Smallmouth Bass Fly Patterns

Woman fly fishingIf you are reading this article, it is likely that you have caught the fever of catching smallmouth bass on the fly and need to know more about what, where, when and how!

Well that’s a whole book of information but I hope I can shed a little light on the smallmouth bass fly patterns that you should be considering in your next outing.

Smallmouth Bass Fly Patterns

When you approach a body of water, it’s important to look and what you are fishing and what the smallmouth bass are feeding on. Let’s first take a look at some of the basic fly choices.

Top Water for Smallmouth

Fishing with surface flies for smallies can be one of the most exciting times in a fly angler’s life because of the visual impact of the bass taking your offering.  Many anglers go to poppers as their only fly but greatly limits the amount of bass that you catch. It’s never wrong to start with a popper but if you aren’t catching or the fish are small, there are other choices. Almost any fly can be fished on the surface by varying the retrieve.

119846828Surface flies can be used to match the hatch when aquatic insects such as mayflies and caddis or terrestrials such as hoppers and ants are on the water. They can also be used to match minnows swimming close to the surface because they are crippled or perhaps feeding on the surface on emerging bugs. But surface flies can also be used when nothing is going on. Few things in nature that move across the surface of the water can’t be eaten by bass. Source

Subsurface Flies For Smallmouth

Subsurface flies encompass any fly that is fished below the water surface. Wooly buggers in black or brown bounced along the bottom can imitate a crayfish and larger streamers can be used to entice larger bass.

Minnows such as chubs, smelt, ciscoes, shiners, dace, suckers, sunfish, perch, and shad are smallmouth favorites best imitated with Clouser Minnows, Sheep Minnows, Marabou Muddlers, bucktails, Woolly Buggers, Lefty’s Deceivers, and Matukas. Use patterns with the same color and the same size as the minnows in the waters you’re fishing. In my experience, especially with selective, older, and wiser bass, matching the color, shape, size, and action of the real minnow is important when fishing in clear water and bright daylight. On the other hand, when water visibility is restricted, a streamer with high-contrast colors such as black, white, chartreuse, yellow, and fluorescent orange works better than natural minnow patterns.  Source


With any fly that you choose, the key to success is varying the pattern and speed of your retrieve until you find what the bass want. You are in control and its very important to pay attention when you get a strike, exactly what you were doing.  Were you spacing out and just letting the popper sit on the surface? Were you stripping line and pausing or was it a more aggressive retrieve?  For a great article on fishing streamers, check out this article here.

If you enjoyed this article, please click LIKE to share with your friends and be sure to comment below on how you choose your smallmouth fly fishing approach!

If you want the best book on smallmouth bass fly angling, this book is a must have.  It will give you everything you need to know to catch more bass and the pictures are amazing.

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