How to

Flats Hunter 101: Bonefish Tackle

Bonefish Tackle & Flies


Bonefishing requires a reel that holds a minimum of 150 yards of twenty pound backing and has a smooth, reliable drag mechanism. Large arbor reels are often a Godsend when trying to regain some of the line that was just melted off your reel moments ago. Bonefish are inclined to make two to three runs, so the ability to quickly retrieve your line is an added bonus. Your drag should never really exceed more than a pound to land a bonefish.


Although there is no one rod that is perfect all the time for bonefish, the best all around solution is a nine-foot 8 weight. A nine-foot 8 weight rod is heavy enough to handle a little wind, yet it has enough power on tap to help you pick up and quickly recast if your target suddenly changes direction like bonefish are prone to do.

Line & Leaders:

Your reel should be lined with at least 200 yards of backing matched to a brightly colored fly line. The colored line improves your accuracy because you can visually track your cast as it unrolls toward your target. If you use the proper length leader and cast properly, the colored line won’t spook the bonefish and send them rocketing off towards Mexico.

Bonefish leaders are remarkably simple in their efficiency. Use a nail knot to tie a six to seven foot thirty pound butt section to the end of your 8 weight line. Tie a loop knot at the end of the butt section so that you can easily change your leaders to match the conditions. You then tie on a two to three foot section of twenty pound test, two to three feet of your class tippet. 15 pound flourocarbon works best for general conditions, but if it is extremely calm or the fish are more nervous than “usual”, you can lengthen the leader and drop down to twelve or ten pound test.

When tying on your flies it is best to use the nonslip knot. When tied correctly, this knot offers maximum strength while allowing the fly to move more freely and naturally.


Bonefish are ravenous hunters and will eagerly eat clams, shrimp, crabs, worms urchins, and any other crunchy critters they happen upon. The larger fish favor crabs and mantis shrimp.
In moderate waters the more successful flies are the fast sinking ones that mimic the bonefish’s diet. The shallow flats are more appropriate for lighter, slow-sinking patterns.

The most popular flies for bonefish are fast sinking and no smaller than a size four. Weighted fly that creep along the bottom with the hook pointing up are the most effective. A general rule of thumb when deciding on a fly pattern for the flats is to match the color of the fly to the color of the bottom.

The Crazy Charlie is hands down the ultimate bonefish fly. It is easily cast and quickly sinks to the bottom where bonefish quickly scarf it down.

The snapping shrimp is a must have pattern when fishing over grass flats. It is a common fly pattern that is readily available at any fly shop and is best in a size four.

Is there a fish that doesn’t like a Clouser Minnow? A size two white and chartreuse Clouser catches bonefish as well.

The Del Brown Crab Fly matched to the color of the bottom is another selection to round out your box.

Bonefish Tackle

Finding Bonefish

Casting to Bonefish

Fighting Bonefish

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