Hook sizing can be a confusing part of any fishing. Newbies to the sport of fly fishing may think that bass needs big hooks to catch them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In the same sense, hooks that are too small will also not help you catch more fish and may even contribute to losing fish.
|Style of Bass Fishing
|Hook Size Recommendation
|Poppers and Top Water
|#2 to 2/0
|#6 to 1/0
|#8 to #2
Targeting bass on the fly is great fun, and they are one of my favorite species to cast a fly to. While most of the eats and fights are aggressive and acrobatic, they do, at times, eat very softly and cautiously. What size fly or hook you are fishing plays an important role in getting them to commit to the eat.
If the hook is too big, it may shy or spook, or you may miss the eat, and if the hook is too small, it may not be able to penetrate the tougher jaw area of the bass. Having the right size hook and fly will help with all these issues.
Making the choice of hook size and fly is a very subjective decision, and I am writing based on what I fish and how I fish for bass. You are more than welcome to change and alter any of my methods or thought processes.
In the below section, I want to give you an idea of what to fish, when, and why.
Does Hook size for Bass matter?
Before understanding the hook sizes for bass, it is important to understand the way hooks are sized.
The sizing of hooks is done with two systems.
- The first system is for larger hooks and uses a “designator” and “zero” labeling with this system, larger numbers mean larger hooks. Example- 1/0, 2/0 hooks get bigger.
- The second system is somewhat counterintuitive but the larger the number, the smaller the hook. Example 10, 12, 14, and 16 hooks get smaller.
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing hooks to tie flies on for bass is the hook gape. Now the gape is important on any hook but more so with bass to ensure the hook-up is solid and the hook doesn’t pop.
If you google it, the general hook size for bass is given as 1/0 -6/0, but this all depends on what you are fishing.
If you choose to throw a floating frog pattern, then a larger hook will be used for the gape and shank length to hold the deer hair of popper style fly. If you choose to throw a surface/sub-surface pattern like a muddler minnow, then a smaller hook will be used.
A longer shank for the muddler minnow is preferred as well. When it comes to crabs and smaller bait fish patterns, I tend to tie my flies on a shorter shank but larger gape hook.
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Can You Catch Big Bass on Tiny Hooks?
I’ve fished for big bass in gin-clear water with a set of trailing size #10 nymphs and wet flies before. The fish followed the flies for a good 3m before committing to the eat. I believe that in that scenario, a larger pattern wouldn’t have worked.
The fish were very selective, and the water was a little colder, so they weren’t as eager to eat, but with a little encouragement and patience, they did. So, I think you can catch large bass with small hooks you need to be ready for the fight and not put too much pressure on the small hooks as they will pop. On the opposite side to this, I have also caught spring bass on some massive patterns.
Now, spring bass are so much fun to target. They instinctively defend their nests and will eat anything that comes near it. In instances like this,
I like to throw a Sex Dungeon fly pattern which is an articulated pattern with a larger hookup front and a second hook trailing it, making up the rest of the pattern. Many of the streamer patterns I tie have a stinger hook as well but a bit more on this later.
Popular Dry Fly Hooks for Bass
When we talk about dry flies for bass, the immediate thought of a small Adams drifting down the run isn’t quite what we should have in mind. But rather the large Chernobyl terrestrial or stimulator pattern moving upwards to the large mouse and frog patterns.
The best dry fly or poppers for bass in my waters is the Crease fly. The crease is a simple pattern to tie on a 2/0 hook, and what’s nice is that there isn’t much wind resistance on the cast so you can get them a good distance out. The bass loves them on a medium to fast retrieve. The larger mouse and frog patterns have hooks from 1 up to 2/0; again, this is for the gape size.
Favorite Streamer Hook Sizes for Bass
Streamer fishing is such an awesome way to fish for bass. When the fish are on, the takes are aggressive and keep you on your toes. It’s good to have a variety of streamers in color and in size.
The size part variation is important, and while bass will probably eat anything on a good day, they can drive you mad at times and will be very selective with what they will eat. I have a few smaller patterns on size #6 hooks and then scaling up to the larger hooks in the 2/0 region.
As I mentioned earlier, I tie most of my streamers with a stinger hook behind. This usually forms part of the pattern or is a smaller hook stuck in the tail part of the pattern.
This stinger hook is usually a smaller, short-shanked, heavy-wired hook. What often happens is that the fish will nip, nibble at the end of the pattern, and that is where the stinger hooks get set and hooks the fish.
The Sex Dungeon and Game Changers are also great streamer-style fly patterns to target bass with. Both are more modern designs. The smaller patterns 1/0 and under are easier to cast if compared to the larger patterns. The size of the fly pattern you are able to fish is also dependent on the weight rod you will be fishing.
It is for this reason that I fish the Sage Foundation in an 8wt. I can comfortably cast the bigger ones without any hassles. I carry my trusty 5wt for the smaller applications or when needed. The small streamers are good for this, and if there is to be any delicate nymph work.
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What Range of Hooks is the Best for Bass?
It’s difficult to say that this size hook is the best for bass. I would rather work through each pattern as I have done so in the above breakdown. The general sizing would be 1/0 up to 6/0 for the big patterns. The small nymphs can be fished in sizes #10 to a #4.
When to Change Hook Size
Changing hook size or changing fly pattern can be done for a variety of reasons. When it comes to bass fishing, there isn’t much consideration into scaling down a size or up a size as there is with trout fishing.
But if you keep missing fish on the take, that could be because of a hook issue. It is either too small, or the gape is covered with material or weed. It’s important to check the weed guards on some of the larger patterns as well.
When any of these things happen regularly, it’s time to change up the pattern to a larger pattern for better luck.
When to Use Barbless Hooks?
I am an advocate for barbless hooks and only fish and tie on them. There is always a heated discussion about the topic, and it serves well for the fish and fishery. No ripped jaws or bleeding fish, and the survival rate of the released fish is almost guaranteed.
Bass lures are set up with the treble hook, which has another whole list of discussion points attached, so fish barless where you can it just helps everything.
How to Sharpen a Hooks?
I’ve got a simple video HERE. Keeping the hook sharp is important. You can use those little gully hook sharpeners to keep the hook point as sharp as possible.
Alternately I change the fly to the new, shaper one, keeping the pattern the same. I generally tie my flies in numbers of three or more, depending on the pattern.
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One Last Cast
Bass are great to target on the fly, and you can have some amazing fishing with them. The sensitivity of hook and pattern size isn’t as intense as with trout, and you can get away with a lot more than with trout.
Don’t be mistaken. They can give you grey hair when they not eating aggressively and may need a little more encouragement. Either way, fish the size hook and fly with confidence, and you should be in luck.
Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.