Typical freshwater bass aren't the hardest pulling or biggest fish around, but a big part of what makes them so much fun is the variety they offer the angler. Whether we are talking largemouth, smallmouth, or spotted bass, they constantly adjust to different conditions, often show distinct preferences for certain types of forage, can be found anywhere from open water to thick cover, and will hold at wildly different depths—even on the same day. These and other variables make bass a really intriguing fish to both find and catch. Bass fishing can often be just like trying to put together a puzzle which is also why the fish are so perfect for tournament fishing. Like many other species, one single rod won't be perfect for all types of bass fishing in all places, but some rods will offer more versatility no matter where you target these fish.
The best bass rod for you could very well be a 5 weight that's already on the rack at home, or it might require going out and buying a new 9 weight with an aggressive fly line. It all just depends on things like the body of water, fish size, line type, and cover you'll spend the most time fishing. With that in mind, rather than just write a bunch of paragraphs with information and advice smooshed together, I think it's easier to break down several common bass-friendly line weights and talk about what they are best for. Of course, if you plan on fishing from a boat or visiting vastly different waters, buying more than one might be the ultimate way to go!
5 Weight- Most anglers likely own a 5 weight already since it's pretty much the most popular rod weight on planet earth. While often viewed as the ideal rod for trout fishing, it can be a great choice for bass. This rod size works really well for places with little to no cover or if the fish are mostly on the smaller side. Smaller rivers, ponds, residential lakes, and more barren reservoirs like the ones found out west come to mind here. In fact, I use a 5 weight the most on my local lakes when chasing peacock and largemouth bass since I don't have to deal with many weeds and the streamers I throw are small. However, a fast-action 5 weight with the right line can do surprisingly well throwing a fair-sized streamer and I've pulled some good fish away from thick junk using one, but it would never be my first pick for more demanding scenarios like these.
6 Weight- I consider a 6 weight to be another excellent rod for fishing in open water or around lighter cover. Offering a little more power than the 5 weight, this rod size allows the angler to cast flies like weighted clousers and small poppers a bit easier and cut through wind more effectively. Manufacturers also tend to build many 6 weights with small fighting butts which makes them ideal for fighting larger bass. Although a 6 weight wouldn't be the first rod I'd reach for if there's a chance of hooking a hefty bass around thick shoreline cover, it's a blast to use on big fish out away from any major potential hazards.
7 Weight- Now we've come to a personal favorite bass rod of mine because it is so versatile. The 7 is more capable of handling bigger bass around modest cover, yet still remains really enjoyable when battling those 12 to 14 inchers that can often be so plentiful. A rod of this size can also handle many of the bulkier deer hair bass bugs and works equally well for dredging deep with a weighted fly and sinking line if needed. If your bass fishing takes you from smallmouth rivers to lakes where bigger largemouth roam, the 7 could be THE rod.
8 Weight- In the world of conventional bass fishing, a medium-heavy casting rod is ridiculously versatile. I think of the 8 weight as the equivalent of this when it comes to fly fishing for bass. Although my personal preference is typically for a 7 weight over an 8, there's no denying that the 8 weight is incredibly popular with bass anglers and is likely one of the most recommended rods when chasing these species. A good 8 weight will handle most typical bass flies, can be fished around many types of cover (including some thicker stuff), does well in the wind, and handles larger bass well but keeps smaller fish fairly fun. Whether casting weighted woolly buggers, fishing a bulky frog pattern around moss beds, or dredging a shad pattern on a fast-sinking line out in open water, I can't argue with the versatility of an 8 weight.
9 Weight- For me, this is where the heavy-duty rods begin. The 9 weight is an ideal weapon for casting long baitfish streamers, beefy bass bugs, patterns that are heavily-weighted, or fishing in very windy conditions. Of course, it's also right at home when fishing in and around thick cover. Need to cast a topwater frog right into the lily pads? The 9 has some solid power to put the heat on a big fish. Catching smaller bass on a 9 isn't the most exciting thing, but hook into a good fish in thick cover and you'll appreciate the extra power and control this rod size provides.
Although "what is the best fly rod weight for bass?" might be on an angler's mind, perhaps the better question is "what is the right bass fly rod for me?" As you can see, a lot of variables come into play. It's hard to argue the all-around versatility of a 7 or 8 weight, but your fishing may be more efficient and enjoyable with something lighter or heavier. Regardless of what rod or rods you go with, fly fishing for bass offers a lot of excitement and should never be overlooked!
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