Big Flies for Trophy Bass
Large-profile flies made of materials such as deer hair or rabbit fur can drive big bass into a frenzy.
By Gibbs Milliken
Ambush predators like black bass are attracted to artificial flies that have big profiles and enticing actions. These lures, made of bulky materials such as deer hair, rabbit fur and marabou, can drive large bass crazy. Synthetics also offer fly fishers a wealth of new colors, textures and flashing holographic strips that are strong attractants.
Fly tiers are coming up with some interesting innovations and fishing them in different presentations. One effective method is to use a fast sinking line and work the flies over structures in deeper waters of lakes and rivers. Many bass anglers are concentrating on the shorelines and backwaters, so there is less pressure on the deeper dwelling bass suspended in open waters.
Professional guide Rob Woodruff of Quitman specializes in this type of fishing and gets some strange looks as he heads for the middle of Lake Fork equipped only with fly rods. He finds one of his best patterns is the IC Fly that is tied on a 3/0 weed-guarded hook using a thick body of ice chenille skirted in purple and chartreuse resembling a tubeworm. (Woodruff Guide Service, 903-967-2665, www.flyfishingfork .com)
Another ardent fisherman and large-fly advocate, Derrick Rothermel in Kamloops, Canada, builds big-profile designs using marabou and strips of holographic flash material to catch huge northern pike. These have recently been modified into his new series of Bassabou Flies that are very effective on Texas bass and can be weighted with soft tungsten putty to reach deeper levels. When slowly stripped and paused, the wet marabou produces a subtle pulsing and flowing action not found in soft plastics or hard lures. ($4.95 each, Derrick Rothermel Flies, 250-376-1921, www.members.shaw.ca/mrpike)
In Central Texas, fly-fishing guide Keith Barnes often uses a Big-Eyed Baitfish that closely imitates a shad to take both striped bass and black bass on our Highland Lakes. Another of his favorite patterns is the Dahlberg Diver developed by the well-known adventure fisherman Larry Dahlberg of Minnesota. This fly has a tightly packed deer-hair head with a collar ruff that causes it to dive and dodge like an injured or escaping prey. ($5.50, Big-Eyed Baitfish, $3.95, Dahlberg Diver, Sportsman’s Finest, 512-263-1888, www.sportsmansfinest.com) (Keith Barnes, 325-247-8087, firstname.lastname@example.org)
A supple 6-inch bleeding lizard pattern like the Red-Headed Black Bunny produces lots of strikes with its fluid swimming action. It has a thick black rabbit-fur body, long zonker tail, red collar and bright holographic eyes. This fly is a personal favorite when fished at night, dawn or dusk near structure or worked slowly along thick mats of weeds. Most flies of this type are equipped with weed guards so they will not snag or pick up debris on every cast. ($4.95, Derrick Rothermel Flies, Kamloops, B.C., Canada)
For even greater movement in open waters, add a Wiggle Fin Action Disc in front of any bass fly to push water and create a natural side-to-side motion. Foraging fish readily detect this pulse and instinctively strike at the disturbance. ($3.50 per dozen, Series 1 comes in clear or various colors, WiggleFin, Inc., 208-388-8539, www.wigglefin.com)
Unique among large floating flies is the Tsunami or Snake Fly, an attractor pattern by Rainy Riding, Logan, Utah, that imitates the profile and motions of a juvenile snake struggling to escape over the water’s surface. If seen out of the corner of any lunker’s eye, this fly will most certainly get hammered! ($4.95, Sportsman’s Finest)
When fishing unfamiliar waters, it is usually best to book a guided trip with a fly fishing specialist who can greatly increase your chances for a trophy bass. You may not remember all the fish caught on conventional tackle, but a real trophy-size bass taken with a fly rod will live in your memory for a lifetime.