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Fly fishing for bass requires a different arsenal of flies than fishing for trout. Fly fishing lures for bass tend to be larger and more aggressive, which makes sense when you look at the size of bass’ mouths and the types of prey they typically eat.
Catching bass on the fly is also some of the most fun you can have fly fishing. Whether you’re out after stream smallmouths or pond-dwelling largemouths, bass have a way of striking flies with reckless abandon. And once hooked, they give you a run for your money that few freshwater game fish can match.
There are a lot of great flies to choose from, but these 10 bass flies deserve a place in every angler’s fly box.
Fly Fishing Lures for Bass – Clouser Minnow
When it comes to minnow imitating flies, the Clouser Minnow is one of the all-time greats. This iconic creation of fly tying legend Bob Clouser has probably caught more bass than just about any other fly. Its realistic profile dives deep and fast, and the fly is easy to fish with a realistic jigging action. Clouser Minnows are available in numerous patterns, but the classic white and chartreuse version remains the most populer. Every bass fly angler needs a couple of these in their fly box.
Fly Fishing Lures for Bass – Bass Bug Popper
There may be no fly that more effectively targets largemouth bass in lakes and ponds than a popper. There are a lot of great topwater poppers to choose from, but Bett’s Bass Bug is a true classic. It’s cupped mouth produces the lively gurgles and bubbles that you want from a popper, and it comes in several bass-attracting colors. The Bass Bug is also a sturdily-made fly that can withstand strikes from big bass. Try one for largemouths in shallow water around lily pads and submerged weeds.
Fly Fishing Lures for Bass – Wooly Bugger
The Wooly Bugger is one of the all-time great fly patterns that will catch practically anything that swims. It’s a tried-and-true trout pattern that works equally well for bass and panfish. Wooly Buggers consist of a chenille or fur body, a bead head, marabout tail and hackle; they most commonly come in black and brown colors. What makes this wet fly so effective is its versatility. It can be made to look like just about anything your imagination desires—leeches, hellgrammites, dragonfly nymphs, even crawfish and small minnows—and it’s equally effective for smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Fly Fishing Lures for Bass – Deceiver
Every bass fly angler needs a streamer or two, and the Deceiver is one of the best options. A popular streamer among freshwater and saltwater anglers, the Deceiver is great for smallmouths and largemouths, but also one of the best striped bass flies. It excels at mimicking a smelt or similar baitfish in open water. Although this is a wet fly, it’s also very light, making it great for fishing just under the surface. The resulting strikes are often explosive.
When you arrive in the dog days of summer, and the grass alongside your favorite smallmouth stream is alive with grasshoppers, you’ll be glad to have at least one hopper pattern in your fly box. Schroeder’s Parachute Hopper is one of the best options. It’s a beautifully crafted high-floating dry fly that mimics its namesake insects like a charm. Available in olive and tan, the Parachute Hopper comes in sizes 8, 10, 12 and 14.
Aside from having one of my favorite fly names of all time, Umpqua’s Meat Whistle is one of the all-time great crawfish imitating flies. With a rabbit strip, marabou and rubber legs, the fly is tied on a jig hook and looks a lot like a mashup between a streamer and a jig-n’-pig. The Meat Whistle is outstanding for fishing close to the bottom. It has the heft to get down quickly, and an up-turned hook to avoid snags. Try fishing it with a strip-pause-strip action. The crawfish pattern is the most popular, but the Meat Whistle also comes in a white pattern that works as a more traditional minnow imitation.
Although it’s traditionally thought of as a trout fly, the Muddler Minnow is also an outstanding option for bass fishing. It can be great for perch and crappie too. While there are many variations on the Muddler Minnow pattern, it typically includes a spun deer hair head, marabou body and mottled turkey feather. Its brownish color and quick-darting action easily mimic a wide range of minnows and aquatic insects.
Deer Hair Bass Bug
At a glance, Deer Hair Bass Bugs look a lot like popper flies. But their action is a little more subtle, and great for enticing bass to bite in a wide range of situations (as a general rule, poppers make more noise, but deer hair bugs create more wake). With a weed guard to ward off snags, Deer Hair Bass Bugs are great for fishing for largemouths around shallow weeds. These super-buoyant dry flies can create a lot of surface disturbance when you strip them aggressively, but you can also fish them with a subtle wiggle to tempt shy biters.
Pike Fly Frog
As its name implies, the Pike Fly Frog was designed with fly fishing for northern pike in mind. But this king-sized fly is also a killer for big largemouth bass. Combining the best aspects of a streamer and a deer head bug, this fly has a lifelike frog color pattern and a seductive slither on the surface of the water. Fish it around the edges of tule beds and reeds, or let it wiggle between lily pads and be prepared for massive surface strikes.
Good crayfish imitation flies are hard to come by, and the NearNuff Crayfish is among the best of the best. Designed by fly fishing legend Dave Whitlock, the NearNuff Crayfish is a shockingly lifelike imitation that’s perfect for stream smallmouths, brown trout, rock bass and anything else that likes to snack on crawdads. The fly uses a combination of feathers, marabou and soft plastic to look just like a bottom-dwelling crayfish. It has a snag guard and rides with the hook point up to slide through rocky cover without getting hung up.
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Richard CorriganRichard Corrigan has been writing about outdoor adventures, gear and travel for more than 10 years. His work has been featured by USA Today, 10Best.com, Next Luxury, and Gone Outdoors. He lives in Upstate New York, and If he isn't at his writing desk, you can probably find him out in the woods somewhere.
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