Fly fishing for bass can be an incredibly exciting experience and is a great way for new anglers to get into the sport. Fly fishing for bass requires minimal gear, basic knowledge and ability, a handful of fly patterns, and a little understanding of the bass’ behavior.
There are a variety of species of “bass” that can be tricked into eating a fly. However, this article will be specifically about largemouth bass. Largemouth bass can be found in almost all of North America.
They are a very aggressive predatory fish that can be caught on live bait, artificial baits, and of course, on flies. They are most aggressive during early morning hours or late in the evening during spring and summer when the air and water temperatures are warmer.
Largemouth bass also spawn during spring time so they can be extra aggressive around this season as they protect their beds.
Largemouth bass primarily feed on smaller fish including minnows, bluegill, and even baby bass. However, they also will eat crayfish, mice, ducks, snakes, lizards, frogs, insects, and pretty much anything else that ends up in the water and looks appetizing.
The largemouth bass can grow up to 20 plus pounds with the world record being just over 22 pounds.
Part II of Fly Fishing for Bass is below
Gear for Largemouth Bass
To catch largemouth bass on a fly rod, you do not need anything extravagant in regard to gear. A basic 5 weight fly rod and reel setups will manage bass of all sizes. Bass are also versatile in the sense they can be caught almost anywhere.
You do not have to have a bass boat, or any vessel for that matter. Bass can be caught from shore in a variety of places. From big rivers, to even roadside ditches. This means you can bring your rod and reel, a few flies, and some pliers and be set to fish.
Waders or water shoes may be necessary depending on where you are fishing, but I do most of my bass fishing in flip flops. It is a good idea to have a good pair of polarized sunglasses whether you fish from a boat or from shore. This not only protects your eyes, but can allow you to see shallow bass or even their beds.
A landing net is not necessary, but can be helpful in avoiding losing that trophy bass. Extra leader material is a good piece of gear to keep handy as bass love to hang around structure so you may need to replace your tippet frequently.
If you are fishing from a boat or kayak, a decent fish finder is an awesome piece of gear to utilize. As mentioned, bass love structure so a depth finder or fish finder will allow you to see submerged trees, grass, and rocks.
Again, largemouth bass are pretty straightforward fish so there is not a lot of gear that you will need. Just the basics. If you are a wading or shoreline angler, this makes life easier as it is less you will have to tote or keep up with.
A Basic Knowledge & Ability Regarding Fly Fishing
As with any game fish that is pursued by a fly angler, you will need a basic knowledge and ability to catch largemouth bass. This means understanding how predatory fish hunt and where and how to present a fly to them.
Fly fishing is all about laying out a fly that is intended to emulate a food source for a predatory fish to eat. It does not matter if you are fishing for trout in a stream or sharks in the ocean, the basic principle remains the same.
That being said, when targeting bass, the fly angler must observe their surroundings for both best approach and best fly pattern to choose. The fly angler must have a basic ability to read the water, and of course the basic ability to present the fly appropriately.
This means if it is January and you are fishing a large lake, blistering a mouse pattern over deep water is not going to yield you any success. Instead, save that mouse pattern for an evening shoreline during a warmer part of the year.
This basic knowledge and ability to fly fish is not rocket science. It comes with time and experience on the water. Any time you target a specific species you should have a good grasp of the fundamentals of fly fishing and chasing predatory fish.
Knowing how to cast a few different ways (roll cast, back-hand cast, etc.), how to tie basic knots, and choosing appropriate fly patterns and sizes are all basic knowledge and abilities the angler should hold before ever getting to the water.
Largemouth bass are not necessarily tricky to catch, but they still require the skill and discipline of the angler to perform in order to be successful.
Part II of Fly Fishing for Bass
What Fly Patterns Work Best for Bass?
Largemouth bass will eat any living thing that enters the water and fits in their bucket mouths. I mentioned earlier the variety of animals they have consumed so choosing a fly pattern is not difficult. However, there are certainly some fly patterns that will produce more than others, especially during certain circumstances.
Some of the best fly patterns to use for largemouth bass are frogs, poppers, divers, crayfish, Clouser minnows, or a mouse pattern.
Frog fly patterns are without a doubt the most fun flies to throw. These flies are thrown around thick vegetation, overhanging trees, and along grassy shorelines during the warmer parts of the year. And when the frog pattern is thrown in the right area at the right time of year, the angler better hold on and enjoy the show. Frog fly patterns can be foam or deer hair and with a variety of appendages.
Poppers, although similar to frog patterns in their action and how to fish them, are very different in appearance. Popper fly patterns are usually foam or deer hair that has a concave mouth and when stripped, makes a popping noise and pushes water. These noisy fly patterns can be irresistible to even the most lock-jaw bass.
Diver fly patterns are another top water pattern, but instead of chugging across the water’s surface, they dive just below the water’s surface and create a small wake. These patterns imitate a small bait fish dashing across the water’s surface.
Crayfish are a staple in a bass’ diet. These crustaceans are found in pretty much every body of freshwater. These fly patterns do an excellent job of emulating a crayfish hopping across the bottom in a defensive position. They can be tied in a variety of colors and materials, but they will ensure you find a hungry bass.
Clouser minnows are without a doubt the most renowned bait fish pattern in both fresh and saltwater. Clouser minnows are designed to imitate a small bait fish casually swimming along in a semi-injured presentation. Clouser minnows for largemouth bass are typically three to four inches in length and vary in colors; they are tied with buck tail and lead dumbbell eyes.
Mice patterns, like frog patterns, have a specific time and place, but without a doubt entertain you as the biggest of bass inhale these furry flies. Mice fly patterns come in a variety of designs such as the Master Splinter or Emperor Mouse patterns, but usually consist of foam, rabbit zonker strip, and other materials. They should be cast around shorelines around early morning hours or late in the evening.
A Little Insight Into Bass Behavior
Largemouth bass are incredibly aggressive fish. The winter brings cooler weather and thus cooler water temperatures which can make the fish more lethargic, but this does not mean they stop feeding.
However, when the water is warm and they are feeding, largemouth bass will gorge themselves on anything that presents itself as a tasty and easy meal. They are not picky, especially when they are hungry.
Largemouth bass are both opportunistic feeders and ambush hunters. This means that although they like to lie in wait in heavy vegetation or around debris/structure, waiting for a bait fish or frog to swim by, they will also eat when food is presented. They could be casually swimming along the bank and when they see your mouse pattern come across their path, they will not hesitate.
As mentioned earlier, during the springtime, largemouth bass will go through the phases of pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn. This consists of the bass preparing beds for their eggs, spawning, and then protecting the baby bass until they are mature enough to be on their own. Bass can be very aggressive during these times.
Learning bass behavior can help you hone in on locating and successfully fooling the fish into taking your fly. There is plenty of literature and videos that will help you understand largemouth bass, but field research is the best teacher.
Now You Have “The Know How” To Fly Fish For Bass
Wrapping things up, largemouth bass are a very fun game fish to pursue on the fly rod. They are semi-challenging foe as they fight hard, jump frequently in attempts to shake out the hook, and hug structure which can cut the fight short.
Largemouth bass vary in size, but will have just as much fight in them at 1 pound as they do at 10 pounds. Look for them around vegetation, overhangs, and any structure such as rock piles or docks.
Using fly patterns such as Clouser minnows, frog or mice patterns, poppers, or crayfish can all produce a bite, depending on the time of year. Learning their behavior, knowing how they feed throughout the year, and where to look for them will help you pick the right fly.
Basic gear including a 5 weight rod and reel setup, appropriate footwear, polarized sunglasses, and a bit of extra leader material is all you need to chase these renowned freshwater fish.
If you are ready to graduate from small trout and pan fish into bigger game fish, largemouth bass is a great transitional step. Load up your gear and go try that local pond, creek, or even roadside ditch and see what you can pull out. Most of all, have fun and enjoy your time on the water!