Over the last few years I've spent the majority of my fishing time chasing whites, hybrids, and the occasional striper around the Midwest.
While the Clouser Minnow is the staple fly for most temperate bass, sometimes you've got to shake things up a bit. The Clouser would be the equivalent of a Hare’s Ear nymph in the trout world; you can almost always get fish to eat it, but it may not be the most productive at that given time. Consider it like Sex Panther Cologne: “60% of the time it works every time." With that being said, I would never go on a white/hybrid bass fishing trip without a box of Clousers.
Fly tyers before us had to work hard to get the most out of their feathers and hair, but with new fly tying materials readily available in today's market we have the ability to alter the action and profile of the fly relatively easily.
Here are some things to consider to shake it up and get a more diversified bass fly box.
Action and profile
Although the cotton-candy color of the fly stands out, this Ozark River monster striper most likely hit this Fish-Skull Baitfish Head Double Deceiver fly for its action in the water.
Action over color — it's nice to have a box full of multiple colors of flies, but I think action is more crucial than color. Most days if you have a white, black, and olive fly you can catch just about any fish, so I don’t get too hung up on color. You also have to consider that the majority of the temperate bass diet consists of shad, which are typically your grays and whites.
A good way to start breaking down fly action is by categorizing flies into 3 categories: floating, unweighted, and weighted (you can go a step further by then categorizing by traditional versus articulated).
Floating bass flies
Size 2 Muffin Top Minnow with a foam head and a 25 mm Fish-Skull Articulated Fish-Spine tail.
Some of my favorite flies are buoyant (foam headed) streamers thrown on a sink tip. These flies also give a larger profile then your traditional Clouser.
Another version of this style streamer is a modified version of Mike Schultz's Swingin' D, tied smaller to target temperate bass. This variation uses a small Surface Seducer Double Barrel popper and slider body (tied in reverse) to give the fly an erratic behavior on the strip when thrown on a sink tip. It’s difficult to replicate these actions with other flies lacking the foam heads.
Muffin Top Minnow fly tying tutorial.
Unweighted bass flies
Another good option of flies to have in your arsenal are some unweighted flies. I like flies that will hang in the water column, and the fact you can sink them on a sink tip if you need to get it down or fish them just under the surface with a floating line makes unweighted flies a highly versatile option for varied fishing situations. I catch a lot of busting fish on flies just under the surface.
CK Baitfish with a Fish-Skull Frantic Tail.
You can adjust the profile on the majority of these flies a bit more easily because they don’t have a foam head or lead eyes.
A few of my favorites are Murdich Minnows, CK Baitfish, and Game Changers, mostly because of the ability to adjust their profile and control the depths with a sink tip line.
Weighted bass flies
Fish-Skull Baitfish Heads, featured on this SF Minnow, are designed to add weight and profile to streamers.
To round out your fly box you've got to have some flies that get down in the water column quickly or be on the bottom. There are times, mostly in moving water, where a sink tip alone isn’t enough to get down to where the fish are hanging.
This is where thinner-profile more traditional flies like good ol' Clousers are hard to beat.
I’ve had really good luck with the SF Minnow, which is basically a variation of the Clouser Minnow. The only reasons I fish it more often than a traditional Clouser is:
- I can tie it faster
- Since it’s synthetic, I can trim it in the boat to match the size of the bait
Yes, you can trim a Clouser but it will impact its movement to some extent. The tips of the buck tail are what give the Clouser its movement. With the SF Minnow, the fibers aren't tapered so it doesn’t really matter where it’s trimmed.
SF Minnow fly tying tutorial.
Now, whip up some flies and go chase some bass!
To be clear, I'm not knocking the Clouser Minnow whatsoever — it's an awesome fly that puts fish in the net and is responsible for countless fish caught. It is still one of my favorite temperate bass flies today, but sometimes you need “more cowbell” and to shake things up.
Temperate bass are getting more and more popular to chase on the fly and, especially in the areas that get hit hard, there are times when you have to show them something different.
More Baitfish Head SF Minnows.
Don’t be afraid to mix things up and don’t put all your eggs in one basket; I’d never consider chasing any fish with just one fly.
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About Luke Langton:
Luke is an avid fly fisherman and fly tyer from Smithville, Missouri who chases most warm-water fish and the occasional trout. When has the chance, he enjoys getting his daughters out in the boat with him. He helps out around K&K Flyfishers teaching many of their fly tying classes and runs The Midwest Drift blog. You can follow Luke on Instagram @the_midwest_drift.