to the line and suspend your bait at a selected depth. They are also used to indicate when the angler gets a bite. The most common type of bobber is a globe-shaped red/white plastic model. Typically, they are attached with a spring-loaded clip that pinches the line and holds the bait at a pre-selected depth. Some models have two clips that attached to the line. These types work fine for relatively shallow depths. Most novice anglers choose this type. Their size should be matched to the size of the bait used, and should be just big enough to suspend the bait being used. Most novices select a bobber too large for most pan fishing situations.
Setting these types of floats for deeper water results in a long length of line suspended below the float, which makes casting difficult. For deeper water situations (more than 3 feet, or so), a “slip bobber” is a better selection. The slip bobber is designed to slide up the line until it is stopped by a “bobber stop” (typically a piece of rubber, cotton line, or rubber band) that is tied to the line that stops the bobber from sliding any further. The bobber stop is small enough to be wound onto the reel, so it will not interfere with the casting. Slip bobbers are typically longer and narrower that the red and white globe-style bobbers. They often have a larger round section in the middle. They can be used in shallow water by setting the bobber stop at that depth. They are often more sensitive than the globe-style bobbers, and can detect very light bites.
Slip bobbers may have a hollow straw-like center where the line is threaded through rather than clipped on. The bobber stop is large enough that it cannot fit through the center “straw.”
A third type of float is available that is relatively new in the US, but common in Europe. These types are called “wagglers” or “pencil” bobbers. They are very long and thin; shaped like a pencil with an enlarged end. When set up with the correct amount of weight on the line, they are extremely sensitive to very light bites.
Typically one or two split-shot-type weights are pinched on the line between the bobber and the hook. In most situations, the amount of weight used is not critical, but it is better to err on the lighter side than on the heavy side. In some advanced angler situations, where slip bobbers or wagglers are used to catch spooky fish, the amount of weight pinched on the line may be a critical factor, because it may influence how sensitive the bobber will be in detecting a bite.