They say that fly fishing for largemouth bass is not for everyone. And they might be right. Largemouth bass and all bass species, in general, are feisty fish who would put up a good fight before they land in your fishing basket. But you don’t have to have an experienced angler with a lot of trophy fish under your belt to go fly fishing for bass either.
It doesn’t matter how much or little experience you have, the basics of bass fly fishing are the same and you can get them down in one afternoon. Besides, wouldn’t you like to up the ante on your fishing game and make it more challenging?
This article is a comprehensive guide about fly fishing for largemouth bass. It covers everything you need to know to get you started. From the best techniques to what kind of setup you need. We also talk about the different flies and where to go fly fishing for bass.
If you want to get up to speed on bass fly fishing, then you need to learn the basic techniques involved. Generally speaking, those techniques have to do with the type of lure you’re using. And they can be broken down into the following three techniques.
This is by far the most popular and successful technique to use when fly fishing for bass no matter the species. It works well for largemouth bass, striped bass, smallmouth bass, and others. The idea is simple. You choose a spot with lots of vegetation and weed right under the surface. Then cast your popper near the spot not right into it. That way you won’t end up pulling half the weeds growing in the water.
Topwater techniques work best for shallow water where you can either fly fish from the shore or wade a little into the water. Some people argue that topwater only gets you small largemouth bass. But that’s not true since even adult largemouth bass hunt in shallow waters where they can trap frogs and bluegills.
Use topwater fly fishing in the middle of summer when largemouth bass is most active. Early morning, late evening and nighttime are the ideal times to use topwater techniques.
The bottom technique is the exact opposite of topwater fishing. Here you’d want to use a weighted fly that would keep the line deep under the surface where large bass lies in wait for a decent meal. And the operative word here is a decent meal. You don’t want to use a small fly. If you’re going for an adult largemouth bass, then a sizable lure will get their attention and motivate them to bite.
Use the bottom technique in open water and large lakes when the bass is less active than usual. The best times are in the spring when the fish is spawning and in the late summer.
With this technique, you’ll use streamers. They sink to a certain depth and stay there. So it’s a technique that is in the middle between topwater and bottom fishing. Since the streamers take a bit longer to sink than weighted flies, then you should give them enough time to reach the same depth as minnows before you pull the line up.
As for the retrieving part, you would want to keep the rod tipped down toward the water to give you a lot of maneuvering room.
The term “fish in water” wasn’t coined for nothing. And with an active fish like the bass, you really want to cut down on the guessing and narrow it down to the most likely places you can find the bass. In most cases, bodies of water with lots of weed, boulders, fallen trees, and plenty of shade are the best hangout spots for bass.
Whether you choose a lake, a river, or a pond, it all comes down to how familiar the place is to you. Naturally, if you’re just starting with fly fishing for bass, then you’d want to stay with the spots and waters that you’ve had some success with before. If the spot is new to you or you have never caught bass there before, that’s not the ideal place to start bass fly fishing.
Your Bass Fly Fishing Rig
Now that you know where you’d want to go fly fishing for largemouth bass and what techniques to use, you need to pick the right gear for the job. Keep in mind that the type and size of the fish will determine the type of rig to use. And while you’re at it, try to take more flies and gear than you need just in case you encounter a different game fish. When it comes to fly fishing, you’d always want to be ready.
Related read: 5 tools every bass angler wants in their tackle box
Fly Rod for Bass
Just as largemouth bass comes in different sizes, your fly fishing rod also has different shapes and weights. You can start with a rod with 5 weight or above. However, as any experienced bass angler would tell you, the heavier the rod the better. If you’re new to fly fishing for bass, then a 6 or 7 weight fly fishing rod will do nicely. As long as the rod has basic functionality, it will get you through the day and hopefully catch a few bass in the process.
Now that’s where things get a little bit more interesting. And by interesting, I mean complicated. Because the choices can be dizzying. You have floating lines, sinking lines, and those that are in between or as anglers call them, intermediate fly lines.
- Floating Line: This is the ideal choice for shallow water. It stays floating close to the surface. Use floaters in water less than 6 feet deep such as in rivers or near the shore of lakes.
- Sinking Line: If you prefer to fish in deep water using weighted flies, then a sinking line will get the fly to the bottom much faster. Even without a heavy fly, the line will sink under its own weight a lot faster than other fly fishing lines. It works well near boulders or where a tree has fallen into the water.
- Intermediate Line: This line doesn’t stay afloat nor does it sink to the bottom. It hangs somewhere in the middle. So you can only use it when the water is no more than 10 feet deep. It’s a good option for fishing while cruising since it takes its time to sink.
The reel is a crucial part of your fly fishing equipment. The size of the reel depends on the size of the rod. As for the type of reel, a disc drag is usually good for fly fishing because it offers a better resistance rate especially when you hook a large bass that’s thrashing around in the water.
Some anglers prefer the click and pawl reel. However, this type is for more advanced users since it allows you to manually set the drag and resistance rate. You can also turn off the drag altogether with the flick of a switch.
Related article: How to hold a largemouth bass
We left the best to last as they say. Not just because the fly fishing flies are a vast world of their own, but also because this is where you’ll spend most of your time selecting and shortlisting the right flies for your fishing trip.
We’ll try to simplify things here and divide fly fishing flies for bass into four main categories. These are jig-style flies, weighted flies, poppers, and streamers.
As the name implies, these flies tend to sink quickly and stay close to the bottom where the large bass lurks. You’d want to use these flies along with sinking lines in deep lakes and rivers away from the shore. And you don’t have to worry about the fly getting entangled with the weed or debris at the bottom of the lake. The hook allows it to free itself of any hanging weeds.
These flies are similar to weighted flies. They too won’t get stuck in weed and vegetation and will sink fast to the bottom of the lake.
Unlike weighted flies, poppers stay close to the surface, so you will be using them in shallow waters and near the shore. The idea behind poppers is that they make a splash as soon as they hit the surface of the water. This mimics the splash of frogs and small bugs frolicking near the surface of the water. Poppers get stuck in underwater vegetation easily so you’d want to cast the line near the weeds but not in the middle of weedy areas.
Much like intermediate lines, streamers stay suspended somewhere between the surface and the bottom. Streamers have the shape and appearance of swimbaits and are ideal for waters deeper than 6 feet.
Fly fishing for largemouth bass is a challenging sport that every angler needs to get the hang of. With so many options when it comes to fly fishing gear, your fishing trip in pursuit of bass can be more exciting and rewarding at the same time.
Updated: October 15, 2021