There are some situations on the water where bass may act more like a trout, selectively feeding on a hatch of dry flies or keying into a specific hatch of insects. Other times trout may act more like bass, gobbling up anything resembling food that drifts or swims by.

Different bodies of water and different fish all have their own characteristics. It's hard to make a generalization about fly fishing for a specific species that's always going to be the sure-fire way to go about catching them. The best way to approach a new body of water and species is to be as observant as possible and try to take in as much as possible about what's going on. If the water seems dead or lifeless, tie on a streamer and actively search for a player.

Bass habits vs. trout habits

Characteristically, bass are ambush predators much more so than trout. They will find a good holding spot, behind a boulder, under lily pads, or tucked into woody debris, and typically lay in wait for smaller baitfish, insects, or even frogs to swim by. They will then surprise their prey and attack with high-energy burst of speed to stun and kill their prey.

  • Trout will typically hold in quicker current than bass, using their torpedo like shape to gently fin and hold themselves in the current. As they hold in the current they will wait for insects to drift into their feeding lane and rise in the current to eat them.
  • During the spawn, bass will protect their nests much like trout do. By guarding their redds, they will protect their eggs by fighting off other fish that will try to feed on their progeny.
  • At different times of the year, especially when alevin emerge from the redd, both bass and trout will feed on the "hatch" in many cases, eating their young.
  • Bass and trout both will key into any overabundance of food sources at specific times of year.

How do I go about fishing for bass if I'm already set up for trout fishing?

A stout 6WT fly rod is a good weapon of choice for chasing both smallmouth and largemouth bass. Generally, floating fly lines are used when trout fishing. If you decide to give bass fishing a try, you may want an extra spool for your reel line up with a full sinking or sink-tip line. Since streamer fishing for bass is typically the easiest and most productive way to locate and catch bass, a sink tip line will really come in handy.

  • Bass flies are usually a bit larger and tougher to cast compared with tiny insect trout flies. Use a stout tapered leader to help deliver the more wind resistant flies with greater ease.
  • If you've been using a 3X or 4X tapered leader for your trout fishing, switch over to a 0X or 1X leader for bass. The thicker leader will help deliver power to your casts and to turn over the bigger flies.

Fly selection

A trout fisherman's fly box is largely filled with insect replications; tiny midges, mayflies, and caddis in both nymph and dry fly forms. A bass fisherman's fly box will mostly be filled with streamers, both realistic representations and gaudy, flashy impressionistic style patterns.

  • If you're going to try out bass fly fishing, stock your box with small (size 10-6) clouser minnows, sculpin patterns, and other baitfish style streamers. Bass also love to eat things like dragonflies and damsel flies around lily pads in ponds, so make sure to have a few dry and nymph versions of those insects.
  • Last, but surely not least, poppers. Popper fishing for bass is an explosive version of its counterpart in trout fishing. Watching bass explode on frog style poppers in the dying sunlight of a pond is one of the great pleasures of bass fly fishing. Fish a popper the same way as a streamer, stripping it back towards you. Make sure to let the popper rest on the surface of the water a bit longer than you would expect. Waitfor the rings around the popper to disperse a bit before they strip again; a lot of times the bass takes the popper when it's at rest, not while its moving.

Quick tips on bass fishing

  • Fish any form of structure, HARD. Bass love to sit tight into woody debris or any other form of protection.
  • The more stout the fly rod, the better. Bass flies are typically bigger and more wind resistant. Stronger rods and leaders will help turn those flies over with ease.
  • Surface fishing for bass is typically a first-light and last-light game. If bass fishing mid-day, stick with streamers fished tight to lily pads or the shore.
  • Don't forget nymphs. Bass most certainly love to eat dragonfly nymphs and other pond-dwelling insects. Fish them deep and slow with a full sinking line and a slow retrieve.
  • Remember to strip set when streamer fishing. Resist raising the rod like you would with a dry fly on a trout. Instead, when you feel a take, continue the stripping motion with your hand and bury the hook in the bass's mouth.