Winter Fly Fishing for Largemouth Bass
Greg Weisgerber is an avid fly fisherman and fly tyer. Hailing from Oregon he is the owner and mind behind GW'S Fly Fishing Innovations which specializes in innovative fly patterns and products for fresh and saltwater.View all articles by Greg Weisgerber
I bet its safe to say that when most people think about fly fishing for Largemouth Bass warm temperatures and poppers come to mind. While there is no doubt that popper fishing for these brutes in the warmer months is exciting, these same fish can be caught in during the winter months using techniques you would not normally use during the warmer months.
Large Mouth Bass are highly adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures. Unlike many other Warm Water species like Small Mouth Bass which become dormant when water temperatures drop below 50° F, Bass will continue to stay active at these low temperatures. This is particularly true when the Bass live in waters with good populations of forage fish like Shad or Chub. As the water temperatures drop the Large Mouth Bass’ metabolism slows causing them to become less active and seek warmer water in the depths. In this sluggish state Large Mouth Bass will not move far for a meal which means that slow retrieves and smaller realistic food imitations like Minnows, Crawdads and Leeches rather than attractor patterns are the order of the day.
Although any deep water can hold Large Mouth Bass I like to target rocky dams and drop-offs because these locations have a lot of deep real-estate for Large Mouth Bass to hold. As for the presentation, I find that slow trolling is the best way for keeping a fly deep in the strike zone and at the correct speed. Large Stretches of deep water like those described above are most conducive for this type of fishing. If I am fishing deep holes or pockets that are too small to troll through, I cast over the hole and let the fly sink and then do a figure eight or finger tip retrieve which forces a slow presentation through the water. No matter where you choose to fish be prepared for subtle strikes. Sometimes you won’t even know you have a hit until you sense what feels like a snag……………....until it fights back. In the colder water the Bass do not fight as hard, but I have found that I catch larger fish because the big ones usually hold in deep water. Make sure your flies have weed guards constructed of hard monofilament as you will be bouncing the bottom constantly and need something to keep you from snagging. If you do get a snag, don’t pull quickly or sharply as this will cause the weed guard to collapse. Use slight constant pressure to pull the fly over or through the snag.
My go-to winter Large Mouth Bass rig consists of a 9 ft. 9wt. rod, 10 ft. type 6 sink-tip line with a GW’S Broadside Minnow and Cone Head Adapter rig on a 5 foot straight 15 lb. leader. The sink tip along with the cone head weight gets the fly down deep and fast. The sink-tip line with it’s floating body allows me to retrieve the line easier than a full sinking line. The Broadside Minnow is an accurate baitfish imitator discussed in another article on River and Reef. The Cone Head Adapter rig is an invention I created to allow you to attach a cone head weight to your un-weighted fly allowing (see picture). This set-up is perfect for deep trolling, the fly is highly visible and the marabou tail provides a lot of action at slow speeds. If I need to cast through pot-holes I can quickly retrieve the line and fly, cast and get the fly down and fishing quickly.
For the year-round fly fisher or those with cabin fever, winter fishing for Large Mouth Bass opens up a whole new world of opportunity and challenge. I hope you find this article helpful and hopefully motivating enough to get you out into the cold. If you have any questions on the techniques or gear in this article please contact me at GWS.Innovations@verizon.net.