Our Top 11 Bass Flies: The Best Fly Fishing Lures for Bass

by | Published on: Dec 5, 2022 | Bass Lures | 0 comments

Fly fishing for bass can provide some of the best moments by the water. If you’ve never experienced it, you owe it to yourself to give it a try if you love bass fishing.

Many anglers are unaware that fly fishing for bass is a time-honored tradition, and the approach is becoming increasingly popular. In the right circumstances, a fly can be more productive than a traditional bass bait or lure.

If you’re looking to get started with fly fishing or just want some fly ideas, we’ve compiled a list of the top 11 bass flies you need to know about. These flies work great for smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth bass and are best used with a 6-8 weight fly rod setup.

The Best Beginner-Friendly Bass Flies

On average, fly fishing lures for bass are larger than other fly types (e.g., trout). This can make them challenging to cast.

These two flies are straightforward to cast and perform well in the water due to their small ‘finesse’ size, making them perfect for beginners. They can also be used to target other fish species you may encounter while bass fishing, such as crappie and sunfish.

Fly 1 – Woolly Bugger

  • Available Sizes: Size 2-12 (12 recommended)
  • Advantages: Easy to use, imitates a variety of forage species
  • Disadvantages: May catch other fish species (not just bass), snag prone
  • Ideal Conditions: Calm winds, best used in rocky areas
  • Ease of Casting: Very easy
  • Price Range: $19.99 – $23.99 (12 pack)
  • Other Notable Features: The copper cone head allows the fly to sink

The Woolly Bugger is one of the oldest wet flies ever designed. Originally intended as a trout fly, the Woolly Bugger can be used for just about any species.

With various colors and tying styles available, the Woolly Bugger can imitate just about any forage species, such as crayfish, larval insects, hellgrammites, leeches, and baitfish.

As a wet fly, the Woolly Bugger is designed to sink and be fished just below the water’s surface. Cast the Woolly Bugger into areas you believe bass are holding in and either:

  1. Pause to let it sink, then start steadily stripping line
  2. Immediately and continuously strip line to allow the fly to swim

Fly 2 – Micro Popper

  • Available Sizes: Size 10 and 12
  • Advantages: A small, finesse option
  • Disadvantages: May only catch small fish
  • Ideal Conditions: Calm winds, best used near shore structure
  • Ease of Casting: Very easy
  • Price Range: $14.98 (16 pack)
  • Other Notable Features: Durable coated cork base

Micro Poppers are another excellent beginner bass fly. Their small, durable design is easy to cast and will last for many sessions.

Cast the Micro Popper into fishy areas and allow it to sit for a few moments. Then, make short and quick strips to give the fly some action. Panfish also love Micro Poppers, which may be the only disadvantage to this fly.

The Best Surface Poppers & Bugs for Bass

Surface poppers and bugs are intended to be used on the water’s surface. In conventional terms, this is often referred to as “topwater”. Surface poppers and bugs can produce some of the most exciting catches when targeting bass on the fly.

Popper flies are constructed with a concave head that “pops” in the water. This generates a distinctive sound and creates a noticeable wake on the water’s surface, all to entice a strike. Popper flies can be highly productive and are very popular in the bass fly fishing world because of the aggressive strikes they produce.

Surface bugs (also known as dry flies) are another type of highly productive bass fly that sit on top of the water.

Take a look at our favorite topwater lures for more conventional topwater lure recommendations.

Fly 3 – Peeper Popper

  • Available Size: Size 6
  • Advantages: Closely imitates frogs, won’t waterlog
  • Disadvantages: Niche use, not entirely weedless
  • Ideal Conditions: Mild winds, best used near aquatic vegetation such as lily pads
  • Ease of Casting: Moderate
  • Price Range: $5.25 per fly
  • Other Notable Features: Rubber legs give additional action

The Orvis Peeper Popper is a unique take on the classic bass popper. Intended to mimic a frog swimming on the surface, the Peeper Popper adds rubber legs and additional tail material, to make the fly appear more lifelike.

The Peeper Popper works well around lily pads and close to the shoreline. Cast the popper, allow it to sit for a moment, and make short and quick line strips. Trust me; you’ll know when you have a bite.

  • Available Size: Size 2
  • Advantages: Lifelike
  • Disadvantages: May waterlog and lose buoyancy
  • Ideal Conditions: Mild winds, best used near aquatic vegetation
  • Ease of Casting: Moderate
  • Price Range: $5.15 per fly
  • Other Notable Features: Rubber legs give additional action

A deer hair frog popper is another fine addition to your bass fly box. Before the use of foam and cork, deer hair was exclusively used to tie frog poppers. Even today, this classic fly should have a spot in every fly fisherman’s arsenal.

Deer hair is naturally buoyant, but after being used for a while, it may become waterlogged and lose some buoyancy. Use a flotant gel to combat this common problem.

Use a deer hair popper as you would any other popper – with short, quick line strips. Keep the line tight, and your rod tip bent to get a strong hookset.

Fly 5 – Hopper

  • Available Size: Size 10
  • Advantages: Matches the hatch when appropriate, finesse option
  • Disadvantages: Not as effective in still water
  • Ideal Conditions: Mild winds, best used in streams and rivers
  • Ease of Casting: Easy
  • Price Range: $14.99 (6 pack)
  • Other Notable Features: Foam body to prevent waterlogging

Hopper flies are popular dry flies designed to imitate grasshoppers. They are especially useful when grasshoppers emerge across the US in late summer.

Commonly used by trout fly fishermen, hopper flies are just as helpful for targeting bass, especially on rivers that hold smallmouth bass.

Cast your hopper upstream into an eddy, current seam, or behind rocks, and allow it to float downstream naturally. If you’re lucky, a big smallmouth will emerge and inhale the fly.

Make sure to lift your rod tip as high as possible to set the hook when you see a bass take a hopper fly.

The Best Slider Flies for Bass

Slider flies are a common fly pattern that “slide” just under the water’s surface and then come back up. Slider flies can imitate any number of forage species, such as frogs, mice, or injured baitfish.

These flies are large and may require extra practice to cast them well. I recommend using a stiffer rod, such as a 6, 7, or 8 weight fly rod when using slider flies.

To effectively fish a slider fly, cast into likely areas and make slow and long line strips. Make sure to pause between strips; this allows the fly to slide under the surface.

Fly 6 – Electric Slider

  • Available Sizes: Size 2 or 1/0 (hook)
  • Advantages: Lifelike appearance and action
  • Disadvantages: Only available in black, expensive
  • Ideal Conditions: Mild to moderate winds, best used near downed trees or open water
  • Ease of Casting: Difficult
  • Price Range: $8.99 per fly
  • Other Notable Features: Black is particularly useful in conditions with low light or limited visibility

The Electric Slider is a truly unique fly fishing lure for bass, and a great option for imitating frogs and injured baitfish.

Due to its large size, the Electric Slider can be cast in windy conditions, where it may not be possible to cast smaller flies reliably. In addition, the black color performs very well in muddy water or low-light settings.

Make long, slow, steady retrieves with this fly, and cast it near cover and rocky areas. After fishing for a while, the deer hair may become waterlogged, so make a few false casts to wick off any excess water.

When presented correctly, the Electric Slider will lead to aggressive strikes. This can make hooksets tricky, so pay close attention to your fly.

Fly 7 – Sneaky Pete

  • Available Sizes: Size 4 or 8
  • Advantages: Ease of use, durable construction
  • Disadvantages: Not weedless
  • Ideal Conditions: Calm to mild winds, best used near aquatic vegetation
  • Ease of Casting: Moderate
  • Price Range: $5.75 per fly
  • Other Notable Features: Durable coated cork head

The Sneaky Pete is another twist on the classic bass popper. Instead of the concave shape facing forward, the streamlined end of the cone is positioned at the front. This allows the fly to slide under the water’s surface, hence being classed as a slider fly.

Use the Sneaky Pete much like a popper fly, but with a longer and slower retrieve. The subtle wake created by this fly can be a good alternative when bass seem disinterested in the more aggressive popper flies.

  • Available Sizes: Size 2-4
  • Advantages: Lifelike action, attracts big fish
  • Disadvantages: Bulky, cumbersome
  • Ideal Conditions: Calm to moderate winds, best used near underwater structures such as rocks and brush piles
  • Ease of Casting: Moderate
  • Price Range: $8.95 per fly
  • Other Notable Features: Reflective material on the mid-section of the fly

The cleverly named Drunk and Disorderly was originally designed to mimic the erratic action of Rapala jerkbaits for big brown trout. This fly is another excellent choice that excels when targeting big bass.

Although the Drunk and Disorderly can be hard to cast because of its size, mini versions are available to make fishing it less cumbersome. The action and lifelike appearance from the flash and hackle make it hard for hungry bass to resist.

Fish the Drunk and Disorderly near any structure, using slow but random line strips. A random cadence gives the fly extra and more erratic action, better mimicking an injured baitfish.

The Best Diving Flies for Bass

As the name implies, diver flies sit on or just below the water’s surface and dive down as you strip the line.

Diver flies are great for imitating baitfish and frogs while also being able to fish a little lower down in the water column. Divers are a great alternative when the bass don’t seem to want to hit topwater flies.

Fly 9 – Dahlberg Diver

  • Available Size: Size 4
  • Advantages: Easy to use, versatile
  • Disadvantages: Bulky, hard to cast when waterlogged
  • Ideal Conditions: Calm to moderate winds, best used in open water or near shoreline structures
  • Ease of Casting: Difficult
  • Price Range: $13.50 (3 pack)
  • Other Notable Features: Multiple colors available

The Dahlberg Diver was the first diving fly to achieve mainstream success, making it one of the all-time most iconic fly fishing lures for bass. Constructed of deer hair and feather hackle, the Dahlberg Diver can be tied in various colors to mimic different forage species.

Although they’re large and can be challenging to cast, the process is simple once they’re in the water. To fish a Dahlberg Diver, make long line strips, pausing every 2-3 strips. This works as the fly will dive down during the long strips, while the pauses give it time to return to the surface or remain suspended in the water. Both the dive and the return to the surface are great opportunities for bass to bite.

  • Available Sizes: Size 4, 6, or 8
  • Advantages: Durable synthetic materials
  • Disadvantages: Expensive
  • Ideal Conditions: Calm to moderate winds, best used near aquatic vegetation or open water
  • Ease of Casting: Moderate
  • Price Range: $38.88 (6 pack)
  • Other Notable Features: Lightweight due to tying materials

Rainy’s Joom Diver takes inspiration from the classic Dahlberg Diver but uses modern materials to boost overall performance. With the addition of soft hackle and rubber legs, Rainy’s Joom Diver has a realistic action that might just hook into the bass of your dreams.

The most notable feature of this fly is the foam head which replaces deer hair. Foam is much lighter than deer hair, especially when wet. Also, foam is much more durable and very easy to work with if you prefer tying your own flies.

Fish this in the same way you would any diving fly, making sure to pause between line strips to tempt bass into taking a whack at it.

  • Available Size: 1/0 (hook)
  • Advantages: Enticing look and action
  • Disadvantages: Cumbersome
  • Ideal Conditions: Calm to moderate winds, best used near aquatic vegetation or open water
  • Ease of Casting: Difficult
  • Price Range: $5.15 per fly
  • Other Notable Features: Inclusion of rabbit hair for an enticing look

The rabbit tail diver (also known as a bunny diver) has the same collared head as other diving flies, with the notable inclusion of a soft rabbit hair tail.

Rabbit hair is a popular fly material, as the delicate hairs appear as hundreds of enticing appendages when underwater. These tiny moving fibers trigger a predatory response within bass that drives them crazy.

The bunny diver can be used in areas with aquatic vegetation, open water, or near bank structures. It really just depends on whether you’re using a color that mimics a frog or a baitfish.

Remember that the bunny diver is not entirely weedless, so avoid thick or matted cover.