An argument could be made that fishing a popper for largemouth bass is the pinnacle of flyfishing. That there is perhaps no better combination of the visual, tactile, and even aural sensations that we hope will coalesce around any fish encounter. They can be found just about anywhere—from the shallow ditch behind the local strip mall to the pine-fringed lake an hour from the nearest asphalt—and they will eat just about anything, at any time. Of course, some have elevated largemouth fly fishing to something nearing art, and rightly so. But whether your taste leans toward the higher arts or the doodles your 4-year-old leaves on the wall in the living room, there’s a largemouth out there for you. Like it or not, it’s America’s fish, and America’s fish has a thing for deer hair concoctions that go plop. It doesn’t get much better than that—try and change our mind.


Paired with a SPECTRUM 7/8 Reel and RIO Warmwater Predator WF8F line, the PAYLOAD 889-4 makes a perfect setup for targeting Largemouth Bass. The PAYLOAD loads deeply into the butt section making blind casting frogs of baitfish patterns all-day an effortless endeavor.


Don’t let the name fool you: there is nothing diminutive about smallmouth bass. They have big appetites. They live in beautiful places. And as we’ve all read time and time again since the dawn of internet forums, “pound for pound, they’re the hardest fighting fish around.” Anyone who’s spent some time bouncing crayfish across riffles or tossing poppers into logjams can confirm it. If there was ever a fish perfectly made for lazy float trips down slow-moving rivers in the fading light of a long summer evening, it’s the smallie. So grab the cooler and the oars, a handful of poppers and Clousers, and hop in. We can figure out the shuttle when we get there.


Cast, pop-pop, pause, pop-pop, pause, re-cast. That’s the name of the game when it comes to classic mid-west smallmouth fishing. Having a rod that can easily pick up long lengths of line to reposition a small foam popper or diver is imperative. The R8 CORE 790-4 excels at this task with both the lifting power and finesse to get the job done. Paired with an ARBOR XL 6/7/8 and RIO Smallmouth WF7F line, this is a perfect setup for classic smallmouth fishing.


Why do we do it? How is it that we can stand in a boat for eight hours, casting a 10 or 12 wt. rod until every trace of cartilage has been ground out of our shoulder? What chemical imbalance is involved in the half-cooked pursuit of a fish that, rather than simply ignoring or fleeing from a fly it doesn’t want to eat, will instead follow it from a maddeningly close distance, watch as you swirl the fly in circles and cute little figure-8s next to the skiff, then turn around and head back to its watery lair with about as much haste as a cow headed back to the barn after a day spent chewing its cud? Some questions have no answers, at least not easy ones. Some fish offer no solutions, easy or otherwise. So you just keep asking, cast after cast, follow after follow, rejection after rejection—“Why won’t you eat?” And when that 50-inch musky finally does chomp the fly, you’ll realize you’ve been asking the wrong questions all along.


The PAYLOAD series all load well into the cork and bend down low with little effort. This allows for much less fatigue when throwing large streamers, sink tips, etc… all day. There’s arguably no better example of this importance than in the Pike/Musky game. For this reason, the PAYLOAD 1090-4 paired with a ENFORCER 9/10 and RIO Predator WF10F line is our go-to choice for all things Pike and Musky.