Fly Fishing for Bass

fly fishing for bass and panfish

Intro to Fly Fishing for Bass

When you first think of fly fishing, you typically think of cool, western streams, full of Rainbow, Cutthroat, and Brown trout. While that may be the image portrayed in many, books, and television shows, it’s certainly not all you can catch. Enjoy this introduction to fly fishing for bass and panfish.

Some anglers don’t have the ability to drive down the road to a trout stream, especially those in southern US. So, you need to fish for what your habitat provides, and for many, that is monster bass and panfish.

Thanks to the warm weather and longer grow seasons, many areas that can’t support trout create ample opportunities to fly fish for trophy sized bass. It’s in these spots you can throw streamers to imitate baitfish, or popping frogs to get that explosive topwater bite. 

So, if you’ve ever wanted to fly fish but don’t live in an area that has trout, or you want to start targeting other species then keep on reading where we break down exactly how to get started in fly fishing for largemouth bass and panfish.

Fly  Gear

Before we dive too deep let’s go over the gear needed to target these two species. First off, you’ll need a rod and a reel. Fly rods are similar to conventional tackle in that they are given a classification of how strong they are. The difference is that conventional tackle is given its classification using words such as, light, medium, and heavy. Where fly rods use numbers that they call “weight”. 

The sizes are lighter the smaller the number is and the higher they go the stronger the rod. Sizes start at 00 and go up to a 14. For example, a size 14 would be used to haul in large saltwater gamefish, such as marlin. While a 00 would be used to target brook trout or other small species.

The standard American fly rod is 9’ long and is a 5wt. This is a good middle ground that is versatile enough to catch most trout, bass, and panfish. If you want to target both largemouth and panfish with the same rod, then this is what we recommend. If you wind up targeting solely bass, then it might be best to move up to a 6 or 7wt.

Those rods have enough backbone to muscle in large fish and to cast larger flies. The opposite goes for panfish. You could get down to a 3-4wt if you choose to only target them.

Your reel should also match the size of your rod. Those are also classified using the same number system. Usually a reel will have two numbers on it. For example, “5-6”. That means its compatible with a 5 or 6 wt. rod. 

The same goes with selecting line. Make sure it matches the number on the reel. You’ll also notice there are several different types of fly line. Some indicate they float while others sink. When first starting out, its best to stick with floating line.

Bass Flies

If you’re a fan throwing topwater and crankbaits on conventional tackle, then you’re going to enjoy fly fishing for bass with these bass flies. Check out the list below and a breakdown of what these flies replicate and how to fish them.

Clouser Minnow

The above fly might be the most essential one in your tackle box for fly fishing for bass. It comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and can be used to target all types of gamefish. 

Think of this as your crankbait. You’ll be swimming this through the water past structure, shallow drop offs, grass, or anything else you would deem as “fishy”. It comes in many patterns but white and chartreuse is killer.

Poppers for Bass

There are many different types of poppers for bass out on the market. They have frogs, dragon fly’s, bass bugs, and more. It’s best to have one of each in your fly box to ensure you have all your bases covered before hitting up the water for the day.

Use bass poppers when fly fishing for bass just like you would your conventional tackle. Throw the frog around lily pads and other vegetation, while bass bugs will work great in the early morning and evening near structure. Dragon fly’s work well in the summer when those are most prevalent.

Foam Hopper

These are deadly during the mid summer to early fall when insects are at their heaviest. Look for grasshopper patterns, as well as spiders, ants, or any other terrestrial. 

These may not be as big and showy as a Clouser or Bugger, but the small frame of this fly could cause a big largemouth or panfish to strike when they wouldn’t want a moving target. Most of the time you’ll be casting this and letting it sit. If that’s not working try giving your line a slight strip and get it dancing on the surface. Fish these along tall grass, underneath tree limbs and other shallow areas. 

Finding Fish with your Fly Rod

Fly fishing is a process. For every 1 cast with your fly rod, you could probably get 3 with your baitcaster. That’s just how it goes. So, you won’t be able to work an area as quickly as you would, but it can be done just as thoroughly. Keep in mind the time of year and where the fish are most likely to be. 

Spots near structure are almost always a good bet for presenting bass flies when fly fishing. Bass love to hangout in those areas. Also, try to vary your retrieve of bass flies and mix it up. Once you find the right combination of strips to pauses continue doing that until the fish are wise. Same goes for stripping in your topwater fly’s.


Above is just a quick overview of how you can target bass and panfish with a fly rod. Feel free to take anything here, try it out, and even experiment with different ways to do it. That’s the great part about fly fishing.

Author Bio:

Dallas Hudgens is a writer for and in his spare time enjoys chasing mountain stream Brook Trout as well Largemouth Bass.

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About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.