Watching a Cork Disappear
Fishing bait under a cork is a good way to learn what to do when a fish bites, and watching the cork move as a fish nibbles your bait is exciting. The cork will show you what's going on underwater if you learn to interpret its movements.
Clipping a cork to your line is the most common way of fishing with corks. The cork holds your bait at a set depth and it will move with the slightest bite. When the fish takes the hook the cork will usually be pulled under the water. It is a good way to fish for bream, crappie, flounder, and other kinds of fish that usually grab the bait without nibbling on it.
Watch the cork and note any movement at all. When using bait like minnows or crayfish that can move the cork, you can tell what they're doing. If they're moving slowly and steadily but suddenly start frantic movements, you can bet something is close by that they want to get away from. Get ready for a bite when this happens.
With bait that can't move the cork, any slight tremble will indicate something is checking out your bait. Often the first sign you have is when the cork disappears. If you're fishing near the bottom, the cork may not go under but may fall on its side. When fishing a current the cork may just stop moving when a fish takes the bait.
A round cork will not indicate soft bites as well as a long thin one. A quill-type float will show you the slightest bite and will fall over even if the fish moves the bait a tiny amount. Quill-type floats are excellent for most kinds of smaller fish.
If the cork trembles, watch it. If it moves off steadily, falls over, stops moving in a current or goes under, set the hook. To set the hook, you raise your rod tip quickly to drive the point of the hook into the fish's mouth. For soft-mouthed fish like crappie you don't want to jerk too hard; a slow-taper rod will help. With hard-mouthed fish and when using thick bait, you want to jerk hard to pull the hook through the bait and into the fish's mouth; you need a fast-taper rod for this.
Slip floats have a hole in the middle where the line slides freely through it. You can use a bead and stopper knot to make the cork stop the bait at a set depth, or you can let the line move through the hole. When using a stopper, fish it just like you would a clip on a cork.
With a slip float the cork is near the bait so there's no problem casting it as there is when the bait is a few feet below a cork. Cast out and let your bait go to the bottom. Watch the float closely. Even though it is not stationary on the line it will move when a fish bites to tell you when to set the hook.
A slip float works well for fish that bite lightly and release the bait if they feel resistance. You can use a slip sinker and a slip float so the line moves freely when fish bite. Carp and catfish both often drop the bait if they feel any resistance.
If you fish your slip float on a tight line with the reel engaged, a fish running off with the bait will pull the cork under. If the reel is not engaged and the line can come off, the cork will still move and sometimes go under just from the weight and resistance of the line in the water. If the cork goes under or if the cork moves steadily with the line running through it, set the hook.
Another benefit of using a slip float is how it raises your hook and bait off the bottom when you reel in. When you start reeling, the cork will make the bait and hook come straight up, moving it away from trash that you could hang up on.