We’re getting into bass season in western South Dakota, and it will continue to be another great option for fly fishing through the fall. Largemouth Bass may be some of the most prevalent fish in the western half of South Dakota, so it makes sense to take advantage of them and create another option for yourself when the trout streams are too high & muddy, or if you just feel like doing something a little different and changing up the pace. Depending on the time of day, water temps, and weather conditions when you’re out you’ll find the fish anywhere from eating on the surface in open water to buried beneath heavy weeds and parked on the bottom – so versatility is needed to be successful in varying conditions!
Topwater bass fishing is what most folks think of when they think of bass fishing with a fly rod – casting a floating cork or deer hair popper to a likely looking edge, and giving it a chug a couple times a minute until a fish blows up on it. It’s fun, and it works like it should often. Early morning and late evening seem to be the best for this style of fishing, and patience is a good thing when you’re fishing this way. It seems like the longer you let the fly sit between chugs, the more fish will check it out. It doesn’t seem like the color particularly matters, but good patterns include Freaky Frogs, Gutless Frogs, and probably the most popular poppers ever, Boogle Bugs. The weedless frog patterns are great for fishing over heavy weeds midday as well – cast them right on top of the thick weeds, and give them enough action that the fish can hear/see them through the weed cover. It’s surprising how you can get a fish to blow up through heavy weeds, and how effectively they can pinpoint the fly and eat it through them. Poppers and topwater flies are some of the most exciting flies to fish for bass, and can be incredibly effective at times!
When the fish aren’t on the top, they’re typically pretty darn close to the bottom and you’ll have to be right there with them. We have had really good success crawling heavy flies right on the bottom – Grim Reapers have been one of our most productive patterns, but Jawbreakers are good bets as well. We’ve also had good luck with Rich’s Ultimate Worm also – it’s essentially a Texas Rigged fly, and has no weight incorporated into the fly itself. To help it get to the bottom, simply slide a brass conehead onto your tippet before tying the fly on. You can put a small bead between the fly and the conehead as well if you want to protect the knot a bit more. It’s pretty much the fly fisherman’s Texas Rig, and it works really well. The fly is light enough that it floats up a bit when you let it go slightly slack, and the bass really dig it. The Grim Reaper is an awesome fly as well, and like fishing poppers, the slower you fish it the better it seems to work. We fish all of these flies on a floating line in the summer. Cast to a likely looking spot/drop off/weededge, and let the fly sink all the way to the bottom. Not half way to the bottom, not a foot off the bottom, make sure and let it sink all the way to the bottom. Once you’re sure it’s down there, start retrieving it slowly in long, even strips. Make sure and let it sink to the bottom between strips also. Typically your bites will just be the end of your line starting to move one direction or the other – when bass pick up a fly, they’ll usually move with it quite a ways. The bites are typically pretty obvious – when you see the end of your line move, strip until you feel the fish then strip hard to make sure you’ve got them hooked. Their mouths are pretty thick, and the hooks are heavy so it takes some force!
Equipment for fly fishing for bass can vary wildly depending on the size of the fish and flies, but we’ve settled on 9′ 8 weight as the best all-around size for fishing for bass locally. You can land the fish on lighter tackle, but it’s easier to cast bigger, bulkier flies with the larger line mass and the stouter rod makes it easier to put the muscle on larger fish. We’ve come up with a kit that’s perfect for largemouth fly fishing locally – The Echo Ion XL Bass Outfit. This is a cost friendly setup that will get you out there with a lifetime warranty and a rod that’s a ton of fun to fish. We’ve had great luck with the Ion series of rods for both bass and pike fishing, as well as heavy duty trout use as well. For the price, this setup is hard to beat! As far as leaders and tippet go, we’ve had good luck with RIO Bass Leaders and Bass Tippet. There’s really no need to go any lighter than 10lb, and we use a lot of 12-16 pound. Bass aren’t particularly tippet shy, and it’s nice to be able to haul them out of some cover or weeds if you need to!
Bass fishing has been great, and will continue to be solid throughout the rest of the summer! Give something a little different a try this summer – bass fishing is tons of fun, and there’s a lot of options around the area, both in the Black Hills and on the prairie. Swing by the shop if you have any questions or want us to show you some places to go!