Choosing a Fly Rod for Smallmouth Bass

Dave Shorkey's FliesBy: David Shorkey

Choosing A Fly Rod

Choosing a fly rod for Smallmouth Bass is an easy task if you follow the guidelines in this article. Most of this I have found out over the years through trial and error, because when I started fly fishing, there was no internet. Hopefully, this little guide will save you some of the time, money, and heartache that I had to go through.

When choosing a fly rod, you need to pick out a rod, reel, and line that work together in “harmony”. This means having a well balanced outfit that functions in a way that makes you feel comfortable when casting with it. That’s right I said “you”! It does not matter what brand fly rod, reel, and line that you choose as long as you like it. You can read all of the reviews that you like, then go to the store, and cast the rod that was suggested in the reviews. You may like it, or you may think to yourself, “man this is a terrible rod.” Advertisements and reviews are all based on personal opinion. What one person likes, is not what everyone likes. With that being said, I will get into some guidelines that you do need to stick to when purchasing a fly rod for Smallmouth Bass.


When choosing a smallmouth bass fly rod you should choose a rod in the 7 or 8 wt range. You can use up to a 10, but that is a bit overkill. Choose a rod in the 7’11” to 9ft category. Most fly fisherman choose a 9ft, but if you plan on using the fly rod in a conventional bass tournament, a 7’11” rod is made to conform to their rules and regulations. Who knows…. it may help you when jigs and crank baits are just not working. Smallmouth require a stout medium fast action rod that can put up with aggressive top water fly takes, aerial acrobatics, and, most importantly, chucking a heavy streamer all day(which believe it or not can take a lot out of you). I use a 9ft 7wt TFO (Temple Fork Outfitters) BVK. If you go any smaller in rod weight, sure it will be fun, but the fish may get so tired from the fight that they will never recover. This is one of the leading causes of a warm water species dying while fly fishing for them.


When choosing a reel, pick one with a smooth drag that compliments and balances out well with the rod that you choose. It should hold your fly line and a couple hundred feet of backing with ease. Smallmouth do not make long knuckle busting runs so there is no need for hundreds of yards of backing. You may also want to purchase an extra spool if you plan on being able to switch between fly lines quick and easily.

Fly Line

Choose a floating bass taper fly line that matches the weight of your fly rod. Some fisherman go a size up on the fly line (ex: WF8F line on a 7wt rod), but once again this is all about preference. If you have purchased an extra spool, I suggest getting a medium sink tip line for when the bass are a bit deeper. These two lines will be able to cover any smallmouth bass fly fishing situation, from throwing top water poppers to heavy sinking streamers, and everything in between.

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