Blue Blockheads for Smallmouth
In the previous post, I discussed trying our Carolina Blue Blockhead Poppers. I’m not sure why, but this early season the river smallmouth have been going nuts over these blue foam popper flies.
I thought you guys and gals should know about this.
Here’s the scenario. In the last 1 1/2 weeks, I’ve hit three different tributaries to the Mississippi River in Central MN. All the rivers are slightly different. Some are super rocky with a mild current, one is mainly shallow, clear and sandy, and the third had stained water from recent rains.
From the outset of these midday floats (we commonly put in around noon and float 4 – 5 hours), the smallies have been both blasting and sipping top water flies.
By far and away the best one we’ve used this late spring/early summer is the Flybass Blue Blockhead Popper, only available at FlyBass.com. We’ve switched out during the day with other proven patterns to test the efficacy of these blue ones and I just have to say, “They flat out prefer the blue”.
I know it sounds like a sales pitch, but I swear they are really effective!
Double Blind Crossover: I intentionally switched to White and Yellow poppers, Gorilla Chernobyl Ant (#4), Tan Mega Hopper Popper (Size #2), as well as White and Red Gurglers and even some Murdich-style streamers just to see if they’d hit anything. All the aforementioned are proven bass killers.
The short answer was: NO, they wouldn’t hit everything, especially with the gusto they were taking the blue blockheads.
Anyway, check them out. I just posted a new video on some tying techniques for foam poppers HERE.
New Blue Blockhead Popper Bodies!
I’ve been getting bugged for years from fly fisher people out east in Virginia and North Carolina to offer some blue colored blockheads. It seems the smallmouth bass really like ’em there and everywhere!
Somewhere between Yellow, Chartreuse, White (especially good this summer), Black and Blue – you’ll find a popper that will turn fish. Even on those days when fishing is slow, keep chucking these blockheads and good things will happen.
I generally will switch to a Mega Hopper Popper, when the poppers don’t work. Many times the hopper, especially mid to late summer will coax recalcitrant bass up to sip in these delectable foam hoppers.
If that doesn’t work, I’ll head down with streamers and ultimately dredge with Clousers or Weighted Crayfish patterns, of some sort – not near as much fun in my book…
But we always go back to the blockheads periodically – later in the day as most often, smallmouth will look up at some point.
You’ll generally take your biggest fish with a surface popper as well.
Oh yes, did I mention they work quite well. At left is a dandy 20″er caught in the Mississippi at the beginning of August in 78 degree water.
I’m holding a NuCast Smokin ‘ Hot Fly Rod with a NuCast Synergy II reel. For those of you who don’t want to spend $600-800 on a Sage, these NuCast Rods for $150 are as close as you’ll come to fly casting nirvana. My brother Bruce (with Mike Klever of Sartell, MN) prefers his NuCast 8 weight over his Sage Rods.
This was a strange overcast day with a light NW wind with relatively clear brown stained Mississippi River water, common for this time of year. About three foot visibility.
We caught a bunch of small fish early, but later in the afternoon, the big ones started to hit. Not a lot, but you’re never going to get many this size!
We’ve taken lots of floats this season and it’s funny how a couple of slobs can really define a particular trip and stretch of water.
This section of water has generally put out some big fish. Yet sections of river water will cycle through the years. For a few years they’ll put out big ones and then the fish will diminish in size for a few year only to put out some monsters once again.
It’s always good to see those smaller fish which means lots of great fly fishing action for years to come!
I wrote The Top Ten Smallmouth Flies – How to Tie and Fish Them in 2010. This eBook has sold quite well through the years and I am proud of it. But it’s time to revise this guide, based on another five years of intense smallmouth fishing. New revised edition available March 2015.
What have we learned in the last five years?
The biggest innovation, which may not be new to all readers, is the emergence of large foam hoppers added to the arsenal of smallmouth fly fishing. Yes, I know hoppers have been used for years for trout and bass and are a staple for trout, just about anywhere, especially in summer and early fall.
Here is the key lesson we’ve learned in the last few years:
- Smallmouth love hoppers anytime of year, not just summer.
- Foam patterns are much better to use as they don’t water-log.
- River smallmouth will take hoppers when they will not hit a popper.
- Bass will both sip and smash a hopper pattern.
- Hopper patterns can be dead drifted, slightly twitched, or slid along the surface.
Hoppers were not part of the original book, but are now. In the last five years we’ve caught hundreds of bass on several hopper patterns, with the most versatile and successful being the Hopper Popper.
In the original Top Ten eBook, we had several streamers positioned in order of selection when working your way through you fly box. We fish streamers a lot for smallmouth, probably about 70% of the time, for the same reasons we fish trout underwater with nymphs and streamers – that’s where the fish spend the majority of their time feeding.
Part of the book deals with fly selection by category and developing a systematic strategy for choosing which fly to use and in what order. We’ve moved some of the favored streamers around within the hierarchy do to increased use and efficacy of various patterns.
We now position the Murdich Minnow as the first streamer to go to rather than the Clouser. I know we’re splitting hairs here, but the Murdich (and variants) ride high in the water column, imitate many types of shiny minnows and baitfish, and are easy to see in most situations, making for enhanced sight fishing opportunities.
Most of the other streamers are still in play and carry over into the 2015 revised edition, but it’s important to determine an order and system when selecting flies, regardless of how well your think you know the body of water.
In the original, we showed two types of crayfish patterns: Life-like (Clouser Crayfish) and resemblance (Hi-Tail Craw). We’ve cut down to one pattern simply because we don’t use the crayfish very often, normally when we’re really struggling and have to make something happen. A dead-drifted crayfish pattern or a large nymph can really save the day. But the techniques are slow and methodical and generally require a float to be effective. I don’t particularly care to fish that way if other common techniques work. But if fishing really sucks, I’ll go to the craw or the nymph.
I’ve also added many new comments and suggestions based on real life experiences since the initial writing and believe this most recent updated edition to be very accurate and helpful for anyone looking to catch more smallmouth bass fly fishing.