During the doldrums of summer, bass can be found within a few hours of nearly every household in America. So if you are ready for a change from trout, try your hand at some bass. You will not regret it.
Bass fishing is a fun alternative to trout fishing with steady action and explosive takes.
Typically early morning and evening produce the best action, but you can catch bass all day long. Unlike the spring when fishing is hot before the sun hits the water, summer bass like a little sun to wake them up and get going. Especially if you plan to fish poppers or other surface flies. You should show up a little early to get set up and launch the boat. It is always best to be early and fish into the peak times then to hit them on the tail end or miss them all together.
Don’t worry about getting all new gear (yet), your current trout fishing set up with a 4-6 weight rods and floating lines are a great rig to start bass fishing. Just about the only thing you might need is some bass-specific flies. Although you probably have a number of flies in your box already that will work just fine. For example, beetles, mayflies and wooly buggers, are all applicable bass flies and will get you in the game. As you spend a little time on the water and follow some of our tips below you will be a pro in no time.
Some of our favorite and most effective basic summer bass flies
Finding good structure and presenting/animating your fly properly (depending on the type) is the real key to success. Using some sort of watercraft (float tube, drift boat, canoe, etc.) is also optimal, but not necessary. We are usually focusing our time on the littoral zones (close to shore), this is where we find most of the structure that bass like to hold in. Bass are ambush predators and love to sit and wait for their prey. Overhanging trees/bushes, sunken logs, docks, tall grass, weed lines, etc. are things to be on the lookout for and focus your time on.
Lakes and reservoirs are often intimidating for unfamiliar anglers because unlike a stream they are difficult to read. Bass like to ambush their prey and these type of structure allow a bass do so with the protection from predators while being hidden from their prey. Here are four different features to look for:
Surface Structure: When you get to your warmwater fisheries look for overhanging trees, bushes and for docks out in the water. Fish your flies as close to these as possible, don’t be afraid to pitch your flies underneath them as well, there will probably be a bass there just waiting for something to come along.
Sunken Structure: Locating the structure under the water might take a little time to locate. Depending on the water levels you might see root wads, downed timber, submerged trees/bushes sticking out of the water. If the water is high, getting an elevated view from a nearby hill or from the inside of a boat will help you locate these features.
See all the dead logs in the background. These offer plenty of hiding spots for bass.
Weed beds/lines: Focus you time on the littoral zones. This is the area of a lake where sunlight penetrates to the bottom and stimulates the growth of aquatic vegetation. Look for grasses, lily pads, and other macrophytes. Bass will often hide in these weed beds. Just because you don’t see a bass in them doesn’t mean that he can’t see your fly. Many bass flies are tied with weed guards to keep you from snagging into the weeds and grasses. You can either fish the edges of the weeds or fish surface pattern right over the tops of them.
Continuing Terrain: By observing the surrounding terrain to the water you are fishing will give you an understanding of what is happening underneath its surface. When you turn your back to the water is the terrain a steep or shallow slope? Remember that slope will continue down into the water. This will help you identify the drop-offs, flats and gradual slopes. As well as possible type of vegetation that bass and other panfish can hide in.
In our area, most of the fisheries that hold bass are used for irrigation. In other areas the water simply comes from winter rains. Either way, as summer progresses, the water levels will be drawn down and the places that the bass are one day might be a few feet out of the water the next time you go. Continue to look for these different habitats features to find where the bass have relocated.
The techniques for bass fishing give you the freedom as an angler to whatever feels right to you. Unlike fishing a dry fly or a nymph rig through a run where dead drifts are crucial, fly movement is encouraged for bass fishing. Bass will eat a large variety of different flies. They will often feed on leeches, minnows and damsel and dragon nymph patterns subsurface. The best way to fish these types of flies is through repeated casts and retrieves in “fishy” water as explained previously. Occasionally change your fly, its depth and the speed at which you retrieve your fly. Fine tuning these variables will get you where the fish are and figure out what they like. Catching bass on the surface is a real hoot and you will get a lot of satisfaction in seeing the action. Good surface patterns are poppers (imitating frogs, wounded minnows, etc), damsel/dragon flies, beetles and mayflies. Fish these types of flies as close to structure (surface or sunken) as you can get it. Splashy fly presentations and action attract bass. However, letthe water rings dissipate away from the fly before you animate your bug again. While fishing poppers these pauses may only be a few seconds between strips, with a small dry fly (beetle, damsel/dragon or mayfly) a thirty second pause is needed. These pauses work to your advantage, allowing the fish to get a change to approach your fly and give it a quick inspection before inhaling it. Similar to the subsurface techniques, if something isn’t working don’t be afraid to change things up, try a different fly pattern, different animations (pops or twitches) or change the time between animations. In any case, 75% of strikes will happen within the first few strips and/or during a pause. A little animation of the bug will encourage a take by a fish that is inspecting your offering.
Bass fishing has so many advantages. For the individual angler, bass fishing gives you one more option to get out somewhere new and increases your skill level in so many ways. Your casting distance and accuracy will improve, you will learn to manage your line better in “open air” conditions, and you will learn the dynamics of bass fishing. For the dealer/shop owner, bass fishing will give you the opportunity to sell more flies, maybe a new line, and possibly a new rod and reel setup. It will also give your customers a new experience.
Don’t be afraid to bring along some company. Bass fishing can easily be a family/social affair. Your friends, spouse, kids or someone new to fly fishing might not want to bushwhack up the river with you, but plenty of them will be interested in the calm stillwaters summer bass fishing has to offer. Incidental fish like bluegill, crappie, and perch can easily be caught alongside bass and your company will love it.
We hope these tips will help you get started. Give bass fishing a try this summer. Look into where a local pond, reservoir or lake has some bass in it and go for it. Contact your local fly shop or your State’s Natural Resource office to locate your nearest warmwater fishery.