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Part One hundred fifty-eight

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Fly Fishing for Strawberry Bass

By Kevin Wright

Redear Sunfish
The strawberry bass, more commonly known as the redear sunfish, is one of the most under-fished members of the sunfish clan.

One of the biggest reasons redear are so under-fished is the fact they are rather difficult to find once one spawning season is over. Redear prefer the deeper water and, therefore, will retreat to such habitat once their spawning habits are fulfilled.

Again, the redear sunfish is a member of the sunfish family. They have a yellow-green colored body and are distinguished by the reddish margin on the edge of the ear flap. The pectoral fin located just behind the gill cover is long and pointed.

The scientific name for the redear is Lepomis microlpphus. You might recognize these other names for the redear: shell cracker (when eating snails the shell is completely crushed and expelled from the mouth, hence the name shell cracker), stump-knocker (for its love of leafy brush and stumps), and redear perch.

A fish which closely resembles the redear is the pumpkinseed sunfish. You can easily tell these two apart by the ear flaps. The pumpkinseed has a red spot rather than a red margin, as well as blue and orange stripes on its cheeks.

Redear will thrive in most warm-water lakes and streams. Their range has greatly expanded from its original southern home. Beginning in the spring, redear will spawn just after the largemouth bass. They nest in groups like bluegill, but would rather nest in some type of cover. This is the time when you can catch them on top-water baits.

Redear are not your typical top-water feeders, but during the spawn they will attack a variety of surface stuff. Poppers usually work best, but an assortment of terrestrials should fair well for you. Once the spawn is over, though, look for these tactics to fail you. Keep in mind also that big redear, like big bluegill, will nest in just a little deeper water. If you keep hooking those smaller ones in the shallows, then it pays to work water just a little deeper.

Just after the spawn, redear head to deeper water and feed on insects and their larvae. Snails and midge fly larvae or blood worms are also favorite foods. Rarely now will they head to the surface for food. Therefore, at this time you must respect their feeding habits and go to the fish.

Your exact tackle will be determined by the depth of the water that you predict the fish are in. First and foremost, however, is your fly line. At this time you will have to go to either a sinking tip or full sinking line (the latter being the best). Remember you are going to have to take your fly to the fish, which could mean waters of 10-feet or more, with more being the likely case.

Leaders should be at least 7 feet tapered to 4X. Now if you find the fish in heavy cover, you will have to go to a heavier tippet. And eight-foot, five-weight rod is ideal, but make sure your equipment matches up. ~ Kevin Wright

Next time the flies!

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