Gear Review

The Top 3 Largemouth Bass Fly Rods




So many review articles would have you believe that bass are bass are bass.  If you look under the hood, largemouth bass are not only a different species than smallmouth, but also different in many other respects.  They thrive in different waters, take different strategies to locate, and different tactics to catch.  Not to mention different gear and flies, especially to catch the lunkers.  Here’s which bass fly rod to use and how to catch the lunkers.

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Overview

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How Are Fly Rods For Largemouth Bass Different?

Fly fishing for big largemouth bass is substantially different than for trout, panfish, and even from smallmouth bass because largemouth bass:

  • Use an ambush strategy to hit voraciously, take frequent sharp-turning runs and can jump frequently, thrashing viciously,
  • Head for cover with explosive power, so the rod must be suited from keeping them out of snags and avoiding break-offs,
  • Flies are larger and wind-resistant, often made of bushy, even fluffy material that will drive them crazy enough to incite a strike, but can be really hard to cast,
  • Often require casting into snag-infested thick cover, including in and around stumps, branches, lillypads, and tangled underwater structure such as tree roots and logs.

As a result, rods for largemouth bass are designed to:

  • Carry a heavier line weight that you may be accustomed to from fishing for trout and other species, usually 7 – 8 or even 9-10 weight depending on the size of flies you are throwing, and size of the bass you expect to catch,
  • Load deeply into the butt- and mid-sections, to launch heavy poppers and streamers, and handle powerful fights,
  • Have a medium-fast action, which combined with a soft taper also helps cast heavy, wind-resistant flies,
  • Have a shorter length, for increased lifting power and greater casting accuracy in and around snag-infested cover (not unlike their spinning rod counterparts),
  • Help your bass flies turn over underneath overhanging brush and trees along the shoreline, aided by the shorter length.

Note that the setup for large largemouth bass is different than the best setup for smallmouth.  Largemouth are more frequently caught in large lakes near structure / cover or the shoreline.  They tolerate warm water better so are more often caught in shallower water.

On the other hand, smallmouth bass fishing more frequently entails getting out on large rivers, or deeper lakes with rocky drop offs.  Especially if you want to catch the lunkers.  This demands a longer rod with a lighter line weight.

Also, smallmouth bass flies such as the Clouser minnow can be large, but are usually not as bushy or bulky as largemouth flies, especially top water flies tend to be.  Smallmouth can certainly be caught on the surface, but top water is truly the domain of largemouth and you are substantially more likely to catch a lunker largemouth on a surface fly than a lunker smallmouth.

Why Get A Quality Bass Rod?

Are you targeting big largemouth bass, in and around knarly snagging cover?  For any situation with tighter cover and larger bass, you’ll want to seriously consider getting a dedicated fly rod made for largemouth.  Think of it as getting real snow-tires or off-road-vehicle tires, instead of all weather tires.  They’ll just perform better under the conditions.

Largemouth bass are all over the country, resident from California to Florida, Texas to Maine, throughout the mid-west, and in the lake systems in the eastern parts of the NW states.  Largemouth are a blast to catch, as they hit voraciously, run with power, and can jump like crazy.  Since the largest bass can be pretty darn choosy, catching a multi-pounder can be downright satisfying, knowing you have outsmarted them.

If you’re are a beginner to largemouth bass fishing, you may not want to start with a tournament-level shortest and stiffest fly rod just yet.  Longer rods are easier to cast, especially over a long day.  But your 9 – 10′ length trout rod with 5 weight line is not a great setup either, unless you are catching smaller bass along with panfish that don’t require much casting around knarly snags, and don’t require horsing a big fish away from a break-off.

You’ll see in our discussion of smallmouth bass fly rods that we suggest if you already have a good trout rod for big water and big fish, that can duo as a good smallmouth bass rod as well.  Not so for largemouth, for the reasons described above.

Our Top 3 Recommendations…And Why

If you’ve ever landed – or attempted to land – a multi-pound largemouth, you know what beasts they can be and how they fight differently from other fish.  So, we applied these criteria systematically to the rods we reviewed, to reach our recommendations to you.

Our Criteria For Top 3

To boil it all down, the best rods for largemouth bass must:

  • Handle big fish that have surge power, to horse them away from cover they will immediately try to break you off
  • Have a strong / stout butt section coupled with a fighting butt handle extension, just like for salmon
  • Be made of graphite or composite materials, not fiberglass which is too flexible for largemouth (not even fast action fiberglass, albeit suitable for smallmouth because they fight differently and aren’t as likely to immediately take you into a snag so the additional flexion is workable)
  • Have options for shorter than 9 feet rod length, to handle the larger flies well and also aids in handling larger bass
  • Also have other rod design and construction elements that make playing big largemouth bass easier, such as extra smooth guides

Top 3 Fly Rods For Largemouth Bass

Our choices might surprise you, including our recommended model specifications for largemouth:

  • Best entry-level rod for big bass and large water – Sage Payload Fly Rod 8 ft 9 in, 8wt, 4 pc (889-4)
  • Best value / mid-priced rod with top quality features – Orvis Recon 2 Fly Rod 8 wt, 9 ft 0 in 4 pc (890-4)
  • Best in class, tailored for largemouth flies & fighting large bass – Thomas and Thomas Exocett SS 250gr (~ 9 wt) 8ft 8in 4pc


Name Image Summary Check Price And Order
Sage Payload Best entry-level rod for big bass and large water
Orvis Recon 2 Best value / mid-priced rod with top quality features
Thomas & Thomas Exocett SS Best in class, tailored for largemouth flies & fighting large bass

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RELATED ARTICLE: Best Fly Rods For Smallmouth Bass

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Detailed Reviews of Best Fly Rods For Largemouth Bass

Each of our reviews is designed to provide all the information you will need, so you can be confident in your choice.  Many of these brands come with multiple line weights and lengths, so be sure to look at the details when ordering.

BEST ENTRY LEVEL ROD FOR BIG LARGEMOUTH AND BIG WATER

Sage Payload – 8′ 9″, 8 wt 3 pc (889-4)

In most cases, warm water bass and and saltwater fishing require big flies. Anglers are opting for bigger flies to catch the coveted big fish.  The New Payload series of rods are equipped to cast heavier lines to catch larger fish.

The payload is well-tuned for powerful actions and the supremely strong tip is designed to pick heavy lines of the water smoothly. The mid-section has a powerful yet forgiving butt that allows for a more relaxing casting action that does not allow tiredness to set in. this soft mid-section also allows for a stronger grip while fishing for the fighting species. Moreover, the slightly shorter height at 8’9” is more convenient for an effortless cast and landing a fish out of a boat. This is our choice for big bass and large water fishing.

Features

  • Model: 889-4: Line: 8+ (Grains: 270 – 320gr) – Minnows, clousers, whistlers, and poppers
  • Konnetic Technology
  • Tannin blank color
  • Super Plus full-wells cork handle
  • Cork composite fighting butt with extended 3” rear grip on the 10+ and 11+ sizes
  • Black ballistic rod tube with embroidered logo
  • Burgundy primary thread wraps with Bronze trim wraps
  • Tangle Free Fuji ceramic stripper guides
  • Oversized hard chromed snake guides and tip-top

Pros

  • Heavy-duty aluminum up-locking reel seat for rugged environments
  • Designed for casting large or wind-resistant flies
  • Increased pick-up of heavy line off the water
  • Robust for fighting powerful fish

Cons

  • Too big and heavy
  • Lacks feel and sensitivity

Best Value Price Point

Based on our reviews, we take great care to identify manufacturers and models that have packed in more features and quality for the price than any other brands & models.  When we given a piece of gear the “Best Value” designation, it means that fly rod will do the job well for you, and last a long time if taken well care of.

While rods in this category may not be the ultimate pinnacle of quality (which we reserved for “High End” gear), they come with a reasonable price for everything they pack in, that would normally be found in a more expensive fly rod.  And, they will work for experts and beginners alike, meaning they aren’t so specialized that anyone couldn’t just pick them up and use it successfully..

 

BEST VALUE MID-PRICED ROD WITH HIGH QUALITY FEATURES

Orvis Recon 2 – 8 wt, 9′, 4-pc rod

The Orvis Recon Rods are known for excellent performances. The new Recon rods are refined versions with low weight, better hoop strength, tracking, damping, and accuracy, all working towards better feel and performance. While casting, you will not heavy the rod as heavy or chunky to hold, the precise feel is the result of the Helios technology.

The rod does well at long distances but its expertise lies in medium distances and that is where all the actual fishing takes place. An excellent Largemouth rod for local waters and is designed to handle fish weight up to 4 pounds. Exhibiting fast action, the tip is softer than usual but with good reserve power. Owing to this feature, the 8-weight Recon extremely pleasant to cast at various distances.

Orvis offers this rod as a standalone and also as combo packages with additional savings. Each rod comes with a nylon-covered tube. The Recon 2 Fly 8 wt is a mid-pricing rod with top-notch features.

Features

  • Length- 9’0”
  • Fast action
  • Line Weight: 8
  • Blanks are matte olive with charcoal and spring green accent
  • Pieces: 4
  • Material: Graphite
  • Measured Weight: Approx 4.34 ounces
  • SiC (2) stripping Guides
  • Chrome snakes guides
  • Aluminum reel seat
  • Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/No

Pros

  • Great for mid-distances
  • Suited for heavy and large fish
  • Precise feel
  • 25-year guarantee

Cons

  • Some complaints about the tip
  • Less accurate on longer distances


BEST HIGH-END ROD TAILORED FOR LARGEMOUTH BASS

Thomas & Thomas Exocett SS 250 Grain (~9 wt) 8′ 8″ 4 pc

The Exocett SS rods are designed to overcome the challenges of casting sinking lines and ultra-compact floating lines. These versatile rods have a powerful tip to smoothly pull the sinking lines to the water surface. The steep multi-modulus blanks facilitate dampening the excess shock owing to the heavy lines or weighted flies. This generates greater distance and precision with fewer false casts. These rods have low swing weights that amplify the sensation of hooking the fighter species. The Strato-Therm resin construction provides the power to fish a huge fish from great depths in the water. The Flor-grade cork reinforced grips with high density rubberized composite adds greater friction.

The 8’8” length feels lighter and provides an ideal angle for quick retrieval in tight situations of streamer fishing.

Features:

  • 4-piece multi-modulus blank
  • Titanium frame stripping guides with ceramic inserts.
  • RECoil titanium alloy snake guides
  • Reel seat -Matte black milled aluminum up-locking saltwater
  • Includes aluminum rod tube with machined bar-stock aluminum collar and cap.

Pros

  • Excellent for bass, redfish, bonefish, lake and striped bass, and trout.
  • Immense fish-fighting power
  • Very accurate
  • Ultra-premium cork for high friction & better grip

Cons

  • Finding the fly line is a difficult task

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RELATED ARTICLE: The Best Fly Rods For Trout – By Value & Price Point

Our Runners-Up Recommendations

We reviewed over 20 different fly rods to get to our top picks.  In so doing, these were hard choices not to put in the Top 3, but if their dominant criteria are of high importance to you, then give these rods a thorough look at too:

  • Best on a budget – TFO Mangrove Fly Rod
  • Best value runner up – TFO BVK
  • Best versatility rod in this class (across lines / weights ) – G Loomis NRX+


Name Image Summary Check Price And Order
TFO Mangrove Best on a budget


TFO BVK Best value runner up
G. Loomis NRX+ Best versatility rod in this class (across lines / weights )

BEST ON A BUDGET

Templefork Outfitters (TFO) Mangrove

The TFO Mangrove series of fly rods are a gift to serious anglers by Flip Pallot, who used all his rod-making knowledge and expertise in constructing these Mangrove rods. Designed for chasing larger fish, the robust rod design and the fast-action blank accommodates heavy lines for throwing bigger flies. TFO’s proprietary TiCr blank coating helps increase the resilience and protects the rod from splintering when hit by heavy flies. The snake guides are lightweight that reduces the overall weight and you can fish using the Mangrove fly rod in both freshwater and saltwater with equal ease.

Pros

  • Ultra-strong rod design with durable guides
  • Affordable
  • Full-wells grip with fighting butt improves the fish-fighting ability

Cons

  • Anglers have to spend some time getting used to the rod before starting to fish
  • Rods require timely presentation

For the rod only:

Or for the rod plus full combo outfit:


BEST VALUE RUNNER-UP

Templefork Outfitters (TFO) BVK – 7 or 8 wt, 9′ pc rod

The TFO BVK Fly rod is designed for fast-action responsiveness and feel. The rod has immense power yet it feels light in the hand.  A deep olive-colored blank is trimmed with lighter green wraps. Considering the price, this fly rod is a steal deal delivering a powerful and versatile performance. Durability issues are what deters this rod from entering the top league of fly rods for big fish.

Pros

  • Fast-action feel
  • Able to throw easily and load fast, making for quick transitions.
  • For both freshwater and saltwater use

Cons

  • The fighting butt seems weak prone to breakage over time.
  • The proficient casting and technical abilities make it difficult for beginners
  • Not the most delicate look or presentation when compared to the competition.


BEST VERSATILITY OF RODS IN THIS CLASS (across lines / weights)

G. Loomis NRX+ 890-4

The G Loomis NRX+ Rods are an improvised version of the NRX rods series comprising of 8 rods from weight 4 to weight 8. Loomis rods are known for excellent workmanship and top-class durability. If you are fishing in conditions that require extra ‘oomph’, like technical fish or stormy weather, the G Loomis NRX+ shines through and through. The Dynamic Recovery Technology, Mega Modulus+ graphite are some of the advancements in the Fly rod that make it a great freshwater pick

Pros

  • Powerful, accurate, and versatile
  • Unmatched long distance performance
  • Performs well in difficult situations

Cons

  • Feedback and feel is lacking
  • Very specialized


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RELATED ARTICLE: Best Fly Rods For Salmon

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Great Flies For Largemouth Bass

These are some of our favorites, tried and tested flies for largemouth bass:

  • Bass Foam Hopper – a larger rendition of the classic foam hopper, specifically for bass
  • Bunny Bass Leach – looks like a leech, swims like a leech, must be a leech
  • Clouser Minnow – designed for smallmouth bass, this one also works well for subsurface largemouth fishing
  • Crayfish pattern – any pattern that emulates a soft shell crawfish, preferably hook up, work along the bottom
  • Dahlberg Diver Frog – dives, flirts with bass, then quickly resurfaces, repeat, and wham!
  • Deer Hair Bass Bug – hey what can we say, the fly fishing rendition of the classic cork popper
  • Gartside Gurgler – a top water skimmer, makes commotion, with different variations depending on location & conditions
  • Woolly Bugger – emulates a leech, crawfish, or big woolly caterpillar, in any case a great sized meal

Check out our article 7 Killer Bass Flies (You Can Tie Yourself) for more information on many of these flies.

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How To Catch Largemouth Bass On A Fly Rod

[this section is under construction]

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All The Rods We Reviewed…And Eliminated

The following is a comprehensive list of the rods we reviewed before making our recommendations to you:

  • Echo Bad Ass Glass
  • ECHO EPR
  • Fenwick Fenglass
  • G Loomis Asquith
  • G Loomis IMX PRO
  • G Loomis NRX+
  • Orvis Helios 3D
  • Orvis Helios 3F
  • Orvis Recon
  • Redington CRUX
  • Sage Bass II – Discontinued
  • Sage Igniter
  • Sage Payload
  • Scott Meridian
  • Scott Sector
  • Croix Rods Mojo Bass Fly Rod
  • TFO BVK
  • TFO Clouser
  • TFO Mangrove
  • Thomas & Thomas Exocett II

Of course, some rods just won’t do the job, and we can’t recommend the following (and why):

  • Echo Bad Ass Glass – good candidate for smallmouth bass fishing, too flexible for largemouth, especially the more hefty largemouth
  • Fenwick Fenglass – good candidate for smallmouth bass fishing, too flexible for largemouth, especially the more hefty largemouth
  • Sage Bass II – well that was an easy review, Sage no longer makes this rod, discontinued

Wrap-Up & FAQs

Can you catch bass on a fly rod?
What is a good line weight for bass fly fishing?
What type of rod should I use for bass fishing?
What flies should I use for bass?
What size flies for largemouth bass?
How do you catch bass on a fly rod?
What is the best all around fly rod weight?
Can you catch bass on a 5wt fly rod?

By Mark Velicer

An avid fly fisher for over 40 years, Mark has lived and fly fished WA, MI, CA, PA and NY along with countless trips to other places. He can’t get enough of the water; white water kayaking, rafting, drift boating, and hiking to alpine lakes.


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