If you haven’t tried fly fishing, you are missing out on a great experience.
But isn’t fly fishing limited to catching trout in a river?
Let’s find out!
In this post, we are going to answer the ever so popular question: Can you fly fish for bass?
Not only that, but we are going to talk about some great tips to get you onto some big fish.
Can You Fly Fish For Bass?
The answer: Yes, you absolutely can. Not only can you, but I encourage you to start fly fishing for bass as soon as possible.
Fly fishing for bass seems to come second regarding the amount of information and time that has gone into discussing fly fishing for other species such as trout and steelhead. While catching bass on traditional tackle is and will always be a worthy pursuit, there is something special about hooking up with a largemouth on a topwater pattern or pulling a thrashing smallie off a ledge.
There are some hang-ups that new anglers encounter when going after bass with fly rods and we want to address those issues as well as cover some basic tips to get you and your fly rod on the water and catching fish.
Tips for Fly Fishing for Bass
Having the proper tackle is going to start you out on the right foot when chasing smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Rod. We recommend a 6 to 8wt fly rod. These rods can handle line weight needed to turn over heavier flies that often have quite a bit of air resistance.
We like medium fast action rods just because it protects the tippet a little better from aggressive takes, but fast action rods are popular as well because of their better casting properties for larger flies and their sensitivity.
Need help picking a rod? Be sure to check out these articles: Best Fly Rod For Bass Fishing – My Top 4 Picks and What is the best beginner fly rod? – My Top Choices.
Reel. For reels, we think having good balance is the biggest factor in making your selection. Large arbors are nice to have because you get more line in per revolution. As far as drag, having little start-up inertia is critical because of how aggressive bass are towards flies.
Bass don’t make huge runs like other species, so drag is not as critical in landing fish. We are more concerned with keeping the tippet from breaking, and a drag system that is jerky when line is taken can break tippet and cause a lot of frustration.
Fly Line. For fly line, match it with the rod weight. We like a weight forward taper and even shooting line. Weight forward tapers are good for turning over the heavier flies, and since you’re not going to be doing a lot of long-range roll casts or mending, you don’t have to worry about the lighter line behind it.
Both floating and sinking line are used for bass fishing, and both excel in certain situations.
Leaders. For leaders, the length we go with really depends on how we are fishing. Longer monofilament leaders in the 9 to even 12-foot length is what we like to use fishing lighter topwater flies or right beneath the surface. For finicky trout, we might switch to a fluorocarbon leader.
When using heavier lures, we shorten up to 6 to 9-foot leaders for better control of the fly while casting. With sinking line, it’s 6 foot to help get the fly down.
Popular and Effective Patterns
- Deer Hair Bass Bugs
- Sneaky Pete
- Dragonfly and Damselfly
- Dancing Frog
- Black Magic
Sub-surface (Can be fished deeper with weight)
- Gulley Worm
- Clouser Minnow
- Wooly Bugger
- Double Bunny
- Deer Hair Diver
- Ghetto Crawl
- Leech Fly
- Hairy Fodder
Close the distance
There are fly rods out there that will let you get out there at 100 feet, and that is necessary with some fish, especially saltwater in crystal clear flats. For bass, it’s not necessary for the majority of situations.
We often see anglers, most likely new to the sport, false casting huge amounts of line. Casting with heavier bass flies and wind coming off a lake is challenging enough, don’t compound that with trying to wrangle fifty feet of line.
Get up close to structures (25-40 ft) with your boat and work with 15-20 feet of line. This makes it much easier to handle bass flies and the wind. It also gives you better control and fly placement.
If you need a little more distance, shoot some line out at the terminal forward cast.
Casting and Wind
Casting a fly rod when fishing for bass is no different than casting a fly rod for any other species but trying to work larger flies and especially in windy conditions, which seems to be common on lakes, can be very frustrating for those both novice and experienced fly fishermen. Here are some tips for handling wind.
- Wind coming at you: Use a low angle cast to get the line and fly closer to the water where the wind is not as strong.
- Wind hitting non-casting shoulder. If the wind is hitting your non-casting shoulder, you can overcompensate your fly direction towards the wind and allow it to push the fly into the area you want it. You can also use the low angle cast.
- Wind coming behind you. If you have a strong wind blowing at your back, you can use a low angle backcast and followed with an over-shoulder forward cast.
- Wind hitting casting shoulder. For this situation, we angle our backcast over our non-casting shoulder. This method cuts down on the chances of your fly catching in your back.
- Roll Cast. One of the best ways to deal with wind is to not keep your fly in the air too long. If you’re working close, a roll cast is a great way to get your fly back in the water quickly and negating wind. If you’re using a weight forward line with a heavier lure, getting distance on your roll cast can be tough. You might switch to a lighter lure or carry a spool with double tapered line.
The part of the water column that bass are holding in can change pretty dramatically from one hole to the next. To be successful fly fishing for bass, you need to have the ability to get your fly into the strike zone. There are several ways you can do this.
- Weighted lures. If you need to get deeper, flies with cone or dumbbell weights. You can also add a base of lead wire to keep the weight spread evenly through the fly. When fished with floating line, you can strip these lures only a couple of feet below the surface.
- Split Shot. Using split shot on the leader is another way to get flies down in the water column. They have the added benefit of having more control on depth compared to weights tied into the fly.
- Sinking Line. Sinking line will allow you to get unweighted lures below the surface. You can also choose between lines of different density that have higher or lower sink rates. If you want to really get down on the lake bed and stay there, sinking line with some added weight is the way to go.
Retrieving might be the most important aspect of enticing a strike from bass. All the motion of the fly in the water comes from your manipulation of the fly line and not from the rod. Using the rod tip to cause motion can create slack in the line and is a big reason for missed strikes.
You will have to play around with the length of strips, intervals between strips, and the speed of the strip. Key in on what the fish are looking for and go with it until the bites stop. When stripping line, always keep the rod point down. This helps keep tension on the line and is in a good position to set the hook.
Fly fishing for bass is a unique experience, and anyone can be successful. Our goal of this article was to outline the basic equipment needed and provide a few tips on how to get over the initial speed bumps of chasing bass with a fly rod.
Whether you are just starting out or have some experience, we hope you have picked up some useful information for chasing bass with a fly fishing outfit.