On the fly: Try lightweight gear for bass management

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

A great introduction to a fishing method that goes beyond the familiar and an opportunity to manage populations of largemouth bass in lakes and ponds at the same time converge in the form of fly rods and floating line and techniques typically reserved for more delicate tasks.
Once a healthy baitfish-to-gamefish ratio has been established in a given environment, maintaining that balance requires a certain amount of regular harvest. The way to have more large bass in such a habitat is to keep removing a steady stream of smaller bass, a task that can be kept fresh and exciting through the use of fly fishing gear.
Attacking the task, which provides lots of action and good practice for the fine skills demanded by Western streams, does require a few modifications in the middle ground between spinner baits and dry flies.
Bearing that in mind, these are the tips experienced fly-fishing bass aficionados most readily pass along.
Not in real life
Trout flies typically need to closely resemble a critter the fish are used to eating, and ideally one they’re actually eating that day. Bass aren’t nearly as particular in that regard. In fact, sometimes unusual and oversized flies can provoke lots of strikes when nothing else is getting their attention. The catch is the larger the fly, the harder it is to cast, so be prepared to work your way closer to your target fishing zone. Long-time proven flies for bass include top water poppers, deer hair plugs and rabbit hair streamers.
On the surface
Any bass-oriented fly book needs to include a good number of sinking flies, but possibly the most fun is had when the bass are hitting your offerings at the surface. When that bite is on, there’s nothing like it for excitement.
Mix your speeds
Far more important than a fly’s appearance is the speed at which it’s fished, and figuring out what the bass want requires experimentation. The process of making a good cast can so fill the mindset during a practice session, it’s easy to feel like the job’s done once the fly is on the water, and that’s not necessarily so.
Any way will work
As long as you’re using the line to cast the fly and not the other way around, you’re perfecting skills that will serve you well in any environment. Roll casting to get under overhanging limbs or past any other kind of obstruction, as well as developing a side-arm maneuver will both produce fish in circumstances when nothing else will, whether the quarry is bass, trout or anything else that swims.
Take a tough line
Delicate tapered leaders designed for presenting trout flies can be fished for bass, but better results can be had in many cases with 10 or 12 pound monofilament that will allow for a much firmer hook set, better endure abrasions from structure and from the fish themselves and, not least, avoid using up expensive leaders on a purpose for which they’re not needed.
Use the right rod
You can fish for largemouth bass with any fly rod capable of putting line and fly into the water. That being said, if you have a choice or if you’re looking to buy a rod and learn the discipline by practicing on bass, a 5 weight rod is just about ideal. It’s strong enough to apply pressure to the fish without overdoing anything. It’ll also be the size you’ll most likely be using when you roam outside the Deep South and try out your newfound skills on other freshwater game.