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Everything to Know for Bass Fly Fishing


If you haven’t caught Bass on a fly rod yet, then you are missing out! Bass put up a hell of a fight on all tackle but catching them on a fly rod is the ultimate experience. Most fly fishing anglers take up trout fishing first, but Bass fishing is just as good. It can also depend on where you live, as Bass thrive in warmer waters.

Fishing for Bass and the equipment used differs from that of what you would use for trout, so we will be touching on all the must haves in order to land these fighters on your next Bass fishing trip.

Bass fly fishing is very popular because Bass can be found in so many areas of the country. Bass typically are found in warmer lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Considering warmer climates make up such a wide geographical range, if you are not fishing for bass, it’s time to start.


Let’s dive into everything there is to know about catching these pesky fish!

Best Time of the Day and Year to Fish for Bass

Let’s be honest, Bass can be caught at any time of the day, but fishing for them during low-light hours is key to upping your success rate. This means getting out on the water first thing in the morning, and staying out until you cant see your indicator or fly anymore.

A reason why Bass are easier to catch in the low-light hours, is because this is when they come out to feed. Bass will venture into shallower waters where you will have better chances off the fly.

Spring and summer are ideal seasons when fly fishing for Bass. Bass begin spawning in the spring, so they will be feeding like crazy. This means all the anglers that love to use streamers should bring them out! There will be a bit of a dead time between the spring and summer where Bass tend to take it easy after spawning, but it usually only lasts a few weeks.


What to Expect when Fishing for Bass?

  1. Bass are hard hitting fish, meaning they are aggressive in nature. If you are use to fishing for Brown Trout, where a sneeze will scare them into extinction, Bass are the opposite, so be prepared for strikes. They like to fight hard, especially Smallmouth bass. The Largemouth Bass still put up a good fight, so fishing for either one is a blast and the fights tend to be a lengthy process.
  2. Bass tend to have thicker skin than that of Trout, so when you are setting your hook, you may actually have to put some muscle into it. Don’t put out your back or anything, but a slight flick of the wrist like you might do for mountain Trout won’t cut it.
  3. Don’t be surprised if the Bass gets airborne, especially the Smallmouth Bass. I have found that if they jump out of the water during a fight, it’s best to give the line a little slack, but not too much.


Types of Fly Patterns to Use When Fishing for Bass

  • Bass are similar to other fish when it comes to matching the hatch, if there is a hatch on. Bass also like shiny flies and fly patterns that have rubber legs or other objects that move.
  • Bass are big fans of large poppers that imitate frogs or other surface creatures. Don’t hesitate to try a mouse late at night to try and latch onto one of those monster Bass that comes out to feed only in the late hours.
  • Wet flies are very popular with Bass, especially ones with bead heads or weighted heads that help the fly to get down into the water columns that the Bass are holding tight in. Heavier wet flies are exceptional in the summer months when the heat is up, as the Bass will be as deep as possible to avoid the sun.



Matching the Hatch

If you want a better chance at catching fish when you head out on fly fishing trips, you must try to match the hatch! I see way too many anglers simply winging it with their favorite flies instead of looking in the water to see what the fish are already feeding on.

Fish like to feed on the insects that are all around them. Matching your fly to the natural insects is key. I cannot stress this enough. If you look into the water, and there isn’t much of anything going on for insects, then go ahead and try your favorite hooks. We have all been fly fishing where you just can’t seem to figure out what the fish are biting, it sucks! Then the next time you go out, you find the right fly and you can’t keep the fish off. Matching the hatch will increase your chances of having really good days, instead of poor fishing days.

Zinger Fishing has a blog on matching the 4 most common fly hatches if you would like to give it a read.

Having a solid variety of flies is also a great thing. I like to fish quite a few different rivers, lakes, and streams, so I always make sure that I am prepared with an arsenal of flies. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 3 of each fly pattern. There is nothing worse than finding the right fly that the fish are biting, but only having one in your fly case. If you have multiple, you will be fine if you lose one, or if you need to lend one to a buddy.

Zinger Fishing has a wide variety of dry flies, wet flies, nymphs, hoppers, and streamers if you would like to check them out. They also offer a few variety fly kits that are a good bang for your buck.


Sizes of Flies to Use

Your standard sized flies that you use for Trout and other fish are not going to cut it when heading out in search for Bass. Anything from hook sizes 2 to 10 will be ideal if you are going after bigger Largemouth Bass. When using streamers, small hook sizes shouldn’t even be on your mind.

Smaller hooks can work in rivers and streams if you are targeting smallies, but I would stay away from anything sized 16 or smaller.



What Size of Fly Rod is Best for Bass Fishing?

I have personally used my 6 weight fly rod and did just fine when Bass fishing, but it would be smart to go with a 7 or 8 if you plan on fishing for Bass often. Your reel should match the weight of your fly rod. I highly suggest having a large arbor with plenty of fly line backing, as Bass like to dive deep when they are hooked. As for the drag system, a disc drag is preferred whenever fishing for larger fish.


What Fly Line and Leaders to Use When Fishing for Bass?

Fly Line - Trout get spooked at everything, but especially fly line. Bass aren’t as crazy, so you don’t have to care as much, but you always want to have the right pound test and quality line. Also keep in mind that the flies you will be using for Bass are larger, so your fly line needs to be able to turn these bad boys over. You can use a floating or sinking line, but I prefer a sinking line to help my streamer get some depth quickly.

Leaders - Leaders depend mainly on what types of flies you are using. If you are using larger wet flies, like streamers, then you should opt for 0x-1x in thickness. If you are dry fly fishing or using poppers/hoppers, I would stay under a 5x. Tippet can help to soften the landing when using dries, so don’t be afraid to tie some on. You must remember that when fly fishing, presenting your fly to the fish is one of the most important parts that there is. An angler that is good at presenting the fly will catch drastically more fish than an angler who is lazy and doesn’t try on the presentation. As for leader length, I would shoot for somewhere between 5 and 9 feet.


What is the Difference Between Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass?

Both types of Bass are fun to catch, but you should know how to tell them apart from each other.

  • Largemouth Bass’ upper jaw will extend a little past their eyes, and Smallmouth Bass ‘ upper jaws will typically stop in line with their eyes.
  • Largemouth Bass have horizontal stripes around their bellies and Smallmouth Bass have vertical striping on their bodies.
  • Smallmouth Bass do not have breaks in their dorsal fins, but Largemouth Bass do.
  • Smallmouth Bass prefer colder waters compared to Largemouth. Smallmouth Bass are usually on the hunt in more aggressive types of water, as where Largemouth like to hang out in calmer and warmer waters.


Where to Look for Bass?

Bass can be found in most of the United States due to the warmer climate. They are normally found in lakes and ponds, but smallies can definitely be found in rivers and streams as well.

When fishing in ponds and lakes, Bass like hiding under lily pads, trees, drainage basis, and patches of weeds. Like many other types of fish, Bass will hang out where the water levels change (drop off) on the floor of the lake. They stay here for the abundance of food that comes there way. In the heat of the summer, Bass will typically head to deeper portions of the lake or pond for cover from the sun.

If you are heading out to fish a river or stream, you will likely be eyeing up Smallmouth Bass. Like Trout and other species, Bass can be found along the river banks, in the seams of the water, deep holes, and in still water. If there are fallen trees or anything else like large rocks, cast your fly in there!


Casting the Big Flies

Having a higher weighted rod will help immensely when casting a larger fly. Your distance that the fly will go will be quite substantial when using an 8 weighted rod compared to a 6.

Casting is pretty similar to that of smaller flies, but just make sure to leave enough time in your back cast for your hooks to get all the way to the back before bringing them forward. If you bring them forward too fast, you will lose a lot of momentum in your cast and you will risk getting them tangled.


Retrieving Your Fly and Setting the Hook When Fishing for Bass

Setting the hook is different with Bass fishing compared to Trout. Normally with Trout, you lift the rod and pull the fly line, but with bass I would suggest stripping your line back hard while giving your rod side pressure.

If you are fishing with hoppers/poppers, strip the fly in different motions, giving it the image of a large topwater animal. Keep these stripping motions to between 6 and 10 inches. These motions will help to bring the pesky Bass up for a strike!

When using streamers, you can strip in larger motions, from 6 inches to 2 feet at a time if wanted.


How do Bass Differ from Trout?

Many fly fishing anglers start with fishing trout, but it normally comes down to where you live in the world. Trout favor colder cleaner types of water, as where Bass live in warm water that is often filthy! Bass will fight harder than trout on a pound to pound basis. Bass have a somewhat flattened body, like a Goldeye, that makes them harder to fight. Trout are normally nice and fat. Both species of fish will eat all your typical fly hatches, but Bass also go for larger meals.


Bass Fishing Overall

Overall, fly fishing for Bass is a great time and if you ever get the chance to do it, go for it! I love catching as many different species of fish as I can on a fly rod because they all seem to fight and strike different. I do prefer rivers and streams over lakes, so I tend to fish for Smallmouth Bass more often, but I did land a beauty Largemouth Bass last year from a lake in Florida. It was an amazing adventure and if you have been contemplating a Bass fishing trip, I hope this blog helped to seal the deal!


If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.