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2021’s Best Fly Rod for Bass: Orvis, Sage and Scott reviews

Bass fishing is outrageously popular, especially in America. They’re great fighting fish, and if you’re interested in eating them, bass make great table fare, too.

Fly fishing for bass is some of the most fun you’ll have on a fly rod. But how do you pick the best fly rod for catching bass?

Take a look at the features we recommend you look for, as well as our picks for the best fly rod for bass.

Our top picks

These fly rods are among the best on the market for bass fishing. Given that you’re generally throwing bigger flies for bass, you need a fly rod that has the backbone, power, and finesse to deliver big flies to all areas of the water column. Whether you’re throwing to weed lines or other cover for smallmouth, for fishing deep, big rigs for largemouth, these rods have you covered.

Best all round fly rod for bass:

Orvis 9′ 6-weight H3D

Orvis has long been synonymous with high quality in the fly fishing world. Their fly rods are among the best you can buy, and the H3D series in heavier weights are stellar for covering the wide range of uses that bass rods demand.

Not only do you need a rod that has backbone to throw larger flies, but you also need one that can land flies with superb accuracy.

The 9′ 6-weight H3D ticks all those boxes, and more. As well as being an excellent fly rod for trout, It’s an excellent rod for bass because it’s a quick, fast-action stick that has the power of an 8 weight, with the ease of use of a 6. Coupled with the Orvis 25-year warranty, it’s hard to beat the performance and value the H3D offers.

Best bass fly rod for poppers:

Winston Saltwater AIR

Throwing poppers for bass is one of the most exciting things about chasing this fish on the fly rod. Fishing poppers is a surefire way to have an explosive day on the water.

Poppers are heavier flies, though, and as such, you’ll want to pick a heavier-weight rod to handle the job. An 8 weight might be overkill for most poppers, and a 6 can be a bit light.

The Winston Saltwater AIR in a 7 weight is the rod you need for poppers. With the nice, progressive, action that Winston is known for, coupled with the rod’s backbone, power, and finesse, you’ll be able to land poppers in tight pieces of open water on the edge of ponds, or right against the weed line.

Winston offers a lifetime warranty on their fly rods, making them a fairly good investment, as far as fly rods go.

Best best streamer rod for bass:

Sage Payload

Streamer fishing for bass demands heavy lines, big flies, and powerful casts. You can’t get bass streamers where they need to be without those features.

Enter the Sage Payload. This is one of the fastest fly rods on the market, which means it has the strength and power to bomb casts long and short with big flies. The Payload is one of the fastest fly rods Sage has ever made, and you’ll love it when you’re throwing casts against a big headwind, or trying to muscle a largemouth from out under a log.

Sage offers a lifetime warranty on their rods as well, and they’ve built a reputation for making some of the best fishing rods on the market.

Read on to the bottom of this article for full reviews of the five rods we looked at for this review.

What to consider when choosing a fly rod for bass

Picking the right fly rod for chasing bass depends a lot on how the rod acts, but more on the places where you plan on fishing. If you’re chasing bass in small, weedy ponds, for instance, you’ll want a fly rod that has the delicacy to deliver flies on point in tight windows.

If you spend more time on reservoirs, where you’re likely to run into big fish, then rods that can handle a trophy largemouth or smallmouth are what you should be after.

With that said, let’s break it down to show you exactly what you need to consider when buying a new fly rod.

Where you like to fish for bass

Where you fish plays a huge role in picking the right fly rod. For bass especially, you need to take this into account.

Ponds

If you primarily target smallmouth or largemouth in ponds, you’ll want a rod that’s stout enough to push big flies with minimal false casting, but also accurate enough to place them in between reeds or other structure.

Bass love to hang out in tangled pieces of cover. Getting your flies right to them in a small environment like a pond demands a shorter, heavier-weight rod.

Lakes 

This is what we most often think of when we think about bass fishing. One minute, you’re throwing heavy line with a big fly to fish holding at a variety of water depths. Or, you might be hunting weed lines, waiting for a smallmouth to blow up your topwater lure. Regardless, lake fishing is one of the best ways to enjoy bass on a fly rod.

For this story of fly fishing, you’ll want a long, heavy rod. Finesse isn’t really important here, since you’re focused more on covering a ton of water. Rarely will you need a delicate presentation to fool a trophy largemouth bass on a lake.

You’ll need the correct presentation, for sure; but delicacy? Not so much.

Rivers

Almost all of my own fly fishing gear is for use on rivers. Based on the river I’m hitting, I know which rod to grab, which fly to use, and where to place them.

When I’m chasing bass in a river, the rod I reach for is the same as if I were trout fishing – a 9-foot 5 weight rod. This is the most versatile fly rod on the market, and it’s proven to be a great all-around stick for fly fishing trout or bass in rivers.

Target bass species

When picking out a fly rod for chasing bass, you also need to take into account the species you’re chasing. While largemouth and smallmouth are similar enough, they occupy different areas of the water column, and you’ll want a rod that specializes in hitting those areas.

Largemouth bass

For largemouth bass, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend anything under a 6 weight fly rod. You need something that’s heavy and has backbone to turn over big sink tips, streamers, or even drop shot rigs (yes, you can drop shot off a fly rod). Largemouth tend to hang out deep, and their takes are much more subtle than smallmouth. A fly rod that’s 6 weight or larger, but with a sensitive tip, is your best friend here.

Smallmouth bass

For smallmouth bass, I like fishing poppers as much as possible. It can be fast action for these fish when they’re actively eating on top. I’ve also found smallmouth to be more aggressive on the surface eat than largemouth, but that might be a result of the bass fisheries near where I live.

You’re also usually throwing to, in, and around weed lines. A lighter rod – like a 5 weight – should be in your fly fishing gear if you’re chasing smallies.

Other bass

As for all other bass – I’ve never really had much experience with them. Aside from a walleye on a fly rod a few years ago, my bass fly fishing has largely revolved around the smallies that populate the fisheries near my home.

With that said, fly fishing is still fly fishing at the end of the day. It’s not rocket science, and a heavy rod – like a 6 or 7 weight – in a 9 foot length is likely your best bet for chasing other bass.

What flies you use for bass

Picking a rod also depends on what flies you plan to use most with it. Different flies demand different rod performance features.

Bass rods for streamers

A good fly rod for streamers is one with a stiff backbone, sensitive tip, and quick casting stroke. Bonus points come for light swing weight and accuracy.

Bass rods for poppers

You don’t need a rod as heavy when fishing poppers, since they tend to be a bit lighter than streamers. A 5 weight that’s decently fast, and accurate, is the go-to here.

Rod action/weight recommendations

Based on everything discussed above, we’ve compiled a quick reference of the features your next bass fly rod needs to have.

What is the best weight rod for fly fishing for bass?

A 6 weight is your best rod weight for bass fishing. This gives you backbone, power, and finesse.

What is the best rod action for bass fishing?

best fly rod for bass feature image - largemouth bass

Fast-action rods are your best friend here. You want rods that can throw line quickly and efficiently.

What is the best rod length for bass fishing?

best fishing line for bass

Bass fly rods should all be nine feet long. There’s no need for anything shorter (or longer) than that.

Detailed reviews of our best bass fly rods

Sage Payload

The Sage Payload is the company’s second-fastest rod, behind the Igniter. The Payload is quick, light, with plenty of backbone to push big flies through wind, or to drop poppers right in the exact spot on a weed line.

The Payload is one of Sage’s more affordable rods, too, which makes it enticing. And it comes with a lifetime warranty, as well, though Sage has started charging more for their repair costs in recent years.

If you’re looking to stay in the $500 – $600 range, and still want a great rod, the Payload deserves your attention.

  • Fast action
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Affordable

G Loomis NRX+

The Loomis NRX+ is the follow-up to the company’s wildly successful NRX series. The old NRX rods were some of the most decorated rods ever built, even if they were a bit overhyped by some reviewers.

That aside, the NRX+ has the power and backbone that the original NRX lacked. With a bit more stiffness, the NRX+ handles wind, big flies, and big fish with ease. You’ll pay about $800 to own this rod, so it’s a bigger investment than the Sage Payload.

  • Great action
  • Little swing weight
  • Higher price

Scott Sector

The Scott Sector is the company’s newest iteration of their saltwater fly rods. Scott had a tough task on their hands when they decided to update their old flagship saltwater rod, the Meridian. But the returns on the Sector are that it’s a fantastic piece of fly fishing gear.

Scott is known for mixing a fast action with enough sensitivity in the tip to make anyone happy. If you’re looking for the perfect rod for tossing poppers or smaller streamers in thick cover, then the Sector might be the rod for you.

  • Sweet action
  • Lots of backbone
  • Expensive

Sage Sonic

The Sonic is supposed to be the next step down in all-around rod performance after the Sage X. While other rods cost more than the Sonic, they’re billed as specialty tools – like the Payload or Igniter.

The Sonic represents great value that doesn’t compromise too much on performance. It’s a fast-action rod built to handle just about anything you throw at it.

  • Affordable
  • Fast action
  • Not as great as other rods

Winston Saltwater AIR

The original Winston AIR rods are gone, replaced by the AIR 2. But the Saltwater AIR remains a great rod for the company based out of Twin Bridges, Montana. The Saltwater AIR has been praised as being a sweet, progressively-fast rod that loads deep into the blank and throws laser-like loops. Everyone from tarpon guides to permit anglers have praised them.

You’ll pay a premium to own a Winston, but their warranty is hard to beat, as is their customer service. And the Saltwater AIR is just plain fun to fish.

Orvis H3D

Orvis’ H3D series in heavier weights are perfect for covering the wide range of uses that bass rods demand and in the 9-foot six weight configuration we recommend they are the most versatile rod you can choose for all-round bass fishing.

In many bass fly fishing situations you need a rod that has backbone to throw larger flies, but you also need one that can land flies with superb accuracy.

The H3D covers these bases with ease: it’s a quick, fast-action stick that punches above its weight. The six weight we recommend can outperform some 8 weights when it comes to throwing heavy or bulky flies. Coupled with the Orvis 25-year warranty, it’s hard to beat the performance and value the H3D offers.

  • Fast action with punch and accuracy
  • Long distance casts
  • Power

Conclusion

Getting outfitted for bass fishing isn’t as intimidating as it might appear, and it’s certainly a ton of fun to hook into a few big ones on a fly rod. Take the info we provided above and use it as a jumping-off point for you as you dive into the world of fly fishing gear for bass.

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