Best Rod for Smallmouth Bass?

What’s a good rod for smallmouth?
I’ve been asked that question hundreds of times.
This is an important question, since the rod is of critical importance in fly fishing.

Fortunately, there are quite a few pretty good rods for smallmouth nowadays. However, many of these are very expensive, costing well over 500 dollars. But buying the most expensive models like a high-end Sage or Loomis isn’t necessary to get a great performing rod.

TFO Mangrove on a Big Lake, with a Big Bronzeback

TFO Mangrove on a Big Lake, with a Big Bronzeback

For the past two years I’ve been using TFO’s Mangrove rods in 7 and 8-wt sizes. Costing well less than half of the more expensive rods on the market, the fast action Mangrove is a very powerful stick that will easily drive a hefty bass fly out all day long. And loaded properly with the right line it will handle wind and also allow you to make 45 to 55 foot casts with a minimum of false casting.

The Best Line

With the 8-wt Mangrove, I use Scientific Angler’s 10-wt Titan Taper line and its 9-wt Titan Taper line on the 7-wt rod. This heavy tapered line will allow you to work a fly until it’s just 20 feet away and then make only one (or at most two) back casts and drive the fly out to a distant target.

Mangrove's Small Stream Lunker

Mangrove’s Small Stream Lunker

And it’s not just me. Dozens of my guiding clients, Canadian trip guests and smallmouth school students have all been using these Temple Fork Outfitters’ rods with lines two weights over, and loving it. In fact, I’ve had clients who normally tire fairly easily, but who used one of my properly loaded Mangroves and drove flies out all day with nary a break.

More Mangrove Magic

I have also been using the 8-wt Mangrove for largemouth bass, pike and even river muskies. If you don’t try to use gigantic flies for these species, the 8-wt rod will do great, and you won’t need to get a 9 or 10 weight rod. Of course (since the Mangrove is named after the salt water tree) many are also happily using it for salty species like Redfish, Bonefish, Snook and Striped Bass.

For sure, loading a Mangrove with just one line over will still allow it to perform well for smallies, but with two line weights over you cause the rod to load even quicker and easier, so you eliminate some extra false casting. This means you both reduce the energy you need to expend and lessen the unproductive time your fly spends off the water.

Outstanding Value

Temple Fork Outfitters has really come on strong the past decade and has produced a variety of models, including the BLK that is also a darn good rod for its price. But I personally feel that the slightly more expensive Mangrove (loaded properly) is even better for warm water fishing and is an outstanding value. As the old credit card commercial used to say: “Don’t leave home without it.”

With the right rod, loaded with the right line, you can drive a bulky bass fly out 50 or 60 feet all day, work the fly properly, and hook fish consistently.

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