Feed 'em Foam
High-floating foam flies are easy to make and catch a lot of bass. Get in on the action!
by Roger Duckworth

My brother Larry and I liit our cigars and walked down to the river. We were wading and fishing for smallmouths on the Elk River in Central West Virginia. I headed slightly upstream and cast next to the rocks along the far bank. Wham! The water exploded with a fat smallmouth hanging on to my fly. After I repeated this about three times, Larry called, “Give me one of those damn flies.” I did as instructed, and he soon hooked a nice fish. The pattern was a Sneaky Duck.

About a year later, I was with a group of friends doing a three-day float on the New River downstream from Hinton, West Virginia. I was rigged and ready as our guide dipped his paddle into the river, and a large bass attacked my fly on the first cast. This time I was using Duck’s Sipper.

Floatability, castability, costability, and easeability.  I am not sure if all those words are in the dictionary, but I do know that foam is a great material for making bass flies. Foam flies are easy to make, inexpensive, easy to cast, and they catch lots of fish  

Image The author’s foam flies require little money and effort to create. The number of bass you catch on them will require some effort, though.

Best Topwater Bass Flies
The Sneaky Duck and Duck’s Sipper are my favorite topwater bass flies. I fish these patterns anytime I think the bass are looking up, which is April through October here in Tennessee. The streams of West Virginia are my favorite places to fish for bass; those rivers team with largemouth and smallmouth bass. However, I have had my largest daily catches of bass on the shallow lakes just north of Kingston, Ontario. I was teaching a friend to fly cast there last year when the smallmouth bass were still near their spawning beds. I wish I had recorded his laughter as one fish after another—each measuring about 18 inches long—attacked his Sneaky Duck. He now loves fly-fishing!

The Sneaky Duck is a simple foam version of the Sneaky Pete, a fly I find very effective for catching largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth bass. The foam Sneaky Duck is very inexpensive to make, and bass really hang on to it. I have gotten several fish next to me and lost them when I tried to grab their lips; they weren’t hooked, but they would not let go of the soft foam fly.

I tie two versions of the Sneaky Duck, featuring foam bodies that slope up and back so the flies dart under the water when I twitch my rod, and they pop back to the surface when resting. I am convinced that the rubber legs are great triggers because many strikes occur after the flies first land on the water. The first version, shown here, requires using a punch to create round disks of foam. I make the disks using a 3/8- to 1/2-inch-diameter punch. A small piece of thin-walled brass pipe, sharpened on one end, will serve as a simple punch. If you do not have a punch, simply cut fingernail-sized pieces of foam with your scissors, and bind these to the hook. Both methods are easy and fun.

The color of the fly is important. I have tried many color combinations, and have found that chartreuse foam with black hackle is by far the most effective. 

Fishing the Sneaky Duck is simple. Cast it toward structure and let it sit until all the ripples disappear. Next, impart a few very slight twitches. If this does not elicit a strike, give it a good tug and pull the fly under the surface. If there is a bass there, she will attack the intruder.            

When fishing moving water, I sometimes cast quartering across stream and allow the fly to drag across the flow while I give it occasional twitches. I have gotten some vicious strikes in this manner.

Duck’s Sipper
Duck’s Sipper came in a brainstorm after watching minnows coming to the surface to sip something that I could not see. We have all seen those rings on the water when both the fish and the food were too small to observe. Tie Duck’s Sipper with a simple nonabsorbing synthetic body and foam head colored to match the local baitfish.

The foam head on Duck’s Sipper does three things: It adds mass, it keeps the fly floating with the tail down and head up like a real sipping minnow, and it allows using large eyes. I also tie this fly in two versions. The first variety has a synthetic streamer body that looks very realistic. The second version has a trimmed Micro Suede body. Both varieties are very effective.

Fish Duck’s Sipper in moving water by casting the fly across stream like a traditional streamer. Retrieve the fly using jerks and twitches to make it dart up and down. Gently twitching the fly also works very well, especially in slow-moving water.

Both these flies are easy and inexpensive to construct, and they catch the heck out of bass in lakes and streams. And, using foam is fun.


Col. (Ret.) Roger L. Duckworth is quickly becoming a regular contributor to our magazine. Roger lives in Tennessee.


Making the Duck’s Sipper
Almost any 3X-long light-wire hook, size to match the fly you wish to tie.
Thin clear monofilament thread.
Holographic tinsel.
FisHair or your favorite substitute.
3-millimeter-thick closed-cell foam.

Image1. Start the thread on the hook. Tie on the holographic tinsel and wrap the body of the fly. Tie on a small bunch of wing material.

2. Tie on another bunch of wing material. Tie off and clip the thread. Punch or cut out a foam disk. Fold and glue the disk over the base of the wing. You may use a clothespin to hold the disk in place until the superglue dries; it’ll take less than a minute.

3.  We’ve removed the clothespin to reveal the foam head of the fly. The head should have a nice silhouette; trim and paint it if necessary to match your local minnows. So far, our fly is looking great.

4. You have many options for adding eyes to your fly. Here I’ve added doll eyes using superglue.

5. Here is Duck’s Sipper from the front. That foam head will keep the nose of the fly on the surface of the water.

6. As you gain experience, color your flies and add flash.





Tying the Sneaky Duck
Any strong 2X-long hook, size to match the fly you wish to tie.
Chartreuse 6/0 (140 denier).
Thin rubber legs.
Hackle collar:
Saddle hackle.
3-millimeter-thick closed-cell
Painted or adhesive.


1. Start the thread on the hook. Tie on the marabou tail.

2.  Tie on four strands of white rubber leg material at the base of the tail; place two strands on each side of the marabou. Tie on a black hackle.

3. Use a punch to cut circular foam pads from the foam. You can also use scissors to cut out fingernail-shaped pieces of foam.

4. Wrap the hackle on the hook. Tie on the first disk in front of the black collar: pinch the foam disk onto the hook shank, tie down the tip of the foam, and place a drop of cement on the thread wraps. Repeat to tie on a second foam disk.

5. Tie on a third foam disk. You may tie on more disks if needed to form a longer body. Whip finish and clip the thread. Coat the thread head with cement.

6. Place a drop of superglue between each of the disks. Put a large drop of superglue on the tie-in points. Quickly slip the front rubber legs behind the front and second disks, and position them to the sides of the fly. The superglue bond the disks together and holds the legs in place.

7.  Glue or paint eyes on the face of the fly.

8. Here’s our completed Sneaky Duck, ready for hot bass-fishing action.





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