Bait Busting Bronzebacks

Smallmouth bass, or “bronzebacks” as they are affectionately known by some of us, are a favourite target for a lot of Ontario summer fly fishers. There are many good reasons why they are so popular. Being a warm water species, they are readily available and always eager to eat a well tied fly throughout the “dog days” of summer; both in moving and still water environments.

Because their food sources are so diversified, smallmouth bass can be taken by fly fishers using top water or sub surface tactics with flies that represent anything from a noisy surface frog imitation to a bottom dwelling crayfish pattern. Any successful presentation style is always exciting when you hook up with one of these hard fighting, tenacious aerial acrobats.

What follows is a particular smallmouth feeding pattern that I have observed over the years in the northern Ontario shield lakes that I often fly fish during the summer months. A special presentation technique called a “quick cast” is almost mandatory when this type of bronzeback behaviour is encountered, but to me, a successful hookup under these conditions is the ultimate still water smallmouth thrill.

Quick Cast Video:

(Note: for a very good video and description of this cast go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQtjJ8LjNk0)

This is what happens:

Sight fishing for smallmouth bass on the fly
The bass go into what could only be described as a feeding frenzy. As the above photo shows, the water erupts as several groups of large fish chase and herd pods of surface feeding minnows. This is strictly a sight fishing opportunity and it can occur anywhere within your casting range in a 360 degree area of your boat. These fish will appear and be gone within a few seconds; but, if you can place your fly in, or very near the swirling water they create, you will often be rewarded with a solid, hard hookup and a fine smallmouth specimen.

Each time I have witnessed this event; the time of day, weather, water conditions and nearby structure have all been contributing factors to it. The activity begins at first light and continues for about two hours into the morning. Calm winds and a smooth water surface create ideal sight fishing conditions, but the fish will still be active (although less noticeable) even in choppy water. These fish will congregate over open water that can be up to 90 feet deep in these northern shield lakes, but there is always some form of home structure within a reasonable distance. If you find, or know of an area that holds good numbers of smallmouth during off peak feeding hours, then there is a good chance that these same fish will be out in the nearby open water actively chasing down the local bait fish population during the early morning hours.

Equipment choice:
My favourite rod for this style of fly fishing is the G.Loomis shorestalker series. These rods are designed for short to medium distance casts, in the 40 to 70 foot range that deliver the fly very accurately with a minimum of false casts. A good quality weight forward floating line like the Scientific Anglers Mastery series streamer express, with it’s clear intermediate sink tip provides the stealthy presentation that is sometimes required in these very clear northern shield lakes. Add a fluorocarbon leader/tippet and a streamer pattern resembling the local bait fish population and you are in for some “bait busting bronze back ” action.

Article by: Doug Swift (http://www.swiftflycastinginstruction.com)

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2 thoughts on “Bait Busting Bronzebacks

  1. Watch for individual smallies doing the same thing around dawn in certain shallow rocky areas of rivers. You’ll see swirls, showers of minnows erupting, all sorts of ruckus when a fiesty 16″ smallie puts the feedbag on in under a foot of water, quite a show. Easy to hookup if you don’t spook him.

  2. Watch for individual smallies doing the same thing around dawn in certain shallow rocky areas of rivers. You’ll see swirls, showers of minnows erupting, all sorts of ruckus when a fiesty 16″ smallie puts the feedbag on in under a foot of water, quite a show. Easy to hookup if you don’t spook him.

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