Monday, February 26, 2024

Finesse for success for spawning bass

The bass spawn is on in some parts of the state. This is an opportunity to catch a trophy-sized fish, or even just a larger specimen, on your fly rod.

Back in the days when I fished conventional tournaments - and even some that I've fished more recently - the key to getting a spawning bass to eat was to present the lure in the most delicate way possible and keep it near the fish as long as possible.  These "finesse" tactics can be applied to fly fishing as well.

The key is small and near-weightless flies, and longer leaders 8 to 9 feet. I leave the 8-weight at home and bring a 6-weight outfit. That might seem a bit light for battling a big bass. But before you can battle the fish, you need to get it to eat. Spawning bass are exceptionally spooky!  Light tackle and finesse flies are the ticket.

Think about what the conventional angler might use in this situation. From my experience, nothing beats a wacky worm or a fluke. Comparable worm-like flies would be Terry Wilson's Bass Bully or Ted Cabali's Cabali Creature (shown on left).  

As for the fluke, nothing matches it better than the gold standard of freshwater fly fishing, the Woolybugger!

In tying woolybuggers for bass, I make them larger than those for trout, usually sizes 4 down to 8. My SR71 Woolybugger has proven to be a real killer, with the action of the schlapplen feather too much for Miss Bigmouth to handle.  But any type woolybugger will do, and in fact, the 5.36 pounder pictured above fell for an olive Fluff Butt. A Fluff Butt is nothing more than a woolybugger without the hackle, right?

Remember that these spawning bass are replenishing the waters you're fishing.  So handle them gently and release them to lay their eggs.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Make plans now for Red Stick Day

29th annual "Red Stick Day" fly fishing festival
Saturday, March 9, 2024

8:30 am to 3:30 pm
LDWF Waddill Outdoors Center,
4141 North Flannery, Baton Rouge, LA
FREE admission!

Hosted by the Red Stick Fly Fishers, Red Stick Day is the longest-running event of its kind in Louisiana. It routinely features regional as well as nationally recognized speakers and fly tiers.  The casting sessions are led by Fly Fishers International (FFI) Basic and Master level certified instructors.

While the programs, fly tying demos, and casting sessions appeal to both beginners and experts, many attendees enjoy the kayak demos, comradery, and fishing on premises. Lunch is also provided for a nominal cost.  There's also one of the largest raffles of any fly fishing event on the Gulf Coast, which raises money for the club's various educational and conservation projects.

For more info, including a schedule of activities, go to the Red Stick Fly Fishers website at and click on "Red Stick Day".

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

The 5 Waves of Sunfish

One of my favorite alien invasion movies is "The 5th Wave" starring Chloe Grace Moretz. In part because Ms Moretz is a great action film heroine. And in part because the story makes far more sense than most others. If an alien race wanted to invade Earth, given the small amount of resources they could bring through the vastness of space, a series of devastating non-confrontational attacks works far better than an all-out military assault.

Speaking of invasions, we have a series of panfish invasions to shallow water starting right now. For us humans, our weapons in this battle will be lightweight fly rods, loaded with various bug and minnow imitations.

The 1st Wave are small bream of various species looking for any feeding opportunity. They'll have a pale color to them. It's mostly a sign that the days are getting longer and water is getting warmer.  This is happening right now.

The 2nd Wave are large redears. The biggest redears in any water spawn early, usually in late February, and in water 3 to 5 feet deep. Cap Spiders, Hares Ears, Jitterbees, Fluff Butts - any fly that gets to the bottom where the fish hold tight - will work.

The 3rd Wave are crappie. Sacalait begin moving to the shallows as early as mid-February but the peak is sometime late February to mid-March.  Look for any structure close to shore, e.g, docks, cypress trees, sunken logs, etc. Although Fluff Butts are the primary weapon against their invasion, Woolybuggers, Cap Spiders, Wet Flies, various beadhead nymphs, will work. When fished under a strike indicator, it allows the angler to work the fly close to structure longer.

The 4th Wave are big bluegills. Like with redears, the largest bluegill spawn earlier than the rest. Timeline is usually early March to mid-April. The beds are usually shallower than with redears and this allows patterns like Slowing Sinking Spiders, Wet Flies, and even poppers to be added into the arsenal.

Then there's the 5th Wave. These are mid-size to large bream of various species that are actively feeding on bugs. This is a time when solid numbers can be caught, and with the water still cool, the fights are scrappy! Usually early April to mid-May. At this point, the "gobbules" will eat just about any bug, minnow, shrimp or worm imitation. But I prefer to fish popping bugs or Triangle Bugs because the eats can be explosive!

So get your tackle ready, your flies tied or purchased. The invasion of sunfish is about to begin, and unlike an alien invasion, it's a fight we can win.