How to Fly Fish For Bass: An Angler’s Guide

Our expert angler shares the best techniques, destinations & flies to show you exactly how to fly fish for bass successfully in rivers, lakes, ponds & more.

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Some argue that bass fishing is the most influential type of fishing in the world due to the massive amounts of money and recognition it brings to the industry. Bass fishing, however, isn’t reserved only for 20-foot boats and bait casters.

Fly fishing for bass is rarely done and is extremely effective. Bass rarely see flies so they’re more inclined to strike.

My obsession with fly angling began with a few trout fishing trips out west, but I wasn’t able to fish for trout near my university. I had to learn how to fly fish for bass in order to continue to fulfill my desire to fish. They put up wonderful fights and require quite a bit of skill to hook.

What is Bass Fishing?

If you find any sort of freshwater fishing tournament on TV, it’s likely involving bass. Bass live in almost every freshwater lake, river, and pond in the United States due to their ability to survive in harsh conditions and minimal food.

Summer Fly Fishing in Colorado

No matter where you live in the United States, you’re likely within a short drive of a nice population of bass.

Types Of Bass

There are a so many different types of Bass in North America including Black Bass, Striped Bass, Yellow Bass, Sea Bass, White Bass, Peacock Bass and more. In this post, I’ll cover the best techniques for catching bass on a fly rod.

Smallmouth Bass Mouth Closeup Vertical

These techniques should work for any type of bass that you find yourself casting towards.

The Best Flies for Bass Fishing

Bass like to feast on larger prey. Any sort of baitfish, tadpole, frog, and even mouse can land these freshwater beasts. The more obnoxious and intrusive, the better.

Blockhead Popper

Spin anglers have a formula down for bass fishing. They know what artificial bait works and fly companies have done their best to emulate the gear. Poppers are similar to many traditional fishing baits and every bass angler knows the power of a popper.

How To Fly Fish For Bass With a Blockhead Popper

Poppers are great to use in the early morning or late evening near vegetation. They’re a great representation of frogs. As soon as one of these slaps the water, the bass know. Strip six inches or a foot towards yourself and make sure the water is moving. It won’t take long for a bass to strike.

Also, be sure to use floating line when fishing with poppers. Any sort of sinking line will draw them below the surface and defeat the purpose.

woolly bugger fly

Wooly Bugger

The Wooly Bugger belongs on the list for best flies to use for almost any freshwater fish. It is a great imitation of all types of baitfish. These can be used in still and moving water.

How To Fly Fish For Bass With a Wooly Bugger

Let Wooly Buggers drift into a cut bank or near structure and strip hard towards yourself. Bass will leave the structure in pursuit of the bugger. Tie on 0 or 1x leader when targeting these fish.

Fly Fishing in Canada for Largemouth Bass

If one method of retrieval isn’t working, go ahead and try something new. These are some of the most versatile flies on the market so don’t be committed to only one method of fishing.

Finished Clouser Minnow Fly

Clouser Minnow

Clouser Minnows are great for any sort of predator fish. These have dumbbell eyes and dive deep into the water column. If you know the bass are hanging deep in a pool or near the bottom of the weed line, use a Clouser.

How To Fly Fish For Bass With a Clouser Minnow

Be sure to use the Clouser with weight forward or some sort of sinking line. You need it to get low in the water column as fast as possible. A few strong strips through thicker vegetation or pools will likely draw some strikes.

Similar to the bugger, don’t be afraid to try a new retrieval method. Bass can be picky so there’s no need to only rely on one sort of retrieval technique.

Game Changer

The Game Changer is an extremely fun fly to throw. It’s broken into three sections and produces quite a bit of movement on top of whatever you give it. You can throw this in any sort of bass water you would like.

The Game Changer represents crayfish and minnows!

How To Fly Fish For Bass With a Game Changer

The Game Changer will work well just under the surface or dead drifted. If you know the bass are looking for a specific type of movement, the Game Changer can usually provide that for you. Use it on 0 or 1x leader because the bass will not be friendly when they strike it!

Fly Fishing in The Fall in Canada

If you want to use the Game Changer with a floating line, go ahead. The length of the leader will determine how low your fly gets in the water column. If you do use a floating line, strip quickly because the fly will stay just below the surface and work well in the later parts of the day.

Gear To Use When Fly Fishing For Bass

Bass are a blast to catch, but they will put your gear through the ringer. They’ll jump, wrap themselves around structure, and provide some ferocious head shakes.

You’ll likely break some gear when fly fishing for bass, but it’s well worth the trouble!


For bass, you’ll need a 7 or 8-weight. For one, you’ll likely be fishing larger water and need some extra power to reach the necessary spots in the water column. Plus, you want the rod to be medium action. It’s going to bend quite a bit and a medium action rod will give you the strength to fight.

7 weight fly rod good for fly fishing bass

On top of the tough fights, you’ll likely be throwing heavy flies. These heavy flies are best used with heavy rods. You don’t want to feel like your casting is out of control because of a rod that is too small.

Depending on where the bass take you on their fight, the more powerful rods will be able to pull them out of structure or away from any sort of snag. The heavier the better when it comes to bass!


Your reel needs to match your rod so be sure you aren’t using one that is too big or too small! Bass will run for as long as you let them.

Have a large arbor reel with plenty of backing. 20 or 30 pound test backing will ensure that you have the right amount of power and line to get the fish where they need to be!


Variety is important when it comes to the line you use to fly fish for bass. They’ll often feed near the surface during the early and late parts of the day and make their way deeper in the water column in the middle of the day.

Retrieving Fly Line on River

In the mornings and evenings, you’ll want floating or weight forward line. It’s important that your line doesn’t get too low in the water column during these parts of the day otherwise your fly will float below them the entire time.

When the warmest parts of the day hit, the bass will be deep. As a result, sinking line is going to be your best bet. This will help your heavy flies reach the bottom and make the bass notice your flies.

Be sure to experiment with different lines when fly fishing for bass. Some anglers choose to use only floating line and use a longer leader to help their fly drift differently.

Others only use weight forward line because they believe it is versatile enough to reach all parts of the water column. The more experiment, the more you’ll learn about the bass in your waters!


For tippet, you’ll want to use 0 or 1x. Bass have strong cartilage in their mouths so they have the tendency to snap line when it is too light. Also, the strength of their head shakes can easily snap flies from the line if you aren’t careful!

How To Fly Fish For Bass With The Right Leader

Even though they’re strong and need to be fought aggressively, there is skill to fighting bass. You can’t force them to you otherwise they’ll snap the line!

How to Fly Fish For Bass in Different Environments

Bass will live almost anywhere. As a result, there numerous different ways to fish for them. It requires quite a bit of trial and error, but eventually you’ll learn the water and determine what methods are best.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started when fishing your local waters for bass!

Fly Fishing For Bass in a Lake

When fishing for bass in a lake there are two things to keep in mind. First, you need to pay attention to the time of year. If it’s spring, the bass are likely going to be spawning and sitting on beds. This means they’ll likely be up near shore!

Kayaking Quesnel Lake BC

If so, you want to throw obnoxious flies right on top of their beds. Males and females will both protect their beds and strike anything that they believe to be intrusive. A few quick strips on top of a bedding bass will guarantee a strike!

If the fish aren’t spawning, they’re going to be around structure. This could mean that they’re in the middle of the lake over a rock pile or right up against shore near a few tree lay downs. Wherever there is structure, there is fish.

Bass like to ambush, so throw your fly near the structure and strip past it. Be patient when it’s near the structure. It’s not uncommon for the bass to hit your fly as it falls. Again, trial and error is the name of the game!

If you can, find creeks or rivers that flow in and out of the lake. This is where food and fresh water is going to flow in and out of the lake so bass will sit here when they’re looking to feast!

Saguaro Lake Arizona Fly Fishing in a Boat

Your flies need to reach almost every level of the water column when you’re fly fishing lakes. Be equipped with sinking, weight forward and floating line. The fish vary the depths they live in depending on the time of year so be prepared.

Fly Fishing For Bass in a River

When you’re river fishing for bass, it’s best to do it when the water level is falling. The less water means that the bass are going to congregate in specific areas of the river. Plus, food is less plentiful so the fish are going to be more eager to eat.

If the water is low, fish the deepest parts of the river. This is where the bass are living. Many anglers believe dead water is a great place to fish for bass. This isn’t true! If fish are in a river, they want current. If they were interested in dead water, they’d still be in a lake.

Fly Fishing Brassie on a river

If you’re fishing for bass in rivers in the spring, focus on the clear water. This is where the bass want to spawn. It allows for easier protection and clean water for their eggs to develop.

If you’re fishing a river in the summer and fall, focus on two things: vegetation and rock piles. The summer is a great time to fish the vegetation. This is where the majority of the food is going to be hiding and bass feel protected when they’re in the vegetation.

In the fall, bass move to rock piles. These may be in the deeper portions of the river so be sure to pay attention and use your polarized sunglasses to see if the fish have moved to different locations in the water.

When fishing rivers, you want don’t want your flies to dive as deep as they would in a lake. As a result, you should likely use weight forward or floating line. If needed, you can tie on a longer leader to get your fly deeper in the water column.

Fish will suspend in rivers because food is always going to be near the surface. In lakes, anglers are going to fish in depths of 10-15 feet, but this isn’t necessary in rivers. Stay shallow and you’ll have success. If it’s absolutely necessary, you can go a bit deeper, but that is likely not needed.

Catch and Release Largemouth Bass Fly Fishing

Dead drifting and stripping works well for catching bass. However, if you have to choose one, strip. Action is important to bass so even if it’s small strips, you’ll catch more bass with action.

Fly Fishing For Bass in a Small Stream

Small stream bass fishing is awesome. Bass live in places in small creeks and streams that you never would imagine that you could find them. Look for areas of heavy current that widen out near cut banks or deeper pools.

Bass will sit on the edge of the heavy current and wait for food to drift out. Stand below the current, cast right along the edge of it and start stripping towards yourself. The bass will chase the fly and strike!

Fly Casting Long Cast

If you find cut banks in small streams, target these. Cast your fly above the cut bank and let it dead drift along it. If the dead drift doesn’t work, let it flow along the bank for a few feet and then strip hard towards yourself. It’s going to work.

You don’t have to use massive flies in smaller streams. The larger baitfish flies can be harder to manipulate through shallower water so drop down to size 6 or 8 flies if needed. You can cast these easier and won’t struggle to make a natural presentation.

Fly Fishing For Bass in a Pond

Ponds are a great place to learn how to fly fish. They’re likely not surrounded by vegetation and hold a variety of fish. If you’re looking to teach someone how to fly fish or learn for yourself, start at a pond.

As long as you have a clear casting lane, you can learn to cast in a variety of ways that will prove useful on all different types of water. In ponds, bass are likely going to congregate near the shores or structure in the center of the pond.

Catching a Bass Fly Fishing on a Pond

Don’t just cast into the middle of the pond and strip towards yourself. This method rarely works. Cast along the banks or if you see structure in the middle of the pond, cast here.

Quick strips towards yourself in ponds work great. These fish likely don’t see as much food due to the smaller body of water and lack of flow in or out of the water. It doesn’t take much to convince a bass to strike a fly in a pond!

Best Time To Fish For Bass

Fly fish for bass in the spring. They’re aggressive and willing to eat almost anything. An early spring morning or evening is going to be magical. These fish will hit the topwater baits and give you some amazing bites.

Plus, during the spring, the bass are at their heaviest. They’re full of eggs and food and you’ll pull in some nice size fish in the spring!

Fly Fishing For Bass Tips & Tricks

The way you fish for bass depends on the type of water you’re fishing, but there are a few universal methods that are going to work no matter what time of year or body of water you fish.

Find Beds

As mentioned above, bass are going to be protective of their beds. This is where they lay their eggs and don’t want anything to threaten their offspring. A cast on top of the bed and a few strips is going to entice a strike!

Bass Jumping Out Of Water

Let the Fly do the Work

When fishing rivers and streams, you want your fly to lead the charge. Too often anglers let their fly line guide the fly down stream and lose strikes as a result. Bass need a natural presentation.

As soon as your fly hits moving water, mend so the fly is in the lead. This may require a mend downstream at first and then a quick mend upstream.

Don’t Sleep on the Fall

Bass love to hit baits as they fall. If you’re continuously stripping, you aren’t giving the bait enough time to drop in the water column. When the fly drops in the water column it represents a wounded baitfish and will lead to quite a few strikes.

As tempting as it may be to strip quickly towards yourself, it’s not going to work! Be patient and make the fly appear natural.

Sight Fish

Sight fishing for bass is a great way to catch them. They like to sit in clear water. If you see a bass cruising through a weed line or sitting near the bank, cast towards it. They’re a curious fish and will likely give your fly a swipe if it determines it is natural enough.

Best Destinations For Bass Fishing

The best fly fishing destinations for Bass in the United States are mostly down south. The consistent warm temperatures and constant food supply allows for these fish to grow rapidly and stay healthy all year round.


Bass live in every pond, lake, stream, river and ditch in Florida. They’re everywhere. It’s a great place to bring your fly rod because you also have the potential of catching a variety of other fish when you use your larger streamers!

Releasing a Peacock Bass in Florida


Texas is home to massive bass. Legendary lakes like Lake Fork and San Rayburn hold quite a few double digit bass. These fish almost never see flies. They’re used to hard and soft plastic baits.

If you throw a fly in their direction, you have a wonderful shot at landing one of them.

Why Are Bass So Much Fun?

Bass are available to be caught everywhere. Many fly anglers want to spend their time on high mountain streams targeting native trout, but this isn’t possible for the majority of people.

Fun to fly fish for bass

Bass will fight better than trout and are often much larger. It may not be the purest form of fly fishing, but it’s great to learn. The more you fly fish for bass, the more you learn about tendencies of fish. In fishing, knowledge is power!

That’s How To Fly Fish For Bass

Fly fishing for bass is growing in popularity. Due to more advanced equipment and realistic looking bait, anglers are having success landing bass. Now is the time to jump on the bandwagon!

You can learn tendencies, discover new waters and grow your fly fishing arsenal. Until you give it a try, you won’t realize how amazing it is!

Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.

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How To Fly Fish For Bass An Angler’s Guide
How To Fly Fish For Bass

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My name is Danny Mooers and I’ve been fly fishing for five years. As soon as I went to college, I dove headfirst into my obsession for fly angling. Every spare weekend or long break was dedicated to finding fish. I’ve fished all over North America in search of trout, salmon, steelhead and everything in between. I currently write articles for Guide Recommended and Reel Adventure Fishing. Fly angling is one of the most challenging yet rewarding hobbies any person can have. Don’t be afraid to give it a try.  It’s an addicting activity that tests everything from your fine motor skills to your patience, but it’s well worth your time.

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