Bass are aggressive and predictable, making them a perfect target for fly fishing. Casting a small lure with heavy line and a long fishing rod, sometimes fly anglers have just the trick to convince wary bass to eat. And nothing is more fun than watching a gaping mouth open to engulf a little fly. Want to feel that thrill for yourself? When it comes to fly fishing for bass, the best lure to choose is a matter of some delicacy.

Best Bass Fishing Baits and Lures: Fly Fishing

Kayak Angler contributor Lisa Ballard is our go-to expert on fly fishing for bass. As a full-time outdoor communicator, Ballard has chased bass with fly from one end of the country to the other and recorded her efforts on film, tape and paper. “I get almost as much joy from the art of casting a fly rod as landing a fish using one,” she says.

Fly anglers have just the trick for finnicky smallmouth bass. | Photos: Lisa Ballard
Fly anglers have just the trick for finnicky smallmouth bass. | Photo: Lisa Ballard

When is Fly Fishing Best for Bass?

Bass feed most actively early in the morning and at sunset. Stable weather helps, too, especially if the sky is overcast. Then, look for structure. Bass love to hang out around rocks, sunken logs, docks and stumps. They also prowl the edge of weed beds or hide in the weeds. These conditions call for an accurate cast and soft approach, perfect for fly fishing.

How Do You Choose the Best Fly?

Before visiting a river or lake, I learn the local menu of bugs and bait fish. While I’m fishing, I observe the bugs on the surface and try to match them with my fly. And sometimes I just pick the wildest-looking, purple, hot pink and gold flash fly in my box. It’s a girl thing. But then again, the biggest bass are female. Funny, crazy flies often work when nothing else does.

How Do You Work the Fly?

Bass are warm water fish. Unlike trout, bass slow down when water temperatures are cold, and they’re a lot perkier when water is warmer. I adjust the action of my fly accordingly. Also, I set the hook to the side rather than lifting the rod tip. The trick is to keep the line tight without muscling the fish. If the line goes slack during the fight, the fish will fly into the air and shake the hook.

Fly Fishing Story

My husband, Jack, and I were fishing on Forked Lake in the Adirondacks. As we paddled by a lone rock in the middle of the lake, he asked me to take his photo fishing from the rock. I thought that was silly as no angler would ever get on a rock in the middle of a lake. I tied his boat to mine, paddled a short distance away and got out my camera. On his first cast, he hooked a five-pound bass! I nearly tipped over.

Photo: Lisa Ballard
Anglers have no shortage of bass flies to choose from. | Photo: Lisa Ballard

Fly Fishing Tackle Box

Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor fly reel
Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor fly reel

Rod: 9’ Orvis Helios 3D 5 weight or 6 weight. A lighter rod is more agile to delicately place a fly into a tight spot.

Reel: Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor 5 weight or 6 weight

Line: I carry two reels: one with floating line and the other with sinking line. If the bass are deep, I add steel shot 12 inches above the fly.

Leader: 2X tippet

a big bass caught on a fly fishing lure
When it comes to fly fishing bass lures, you’d best remember that elephants eat peanuts. | Feature photo: Lisa Ballard

This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 46. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.


When it comes to fly fishing bass lures, you’d best remember that elephants eat peanuts. | Feature photo: Lisa Ballard



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here