Smallmouth Bass fly fishing is exploding in popularity, and for good reason!
People are beginning to take notice of how upbeat and adrenaline-pumping smallmouth fishing can be.
Whether you fish in small creeks, flowing rivers or giant reservoirs…the pursuit of ‘bronzebacks‘ on the fly is an incredible experience.
In this article, I’ll share with you 11 of the best flies for smallmouth bass. Some on this list may be very familiar, and others, well…don’t knock it ’till you try it!
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Table of Contents
Topwater Flies For Smallmouth Bass
It’s no secret that topwater fishing can be one of the most exciting ways to fish for fish, especially smallmouth. To watch a smallie come up and smash a popper off the surface will definitely get your heart racing.
1. Bass Popper
A simple bass popper is a great topwater fly, It can be more effective than a deer hair popper in some scenarios as it makes a ton of noise, and is very durable.
You’ll mainly want to fish this fly one of two ways: One where you are moving the popper fast with very little pauses. This works well around cover with a fast current.
Or move the popper extremely slowly, waiting for all the water rings to disappear before moving the fly again. This can be very effective in slow or still water as well as when the fish are just not very active.
2. The Swinging D
This versatile pattern was developed by Mike Schultz, owner and guide at Schultz Outfitters.
The reason a swinging D is so versatile is that it can be fished above, and below the surface.
When the baitfish are schooling on the top of the water or the bass are hanging out higher in the water column.
Try fishing the Swinging D on a floating line. Or fish it on a sink tip line. The sink tip will allow the fly to dive down better and stay deeper in the water column for longer.
3. Dahlberg Diver
The Dahlberg Diver was created by world-famous angler Larry Dahlberg. The Dahlberg diver is designed to be fished on a floating line, and when you strip your line the fly will dive down below the surface, and then slowly float back to the surface.
A great imitation for frogs, and other species that Smallmouth love to forage on. Fish this fly slowly allowing it enough time for the fly to ascend to the top and then wait before stripping the pattern again.
Vary how long you pause once the fly hits the top varies on how the fish are acting.
Subsurface Flies For Smallmouth Bass
Subsurface flies should perhaps take up the most space in your smallie fly box. As bass will spend the predominant amount of their time eating below the surface, eating baitfish, crawdads, nymphs, helgramites and so much more!
Game changers, really are game-changing! When Blane Chocklett first came out with these he took the predator fly tying world by storm and still does today.
With Blane’s revolutionary fish spine technology it allows your flies to look and swim like a real baitfish.
With so many people capitalizing on this amazing new innovation in the fly tying space there is no shortage of the number of patterns out there tied on the game changer platform.
Allowing the angler to really dial down, and decide what style and action the angler is looking as well as the best patterns that best mimic the baitfish in your area, and the action you are looking for.
5. Bennet’s Lunch Money
Bennet’s lunch money is a smallmouth killer. The fly is tied with dumbbells, to give the fly a very nice jigging action as you strip it through the water it also uses rubber legs which there is no secret that bass love rubber legs!
Fish your Bennet’s lunch money. on a sinking or floating line depending on what depth of water you want to fish, and strip it in like any other streamer.
6. Murdich Minnow
The murdich minnow is an amazing fly for any species of fish that will eat a minnow. The murdich minnow shines in bodies of water that have a high concentration of small minnows, as in the water the fly looks almost identical to the baitfish.
The murdich minnow can also be tied in a variety of colors allowing the angler to really dial in the color pattern to match the baitfish in your body of water.
You’ll most likely want to fish the murdich minnow on a sinking or sink tip line as the fly itself does not have much weight.
For the conventional fishermen, a hellgrammite lure is a big smallmouth bass magnet, and it’s no different in fly fishing.
Hellgramite patterns tied to the game-changer platform are fairly new; however, they are great at catching fish. Especially when the fish are finicky or the water is low and clear.
These conditions can make it harder to fish for smallmouth, and requires a longer leader of light line and smaller finesse style flies which is where a hellgrammite shines!
Fish it under an indicator and nymph it like you would for trout. Or deadlift it in the current, and wait for it to be picked up both tactics can be extremely deadly!
8. Craft Fur Baitfish
It’s no secret that smallmouths love baitfish! That’s why the craft fur baitfish can be such an amazing fly to target smallies. It can be tied in a variety of colors and sizes to mimic baitfish of all sizes.
To fish a craft fur baitfish use a sinking line and begin your stripping retrieve with a strip, pause, strip, strip technique. This will allow the craft’s fur fibers to really expand and flow on the pause and then move again on the strips.
9. Crawfish Changer
Smallmouth love Crawdads and it’s not uncommon to see them chase down a crawdad from a distance, and slurp it up. That’s why crawdads need a spot in your box.
Like the game-changer, The game-changer craw is extremely effective as well. The joints allow the fly to skirt along the bottom just like a real crawdad would.
Also, like the Gamechanger, there are a variety of patterns available, look for a pattern with two floating claws, this will allow the fly to look even more realistic in the water and entice a bite from a large smallmouth.
10. Hada’s Creek Crawler
When the fish are extra finicky, or when you see the bass coming up, and following your fly, but not just committing. A smaller crawfish pattern might do just the trick.
The Hada’s Creek Crawler is tied by Dane Hada a renowned smallmouth fisherman in the Ozarks. This smaller crawfish pattern is sure to entice the bite when some of your larger files won’t get it done.
The great thing about a smaller pattern is the chances of also catching other species in your body of water like carp, goggle-eye, sunfish and so much more!
11. Clouser Minnow
I simply cannot have a list of the best flies for smallmouth bass and not include a clouser minnow. Perhaps one of the most simple and effective flies for bass, the clouser minnow often works when other presentations don’t.
My favorite colors for a clouser are white, chartreuse or black. Retrieve it slow or fast, erratic or consistent…an excellent choice for lakes and rivers that hold shad, shiners, mosquitofish, and other minnow varieties.
Frequently Asked Questions
What size flies to use for smallmouth bass?
For smallmouth bass fishing, fly size all depends on how large the local forage is in your body of water. For the most part, your goal is to mimic the baitfish and forage as accurately as possible.
The smaller the baitfish and food there are in a waterway the smaller the fly you want to use. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
When you are trying to trigger an instinct bite out of the fish, it is less about the size and more about color and movement as you are not trying to mimic any exact type of food.
What size hook to use for smallmouth bass?
Hook size depends on a various number of factors such as how big your body of water is, how big the fish are on average, and how big the local forage is. These factors all play a part in hook size.
In general the larger your body of water is, the larger the fish are. The larger the fish are generally the larger the fly they will eat. However, probably the most important factor is how large the local forage is in your body of water.
This is a vital part in determining hook size because hook size will determine how large your fly pattern is. The larger the hook the larger the fly, and you want to match the forage as best as possible.
How do you fish bass flies?
Every fly is a little different in the way that you fish it. For streamers, you will fish the fly with a stripping action with pauses of varying times to vary how your fly swims.
To fish poppers, and other topwater baits you’ll want to strip the fly and allow it to move or pop. Then let the fly pause until all the ripples disappear or fish it more quickly with a shorter pause.
What is the best smallmouth fly pattern?
The best smallmouth fly depends on the body of water, and the angler. Certain flies are more technical to fish, and others are easier.
The best fly can vary from angler to angler on the same exact body of water, because some anglers may be able to fish a fly more effectively than the other angler.
The best smallmouth fly is the one you have the most confidence in, as you are less likely to give up and will keep grinding it out when the bite gets tough.
What color flies are best for smallmouth bass?
Smallmouth bass will eat a variety of color flies. When I am not matching colors to baitfish, and forage. I match my fly color based on a few factors; however, one important one is the color of the sky.
When the skies are bright, sunny, and clear I use natural colors such as olive, tan, and white with less flash. These colors will still stand out in the clear water, and be less intrusive to the fish. When the skies are overcast or cloudy. I like fishing with darker colors like black, blue, and purple.
The water clarity can also affect your color choices. When fishing dark, stained water fish darker colors, and when you are fishing clear water fish have natural colors. These colors choices will help the fly stand out better in the water allowing the fish to find your fly better.
Just because fly fishing has its roots and traditions in trout fishing, doesn’t mean you can’t break out the old 5 weight for other species too…
Thanks for reading and good luck!
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