When many people think of fly fishing, their mind often goes to pristine mountain streams and trophy wild trout. While those days on the water are ones to remember, there are numerous other fish and methods that get the adrenaline going. Targeting bass with a fly rod is becoming more popular and for good reason. The fight that they provide is one of the most entertaining you’ll find.
I would recommend a 7 Weight Fly Rod for casting flies to bass. A 7 weight forward line will line will allow you to cast bigger wind resistant flies like poppers or streamers and still provide enough flexibility to absorb the those explosive tugs that bass are known for.
Bass are going to hit your flies hard. They’ll take dries and streamers and fight for their lives. On top of it all, you’re likely to find a healthy population of bass almost anywhere in the United States. These fish are ready to be caught and doing it with a fly rod is the best way to do it.
The equipment needed to target these fish is different from what you need if you’re after spooky trout. Many trout are able to be targeted with a rod between 2 and 6-weight. Bass are best targeted with a 7-weight.
What’s So Special About a 7-Weight Fly Rod
The 7-weight rod isn’t one that’s often used in fly fishing. Trout anglers are always going to prefer more of the finesse rigs and those searching for salmon, steelhead or other large fish are likely going to use above an 8-weight. However, if you consider yourself to be an avid bass angler, the 7-weight is going to be what you need.
It’s the ideal rod that can be operated with a bit of finesse, but still have the power to fight larger more aggressive fish. Bass can be finicky and there are definitely going to be days where you need to softly present flies and use small movements to get them to strike. The 7-weight doesn’t have to be only used for bass angling! You can make it work in a variety of fishing scenarios.
Select a Rod That Fits Your Style
Selecting a fly rod that works for your fishing style isn’t always easy. It’s tempting to seek out the newest and flashiest looking rod. If you’re going to make a big investment, why not go all out? Don’t fall for this trap. If you’re an experienced angler, you know your abilities and likely understand what type of rod is going to work best for you.
Fast action rods are a blast to use, but make sure you’re capable. If you’re experienced and confident in what you’re doing, a fast action is going to work well. Strong and aggressive casters thrive with fast action fly rods.
It has less flex and is quite powerful. You’re going to be able to fight a fish much quicker than you would with a slower action. However, if you choose this rod, your timing and technique is going to need to be great. If used correctly, you’ll be able to make longer casts, fight larger fish and thrive in windy conditions.
If a fast action rod is used incorrectly, you’ll make weak casts, miss your spots and struggle to find your timing. Many beginner anglers purchase a fast action rod and hope to grow into it. While this can work, you’ll spend quite a few hours on the water frustrated and struggling to get into fish. If you aren’t quite sure what you’re able to handle, a visit to a fly fishing clinic or fly shop will help you understand your abilities.
Medium-Fast or Moderate-Fast
Depending on the company, you’ll see medium-fast or moderate-fast action rods. They’re essentially the same action! Moderate-fast action rods are some of the more versatile rods available. You can fish a few different techniques on one specific trip.
With a moderate/medium-fast action rod, you’ll get a bit more bend into the blank. You can throw nymphs, dries and streamers with a moderate-fast action rod. Dries and streamers are going to be your primary flies for bass fishing!
You won’t have as much power as you would with a fast-action rod, but you’ll still be able to get through the wind and fight the powerful fish. A moderate-fast action may be easier to fight larger fish because you can utilize more of the flex to your advantage. You’ll likely take longer to tire out the fish so make sure you give it plenty of time to recover its energy before you release it.
Guide Tip: I personally like a medium-fast action fly rod. I don’t have a powerful cast and the slower rod speeds a medium fast action provide fit my style.
If you’re new to fly fishing, a moderate or medium-fast action rod is a perfect option. Many very experienced anglers still enjoy using these rods due to the extra sensitivity they provide. If you’re looking for a do-it-all rod, then a medium-fast action rod would be your best bet.
Medium or Moderate Action
If you’re a true beginner, then a medium action rod is a good choice. It’s versatile and a bit more forgiving than a moderate-fast action. Half of the rod will bend as you cast and the lower half of the rod will remain stiff as you cast. Many of the more affordable fly rod choices are medium action.
It’s a very versatile rod that can throw all different types of flies. If you’re looking for an affordable, cheap and usable option for beginners then be sure to go with a medium or moderate action.
What Fly Rod Length is Best for Bass?
The next step anglers have to take is deciding what length fly rod is best. Each length of fly rod serves its own unique purpose. The 6 to 8-foot rods are primarily used for small streams and tighter fishing scenarios.
8 to 10-foot rods are fairly common for river fishing scenarios. You can present dry flies and get streamers to where they need on the water. For bass fishing, a 10-foot rod is ideal. While these rods can present challenges if you’re fishing in tight conditions, it’s ideal for boat fishing.
If you know you’re going to be targeting bass with a fly rod on a boat, then be sure to go with a 10-foot rod. You’ll get quite a bit of power to cast to structure or vegetation and fight those several pound fish. It takes some getting used to but a smooth 7-weight 10’ fly rod is hard to beat. You’ll find that landing fish really isn’t too challenging with it.
If you know you’ll be bank fishing and in some tighter conditions, then a 9-foot rod will do the trick. While it doesn’t seem like much, you’ll find that 9-foot rods can still softly present dries and can still get the streamers in the necessary locations. Understand your fishing conditions and that will help you make an educated decision on what length rod you should purchase.
How Much the Fly Rod Actually Weights
Using a 7-weight fly rod is the best option for bass, but make sure the actual weight of the rod is light enough. A four or five ounce rod is going to make it much easier on your shoulder. When fishing for bass, you’re going to be casting and retrieving almost all day.
As a result, you’re going to want a rod that gives you relief. It’s hard work either way, but the lighter the rod, the better you’ll feel.
A fly rod is considered “heavy” if it’s over 7 ounces, swinging that much weight for 6 hours is going to beat you up so consider the mass of the rod when buying.
Favorite Flies for Bass Fishing
Bass fishing wet flies aren’t majorly different from the flies you would use for trout. Big streamers and big dry flies are going to be your best friends while you’re out on the water. If you’re familiar with the bait used for traditional style bass fishing, then you understand what it takes to get these fish to strike.
Bass often strike out of aggression and your fly needs to be obnoxious enough to make them angry!
Wind resistant poppers are the ideal topwater option. The Seaducer Double Barrel popper should definitely be in your box. It has a deep double scoop that moves quite a bit of water so you won’t struggle to create quite a bit of action. Purchase these between size 2 and 6 depending on the size and type of bass you’re targeting.
Be sure you have a clear retrieval path when using these flies. They can get hung up in the weeds and you don’t want to lose out on a smooth retrieval. 10 inch strips will move water and tempt those fish!
The Boogle Bug is a classic bass fishing pattern. It’s a ridiculous looking fly, but the fish love it! A size 4 to 8 Boogle Bug will entice both smallmouth and largemouth bass. A black and yellow pattern is a smart option, but there are dozens of color combinations that will work well. It’s one of those go-to patterns that will work all times of year and water conditions. If all else fails, throw the Boogle Bug.
The Clouser Minnow is the perfect bass streamer. It dives deep, has quite a bit of movement and imitates a wounded baitfish. You can find these anywhere from size 2-10. Bass are going to hit anywhere from a 4 to an 8 Clouser on a regular basis. Tie this with a size 2 or 3x leader. Depending on the depth you need to get to you’ll need to change the length of the leader, but a standard 9 foot should do the job.
The Woolly Bugger is another pattern anglers should have in their box. It’s a pattern that will work for almost any type of fish and bass love it. Fish this somewhere between a size 4-8 and you’ll have plenty of success. A black or olive pattern always seems to work well. Do your best to match the color of the fly to the color of the water.
Casting for Bass in Lakes
When it comes to casting for bass, anglers have to be prepared to stretch their abilities. Many casts are going to be in the range of 30 to 50 feet and sometimes longer.
When targeting bass, there are a few things that anglers need to know in order to be successful. When fishing lakes for bass, there are a few areas to target. First, look for grass lines. Bass will often sit just inside these grass lines and wait for prey to swim by. Once it does, they’ll shoot out and strike.
If possible, cast right along grass lines and slowly strip. Bass will hit your popper or streamer on the pause. Be ready to strip set and fight those fish out of the weeds. They can make your life difficult and if you don’t have enough power to fight them in open water, they’ll wrap you up and likely break you off.
Another area to look for is drop-offs. Big fish will sit on the edge of drop-offs and wait for baitfish or smaller fish to swim in the shallow water. On top of it all, the deeper water is going to be a bit cooler and provide some extra protection for the fish. Cast into the shallow water and let your fly drop along the slope and fish will likely pick it up.
If you’re fishing a dry fly near a drop-off, go ahead and slowly move the fly. Don’t be surprised if a bass shoots up from the depths and takes your fly. Rocky drop offs that move to flat and deep portions of water are ideal for bass!
The final spot to look for are coves in lakes. Coves are filled with vegetation, rocks and other hiding areas for fish. These can be fished from land, but you’re better off fishing coves from the boat. It allows you to cast into those shallow areas and pull the bait out instead of pulling your bait into the shallow areas.
Casting for Bass in Rivers
When you’re looking to find bass in rivers, look for structure. Pile ups of trees are going to be your best friends. Fish can sit inside of these pile ups and look for food in the open current. Drift your fly through this open current near a group of trees and you’ll likely land one. Perfecting the drift isn’t of the utmost importance. A realistic looking fly can do a lot to entice a bass.
Also, make sure you look for food funnels. The foam line in a river is where much of the food is going to sit. Fish will feed in this area in the mornings and the evenings. Pop your poppers through this area or strip the flies through them.
Last Cast for Bass
Bass are some of the most aggressive freshwater fish you can find. They’re tough, big and will give you every ounce of energy that they have. Targeting them in traditional ways is common and quite a bit of fun. However, it’s an entirely new challenge when you tackle them with a fly rod. Do yourself a favor, buy a 7-weight rod with some heavy streamers and head to your local pond, river or lake and target bass. Odds are, they have quite a fish waiting to be caught. You won’t be disappointed when you tie in to your first bass. It’s an entirely new facet of fly fishing that will give you an entirely new appreciation.