Fly Fishing for Bass: A How-To Guide

Bass fly fishing is an incredibly popular sport, and for many good reasons. Not only are largemouth bass the most prevalent game fish in the US, but they also love a variety of flies, which makes them easy to lure and fun to catch. 

If you’re new to fly fishing for bass, you can start practicing your skills in a pond. More experienced anglers can cast a line into moving water for a more significant challenge. (If you’re new to fly fishing, you may also want to consider bringing a backup rod with you just in case things aren’t working out and you want to switch things up. This list of best bass rods from Your Bass Guy has great non-fly recommendations.)

Since both smallmouth and largemouth bass can be found in many different bodies of freshwater across the country, it’s likely you have a nearby fishing hole where you can practice your skills and spend a relaxing afternoon.

In this guide, we’ll give you tips on the best places to go bass fly fishing, which flies to use, ways to present to attract attention, and additional techniques to help you reel in your catch with ease.

Bass habitats

As a freshwater fish, bass can live in a variety of habitats, including lakes and streams. They prefer to spend time in areas that offer cover and protection, like among weeds, grass, downed branches or trees, rocks, or under lily pads. They will travel to where baitfish group together to feed, and like to rest in the shade when temperatures rise.

They move into shallow water in the early morning and evenings but will head deeper during the heat of the day. One exception to this pattern is when they spawn – bass will usually spend time in shallow, warmer water during this season.

Best flies for bass

If you’re fly fishing for bass, then you’ll want to know which flies work best to capture their attention. Since they aren’t picky eatersmany different types can attract their attention and make them bite.

 Large poppers in both bright colors like yellow and green, as well as basic black, are useful, as are deer hair bugs. Flies that imitate frogs and woolly buggers also get good results.

 Big, buggy shapes like large dry flies, beetles, and hoppers that have exciting movements in the water can capture the attention of even the most challenging bass. It’s also worth having small plastics and closures in your tackle box that resemble baitfish and can entice larger fish.

Three presentation techniques for bass fishing

Bass isn’t as particular as some other species of freshwater fish, but the presentation is still relevant. There are three conventional techniques that anglers find to be particularly effective.

The first is the patient, still, approach. Cast your line to a spot where it’s likely bass are feeding, like  next to a tree or other cover in the water, and wait. Let the water do the work for you to create gentle movement and attract attention.

A second option is to create fly movement manually using a twitching technique. After you cast, let the fly sit for a count of five and then twitch it slightly before letting it rest for another count of five. Repeat as many times as necessary to get a bite.

A third option is popular if you want to appeal to the natural hunting instincts of the fish by making it  appear as if the bait is under duress and could be an easy meal. Cast farther than the potential holding spot and let the fly settle for a few seconds. Then, quickly strip around a foot a few times in quick succession. Make sure that the pattern seems irregular to both capture attention and create the sense that something is wrong and the bait is struggling.

Expert tips to catch more bass

Now that you know where to find them and how to capture their attention, it’s important that you know the insider tips that will help you catch more bass. It doesn’t matter if you’re fishing with a starter set of equipment or an advanced bass fly rig; largemouth bass responds to the same techniques. Here’s what you need to know to be effective.

1. Fish during the right hours

We know that bass is most active in the early mornings and late in the day around sunset. While you can catch them any time, it’s easiest to nail a great presentation in low-light situations while they’re feeding in shallow water. 

2. Use the right stripping technique

Although they’re freshwater fish, don’t confuse bass fishing techniques with how you would catch trout, for example. Their soft lip means you need to strip aggressively and make sure to keep your rod pointed at the fly rather than the sky once you cast. This way, you won’t lose the fish when you go to set your hook.

3. Take your time scouting new locations

It doesn’t matter if you’re fishing from shore or sitting in a boat; new bodies of water take time to learn the best tactics to catch bass. Especially if it’s a larger lake, you might find that it takes a few outings before you find the sweet spot of where to lay a fly.

Each time to go, make a note of where you fish, different structures in the water, and any patterns you notice while you’re there. This will help you hone in on bass behavior in that particular body of water and get an accurate read on the fishery, which will help you not only this season but in years to come.

4. Experiment with your set-up

For the most part, you’ll only ever need a full-floating line when you go bass fishing. That said, don’t be afraid to experiment with full-sink lines or sink tips to get your fly to where the fish are. If you’re aiming for a nook with great coverage where fish are gathering 15 feet down, use the right tool for the job.

You may also like: 5 Bass Fishing Tips for Beginners

FAQs About Fly Fishing for Bass

What type of tackle should be used for fly fishing bass?

The tackle used for fly fishing bass typically consists of a 9-foot, 4- or 5-weight rod with a weight forward line.

Are there any special techniques needed to effectively fish for bass with a fly rod?

Yes, when using the fly rod to target bass you need to use short, accurate casts and retrieve the fly slowly and steadily. Additionally, it can be beneficial to vary your retrieves by pausing occasionally to simulate an injured bait fish.

What is the best time of day for catching bass on a fly rod?

The best time of day for catching bass on a fly rod is usually early morning or late evening when the light levels are low and there is less boat traffic in the area so that spooked fish aren’t driven away from potential feeding spots too quickly.

Are there specific types or patterns of flies that work best when targeting bass?

Specific types of flies that work best when targeting bass include streamers, poppers, nymphs, dry flies, jigs, craw patterns and leech patterns among others depending on local availability of particular bait fish species which will often determine what type of pattern may yield good results under certain conditions

How can an angler identify where the biggest concentrations of bass might be located in a given body of water?

To locate bigger concentrations of bass in a given body of water it helps if an angler has knowledge about seasonal migrations and spawning behaviors specific to their region as well as familiarizing themselves with habitat preferences often exhibited by this species such as cover near deep ledges , submerged logs or weed beds etc.

Put these tips to use

Bass fly fishing is a beginner-friendly sport, and once you get started, there is always room to hone your technique. Try using these tips to find the right fishing spots, pick the fight fly, and set your hook in a record-breaking bucket mouth this season.


About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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