3 Effective Smallmouth Bass Fly Lines
Bass Fly Lines – The most critical aspect of any fly fishing setup is the fly line. It’s no different when it comes to fly fishing for smallmouth bass. Smallmouth take a variety of flies in a range of presentations, so a varied line is essential.
Smallies prefer warmer water than most trout, so unless you’re targeting them solely during the cooler months of the year, a cold water line isn’t recommended. On the other hand, a full tropical line is designed for warmer regions than smallmouth bass and will not perform well in the spring and fall. For these reasons, a fly line rated for moderate temperatures is ideal.
Many trout flies are larger than smallmouth bass flies. Therefore, you’ll need a line with enough heft to deliver these larger flies to their intended target.
The lines listed below all check all of the criteria for being a fantastic smallmouth bass fly line.
Scientific Anglers Sink Tip Fly Line – Frequency Sink Tip
When targeting smallmouth bass, I almost always use a sink tip line. It works extremely well in moving water.
When wading for smallmouth in rivers, this line is effective. Streamers can swiftly go down into the strike zone with the sink tip. To go down in deeper slack water pockets with a high current, you’ll need more than a weighted fly on a floating line.
This fly line’s floating running line makes line management much easier than a full sink line. A full sink line would need the use of a stripping basket, as the line would otherwise become tangled around your feet and rocks when fishing. Sink tip lines avoid this problem because the surplus line floats on top of the water during the strip retrieve.
This series is available in various sizes, as seen below (credit to Scientific Anglers site). I prefer the 7-weight option, which I find to be great for both smallmouth and walleye.
For bass, a 6 to 8 weight would be ideal. It’s entirely up to you what weight you want to use. If the water has smallmouth and trout, I’d recommend a 6 or 7 weight, whereas if the water contains both smallmouth and largemouth bass, I’d recommend a 7 or 8 weight.
The fly line size recommendation is based on the size of the fly you’ll be throwing, not the size of the fish. However, if you’re targeting largemouth, use a line with a heavier taper to help turn over the larger flies.
|LINE WEIGHT||HEAD LENGTH||TOTAL LENGTH||GRAIN WEIGHT*|
|WF-5-F/S||45.0’ / 13,7m||85.0’ / 25,9m||140gr / 9,1g|
|WF-6-F/S||45.0’ / 13,7m||85.0’ / 25,9m||160gr / 10,4g|
|WF-7-F/S||45.0’ / 13,7m||85.0’ / 25,9m||185gr / 11,9g|
|WF-8-F/S||45.0’ / 13,7m||85.0’ / 25,9m||210gr / 13,6g|
A few suggestions on smallmouth bass flies to use with a sink tip line are:
- Woolly buggers
- Crayfish Patterns
Another excellent sink tip line for smallmouth bass is “RIO’s Big Nasty.” The only limitation is that it will not function, and the Scientific Anglers sink tip in hotter weather. However, in cooler rivers, it’s a good option for catching smallmouth.
Floating Lines – Rio Specialty Series Smallmouth Bass Floating Line
A floating fly line is the most versatile if you’re only getting one line. All of the normal topwater flies can be used, as well as heavier streamers for subsurface fishing. With a floating line, you can even nymph for bass successfully.
RIO created this custom line to cater exclusively to the needs of smallmouth bass fly fishers. It’s weighted to make casting deer hair, bass bugs, and weighted closures a breeze. It was also made to be fished in the heat of July, which is when topwater fishing for smallies is most productive.
This series is available in three sizes. Weights 6, 7, and 8 It varies on the size of the flies you’re throwing, but I find a seven-weight fly line to be a fair baseline for most smallmouth bass fishing.
If you’re going to be fishing lakes for largemouth bass, consider switching to an eight weight to handle the larger frog and popper patterns commonly utilized.
A 6 or 7 weight is usually a better choice if the water you’re fishing has a mix of trout and smallies.
RIO Fly Line Smallmouth Bass
A few suggestions on smallmouth bass flies to use with this line are:
- Hopper Patterns
- Dahlberg Divers
- Dragonfly Patterns
- Mouse Patterns
Full Sinking Line
When targeting smallmouth, full sinking lines are also effective. They’re especially efficient in catching fish that are holding deep in quiet water, such as lakes.
When wading, you can use a full sinking line, but you’ll need a stripping basket. Some people don’t mind, but it’s a little more difficult than fishing without it. A stripping basket is less of a liability while you’re stationary (such as fishing from a boat).
Unweighted (or even somewhat buoyant) flies are usually combined with a complete sink line. However, you can use unweighted flies with better action if you let the fly line do the work of sinking the fly. Large deer hair heads on flies are especially helpful because they keep the fly up and off the bottom, even if the sink tip is close to the bottom.
Because forage in a lake is typically larger than forage in a river, larger flies fit the hatch better in still water conditions where a complete sink line would be used.
I use a larger version (10WT) of the Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Hover/Sink 2 / Sink 4 Fly Line Wf7S (Amazon Link) for pike and musky fly fishing (or SONAR TITAN INT / SINK 3 / SINK 5 if you need it to go even deeper). When chasing bass, I’d recommend a 6-8 weight, similar to my previous advice.
I made fly recommendations for each of the lines above, but I didn’t go to great length about fly selection. If you’re looking for more smallmouth bass fly ideas, click here. For a more comprehensive list of the most productive smallmouth bass flies, visit this page.