Bass are hardy creatures, and can live just about anywhere. In ponds and lakes all throughout the lower 48, bass are eager to take a fly, and provide exciting and convenient angling opportunities for novice and experienced fly casters alike. Whether you’re new to the sport or are looking for close-to-home fishing to pass the time between destination trips, these 6 tips will help you get started catching bass on the fly at your local bass pond.
6 Things To Keep In Mind When Fly Fishing For Bass
You don’t need special gear to catch bass
Most species targeted by fly anglers require special rods, reels and lines. But with bass, the tackle you already have will probably do just fine. Although you don’t need special gear, to help you get the most bang for your fly fishing for bass buck, here are some helpful gear guidelines you’ll want to follow.
Rod. The go-to fly rod for bass is a 9 foot 8 weight. A heavier rod is preferred for casting the large, air-resistant flies used for bass fishing, and provides more backbone for times when you need to muscle a fish out of weeds and away from structure.
But, if you don’t have an 8 weight rod, don’t fret. Any rod in the 5-9 weight range will work for bass fishing. You’ll have a tougher time casting larger flies with lighter rods, but bass can be caught on a wide range of fly sizes, and your fly selection can be easily adjusted based on your rod size.
Line. 99% of the time, a floating line is all you need when fly fishing for bass, either weight-forward or double tapered. Bass feed primarily in the shallows and most of the time you’ll be using a top water fly, so there’s no need for a sinking line. However, in large lakes, bass tend to move into deeper water in the middle of the day and for those situations you would need a sinking line to get your fly deep enough. But for ponds and small lakes, a floating line will do the job.
Leader. Unlike trout fishing, an elegant presentation isn’t needed when fishing for bass, and you don’t need a long, delicate leader. To turn over large bass flies, a shorter, stouter leader is desired. Often times when you hook a bass, it will dart towards structure and weeds, and you’ll need a stronger leader to steer it clear to avoid getting broken off.
When shopping for a leader, go with either a bass-specific knot less tapered leader, or a standard nylon leader in size 1-3X. Some bass fly fishermen forego tapered leaders altogether and instead use a 3-5 foot piece of level monofilament in 20-30lb test. This short, level leader will turn over the largest flies and is very economical.
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Top water flies are your best friend when fly fishing for bass
Poppers, sliders and divers are by far the most popular and most productive flies to use when fishing for bass. Poppers float on the surface and have a flat or concave face that makes a “pop” when pulled through the water. Sliders are like poppers, but have a bullet shaped head that slides erratically along the surface of the water. Divers float on the surface, but dive under water when stripped.
When stripped, they imitate a fleeing or wounded bait fish, or the sound of another bass feeding on the surface. Most topwater bass flies have marabou, feathers and rubber legs that wiggle and pulsate in the water even at rest. They come in a huge array of styles and sizes, but the exact pattern doesn’t really matter as long as it looks “buggy.” Head to your local fly shop and pick out a few that catch your eye or whatever the local favorites happen to be. All are irresistible to bass and all invoke exciting top water strikes.
Fish close to cover
Bass are ambush predators. They hang out, in, around and under all types of cover — weeds, logs, boulders, docks, overhanging trees and undercut banks. They sit and wait for bait fish to swim by, or for something to land on the surface, then rush out and strike.
When fly fishing for bass in a pond or lake, your first objective should be to find cover. Cast your fly close to the cover, and if there’s a bass hanging out, chances are he’ll strike your fly.
Most fly fishermen fish poppers too fast. Bass will often see your fly land on the water, then sit and watch it for a long time before they decide to rush up and eat it. When in doubt, slow down.
When fishing a popper or slider, cast it close to cover, let it splat down on the water, then let it sit. The feathers and rubber legs will continue pulsating and vibrating for a while after it lands. Try to let it sit for 20 to 30 seconds before you move it. If you’re used to trout fishing or saltwater fishing, this may seem like an eternity!
A good point of reference is to wait until all the rings in the water around your fly completely dissipate. Often times a bass will strike once the fly has completely stopped moving. If you don’t get a strike, give it a small strip, then let it sit again. Do this several times until you get a strike, or cast to a different area.
If there’s still no strike, experiment with different retrieve patterns until you get a hit. Try a steady retrieve, an erratic retrieve, or a faster retrieve.
Vary your retrieve speed
Changing up your retrieval is important especially when fishing with a sinking line. This is important because you can’t see how the fish are reacting to your presentation. Offering up different presentations by means of different retrieval can give you an idea of what the bass want.
Sometimes bass might like the presentation of long steady strips and on other days they might like short popping strips which can give the lure a twitching motion.
The important thing to remember is don’t be afraid to change things up. Listen to what the bass want and adjust accordingly.
I always recommend changing your style of retrieval before reaching into your fishing tackle bag for a different lure.
Use a “strip strike” to set the hook
Most trout fishermen are used to raising the rod tip to set the hook, but this is not ideal when fishing for bass. Instead, try to use a saltwater-style strip strike to set the hook when a bass takes your fly.
To do a strip strike, keep your rod tip down, and do a sharp, hard strip to set the hook when you see a fish take your fly. This sharp strip drives the hook into the fish’s mouth, but the real benefit is that it keeps the fly in the water instead of flying out of the water. If you miss with a strip strike, your fly will look like a bait fish trying to escape an attack, and the bass will often chase the fly and strike again.
Ready for some exciting fishing close to home?
Fly fishing for bass is relatively simple, it’s exciting, and can often be found close to home. So if you’re itching to get out on the water, but don’t have time for a long distance fishing trip, a trip to your local bass pond will more than satisfy your craving. With a basic rod set up and a handful of bass flies, you’re all set to cast to some hungry fish!
I hope you enjoy my tips for fly fishing for bass. Please share your comments in the section below.