Thanks to their availability around the state and big fish mentality, largemouth bass are arguably the most heavily targeted of all gill-bearing aquatic specimen. And since most lunker-hunters toss the same enticements with slight variations, bass have practically seen it all. While their relatively small stature typically averaging a few pounds somewhat limits their overall fighting abilities, it’s the largemouth bass’ finicky nature and difficulty in deceiving that keeps anglers coming back for more.
If you are content throwing traditional enticements than continue to do so. Maybe one day we’ll see you on the FLW leaderboard. However, if flashy spinnerbaits and wacky worms no longer tickle your fancy then you should try popping a bass bug. With an extremely stealthy presentation that bass see far and few between, you’ll be amazed by the reactions afforded by these realistic enticements. Toss in the fact that bass most often feed near the water’s surface, and you have the perfect opportunity to get connected on the long stick.
Since largemouth bass are aggressive in nature and highly territorial, it makes perfect sense why a splashing popper would make for an ideal offering.
Since largemouth bass are aggressive in nature and highly territorial, it makes perfect sense why a splashing popper would make for an ideal offering. Available in cork, foam and balsa with flat or concave heads designed to push water, these imitations are grouped into a category of floating flies commonly referred to as bass bugs. Some of the more effective variations include rubber legs, and feather or deer hair for increased attraction. These additions are highly beneficial and continue to twitch and vibrate after being popped. While color is always a hot topic, bass will readily attack anything that triggers their natural instincts. With that being said, white, chartreuse, yellow and black are popular colors, with many bass bugs incorporating varying color combinations.
When it comes to tackle selection, a 6 weight outfit will make for incredible sport. With this combo you will have no problem subduing largemouth in the 3 to 5 pound range. If you’re fishing really heavy cover or encounter bucketmouths eclipsing 8 pounds, you want an 8 weight to give yourself a fighting chance. No matter your selection weight-forward floating line will keep your popper in the strike zone. Leader systems needn’t be intricate, with a 7’6″ tapered leader of 8 or 12 lb. test sufficient.
The most exciting thing about fly-fishing for bass is that your success or demise ultimately relies on your ability to convincingly manipulate your popper. When tossing an attractive imitation you won’t have the ability to probe large swaths of water by fan casting like you would with traditional tackle. Instead, you’ll need to make every cast count. Look for opportune ambush points like submerged logs, hydrilla, cat tails, lily pads, or shady spots under docks. Think like a fish and anticipate where bass might by holding. If you know bass are hanging in an area you may need to make successive casts to tease lazy fish to strike. While fly-fishing for bass is great fun, it’s also a great way to practice your casting skills. Every time you make a cast select an imaginary target. Whether it’s a ripple on the water or shadow under a branch, see how close you can get.
While an accurate cast is essential, an effective retrieve is more important and where the fun begins. Once your popper has landed on the surface, give it a few seconds before your first strip. This serves two purposes as bass often erupt on poppers that are sitting still, but by letting the water around your popper settle you’ll be able to create a more prominent splash. To get the most action out of your popper you’ll want to make successive pops with short pauses. Don’t get stuck in a rut with a distinct pattern, rather mix it up with a varied retrieve of gurgles, splashes and sharp pops. With practice you should be able to make a variety of noises, from soft and subtle to loud and obnoxious.
Under calm conditions you’ll be able to effectively work even the smallest popper, but with a slight chop on the surface you’ll need to throw a slightly larger imitation. With more surface area resulting in a larger disturbance you’ll be able to entice distant bass.
If you’ve never tried fly-fishing for bass you are in for a real treat. Sure you may get some funny looks from anglers tossing traditional lures, but bass are aware of these antiquated approaches and aren’t as wary to stealthy fly tackle. For fly-fishing rookies, largemouth bass make the perfect game fish to hone your casting skills and your ability to stalk and anticipate. In addition, you’ll likely catch a variety of species, with Florida waters offering excellent action with bluegill, crappie, bream, tilapia, cichlid and peacock bass.