I love fly fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, but having the right gear makes all the difference. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are hard hitting, tough fighting fish that can be caught from Texas to Nebraska and Washington to Florida. You can find them in just about any water body including little farm ponds, reservoirs, and rivers. In this article I will outline my favorite gear for chasing largemouth and smallmouth bass in both rivers and lakes.
What Fly Fishing Gear for Bass in Lakes
Largemouth and smallmouth bass prosper in lakes, and watching a bass annihilate a popper in stillwater is an experience that is hard to beat in the fly fishing world. Both species tend to lurk around structure or cruise right along the bottom. Therefore, you need the right gear that will enable you to place big flies accurately around structure as well as get those flies down to the right depth.
What Fly Rod and Line to Cast Poppers Like a Pro
When fly fishing for bass on lakes, I like to fish with a 9’ 6wt or 7wt fast-action rod. I also make sure that my fly rod has a fighting butt on it. I like a slightly longer rod because longer rods give you a little bit more feel, most anglers can cast them further, and I think they are more fun to fight big fish on.
Whether I am fishing from a boat, a float tube or the shore, having a longer, heavier weight rod that can turn over big poppers and clousers in a breeze makes bass fishing a lot more fun. Two of my favorite fly rods for bass are the TFO Mangrove and the TFO Clouser.
The best fly line for bass in lakes is the Scientific Anglers Mastery Bass Bug. This floating line has a fat front taper and belly on it that is specifically designed for turning over big streamers and poppers. I love this line because it loads up your rod quickly and makes casting those big bugs easy.
Fly lines have become pretty expensive, but it is worth it to spend $90 on a fly line. I have taken shortcuts in the past, and within ten minutes of casting the cheaper lines I have regretted not spending the extra $30 for a premium line.
Fly Fishing for Deep Bass – What Do You Need
When I am fly fishing for deep bass, I like to beef up my rig a little bit. I’m not sure why, but confidence is a huge piece of fishing, and I just feel better when I have a slightly heavier rig for ripping big clousers and articulated streamers across crawfish beds.
I like to fish a 9’ 8wt medium-fast action rod when I am fishing subsurface for bass. Again, a fighting butt is paramount for pulling those fish away from logs, dock pilings, and whatever other structure you just hooked them under. I prefer a medium-fast action rod like the Temple Fork Outfitters Axiom II because I tend to get a little lazy when I am fishing streamers and medium-fast action rods tend to be a little more forgiving if my casting form begins to deteriorate.
I have found that having the right line can make all the difference when you are fishing streamers. Streamers are subsurface flies, and if you are fishing them on a floating line they are not going to get down and stay down where they need to be.
There is a plethora of different sinking lines out there, but my favorite line is Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Int Sink 3/Sink 5 fly line. Scientific Anglers took their Titan taper and drenched it in various tungsten powders and created the best streamer line I have ever fished.
I love using Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Int Sink 3 and Sink 5. Tungsten powder is integrated into the line to get it down DEEP fast. Remember when using a line as heavy as this you need to strip most of it in before you cast. Check out the reviews and price at AMAZON here is a link – Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Sink 3 / Sink 5
The thing that sets this line apart is that it is divided into three different sections that all sink together rather than just having the tip of the line sinking like most traditional ‘sink tip’ lines. This dynamic sinking line keeps the fly in the right zone for the fish and lets the fly dance and boogie just the right way. The Titan taper also enables you to throw the biggest flies in your box without any hassle.
Fly Reels for Bass in Lakes
I’m sure that many people will disagree with me, but I usually spend the majority of my budget on the rod and the line rather than the reel. There are some incredible reels out there, but the line and the rod really make the biggest difference.
I am partial Lamson/Waterworks reels because they are hardy and I love how light the FORCE SL II fly reel is. However, there are plenty of more reasonably priced reels that are great for largemouth and smallmouth bass. A great option is the Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel.
In the price for performance you might not be able to beat the Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reels. These reels are made in the USA and have Lamson’s patented conical drag. Read more on the Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel (link to AMAZON).
When it comes to reels, I like something with a slightly larger arbor. Two of my favorite reels include the Remington Behemoth and the Echo Ion. Both of these reels will not break the bank, but they are well made with simple drag systems that hold up.
Bass in Rivers, Selecting the Best Fly Rod, Reel and Line
I like fly fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass in rivers because it is similar to fly fishing for trout. You are constantly searching for structure like riffles, pools, back eddies, and boulders where fish might be hanging out. Fly fishing for bass in lakes definitely involves hunting for fishy places, but I think fly fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass in rivers is more active and thus more exciting.
What Fly Rod and Line for Swinging Streamers
Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are meat eaters, and swinging or stripping streamers is a great way to entice these voracious predators. In order to pick the right fly rod, you have to consider what kind of water you are going to be fishing. If you are fishing big, wide open rivers, I like to fish a 9 foot, 6 wt, fast action rod.
A long rod is easier to cast, makes it easier to place big bugs right where you want to, and enables you to cover plenty of water. It seems like almost every fly rod company makes a 9ft 6wt rod, but I really like the Sage Pulse with the EVA fighting butt. Another great option is the Orvis Recon. This rod is incredibly light but still has the backbone to throw those big bugs and pull hogs out from underneath structure.
If I am fishing tighter waters with lots of low hanging trees or shrubs, cut banks, and other technical structure, then I like to fish a shorter rod in the 8 foot, 7wt, medium action range. Two great options are the St. Croix Mojo in 7’11” 7wt or, if you are fishing from a kayak or other small craft, Redington’s Predator in a 7’10”, 8wt is ideal.
In terms of what line to use for fly fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass in rivers, I like to use weight forward lines that can turn over big bugs. If you are fishing shallow streams and rivers but still want to throw big bugs, then the Rio InTouch Big Nasty Fly Line is a great option. This is a floating line, but still has a weight-forward taper that enables you to toss those Clouser Minnows into a headwind.
If you are fishing deeper rivers or the bass are down deep, a great fly line is the Scientific Anglers Titan Sonar Hover/Sink 2/Sink 4. This is a sinking line that casts like a floating line and keeps your fly right where it needs to be in the water column without sacrificing any action on your fly.
Fly Fishing Gear to Nymph for Bass
Nymphing for bass is similar to nymphing for trout. I like to fish with a 9’6” 6wt rod with a fast action. I like to use a slightly longer rod for nymphing for bass because I love to high stick a dead drift, and a longer rod really does make your life easier in that situation.
I’ve written extensively about the TFO BVK fly rods. The extra length of the BVK 9 foot, 6 inch – 6 weight is perfect for drifting nymphs through deep holes. You can’t go wrong with this fly rod here’s a link to AMAZON to check the latest prices. Temple Fork Outfitters BVK Series Fly Rod
TFO’s BVK in a 9’6” 6wt is perfect for this scenario. In terms of what fly line, the RIO Smallmouth Bass line is great for largemouth and smallmouth bass. This line has the taper for throwing heavy nymph rigs, but still has enough feel that throwing a perfect mend isn’t a problem
Top Water Fly Rods for Bass
My favorite fly rod for top water bass fishing is the TFO Mangrove. This rod is designed to throw big bugs and it has a fighting butt which is essential when you are duking it out with a big bass.
Some Favorite Fly Fishing Accessories for Bass Fishing
Two pieces of gear that I will not go bass fishing without are the Rising Lunker Net and Fishpond’s Thunderhead Sling. The Rising Lunker Net is durable, doubles as a wading staff, and the rubber webbing doesn’t hurt those old hogs. Fishpond’s Thunderhead Sling is big enough to carry my streamer boxes, a layer and a snack, and it disappears and rests behind my back when I don’t need it anymore.
It has been thirty years and I’ve chased bass all over the country but I’m still hooked on fly fishing for bass. The violent eats, aerial nature, and sheer grit that these fish bring to the table are phenomenal, but having the right gear is essential. It is way more fun to fight fish than to fight with bad gear.