Gearing Up For Smallmouth
The controversy continues as to the "best" gear to use when
fishing for river smallmouth bass. Following are my
Smallmouth bass are historically tough fighters. They run, jump
and in moving water can be tough to land. It is very important to
land the fish in a reasonable time frame so that the lactic acid
buildup is minimal and the fish can be released in good shape.
Also many of the flies we use are somewhat larger and more air
resistant than flies used for trout fishing. These facts in
combination with casting distance, factor into the size and
stiffness of the rod to be used. I prefer wadding while fishing for
smallmouth. If fishing from a watercraft perhaps a different rod
could be used. The butt section should be stiff or stout while the
tip needs to be soft so that a gentle bite can be felt. I use a 9 ft.,
8 weight rod that can handle big fish (4lb.) in swift water and
longer (60 ft) cast using size 6 poppers. I also wade deep.
Sometimes to mid chest. The longer and heaver rod allows me to
cast, while in this abnormal casting posture, with ease. I also use
a 9ft. 6 wt. at times but the 8 wt. does the job much better.
I prefer weight forward floating (WF-F) in most all situations
except when the water temperature is less than 55 degrees at
which times I use a weight forward medium rate sink tip line
(WF-F/S). Buy the best line that you can afford. The high- end
quality lines cast much better and have an overall better
In my opinion the rod and line are the most important gear. The
reel needs to have some basic characteristics. A good disc- drag
is essential. When you get that 4 lb. smallmouth hooked in swift
water you had best get her on the reel and let the drag do the
work. Trying to "line hand" in this situation will greatly increase
the probability of loosing the fish. Also it goes without saying
that the reel should be matched with the line and rod weight. EX:
a 7/8 reel for an 8 wt. rod and line.
Very Simple here: 9 ft. 2X. I like my line/leader connection to be
straight and streamlined. A nail knot with a dab of Pliobond glue
makes for a perfect connection. The glue is not for strength but
rather to create a smooth and tangle free knot.
After using a foot of the leader, attach a couple foot of tippet. 2X
in stained or milky water and 3x in clear water conditions. I find
that fluorcarbon makes a difference in clear water conditions.

Whatever your gear, visit a river this spring and give
smallmouth a try on the fly rod. It has put some spark in my life
and I'm sure it will do the same for you. "Tight Lines"
Photograph by: Carl D. DeFazio