Fly Fishing for Bass: 8 Essential Tips for Catching Largemouths on the Fly

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Largemouth bass are the most popular gamefish in the country. But among fly anglers, fly fishing for bass can’t touch the popularity of trout fishing. I love fly fishing for cutthroat trout, rainbows, and browns. The truth is, though, that I’m a closet bass nut. Given that largemouths eat a wide variety of forage with reckless abandon, countless flies appeal to these predators. In fact, more and more of today’s best bass flies seem to hit the market annually, and interest in fly fishing for bass—in addition to other warm water species—is rapidly growing.

So, whether you already hunt largemouths on the fly or are thinking about giving it a shot for the first time, these eight fly fishing tips for bass will help you fool ol’ bucketmouth this season.

1. Try Fly Fishing For Bass During Low-Light Hours

You can score big in low light. Tim Romano

If you want to up your success rate while fly fishing for bass, fish early and fish late, especially during hot summer months. Yes, you can catch bass all day long with conventional bass fishing rods and reels. But finding similar such success becomes significantly more difficult on the fly during daylight hours, since your presentation options are fairly limited. You’ll only be able to cast so far, and you’ll only be able to fish so deep. Because of this, hit the water during low-light hours, when largemouth bass are more apt to be cruising or feeding in shallow water, where it’ll easier to find success with your fly.

2. Don’t Lift the Rod When You Set the Hook

Don’t lift the rod when you set the hook on a big bass. Tim Romano

This isn’t trout fishing, folks. In fact, you should approach it more like you would saltwater fly fishing. If you lift the rod when you set the hook on a big bass, more often than not, you’ll be kissing that fish goodbye. I keep my rod pointed at the fly during the entire retrieve and even bury the tip a few inches underwater. When a bass eats, strip back hard on your line while simultaneously giving the rod some side pressure.

3. Don’t Let Big Bodies of Water Intimidate You When Fly Fishing for Bass

Go slowly when picking apart big bodies of water. Tim Romano

Whether you’re fishing from a boat or from shore, a larger lake or impoundment can be daunting to attack. In fact, it can get downright overwhelming when trying to decipher where to lay a bass fly. My advice: Pick apart big bodies of water slowly. Focus an entire outing on just one cover or stretch of shoreline, carefully noting structure placement and what patterns seem to be moving bass during the time of year you’re fishing. If this sounds time-consuming, well, that’s because it can be a process. That said, going slow for an entire season will give you a clear picture of the fishery, and by the following year, you’ll have it dialed on the fly.

4. Give Tracking Bass Time to Look at Your Popper

Give tracking bass time to look at your popper. Tim Romano

Nothing beats a largemouth inhaling a topwater lure or fly off the surface, and nothing makes you feel better than being ready for it and setting the hook when it happens. Unfortunately, I find that a lot of my surface hits come when I least expect them. What’s more, they typically seem to happen when I stop stripping or take a moment to scratch my nose. But I’ve learned: Now when I fish a surface bug, I stop occasionally, giving tracking bass time to look at the fly. The moment I start the retrieve again is often when I get drilled.

5. Keep Tension on Subsurface Bass Flies

Keep constant pressure on a subsurface bass fly. Tim Romano

Just like when Texas rig fishing for bass or using Carolina rig, it’s important to keep constant tension on a subsurface bass fly. Strikes can be super subtle, even those from big fish. If you’re crawling a crayfish or leech pattern along the bottom, light pressure will help you quickly detect the softest pick-up. Likewise, you’ll see any direction change in your fly line more clearly if it’s kept slightly taut.

Read Next: 25 Tips for Catching a 10-Pound Bass

6. Use Bigger Flies After Dark

Try muskie-sized flies after dark. Tim Romano

On the conventional bass market, rat, frog, and duckling lures are common. Not only do these lures score genuine trophies, but they often do so in the dark and in low light. Just like how conventional guys upsize their offerings and prowl after sunset, you can seriously increase your odds of smacking a hawg by switching to a heavy 10- or 12-weight fly rod and chucking muskie-sized streamers or topwater flies after dark.

7. Use Sinking Line When Fly Fishing for Bass in Deeper Water

A sinking line can produce serious slabs. Tim Romano

While a full-floating line is all you need for the vast majority of bass flyfishing situations, don’t be afraid to experiment with different configurations of sink tips or full-sink lines. To be honest, if I need a full-sink line to get a fly to a bass, I’ll probably just pick up a conventional rod. But if you insist on getting that craw bug into that rock pile 15 feet below the boat, you’ll want to pack a sinking line with some serious grain.

8. Pack Some Soft Plastics Just in Case

Don’t be afraid to throw a pack of soft plastics in your bag. Tim Romano

Call me a cheater if you like, but if the fly bite is just not happening for me, or I can’t keep a fly clean in the vegetation, I’ve been known to rig a little weedless Senko worm or creature bait on the end of my tippet. And when asked to defend my choice to do so, I remind hecklers that half the flies designed for bass are barely flies anyway, with their rubber legs, leather claws, and dumbbell eyes heavy enough to reach the Titanic. At the end of the day, fly fishing for bass is all about having fun and hooking up, so throw a pack or two of small soft plastics in your fly bag. I promise I won’t tell.

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