Fly Fishing for Bass: The Best Line Weight?
Fly fishing for bass is no doubt growing in popularity. Bass are an absolute pleasure to catch on fly and these days, a fly rod is one of the first rods I put in the car when going for a weekend's fishing.
One factor that tends to cause a fair amount of confusion when targeting bass on fly, is the line weight debate. As we know, bass take larger bait presentations compared to other species which are targeted on fly and this means we need to use bigger flies. Bigger flies will however lead to more difficulty when it comes to casting - and we know how key accuracy is when it comes to catching bass.
Fly fishing is no different to conventional lures, if you’re going to catch bass, you are going to have to cast in tight areas at some point - so you’re going to want to be comfortable when casting.
Best Bass Fly Fishing Setup
I personally have tried many different line weights when targeting bass, and have ended up with some serious frustration - especially when casting around a beautifully structured area. You see a spot - you know there’s a fish there - but you just ended up finding the tree beyond it, or falling 5 feet short. The best line weight for targeting bass in my opinion, is an 8 weight line.
The first line weight I tried was a 4 weight - never again. I knew there were smaller bass (largemouth) in the lake, so I thought using a 4 weight would lead to me getting a decent fight from the bass. Needless to say, I was unable to cast anything smoothly - and ended up keeping the rod away for the whole day.
The next line weight I tried was a 6 weight - and this felt better, especially casting the smaller foam patterns (small poppers, gurglers). But I was still lacking the smoothness and accuracy which I needed to hit those tight areas, which was very frustrating. As someone who uses conventional tackle a lot, I am used to hitting those tight spots with ease. Turning over the popper flies felt chunky and inconsistent and I never really felt in full control of my casts.
Finally, I got out my saltwater 8 weight setup. Here, I was able to cast the needed distance, and have the control which was necessary to hit those attractive spots on a regular basis, and with that, catch way more fish. Whether it was large frog poppers, gurglers, or even large-ish streamers, I was able to cast effectively, with satisfaction. Fly fishermen will know, it's not all about catching the fish - but that satisfying feeling of a good cast is also pretty special. I was also pretty surprised by how strong the bass were, with even the smaller bass giving my 8 weight rod a solid bend.
So if I were you, planning your first fly fishing experience for bass - I would look heavier rather than lighter. I made the mistake thinking that bass were too weak to take me on with my 8 weight, and ended up keeping my fly rod in the chalet all weekend. Take your 8 weight, and cast into those tight areas - it’s simply too much fun.
Best Type of Fly Line for Bass
Personally, I love seeing topwater action with my fly rod when it comes to bass fishing. Bass are extremely aggressive towards a frog-like fly, and seeing them fly out the grass or lily pads is some of my favorite kinds of action when it comes to fly fishing. For that reason, I’m only using a floating fly line. This will give your floating fly the best action, and it is also the most efficient for covering a lot of water.
My opinion is based on fly fishing in slightly shallower water, where a sinking line or intermediate line isn’t really necessary. I fish streamers with a floating line, and have a 9 foot leader. If you have access to deeper lakes, or rivers, it definitely wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a sinking line spooled - especially if you're looking to try out some streamer patterns.
If you’re like me, I usually pack about 6-8 casting/spinning setups, with one fly rod. And I’m only really using the fly rod for topwater. However, when it comes to fly line weight - I’m a firm believer that no matter what kind of flies you’re throwing - you shouldn’t be using less than a 7 weight.
Where to Find Bass on Fly
I am very area-specific when I look to bring my fly rod out. My favorite pattern is any sort of popper which imitates a frog. I feel like I get the most action around these patterns, and I can also throw these patterns into some pretty heavy cover (I always have a weedless guard on my fly).
Whenever I come across a little bay with grass banks, or lily pads, I’m already thinking about my fly rod. As I said, I try to get my fly right into the glass or lily pads, and try to leave it in the strike zone for a good amount of time. Short, sharp strips with a 5 second break between each, until I’m out of the strike area. I find these grassy areas to be the most productive, and I’ll fish them well.
One thing to consider is the time of day when going for bass on fly. I’ve noticed that early mornings and late afternoons are the best times to start throwing your fly, as the bass are definitely more aggressive when it comes to feeding. I’ll often have my fly rod out for the early morning session - working the areas which I mentioned earlier. The evening session is also a time I’ll go back to the grassy banks, hoping for a topwater explosion.
Bass Fly Fishing Tips
I’ve gone for bass on fly a fair amount, and I’ve had to adjust my casting for turning over the larger flies. Here are some tips that may help you:
- Slow it down: This is key. Slowing down your false casts will help you generate tighter loops, and you’ll end up having way more control of your casts. Remember - speeding up your arm will not lead to greater distance if you’re not in control of your loop.
- Let it load: Often, I used to start my forward cast without letting my back cast roll out completely. This led to some very weak casts, and I couldn’t hit my target spots. This is absolutely vital, especially when casting chunkier and bulkier flies. Let your line and fly roll out completely on your back cast, before continuing with your forward cast.
- Plan your landing point: Set a clear and specific landing point of your fly before starting your cast. This will help with the preciseness of your cast.
- Smaller may be better: Don’t feel like you need to throw your largest fly in order to catch. Often, your smaller frog pattern will do the job, and might be even more attractive than a larger pattern. These will also make the casting process a lot more pleasant.
- Go weedless and be aggressive: Try to use a weedless guard on your fly if you can. This will ensure you don’t get snagged in the rough stuff. Try to get that fly right into the heavy cover, largemouth bass love hugging the structure.
I have no doubt in saying that targeting bass on fly is less efficient (and less effective) than conventional techniques, however, there is something very rewarding about getting that first bass on a topwater fly. I will still use my casting and spinning setups for 80% of the days fishing, but it’s nice to switch up techniques every now and then.
Casting in the right spot is definitely more challenging, but once you hit the right spot with a smooth cast, and seeing that bass fly out the water to nail your fly - it’s hard to beat.