The Origin of Bass Bugs
Floating bass flies whether constructed of wood, plastic, foam, or deer hair are all lumped into the same category of “bass bugs”. A few are tied to imitate specific bass foods like mice, leeches or frogs, but others are ‘attractors’ that try to give the impression of something living and edible.
There is a fair amount of speculation as to the origin of Bass Bugs. My reading on the subject gives credit to the North American Indians. They apparently used a long pole to toss out a collection of hair and feathers tied in a buoyant bundle which they then dragged across the surface of lake, pond or creek.
Fly fishing for Bass with bugs called Bass Bugging by anglers got started in the early 1900’s. Between 1910 and 1930the sport really boomed with lots of assorted bugs were offered for sale in magazines and tackle shops. After the 1940’s the sport lost ground due to the growing popularity of spin fishing. But in the late 1970’s, as fly fishermen began tying flies for warm water, Bass bugging became regained its popularity.
So, why do such flies work so well? Bass always keep an eye on what is happening on the surface. Bass are predators and will eat anything that looks like fair game. Patterns that suggests a living and vulnerable creature struggling on the surface of the water are the most successful. Amphibians like frogs are not that good at swimming and are no match for a hungry Bass. These fish primarily hunt by sound and sight. Even if the object does not look like anything it has seen before, if it moves and therefore alive, it is considered food. Young Bass feed on tiny crustaceans, insects and their larvae, rodents, worms and tadpoles. They soon add to the range of their diet and progress onto larger food such as frogs, crayfish, leeches and other fish. The largest bass has been known to take baby ducks and other small waterfowl.
Most bass prefer to ambush a helpless or careless creature rather than engage in a tiring high-speed chase of a terrified prey. A lot of big bass will attack when a bass bug is accidentally or purposefully let sit for a long period (ten seconds or more) or when moved it only slightly just after it hit the water. Most fishermen like to move bass bugs too quickly which may be more entertaining to us than to the fish.
You can get good hit rates by inching the bass fly in, over, or around structure, as if it was trying to sneak out of danger. There are times when bass will chase and strike rapidly moving bass bugs. No one retrieve is always the best. Foods, temperature, water conditions, and individual fish habits vary. That’s why fishing flies and catching bass never get boring. Don’t hesitate to experiment with all types of actions and action speeds.
Today’s Bass Bugs have grown a bit more elaborate and flashy but the method of presentation and their design to elicit a strike remain unchanged.