Fly fishing for bass is an extremely exciting way to fly fish. This article will provide an overview of fly fishing for bass, the necessary gear, and tips for success.
Why Fly Fish For Bass
Fly fishing for bass has many benefits:
- Fly fisherman who add bass fishing to their activities can allow them to extend their season beyond the other fish they may target.
- Bass are incredibly good fighters, making them a blast on a fly rod.
- Bass are heartier than trout, meaning catch and release can be less impactful, and less likely to kill the fish compared to other species like trout.
- Bass are aggressive fish, leading to harsh strikes and great fights. Angling for bass can result in more action throughout the day.
- Bass can be fished very well with streamers, or on top water, some really exciting angling techniques.
Bass Fly Fishing Gear
Fly fishing for bass requires the same tackle and gear that any fly fisherman would need. A quality rod and reel, a selection of flies, tippet and leaders, as well as waders or boots suitable for wading in the water should be taken into account. However, a few specialized tackle items should also be considered when targeting bass:
- A 6+ weight rod, reel, and line. Bass tend to put up solid fights, and you may need to be casting in the wind on a pond or lake. Having a heavier rod and line can help with this and the fight for larger fish. That being said we’ve gone bass fishing successfully with our 4 and 5 weight many of times.
- For the most part, a classic weight forward floating line will work just fine. When needing to get deep, it may be more effective with a sinking fly line.
- Streamers and poppers are great flies for bass
- 7-9 foot leaders seem to be effective, and there is no need to go with super lightweight leaders / tippet as the bass seem to bite just fine with heavier line. Go heavier to avoid breaking (10+ pounds)
Best Bass Fishing Flies
These are some of our favorite flies. We tend to cycle through them to find what’s working, or stick to a technique that sounds fun for the day.
- Wooly Bugger
- Meat Whistle
- Foam poppers
- Galloup’s Nancy P
- Just about any conehead or bead head streamer
It is worth noting that bass tend to be aggressive, and not picky. They often attack most sizes and colors that pass by them. With this being said, be ready to switch colors, sizes, retrieval speeds and overall presentation up until you find combinations that are resulting in lots of fish.
Bass Fly Fishing Tips
We also wanted to include some simple tips to help increase your success rates on the water:
Fish At The Beginning And End Of The Day
Early mornings and evenings result in more active fish frequently for us. This becomes more evident in the summer months when the water heats up mid day. In the heat of the summer, we often see the fish slow down in the middle of the day.
The Strip Hook Set
Unlike trout fishing, you shouldn’t be lifting the rod tip up to set the hook. With bass, you are often retrieving the fly with your hand, and setting the hook should be done with the rod tip staying down, and your hand stripping the line setting the hook. Lifting up on the rod tip can result in broken line.
Underwater structures like logs, rocks, debris, overhanging banks, and bushes are often where we find the most bass. They seek shelter, so the anglers should seek that shelter as well.
Sinking Line May Be Necessary For Deep Water
If you need to get your flies deep, anglers can increase the leader length on their floating line, or they can utilize full sink or sink tip fly line in order to get deeper for certain situations. It can be difficulty to get 10+ feet deep with floating fly line.
Fly Fishing Vs Spin Fishing For Bass
Fly fishing or spin fishing for bass is really a personal preference. Most anglers agree that in general, when targeting bass, fly fishing makes the experience more enjoyable due to the often explosive strikes and great fight that come with it. However, spinning gear can be more effective in certain situations such as deep water or heavy cover. Ultimately it comes down to what style of fishing the angler prefers, and what kind of rod they have available. With that being said, we do suggest having both types of rods at your disposal for different situations you may encounter on the water.
Largemouth Vs Smallmouth Bass
The two main species of bass typically targeted in North America are largemouth and smallmouth. Largemouth bass tend to inhabit warmer waters, so they are found in the south primarily, while smallmouth bass can tolerate cooler water temperatures and are found more in northern lakes and rivers. Each species provides a somewhat different experience when fly fishing for them. Largemouth bass often prefer slower retrieve rates, and can be found in shallow waters. There is a lot of overlap and both bass are often found in the same body of water, they just tend to be in different parts of that water.
Smallmouth bass tend to be more aggressive, and they are typically found in deeper water. Both species can be caught with many of the same flies but it is important to know what species you’re targeting before deciding which fly to use, and where on the water you’ll be fishing.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about