I have been fly fishing for bass for 30 years, but the sheer fury with which they strike a fly still takes my breath away. I have tried every fly from Parachute Adams to eight-inch-long articulated streamers, and after 30 years I have compiled this list of my favorite flies for catching bass on a fly rod.
I loosely grouped these flies into four categories: Top Water, Subsurface, Sliders and Divers.
Below are 21 of My Favorite Flies for Catching Bass
Top Water — Poppers
Poppers are flies that sit on the surface of the water. They have earned their name because when you strip them on top of the water they make a popping sound. They can imitate everything from frogs to lizards to small mammals like mice or even birds. Bass are opportunistic and incredibly aggressive and oftentimes the strike on a popper is absolutely explosive.
1. Seaducer Double Barrel Popper
The deep double scoop moves a lot of water and produces a big pop, and that is exactly what predatory bass are looking for. A proven favorite for largemouth bass in Size 2 and smallmouth in Size 6. I would feel a little under-gunned if I didn’t have a couple of these in my fly box.
I was really happy with the flies I bought on Amazon. Here’s a link – Double Barrel Popper I don’t have a fly shop close by so the fast deliver worked perfect.
I’ve had great luck with yellow/chartreuse and black/white colors. They’ve proven to be super effective when the top water bite is on
These poppers tend to hang up in weeds, so accurate placement is needed with a clear retrieval path. An aggressive 6 to 10 inch strip produces an awesome pop.
The Zudbubbler is a revamped version of Tom Loving’s Gerbubble Bug, and it absolutely crushes largemouth and smallmouth bass. This fly has a squared head and tapered body, and this combination creates a satisfying pop with just the right amount of movement. As if the pop wasn’t enough, the Zudbubbler has a bunch of rubber legs that flutter in the water and trigger strikes from finicky bass.
The Zudbubbler comes in a wide variety of colors, but I am partial to green, black, or orange in Size 3/0.
The tapered body of the Zudbubbler lends itself to easier and precise casting, so I usually reach for this fly when bass are shaded up around structure.
3. Boogle Bug
The Boogle Bug has been in my box since I first waddled across the street to the neighbors pond. The proportions of this bug are perfect, and the durable nature of the material enables you to fish this fly until full dark.
My favorite colors for the Boogle Bug are bright yellow, black or white. I like to fish a Size 6 for both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Some fly shops will carry these, but I bought my last couple from AMAZON here’s a link to check the prices – BoogleBug Popper.
I’ve caught bass on this bug in all weather conditions at all times of the day. If the fishing is slow, cast the Boogle Bug up against some structure and let it sit. And sit. And sit. Let it sit for longer that you want, give it one 4 to 8 inch strip, and be ready…
4. Peeper Popper
I originally purchased the Peeper Popper to catch panfish, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many smallmouth I caught instead. Smallmouth bass love this bug.
The profile of the Peeper Popper lends itself to quieter water, so tie it on first thing in the morning or right at dark. Again, lay out a good cast and let it sit before stripping it back to you with even 6 inch strips.
5. Chubby Chernobyl
Although it was designed for trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass will hammer a Chubby Chernobyl on the right day. Look around and try and match the color of your Chubby to the color of the big grasshoppers, cicadas, or beetles that visit the banks of your favorite fishery.
You might find this at the local fly shop but I did see they’re available at Amazon here’s a link – Chubby Chernobyl Ant.
I like to fish this bug in a Size 6 through Size 10. If you are fishing stillwater, cast it up against structure and let it set for a moment before giving it a twitch to make those legs wiggle. You are trying to imitate an insect that has fallen into the water so try slightly shorter strips.
6. Mini Mouse Fly
The Mini Mouse isn’t a popper, but it makes a racket and draws smallmouth bass from the depths. I like to fish the Mini Mouse in a Size 6 or Size 10.
If you tie flies, these aren’t very difficult, but they make a huge mess. Consider buying these online, I found them on Amazon. Here’s a link – Mouse Fly Assortment
Cast the Mini Mouse up against the bank and skate it across the water by keeping your rod tip high and wiggling the tip of your rod as you strip in line. Although I’ve had bass eat mouse patterns all day long, fishing this fly in the early morning or right at dusk seems to work the best.
Subsurface — Streamers
Streamers are weighted flies that are meant to be fished beneath the surface of the water. They are designed to imitate everything from baitfish to leeches to crayfish. The action of a streamer is dependent upon the fly tying material, weight, and style of retrieve.
7. Clouser Deep Minnow
The Clouser Deep Minnow is one of the best bass flies in existence. It imitates a wounded or dazed baitfish, and the weighted eyes lend the fly a jumping and diving motion that smallmouth and largemouth bass find irresistible. I like to fish the Clouser in Size 4 – Size 10 in a wide variety of color combinations including white/chartreuse, white/red, black/red, yellow/brown, and just plain white.
Clouser’s are a MUST have fly. Sometimes I’ll tie my know or just buy them from Amazon. Here’s a link to a nice mix of effective colors – Clouser Deep Minnow
Strip in the Clouser with steady strips and vary the speed and depth of your retrieve until you start getting strikes.
8. Woolly Bugger
The Woolly Bugger can be fished the world over for a wide variety of fish including smallmouth and largemouth bass. The profile coupled with the lifelike motion of the maribou feathers in the tail of the fly make it a must have for any water body you visit. My favorite colors are olive, black and white. I carry Woolly Buggers in Size 6 – Size 10.
Woolly Buggers are fast and fun to tie, but if you want a variety of colors you can end up buying a mountain of feathers. Great variety packs can be purchased at Amazon here’s a link – Woolly Bugger Fly Assortment
Fish the Woolly Bugger with steady strips. A sink tip line and varying speed and pattern of your strips can also be very effective. Below is a YouTube Video I made for making a Sinking Tip for your Fly Line.
9. Galloup’s Peanut Envy
This fly is essentially a Woolly Bugger on steroids and largemouth bass love a big meal. I like to fish the Peanut Envy in white or olive in Size 6.
Fish the Peanut Envy on a sink tip line with a variable stripping pattern. When you cast it out, let it sink for awhile… The fluttering motion drives fish crazy, and oftentimes you will find a big bass on the end of your line when you give that line the first strip.
10. Nancy P Galloup’s
The Nancy P imitates a crawfish and if a great option for largemouth bass when the water temperatures are chilly. Try and match the size and color of the fly to the crayfish in your local waters, but I like to fish an orange version in a Size 6.
Since the Nancy P is supposed to be a crayfish, try and bounce this fly along the bottom of the river or lake with slow even strips.
11. Mohair Leech
The Mohair Leech is an effective leech pattern that works great for both smallmouth and largemouth bass in rivers and lakes. I like to fish the Mohair Leech in Size 8 or Size 10 in either black or green. If there is a lot of algae in the water, fish an olive Mohair Leech.
This is another fly that can be tough to find at a fly shop. I bought black and rust colored at Amazon. Here’s a link to Amazon if your interested – Mohair Leech
Fish the Mohair Leech on a slow sinking line. You want to strip this fly very slowly along the bottom.
12. Double Bunny
The Double Bunny is a baitfish pattern this is tremendously effective for largemouth bass. The fly is tied with two strips of bunny hair, and the way those fibers wiggle in the water is hard to beat. I like to fish the Double Bunny in Size 4 in an olive/white combination.
I found a really cool sub-surface collection of Streamers on Amazon here’s a link to check out the prices Bunny Streamer Collection.
The Double Bunny is the most effective around schooling bass or structure. Vary your stripping pattern and throw on a sink tip if you aren’t getting down far enough in the water column.
13. Bunny Leech
The Bunny Leech is another leech pattern that entices both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Tied with rabbit fur, this fly is particularly effective in stillwater fisheries in Size 6 or Size 8 in black or olive.
Fish this fly on a sink tip line. Bounce it along the bottom with very slow strips and when your line suddenly feels gummy give it a hard strip-set.
14. Muddler Minnow
The Muddler Minnow is one of the most versatile flies in the world, and it is no surprise it does well in largemouth and smallmouth fisheries. The Muddler Minnow is a great baitfish imitation and I like to fish it in olive, white or tan in Size 10.
Seriously consider getting your Muddler Minnows on Amazon. I’ve tried to tie these and have never seemed to get it right. The prices will be much lower than at the local fly shop. Here’s a link to Muddler Minnows at Amazon
15. Swimming Jimmy
Fish the Muddler Minnow wherever you see baitfish hanging out. Adjust the depth and speed of your strips until you start getting into fish.
The Swimming Jimmy is a really unique fly that has incredible action in the water. This fly is supposed to imitate a wounded baitfish, and I have caught plenty of big largemouth and smallmouth bass with this wonky fly.
I like to fish this fly in a Size 4 or Size 8 on a sink tip line. Slower strips seem to lend this fly the best action, and I really love the originally olive/white combination.
Sliders are flies that are meant to be fished on top of the water. They typically have a cone-shaped head and dive slightly under the water when you strip them. Sliders are more subtle than poppers.
16. Sneaky Pete
The Sneaky Pete is one of my favorite largemouth and smallmouth bass flies. The subtle wiggle motion coupled with the rubber legs makes this fly irresistible to bass. I like to fish this fly in Size 4 or Size 8 in either white, green, or black.
Finding Sneaky Pete’s at a flyshop that have been tied well can be a challenge. I found some on AMAZON that are supplied by Orvis. Here’s a link to check the prices – Orvis Weedless Sneaky Peter.
Cast the Sneaky Pete up against structure and let it sit for a moment before retrieving it with 6 to 8 inch strips. If the fish are picky, increase the length of time between strips.
17. Murdich Slider
The Murdich Slider is a baitfish pattern that has a lot of flash and wiggle that largemouth and smallmouth bass love. This slider is tied with buoyant deer-hair head that keeps it near the surface unless it is fished with a sink tip line. I like to fish this slider in a Size 2, and white has always been my favorite color.
Fish this fly when there are big fish around but the popper bite just isn’t on. Slow down the retrieve if the fish are especially timid.
18. Murray’s Shenandoah Slider
Although this fly was originally designed for smallmouth bass, I have watched plenty of largemouth bass inhale this fly. I like to fish this fly in Size 6 in the traditional yellow/olive color.
I have found that this slider is especially effective in waterbodies that have good populations of sunfish. A slower strip retrieve usually gets the most strikes.
Divers are flies that can be fished along the surface at slower speeds or subsurface at faster strip speeds. They tend to dive beneath the water if they are fished with sharp strips, but their buoyant nature means that they will float back to the top. They are meant to imitate everything from frogs to baitfish.
19. Dahlberg Diving Bug
The Dahlberg Diving Bug is the granddaddy of all diver flies, and it is effective against largemouth and smallmouth bass. This fly is a great frog imitation and should be fished in the traditional olive/brown/white or green/yellow color in a Size 4 through Size 8. Try and match the color of the frogs that you see on the banks.
Here’s a link to Amaon where I found my Dahlberg Divers.
This fly is designed to imitate a frog, so it should be fished with quick, hard strips that send the fly diving beneath the water. Strip it once or twice, let it float back to the surface, and then let it sit for a couple of seconds before repeating.
20. Puglisi Diver
The Puglisi Diver was originally designed for pike, but it catches more than its fair share of big largemouth bass as well. I like to fish a Size 1/0, purple/black version of this fly at night.
Fish this fly with short hard strips followed by a long pause. The takes are usually pretty violent…
21. Whitlock’s Waking Sunfish
This fly works great in any waterbody that has healthy populations of sunfish. The motion of this fly in the water imitates a wounded sunfish and largemouth bass can rarely turn down such a tasty morsel. I like to fish this fly in a Size 6 or Size 10.
I like to fish this fly just beneath the surface of the water so that ripples are formed on the surface. Stop stripping it occasionally and let it float to the surface and be ready for an explosion.
I have fished for everything from bonefish to trout, but fly fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass is still one of my favorite things to do. Watching bass explode on a popper or inhale a slider makes my heart jump every time. As if that wasn’t enough, the burly strength and aerial shows that these fish put on are hard to beat. Best of all, bass are aggressive and opportunistic predators, which translates into lots of action if you are fishing with the right flies. So cast that popper, let it sit, give it one good strip and be ready…