Ultralight bass fishing is growing in popularity for a few reasons:
Going light can help get fish to bite in heavily fished waters.
Ultralight fishing makes even a small bass feel like it is big in terms of fight and that’s something people appreciate.
It opens up new, smaller waters as fishing options and is great for traveling fishermen as they can carry the light gear relatively easily and can really help boost your catch on quiet days.
In this article, we break down some of the basics of ultralight bass fishing.
Ultralight Bass Fishing Tackle: Choosing the Right Setup
Ultralight Bass Rods
Ultralight graphite (carbon fiber rods) are the go here and usually a good ultralight rod paired with a good ultralight spinning reel and line of less than 6lbs breaking strain.
You want just enough capability to stop a large bass if you encounter one but gear that’s still delicate and sensitive as well as being able to throw the light lures we use in this type of fishing.
Ultralight Bass Fishing Reels
As well as being lightweight and paired properly with your rod, ultralight spinning reels for bass need to have a decent drag. Stopping a big bass on ultralight tackle is not as easy as with a heavy-duty baitcasting outfit where you can just lock up the spool with your thumb and use the stiff rod to horse the fish out.
Ultralight fishing needs more finesse and that means letting the fish run when it takes a surge – hence the need for a good drag.
Lures for Ultralight Bass Fishing
Lure manufacturers are getting behind the growing popularity of ultralight bass fishing and producing more and more finesse lures.
They are making smaller versions of the traditional bass lures and these are a great place to start.
Ultralight buzz baits, tube jigs, crankbaits, and even tiny topwater lures (poppers) are very effective along with the smaller worms and soft plastics that lots of anglers love. Tie the bass worms on lighter jig heads (1/20, 1/16th, and so on).
Small finesse lures such as Rapala crankbaits and jerkbaits and finesse-style plastic swimbaits are the top choices. Inline spinners, which we normally associate with trout, are also deadly on bass in the right conditions cast on ultralight bass fishing gear. These lure kits offer a great way to make these yourself.
Line for Ultralight Bass Fishing
Line-wise, braid is a great choice for ultralight fishing because it works well with spinning gear and is best for casting light lures a long distance. The only drawback to it is that it doesn’t have the stretch of a monofilament line, which means it is less forgiving – that’s a bit of a drawback with ultralight tackle but not enough to outweigh the casting advantages of braid.
Mono or flouro line is fine too. You’ll get that bit of forgiveness you won’t get with braid, but you won’t be able to ping a really light lure quite as far.
In terms of breaking strain, ultralight fishing is really using line of 6lbs or less.
Ultralight Fishing For Smallmouth Bass
While we’ve focused on ultralight fishing for largemouth bass to date, going light is also a great way to fish for smallmouth. While they are feisty fish, they lack the size and power of largemouth so are easier to stop on light gear. You are usually casting smaller lures for smallmouth bass, so an ultralight setup is good for both accuracy in your casting and for detecting strikes as soon as a smallie has hit your bait or lure.
Fighting smallmouth on ultralight tackle is a real pleasure too and highly recommended unless you are fishing so close to heavy structure that you need to lock up on them to wrestle them out of, say, a dock or a snag.
Can You Catch Bass on an Ultralight Rod?
Yes, of course, you can catch bass on an ultralight rod. While a trophy bass is going to be hard to stop on ultralight gear, a skillful angler can play most largemouth and smallmouth bass on light tackle in relatively open water.
In the right circumstances, fishing ultralight will get you more bites and hook ups. You just need to hone your skills fighting the fish to make sure you get them to the net.
Ultralight Fishing: Spinning vs Baitcasting Setup
Generally, for ultralight fishing, a spinning setup is more appropriate. For casting the light lures that you use in ultralight fishing, a spinning reel is better as you don’t need to spin the spool of the reel as you do with a baitcaster, which creates a bit of inertia to overcome.
There are, however, some good ultralight baitcasting reels and rods that you can use, although they tend to be a bit more pricey than a spinning combo. The only advantage of a baitcasting setup is that it is easier to thumb the spool to both spot casts that have overshot or fish that are about to reach heavy structure.
That’s not often a key requirement for ultralight fishing, so we’d recommend a spinning outfit as your first choice.
Can a Bass Break an Ultralight Rod?
Yes, for sure. A big enough bass can break any kind of rod if it isn’t used correctly. The advice here applies to all types of rods, particularly ultralight rods.
To avoid breaking the rod in a fight, keep the tip high but never above vertical (usually you want to keep it no more than 60 degrees or so above horizontal). Holding it high allows you to drop the tip as needed to cushion the fish’s runs, but when you go above 60 degrees and towards the rod can bend too much and compress in on itself, creating a breakage.