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OCdockskipper

Bass & Dragonflies

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I've known that bass eat dragonflies and have figured that a 4" wacky rigged stickbait skipped across the surface of the water is most likely seen as a dragonfly to bass.  However, I saw something today that made me realize how these mini-helicopters may be higher up on the largemouth's food choice list than I originally believed.

Mid-day, I was passing in front of a dock when I noticed 30 feet or so ahead of me a group of dragonflies zipping low over the surface of the water (we tend to have the most dragonflies here from mid summer to early October).  They were about 5 feet from the shore in an area that was about 2 feet deep, an area that was pretty much coverless.   Before I reached the end of the dock, I saw something shoot out along the shore and in an instant, a keeper bass was airborne flying through the dragonflies.  The bass's jump was dolphin-like, he got alot of air and was definitely keying on the dragonflies.  Despite his effort, I think all of the dragonflies escaped by zipping in various directions.  The bass cruised back to the shoreline and the dragonflies, as they are wont to do, shot back down to the surface, hovering low over the water.  Again in an instant, the bass shot over & catapulted himself through the mini-swarm trying to catch one.  I sat back and watched this for about 45 second as the bass made a total of 4 runs at the dragonfly herd and got enough hang time each run to make Dr. J proud.  I don't know if he finally caught one or got tired of missing, but he ended up swimming off into deeper water.  

I never made a cast while this was going on, it was too much fun to watch.

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A friend of mine tied this dragonfly.

013c.jpg

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Bass will eat them for sure, but the calorie intake to output ratio has to be terrible. I remember seeing a dragonfly lure that slid back and forth (I can't remember exactly how this was accomplished), but I'm sure some of them were sold and probably even caught some fish. The dragonfly and damselfly flies can be very productive for flyfishermen. Big bluegills and trout love them too. 

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Back in the '60's, when I was into fly fishing, one of my most productive bass lures was what was called a "Bass Hound". Basically this was a deer hair bug with deer hair tied out to each side like the example above, but with a thick tail of deer hair as well. The smallmouths on the river crushed this bug. I don't know if the bass figures anything about ROI in it's attempt at feeding, but it certainly is attracted to these bugs.

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River2Sea has a dragonfly lure that's essentially a dragonfly body on a jitterbug type platform. I have one, but it's a tough lure to fish very effectively since it has the tendency to flip over on it's back - but hey it looks really cool! :)

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I had an evening like this last June in Canada. The bass were busting the surface everywhere in the shallow, weedy bay that I was in, and I quickly realized it was dragonflies they were chasing. I put on a black buzzbait and I probably caught 30+ fish in the next hour or so. 

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Back in the late 70's Mann's Bait Co.made dragonflies out of plastic. I had a bunch of them & used them with spinning gear & they worked quite well. I'll have to look thru my old gear to see if I have left. I had forgot all about them I am glad I read this post.

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At least until a few years ago, you could still purchase the Hover Lure, King of Bass :P even comes in a complete kit...

Hover-Lure2.jpg

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I had always written this off as a small (immature) bass thing -10"ers- and one that might lead to the evolutionary dust-bin for those that try it. But over the years I've seen enough mature bass (14 to 16"er's -mature bass aren't big here) targeting dragons in mid-summer that it's obviously a real thing for some bass. I have a video I shot years ago (of very poor quality) of several mature bass chasing dragons; One even catching one in mid-air. This summer I spent some time trying to document this via video and had as a subject a 16"er that spent considerable time cruising a shallow coverless flat hunting dragons. I was never able to catch her in a capture bc of all the reasons field videography is such a challenge, including a broken camera at a very inopportune time. :(

I too have wondered about the energetic value of chasing dragonflies. I did notice that the bigger fish targeted egg-layers that dip to lay; some species singly, some in conjoined pairs. These spend a bit more time at the water's surface, but not all that long! They seem to have developed a habit of swooping in, dipping a few times, then zipping away and dipping again in another location. The bass would have to be in just the right position when an egg-layer came in. Then the bass would make a rush, coming clean out if it got the opportunity.

Seems an expensive game. Here’s my take: I realize more and more that really good opportunities at prey can be rare and fleeting for bass (sounds a bit like fishing!). Fish are very elastic in their ability to gain weight -as evidenced by the fact that mature bass average 2lbs in most waters rather than 6 or 8. They are patient critters and feed by opportunity much of the time -not when they simply feel like it. Got a lake with lots of BIG bass? That’s a lake where bass have the luxury to eat more or less when they please. IME, most waters are not that way. I suppose when there is little else going on it may be better chasing dragons than endlessly cruising cover edges hoping for a crack at a bluegill.

Bass also eat dragonfly larvae -pretty big for an insect- when in abundance. Not sure how well this pays either but would certainly require less expenditure. Some research has found dragon larvae to be commonly consumed in some waters, but these have been smaller fish. My dad tells me that he and his dad would catch "bass bugs" to fish for bass with -dragonfly larvae. This was many years ago.

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Dragon flies aren't what bass are eating, it's the nymphs of the dragon fly called Darner nymphs that bass target. The Darner nymph lives under rocks and anything wooden then crawls out of the water to attached it's self to wood usually and hatches out into a dragon fly.

The Darner nymph is about 1 1/2" to 2" long and about 1/4"- 3/8" thick, usually brown/ green pumpkin in color. 

I caught Darner nymphs and sold them for bait as a kid, my clients and I caught lots of big trout and bass fly lining tail hooked Darner nymphs 

Tom

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Back in the late 60's a local guy was producing a dragonfly lure about 5 inches long. One evening a fellow fishing from shore in a local reservoir caught a bass that weighed over 16 on certified scales.

Hearing about this I naturally tried one as I was young and dumb. The thing tangled on most casts and I never caught a thing on it. The manufacturer quit making them after a short while.

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You don´t need a "dragonfly" lure to catch bass that are chasing dragonflies, to catch fish in those ocassions I use a Popper, pretty much is a catch on every cast.

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2 hours ago, WRB said:

Dragon flies aren't what bass are eating, it's the nymphs of the dragon fly called Darner nymphs that bass target. The Darner nymph lives under rocks and anything wooden then crawls out of the water to attached it's self to wood usually and hatches out into a dragon fly.

Tom

Maybe in California, but with all due respect, I can assure you the bass here in Indiana will chase down and try to capture dragonflies. It happens so fast, you never know if they actually catch them or not. I have sat on the front deck of my boat and watched for long periods of time, fascinated by the behavior. On one particular local lake, the specific dragonfly species is small and yellow, and very prolific, and a yellow hollow-bodied frog fished fast across the shallow open water moss edges will draw big numbers of strikes from bass versus other colors because the bass are so keyed in to them.

-T9

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What I am saying is for every above water dragon fly fish catch out of the air they eat at least 10x as nymphs. Try spit shotting a 2 1/2"-3" green pumpkin grub in areas you see dragon flies, there is a hatch going on with more feeding activity underwater.

Bass eat small birds and any terrestrial critter they can catch. Every see a big brown trout eat a mouse, predator fish just like bass.

Tom

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8 hours ago, Raul said:

You don´t need a "dragonfly" lure to catch bass that are chasing dragonflies, to catch fish in those ocassions I use a Popper, pretty much is a catch on every cast.

I too think that poppers and small prop baits can resemble a dragonfly struggling on the surface of the water.  Another startlingly effective choice is a 4" stickbait, rigged wacky style weightless, as long as the cast is a long skip cast.  The bait skipping across the water and then making a slow sink (to me) resembles a dragonfly or other prey skipping along, making a wrong turn & then drowning.  I occasionally get strikes between skips, but most are as it comes to a stop.  And the strike isn't the typical soft mouthing of a stick bait, it is a rush to grab what they must believe is prey that may soon escape.

I often refer to this method as "reverse topwater".  The cast and the initial sink is the presentation, as opposed to working the lure back to the boat.  I think an added benefit is it cues the fish to focus on something going away from the boat instead of towards it.  It gets them looking the other way.

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7 hours ago, Team9nine said:

Maybe in California, but with all due respect, I can assure you the bass here in Indiana will chase down and try to capture dragonflies. It happens so fast, you never know if they actually catch them or not...the bass are so keyed in to them.

-T9

This guy was a California bass, maybe he had Indiana roots :D.  

A friend of mine has a koi pond and told me that every year, a (different) dragonfly will show up mid summer.  It will stake out the pond as his territory, chase off other males and mate with whatever female dragonflies who show up.  He has had a bass in that same pond for a couple of years and even though the bass is well fed, it goes after any dragonfly whenever it nears the surface of the water.  He said it never has jumped to try and get it, but will track them as they buzz by.  The lack of breaching that may have more to do with the size of the pond - one wrong leap and he is a fish out of water.

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I love watching them bust through lily pads trying to catch damselflies.  Happens all the time and you know the topwater bite is on then!

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12 hours ago, davecon said:

Back in the late 60's a local guy was producing a dragonfly lure about 5 inches long. One evening a fellow fishing from shore in a local reservoir caught a bass that weighed over 16 on certified scales.

Hearing about this I naturally tried one as I was young and dumb. The thing tangled on most casts and I never caught a thing on it. The manufacturer quit making them after a short while.

Thank you for sharing this story.I can only imagine the amount of happiness that man has catching a +16 pound bass from land.

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I like poppers during a hatch - dragonfly, damsel fly, stone fly, mayfly, etc, etc because it represents a bigger, easier targeted, feeding baitfish.  Yes, bass will eat all kinds of larvae, spinners, and low flying insects, but so will virtually every baitfish in that body of water. If that bass has the option of breaching to feed on very low calorie flies, or to pick off easy meals of distracted panfish, minnows, trout, etc feeding high in the water column (and being that predators need to be opportunistic to be successful), it would make a lot more sense for that bass to dine on fish that night.  I also don't think anything simulates baitfish feeding on the surface better than a popper, especially in low light.   This is at least the logic/strategy that's served me very well during hatches.  

I do like the grub idea, too.

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Soflbasser,

If memory serves, it was the largest bass weighed in by the FWC back in 1967. I may be a year off in either direction but that is the time frame. If I knew how to find it I'm certain the FWC had it as the largest bass they weighed that year.

I have caught MANY bass from the same lake over 9, with one 12 and one 13.5 within the last few years so I don't doubt the legitimacy of the fish. 

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Hmmm.  How can I rig a Jelly worm to hover over the surface ?

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With all the advances in technology it is only a matter of time before someone creates a "drone" type lure. A little flying drone disguised as a bug that has a hook and a place to attach line to it, maybe a built in camera. On your line you can fly it inches above the water to entice a bite.

Talk about the ultimate top water action!

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