Historically, largemouth bass has been a fish targeted by anglers on expensive bass boats with enough spinning rods, bait casting rods, tackle, and lures to arm a small village. Now, with the increase in the popularity of fly fishing, largemouth bass is a target for fly anglers. Largemouth bass’ aggressive behavior and ambush-feeding habits lead to amazing strikes and fights.
Bass Fishing on the Fly
Bass fishing on the fly isn’t overly complicated. You’ll use many of the techniques and strategies you would use for traditional bass fishing. If you haven’t done much traditional fishing for bass, you can use the same skills that you have accumulated from all the other fish you’ve targeted on the fly.
It’s important to understand that largemouth bass is aggressive and want to ambush their prey. If they see one of your flies moving water or representing their favorite prey, they’ll likely eat it. You’ll find that it’s similar to trout fishing in this way.
By using the proper gear and fishing in the right areas, you’ll find yourself having plenty of opportunities to catch bass. There are few freshwater fish more fun to land than largies. I take every opportunity I can to target bass on a fly rod.
Where to Fly Fish For Largemouth Bass?
Most freshwater lakes and rivers around the United States have largemouth bass populations. They’re a warm water species and prefer water that’s somewhere between 60 and 85 degrees. Anything more or less than this can cause bass to shut down and minimize the amount they are feeding.
Taking a look at your local game and fish department or DNR website will tell you if you have largemouth bass in your state and where to find them. However, if you know a body of water has panfish and other prey, there’s a good chance that bass is also there.
Once you’ve determined largemouth bass are in the water you’re fishing, you’ll find they’re in areas filled with structure. The structure could include docks, piers, rocks, submerged logs, and vegetation. Unlike their close relative, the smallmouth bass, largemouth bass like to spend the majority of their time hiding near structures waiting for prey.
How to Fly Fish for Bass?
Fly fishing for largemouth bass requires some patience and a willingness to fail. While they’re not overly picky fish, they can easily detect if the fly you’re using isn’t realistic and presented incorrectly.
If you’re fishing in still water (lakes and ponds), it’s up to you to give the fly the action it needs. Start by identifying the structure of their beds depending on the time of year you’re fishing. Pick your spot to cast so your fly is stripped directly past their face. Usually, casting it a few feet past them is your best bet. From here, start by retrieving your fly. You’ll likely be using surface flies or streamers, so feel free to give it a good amount of action.
Vary your stripping method. Start by stripping a few inches in hard, short jerks. If this doesn’t work, you can move to longer and smoother strips. Again, your goal is to move water and help the largemouth detect your fly. It can also help to twitch your rod tip to give the fly a bit more action.
If you’re fishing moving water (rivers and creeks), then you can use similar methods that you would use for catching trout. Look for areas where fish hold. Pools, seams, eddies, and structure is where they’re going to sit. You always want to cast your fly a few feet further upstream than where you would like it to be. The fly either needs time to drop in the water column or drifts properly in the area you identified as the ideal strike zone. The river helps to give your fly movement, so don’t worry about twitching your rod. Let the river take control.
You can swing or dead drift flies when fishing for largemouth bass in moving water. To swing, cast around 45 degrees upstream from you and cast far enough to get your fly in the strike zone. Once the fly is downstream and swings toward you, give it a few hard strips and wait for a fish to strike.
If you’re dead drifting, use the same casting methods as you would if you were swinging. Cast 45 degrees upstream and let your fly drift across your face. The 5 or 10 feet above stream of you and 5 or 10 feet below stream of you is the ideal strike zone.
Time of Day
In terms of the time of day to fish, there are a few things to keep in mind. On sunny days, fish early and fish in the evening. This is when they’re the most active and willing to feed. During the middle of the day, largemouth bass are sitting in deeper water, digesting their food. If it’s cloudy, you have more chances to find them feeding all day.
It doesn’t matter if you’re targeting striped bass, smallmouth bass, or largemouth; these methods work. They’re big fish and are eager to eat!
Best Gear for Catching Largemouth Bass on the Fly
Dialing in your setup for largemouth bass is important. They’re strong fighters and hit your flies with some impressive power. You want to make sure you’re equipped to handle them. Take the following gear recommendations and build your rig.
Best Bass Flies
The best bass flies are colorful dries and streamers. For dries, you’ll want to use poppers and other larger patterns. Poppers move quite a bit of water and gain the attention of nearby fish. You can also use terrestrial patterns. Your goal with dry flies is to move water.
For streamers, you want to use crayfish, minnow, and leech patterns. A hungry largemouth bass generally wants large prey. As a result, flies like Clouser Minnows, Woolly Buggers, Bunny Leeches, and Muddy Leeches are good choices. They’re large and colorful.
Best Fly Rod for Bass Fishing
The best choice for a largemouth bass fly rod would be a 6-weight or 7-weight 9′ fast action rod. The 6-weight or 7-weight rod is a good option for any size of largemouth that you find. It’s heavy enough and has enough power to fight these fish.
A 9′ rod is ideal for casting and presenting your flies. Plus, it gives you a bit more leverage if you happen to hook into a beast!
Fast-action rods have more sensitive tips and stronger butts. These are perfect for detecting any strike you get and fighting the fish. You don’t want to fight them to the point of exhaustion, so the fast action will give you enough power to fight them.
Floating lines are great if you’re fishing dry flies. You don’t want your fly line to be dragging your fly below the surface, so make sure you use a floating line if you use a dry one. Floating lines can also be useful when fishing in rivers and streams. A sinking fly line can easily get you tangled in a structure below the surface. You’ll have to adjust the length of your leader, but it’s still useful.
Sink Tip Lines
Sink tip lines are a good choice if you’re fishing streamers in deeper water. If you want to get your fly down near the bottom of a lake or pond, then use a sink tip line. If you need your fly lower in moving water, a sink tip is a better choice than a sinking line. Sink tip lines drop a few inches per second, so make sure you give them time to get to the right place. You can use sink tip lines in various depths, but water under 15 feet is ideal.
Sinking lines should be used if you know the fish are very deep! They work well when fishing for largemouth in lakes and ponds. A full sinking line should be used with nymphs and streamers. When fishing water over 15 feet deep, then sinking lines are a good choice.
Whatever fly reel you choose, make sure it matches the weight of your fly rod. If you have a 6-weight rod, then use a 6-weight reel. Plus, you want to make sure it has a large arbor. Largemouth bass takes off on long runs when they are hooked, and you want to make sure your reel is able to handle it.
You need to use between a 0x and 2x fluorocarbon leader when fly fishing for largemouth bass. These leaders are strong enough to help you throw streamers and fight any largemouth you find. If you’re using dry flies, use a 1x or 2x tapered leader or a straight leader with a 3x tippet. Largemouth bass don’t always examine their bait closely before they eat, but they can pick out a misrepresentation.
Final Thoughts on Catching Largemouth Bass on the Fly
Take the chance to pursue bass on the fly if you get the chance. Catching bass with a fly rod is an absolute blast. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local pond or a swift-moving river; you’ll absolutely love your experience. Suit up with the proper gear and do your research on where the bass is located. You’ll quickly realize why so many anglers have largemouth bass at the top of the list of most fun fish to target with a fly rod.