Fly-Fishing for Bass

Whatever fly you use, you will be casting near cover and structure. Largemouth bass ambush their prey from cover, so look for them near fallen timber, rocks, weeds, shelves, and anywhere else they may hide.

Smallmouth bass are more of a river fish, although they are in some lakes as well. They prefer cooler, cleaner water with a little more current than largemouth bass. They are still ambush predators and will be lurking in or near cover, and the same flies for largemouth bass work for smallmouths although they need to be in slightly smaller sizes. The same equipment for largemouth bass is suitable for smallies. Smallmouth bass fight more like trout than a largemouth, earning them the nickname “green trout’. They make extended fast runs and aerial displays.

Smallies dine on insects (dragonflies and damsel flies are a particular favorite), hellgrammites, large nymphs, minnows, and are especially fond of crawfish. The best flies to use are ones that imitate these. One of the top flies for smallies are Clouser Minnows in brown and orange. Crawfish imitations are excellent as well. Streamers and bucktails that match the local minnows are also good choices. I like fishing with some of the classic streamers and bucktails such as the Black Ghost, Black-Nosed Dace, Muddler Minnow and Mickey Finn.

You will find smallies in and around fallen timber, overhangs, ledges, submerged structure and rocks.

The big-game end of the spectrum is represented by the Striped Bass, in both fresh and salt water. Their smaller cousins, the White Bass inhabit the same waters and have the same habits. There is one other species worth mentioning, the Yellow Bass. It is a smaller cousin to the White Bass and is similar except for a yellow coloring. The same tactics work for all of these fish. The only difference is fly size. For Striped Bass, you will want a heavier rod in the 9-10 wt range with a fighting butt, and a reel with a good disc drag capable of holding at least 100 yards or more of backing. Striped bass make several long, fast runs when hooked.

All of these bass are open-water species, cruising along in schools, looking for baitfish to ravage. If you find baitfish, you will find theses bass nearby. It’s really that simple. In fresh water, the top patterns are shad and sunfish imitations. In salt water, anything resembling Menhaden will work.

You will find these fish cruising off points, ripraps, below tailraces, along channel shelves and bays. One of the best ways to locate them is by watching sea gulls. If you see them wheeling about over a particular area, there is baitfish under them being attacked by these bass. Go to that area and you will see the water boiling from escaping and wounded baitfish. Cast right into the middle of the ruckus and HANG-ON! When the action cools down there, just wait, they will start up again nearby. You can stay in contact with a school of bass like this all day, or until you get your limit.

If you haven’t tried fly-fishing for bass, try it. It will open up a whole new world for you!

Happy Fishing!

To get the full “Fly-Fishing for Bass” article you’ll need to download it here.

Dan Eggertsen is a fellow bass fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on bass fishing since 2004.

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