4 Fly Fishing Tips For Smallmouth Bass

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more.

Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome back to my site where we discuss all things fishing, camping and outdoors. Today we are going to take a step out onto the lake’s edge as I run through 4 fly fishing tips for Smallmouth Bass. These are an extremely popular sport fish with many spending their recreational time chasing them in rivers, streams and lakes all over North America – and in other parts of the world as well.

Although not as popular as other landing methods, fly fishing can be extremely effective, as well as a lot of fun when chasing Smallmouth Bass. So for those of you looking to get started, or are looking to covert from chasing other species, let’s check out my 4 tips below…

What are Smallmouth Bass?

Smallmouth Bass - jumping out of water

As above, Smallmouth Bass are an aggressive freshwater gamefish found predominately in Northern America. Whilst they are a little smaller than their Largemouth ‘cousins’, they are just as popular for fisherman due to their ultra hard fight for their size. They can be found in faster running and clearer water than the Largemouth however in lakes will often share spawning zones.

Fishers trying to catch Smallmouth can be successful with both lures and livebait and of course, with fly rigs as well.

1. Look for still water

One of the main issues with fly fishing for Smallmouth is that they generally like water that is a little faster moving. Whilst this is not an issue when fishing for Salmon or Trout on a fly, Smallmouth do not tend to chase faster moving insects on the water – of course this is not an exact science and many do have success here.

If you are looking to get amongst them with flies however, look for areas where the water is a little more still. We will discuss fishing around the structure below however when fly fishing in still water gives you the best chance of enticing a fish out with a well-placed, slow moving fly. And of course if you are in a lake, then this is taken care of for you already – haha.

fly fishing tips for smallmouth bass -men fishing for bass with fly rods

2. Know your water temperature

As you are probably aware, fly fishing is predominately about ‘landing’ a little man made ‘lure’ on top of the water for to mimic an aquatic insect. This means that you need to be using this method at times when the fish are around the top of the water – usually in shallows. So, for smallmouth Bass, it is important then that you know the basic temperature of the water you are fishing in as if it is too warm or too cold, they not be as active on flies as they move to deeper waters.

For that reason, most Bass fishers tend to change their fishing habits based on the seasons. For fly fishers this can affect then as follows:

  • Spring – Spring is for spawning and feeding. As the water temperature increases after winter, Bass will start to actively feed and guard territory in the shallows as they prepare for the spawn. Many consider this the best time for fly fishing for Smallmouth Bass as they are close to the surface and feeding incessantly.
  • Summer – The general rule of thumb for summer is that Smallmouth Bass tend to either go deeper to cooler water as the water warms. They will however come to shallower areas in early morning or late evening when the water is a little cooler which is when seasoned fly fishers will be in action.
  • Autumn – Autumn is considered another great period for Bass fly fishing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the water is cooling after the summer heat bringing the fish out of the depths and secondly, they are fattening up for winter.
  • Winter – As they are cold-blooded, Smallmouth Bass don’t feed as often and will do whatever they can to keep warm. The best time for fly fishing here is mid-afternoon as the sun has had the opportunity to warm the water a little. They will go deeper early when the top is cold (or icy) and come in shallower if the water is warmer there at this time.

3. Match the local insects

If you happen to have read any posts on this site where I list tips for fishing in any location, I will always say to make sure you match the bait or lures you choose to what is found naturally in the body of water that you are fishing in. This golden rule is the same then when choosing which fly to tie to the end of your line.

In general, Smallmouth Bass like to feed on such insects as dragonflies, damselflies, large caddis and burrowing mayflies. Some will even take crickets and caterpillars as well. All will work well however as it is with normal live bait, fish tend to be attracted to things they recognize so if you know what flies around your particular waterway, then matching your fly lures to them will definitely give you a better chance of success.

fly fishing tips for smallmouth bass - bass fly

4. Retrieve over the structure

As mentioned above, Smallmouth Bass live predominately in lakes and rivers where there is generally a lot of structure such as rocks, ledges (sudden drops on bottom), trees, bridges or jetties and so on. Due to this, they tend to feed in a predatory nature darting out from under their structure to take anything that happens to swim or float past that takes their fancy.

When fly fishing then, most experienced fishers will recommend casting the fly over the structure and retrieving slowing back over and away from it to allow the fish to come out and chase it – one of the reasons that sill water conditions work well. Other fly fishing methods such as dropping a large weight as a sign of a ‘panic’ will of course work however this slow retrieve around structure trends to work the best.

Oh, and if the structure is heavy, this method will reduce the chance of snags that lure and bait users suffer from as well.


So there you have it, my 4 fly fishing tips for Smallmouth Bass. As always, these are not going to guarantee you a catch, however they should give you a little more chance of success that you may not have otherwise had.

Have you tried anything else that has worked well, or not so well for you – or of course have a different opinion than above? If so, please comment below and we can have a chat.

As always

Have fun


4 Fly Fishing Tips For Smallmouth Bass - Pinterest

Beachandfishing.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Leave a Comment

Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.