What Weight Fly Rod for Bass: Expert Guide for Largemouth & Smallmouth

What weight rod for fly fishing for bass feature image

Choosing the right weight fly rod for bass fishing is important.

The right weight fly rod for targeting largemouth bass with surface poppers is going to be quite different to the weight you’d use for flicking small streamers at smallmouth bass.

In this article, we summarize the best rod weight choices for fly fishing for bass from ponds to lakes and every other type of water.

We cover all the different bass species, and the different techniques and flies used to catch them.

What Is the Best Fly Rod Weight for Largemouth Bass?

Largemouth Bass Fly Fishing
Largemouth bass are strong and aggressive, requiring appropriately sized fly rods for effective fishing.

Largemouth bass are powerful and hit hard, so you don’t want to go in undergunned. Plus, the flies you use can be quite bulky, so a rod with backbone is essential.

A 9-foot 6-weight rod is the minimum you’d want for fly fishing for largemouth bass.

A six-weight gives you enough power to stop a reasonable size largemouth bass heading for cover after smashing your streamer.

But if you are fly fishing with bulkier flies, such as surface poppers, or targeting large bass, particularly when there is a bit of wind about, then a 7-weight or 8-weight is a better choice.

While a fast action 6-weight can perhaps turn over the leader when fishing with big non-aerodynamic flies such as Dahlberg Divers or frog patterns, it is easier with a seven or eight-weight.

Similarly, with heavily weighted streamers, a 7-weight or 8-weight fly rod is a better choice. These rod sizes also offer much more stopping power if you are fishing around structures.

If you are chasing a trophy bass or fly fishing in areas where there is weed, snags, rip rap, pylons, lily pads, or other kinds of thick cover, an eight-weight might be your best choice.

Water depth is the other main consideration when choosing a rod weight. If you are targeting bass in deeper water, it means using sinking or sink tip lines. For this type of fishing, you should upgrade your rod weight a little bit to give you enough backbone to pull a sinking line back up to the surface and get a fresh cast away. 

What Is the Best Weight Rod for Smallmouth Bass?

Fly fishing for smallmouth bass 1
Typically, standard-weight trout rods like a 5-weight or 6-weight are sufficient for smallmouth bass fishing.

As feisty as smallmouth bass are when they take a fly, the size of fly rod you need for bass fishing for this species is totally different.

For smallmouth bass fly fishing, I am happy to use my two standard-weight trout fishing rods – a 5-weight and a 6-weight fly rod. These rod weights have more than enough power to fight a decent smallmouth bass and to deliver the flies you need for smallies properly.

I’d generally use the five weight as it is slightly less tiring on the arm for a full day’s fly fishing and only switch to a six weight for smallmouth bass if I am fishing a windy or exposed lake or river.

What Is the Best Fly Rod Weight for Striped Bass?

Massachusetts Striped Bass (1)
Selecting appropriate fly rod weights for striped bass fishing hinges on the fish size variation.

Striped bass can pull some serious line and require a complete rethink in terms of the best outfit.

For stripers, you want to consider a 7 weight as the minimum size, and fly rod weights right up to #10 come into play for fighting large stripers.

Part of the challenge of selecting the right fly rod weight for fly fishing for striped bass is the large variation in sizes of the fish themselves. Small striped bass (“schoolies”) can be just a pound or so, and while they fight well for their size, you only need light for them.

But big stripers of 20lb plus need a serious rod at the upper end of the range we’ve been talking about.

Many striped bass devotees find a 9-weight fly rod to be a good choice – it’s not too tiring on the shoulder, it allows the angler to pick up the line quickly and get a cast out, and has enough backbone to subdue even a trophy striper.

What Is the Best Fly Rod Weight for Peacock Bass?

Fisherman with peacock bass

Peacock bass are present in a range of Florida waterways and are spectacular-looking fish that is famed for aggressive strikes and puts up a decent fight.

You can use anything from a six-weight to an eight-weight fly rod for targeting peacock bass, with a 6 weight doing the job in most circumstances in terms of fighting the fish and getting the flies in the right spot.

Fly Rod Actions for Fly Fishing for Bass

A fast or medium fast rod is the best choice of fly rod for bass fishing. Fast action rods are good for casting bulky flies and dealing with wind when fly fishing for bass. They are also useful for getting the upper hand in the fight with a large bass. So a fast action rod is a good starting point for this type of fishing.

The one word of warning is to not go ridiculously fast with the action – these ultra fast action rods can be like broomsticks and aren’t that much fun to use for a full day’s fly fishing unless you are overlining the rod. Consider a medium fast action rod as it might get the job done and makes for a more pleasant fly fishing experience.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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