Bass are the most popular gamefish in the United States by a wide margin, yet for fly anglers, they are often overlooked. This is a missed opportunity, because smallmouth bass can present some of the best exciting fly fishing of the year, and in the heat of August and early September, there's no better time to grab your poppers and hit your nearest pond or river. Below, we break down 6 reasons why every fly angler should try smallmouth.
1. They fight like Hell.
Smallmouth bass fight like few freshwater fish out there. A big smallie will pull, cartwheel through the air twice, and wrap you around a log before you even have time to set your drag. Their vicious head shakes and aerial acrobats make for some of the most exciting fishing to be had. While they're not going to take you on any long, blistering runs like a carp or steelhead, they will put your fish fighting skills to the test.
2. You can catch them almost anywhere.
From Maine to California, and even as far south as Georgia and Texas, smallmouth bass can be found in most of America's waterways. They can thrive in anything from shallow, weedy ponds to clear fast flowing rivers, making them one of the most accessible fish to find and catch.
Smallmouth bass are some of the most accessible fish to target on the fly.
3. Topwater, topwater, topwater.
Few things in fishing can match the excitement of a vicious surface strike. The gurgle of the popper as it splashes across the surface, the silent anticipation as you wait - straining for the slightest hint of movement below, and then WHAM, the explosion of sound and water as your fly disappears amidst the chaos... sound like fun? You better believe it. Like their larger relative, largemouth, smallmouth bass love topwater. Frogs, bugs, hoppers, just about anything that floats, splashes, or gurgles will elicit epic topwater strikes from smallies. My favorites are chartreuse sliders and a good old fashioned cork or deer hair popper.
4. They're not tippet shy.
Smallmouth bass don't care about your 12ft long, tripled-tapered 6X trout leader, they just want to eat. For smallies, anything from 7-9ft in length is more than enough to keep your line at a safe distance, and don't worry about stealth, a 1-3X is going to work just fine. Plus, a stronger leader will allow you to pull the bass out of the weeds and away from structure without worrying about snapping off. That can mean all the difference when you've got a wily smallmouth on the other end.
Smallies prefer to live in areas with cover and structure, making a strong tippet necessary for quick landings.
5. When it's too warm to catch trout, fish for smallmouth.
Late summer is often a slower time for trout anglers. As waters warm and levels drop in trout streams around the country, most anglers prefer to give trout a break from the heat. That's perfect for smallies, as the late summer weather can present some of the best smallmouth fishing of the year.
6. They fight like Hell.
Did we mention they fight? Often, a 3lb river smallmouth will put up a better fight than a largemouth nearly twice its weight. It's no wonder why many anglers claim that if they had only one day left to fish, they'd chase smallies on the fly. Grab your poppers, head to your nearest water, and hold on tight.
Planning on fishing for smallmouth? Check out the Cheeky Tyro 350 Fly Reel. At $139 and only 5.9oz, the 5/6wt Tyro 350 is the ultimate fly reel for smallmouth bass.