While bass are generally considered the ultimate game fish in the sportfishing community, they are probably still a fringe species when it comes to fly fishing. In most cases, fly anglers are going after trout, meaning most typical fly patterns are designed specifically with trout in mind. However, if you want to experience fly fishing and don't have trout at your disposal, the flies we've listed here should help immensely when targeting more commonly-found and accessible bass. Don't let that fringe status keep you from enjoying what can be some of the most fun you've ever had with a fly rod in your hand.
Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Spaces are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
1. The Baitfish Imitator
The Clouser Deep Minnow is considered an essential fly for many applications, but is one of the must-have baitfish patterns for fishermen and women angling specifically for bass. In fact, this particular baitfish imitation was initially invented to target smallmouth bass. My favorite color combo would be chartreuse and white, but others can work well too. One really cool thing is that you can often find or tie Clouser Deep Minnows with subtle variations, giving you a widespread collection of truly deadly flies. If you're building a bass fly arsenal, this pattern needs to be in your fly box.
2. The Long-Legged Amphibian
A frog fly just screams bass fishing, and lately more and more designs are popping up. I like the Swimming Frog from Umpqua, and its combination of surface/diver effectiveness. This particular fly displaces a lot of water and causes a lot of noise, drawing the attention of big predator fish looking for a sizable entrée. In other words, it's perfect for drawing in the monster bass you've been dreaming about.
3. The Topwater Tantalizer
No list of bass flies is complete without a good old Popper. I lean towards dark colors like black, but you can get as flashy as you want and still see success. Orvis sells good, reliable Bass Poppers, but you don't have to worry yourself too much with a big brand name; a lot of these types of flies have similar builds, the same rubber legs, and don't stray away from the main design too much. Bass Poppers are to fly fishing as topwater poppers are to conventional; when the bite is on, they'll give you the greatest show on the water when a bass decides to strike.
4. The Flashy Dancer
An exaggerated zonker strip gives the Bead Head Flash Zonker a wild level of movement and life, setting things up for a big predatory fish to feel as though they have no choice but to eat it. Of course, a bead head is going to provide the weight to get it down deep in a hurry, so this is a great option when you know the fish are deep in the water column.
5. The Crawdaddy
A crayfish pattern is something that you need to have in your tackle box for bass fishing expeditions. The Long Strip Crayfish is a solid imitator of these particular bottom dwellers. It's designed to work effectively on the rocky bottoms of a lake, river, or stream. It may not look like as big of a feast as some larger flies, but it will still do the trick in many situations.
6. The Tried and True
Like the Clouser Deep Minnow, the Woolly Bugger is widely considered to be an essential standard for all fly anglers, not just for bass fishermen. In most circles, the Bugger is among the best trout flies, but it can really get the job done for hungry bass. I particularly like olive-colored wooly buggers, but black and even white can be productive in the right situations. It's a fluffy fly that's one of the more versatile options out there.
7. The Buggy Buck
It's right there in the name, as the Deer Hair Bass Bug lives up to its reputation as a great fly for catching bass. It's another popper, but made primarily from deer hair. Many fly anglers have a love/hate relationship with deer hair, mostly because - more than other materials - it can easily become waterlogged and therefore loses its effectiveness over time. However, for introductory casts, the Deer Hair Bass Bug may just be the best bass fly in your collection, a flitting, eye-catching splash of color that will have bass erupting from the water in an attempt to swallow it whole.
8. The Slayer
Magnum's Dragon Tail was, ironically enough, invented to catch wary tarpon. Since then it's proven useful for freshwater smallmouth or largemouth bass fishing, and there isn't too much mystery as to why. I mean, if I were a bass, I'd eat it! The large head on this fly moves so much water around, that the tail has no choice but to move and dance with each strip of the line. Even if it's not being actively moved by the angler, the Mangum's Dragon Tail fly pattern will undulate and swirl, driving big bass crazy.
9. The Conventional Fishing Piggyback
It's hard to argue the effectiveness of soft plastic worms in the bass fishing game, and that's been addressed on the fly side with flies like Rich's Ultimate Worm. Meant to imitate worms and leeches, this fly is just what the doctor ordered for big bass. It's unweighted, but the large hook helps get it below the surface at a good rate. That hook size will probably require a slightly larger fly rod weight rating, so don't assume you'll be able to handle it well with your little 3 weight glass rod.
10. The Opportunist
A classic fly more traditionally used to catch trout, the Parachute Hopper is ideal for rivers and streams in the summertime when the grasshoppers are out in droves. It's one of the main dry flies that should be in your pocket when heading out to fly fish for bass. You won't use it as much as some of the other flies on this list, but for a brief moment in the summer, it can be a real winner. The strategy of using a "Hopper Dropper," attaching some tippet and another subsurface fly to the Hopper's hook shank, is one I employ often to double the chances of a hook up.
11. The One With the Best Name EVER
Last but certainly not least is this monstrosity of a fly, the Cohen's Manbearpig from Orvis. Besides an awesome name, this streamer fly has the ability to cause a raucous disturbance in the water. It has both a rattle and attractor tail added to the flash, schlappin, and bucktail materials, plus a deer hair head. All those elements combine for a seriously effective bass fly.
Enjoy the outdoors?
Sign up for daily stories delivered straight to your inbox.