Bass on the Fly

April 27, 2018

I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to fish than fly fishing for bass! No matter where you live in North America, bass waters can be found close to home - from farm ponds and small creeks to broad rivers and large lakes. Equipment can be as simple (inexpensive) or high tech (expensive) as you care to go. In many waters, both largemouth and smallmouth bass can be found. The same equipment and fly selection will catch both species.

Fly fishing for bass calls for large poppers or streamers so a rod-reel-line combo on the heavy end of the spectrum is called for. If you have a 6-weight outfit you might make it work, but a 7, 8 or 9-weight outfit will help you turn over large bugs and give you the strength to haul a largemouth out of the weeds or reverse course on a smallmouth in fast river current.

Smallmouth bass with all black popper

If you lack such an outfit you can get started with one of the best values at FishUSA, a Redington Crosswater Fly Fishing Outfit (OCW890-2) that includes a 2-piece, 9-foot, 8-weight rod with a reel, weight forward fly line, a Rio 9-foot leader, rod sock and tube – everything you need but the flies!

What I find most enjoyable about fly fishing for bass is the take, or topwater action. Hot summer days bring out the dragonflies and the bass will be looking up. You don’t have to worry about matching the hatch. Most poppers are good imitations of a crashing and burning, or hatching dragonfly. A size 4 Gaines Weedless Willard Popper is a good choice, as is the Gaines Bass King Popper. Keep a supply of different colors to see what works. Choose sizes 4 and 6, which provide sufficient profile and disturbance to attract fish and are easy to cast.

Determine the fish’s preference on a given day by fishing the popper passively or aggressively. Sometimes bass will slowly inspect a motionless popper and gently kiss it, other times an escaping action that makes quite a commotion will draw a smashing top water take.

Smallmouth Bass with Clouser Minnow FishUSA

There are days, due to weather conditions, that bass are best taken below the surface. This calls for streamers and large nymphs. I can’t think of a better streamer for either species of bass than the Clouser Minnow. The Clouser’s profile imitates many species of baitfish. It can be fished slow, fast or stop-and-go, close to the surface or bouncing the bottom. Sizes 6 and 2 are appropriate for bass. For starters, choose a bright chartreuse/white pattern and an all black pattern to cover opposite ends of the light and color spectrum.

Your secret weapon can be the Umpqua Clouser Crayfish, especially for river smallmouth. This fly may tempt smallmouth like no other fly in your box. Make a cast quartering upstream and let it drift. When quartering downstream, start the retrieve with short, snappy retrieves.

Rounding out your starter kit wouldn’t be complete without the go-anywhere, do-anything Wooly Bugger. The argument will never be settled if the Wooly Bugger is a minnow, leech or nymph imitation, but who cares as long as fish keep eating them. For bass go with size 6 and invest in at least one of each color in black, olive and white.

Fly fishing for bass is a great way to get started or to extend your fly fishing season. Find your closest body of water suitable for bass and get started!

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