Fly Fishing for Early Season Largemouth Bass

Photo courtesy of Brien Hansen @brienedwardh

Spring is an exciting time. Plants blossom, animals come out, and the fish that we all love decide to wake up. One of those species is the most popular gamefish in the United States. From as early as February and March in the south, and as late as April to early June in the North, Largemouth Bass come up in the shallows of many ponds and lakes to spawn. The behavior of early season Largemouth offers exciting opportunities for fly anglers, such as incredible sight fishing, aggressive fish, and large fish in shallow water. With all these factors in mind, hitting the early summer bass right can lead to some intriguing rewards.

Largemouth Bass
@nateholmes_wild

Where to find them:

It is common knowledge that Largemouth Bass live in most ponds and lakes around the US (except for Alaska). Every body of water is different, but there are some key features that almost all ponds have. These key features for Largemouth Bass are depth and structure. When spawning, Bass move up into shallower water and make beds. The beds are dug out circles, anywhere from dinner plate-sized to the size of a car window. Most of the time, the Bass makes their beds in two to seven-foot water, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find. Also, since the Bass are mostly stationary, and in such shallow water, they make easy prey for birds of prey, foxes, and even otters. If there are any fallen trees, over handing bushes or docks, a spawning Bass won’t hesitate to make their bed in the cover. The beds are typically sandy, and there are often Bass right on top of them, so the color contrast makes them easy to spot. 

Fly fishing for Largemouth Bass
Photo courtesy of Seth Blackamore (@seth.blackamore)

Gear and Tactics:

Before they spawn Largemouth are extra aggressive because they want to protect their nests, whether filled with eggs, which are fertilized and rested in the substrate of the bed or just to defend their territory. Eggs of all kinds make amazing snacks, so many other species of fish, crustaceans, and even amphibians will try to steal some from the Bass. Any fly that sinks and mimics something a Bass would normally eat will trigger a strike. Some of my favorites are Bennet’s Lunch Money and Whitlock’s Near Nuff Sculpin. Depending on the size and weight of the flies that you will use, I would recommend a 5 to 8 weight fly rod, with a weight forward floating line. When fishing for a bedded Bass, cast a little bit behind the bed and make slow, short strips that bounce your fly off the bottom, or make the same cast and strip your fly a medium pace right in front of the Bass’ mouth.

Bass fly and reel
@nateholmes_wild

Ethics:

Although this is one of the best times to catch big Bass on a fly, these fish could be reproducing while you’re fishing them, so they need to be treated with respect. You have to realize that in order for there to be more Bass in that lake, they have to be successful in reproducing.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t fish during the Bass spawn, I’m just saying that when you encounter them you need to treat your fish with the utmost respect. Always practice catch and release, use barbless hooks, and keep the fish in the water while unhooking and releasing it. Also, if you catch a Bass by a bed, stay near that bed, and release the fish nearby so it can get back to protecting the future lunkers of your local lake.

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