Rock bass, red eyes, google eyes, black perch: the rock bass seems to have more names than it does articles about targeting them. Despite its aggressiveness, feisty fight, and willingness to strike a fly when other fish stop biting, the rock bass is not a priority for most anglers
The range of the rock bass covers the eastern half of the United States, and many western states have stocked populations. True to their name, rock bass are found over rocky bottoms in many rivers and lakes. In creeks, I find that deep pools often hold these tenacious fish. Do not be afraid to search around; rock bass can be found anywhere in a stream. It is common to catch more than one fish from larger pools, if you catch a rock bass make a few more casts before moving on. Targeting wood cover like downed trees and root wads can be extremely successful and are prime rock bass cover.
Spring: As spring begins, rock bass start moving from their deep wintering holes to sandy bottoms used for breeding. During this time rock bass seem to hit anything tossed at them. Don’t be afraid to go big in regards to fly selection. Unlike bluegill, the rock bass has a mouth that can back up its appetite; it will destroy small streamers. When rock bass are bedding, a crawfish imitation will rarely go unnoticed. Clouser minnows work well too, and my go-to favorite is one tied with extra flashabou.
Summer: When the weather is hot, and the skies are blue, there is no better time to throw a fly for the bluegill’s bigger brother. Rock bass will disperse after breeding and form loose schools during summer. Clousers and other steamers continue to work well, as do crawfish imitations. I find occasional success with small poppers in shallow water. Flies that look like a helpless hellgrammite tumbling through the water column work better than anything else. During the summer months, I like to fish a black woolly bugger which is a great imitation of these hapless insects.
Fall: During the fall rock bass begin to target native minnows and darters. A Dover’s Peach retrieved quickly will grab any resident rock bass’ attention. Fall is your chance to catch a lunker and what better way to do it then with a Tequeely streamer. Don’t waste your time in the shallows, hit the deep holes a time or two and move on. If there is a giant rock bass around you’ll know.
Winter: Rock bass seem to shut down during the winter months. I have had limited success catching them in deep pools with live bait, but I’ve yet to land one during winter on the fly.
Written by Bradford Wade