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How a Wooly Bugger Became a Surprise Smallmouth Bass Magnet

Posted by 
July 10, 2014
Published in News & Tips > Fishing > Bass
2965   Comment

SmallmouthLoveWoolyBugger blogEarlier this season, I was fishing for brook trout in a river I know and love. We were doing well too, catching decent fish while nymphing. Then a thought occurred to me.

"Why not try a big wooly bugger to entice larger brookies?" It had worked wonderfully well in the past.

So I tied on a bead head wooly bugger in olive and gave it a go. Not one full swing of the fly later, I was into a good fish. But instead of being a brookie, it turned out to be a smallmouth bass — a good one of about 3 pounds, in fact. The next three casts brought the same results: three really nice bass out of the fast water.

The problem was they were out of season, so I clipped the fly and went back to nymphing and catching brook trout. Of course, when opening day of bass season finally arrived, my 5-weight was loaded with the same fly those bass had fallen too. And the results were predictable. I caught a slew of fish, including one I estimated to be 4 pounds, which broke me off within a paddle's length of the boat.

Simply put, wooly buggers, especially bead head ones in olive, black and white, work well on smallmouth bass. My theory is that they mistake the olive ones for leeches, crayfish or damselfly nymphs; the black ones for leeches or stone flies; and the white ones for minnows. Whether that is true or not, only the fish know.

But what is certain is that the wooly bugger in a size 4 to 8 is a near-perfect smallmouth fly. It's easy to cast, effective, simple to tie and lively in the water. Moreover, you can't fish it wrong. I've caught bass on slow retrieves on sinking and floating line, by jigging them and trolling too.

This is something that proves itself to me season after season. And it's not for just small bass. Over the years, I've seen several that have exceeded 5 pounds fall to the lowly wooly bugger.

I truly believe they should have a prominent place in every fly angler's smallmouth box. The fish just love them.


Tagged under Read 2965 times Last modified on September 19, 2017
Steve Galea

Steve Galea makes his living as an assistant editor for Ontario Out of Doors magazine, where he is best known for My Outdoors, his back page humor column that has run continuously since 1996. He also writes columns for five weekly newspapers across Ontario and has contributed to several books on the outdoors. When not writing, Steve spends time fly fishing and tying. He also enjoys using bow, rifle or shotgun, depending on the hunting season. His English springer spaniel Callie is an eager grouse and woodcock dog and he values time afield with her.

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