The Bendback Bait is a universal fly pattern that will catch a variety of species in freshwater, estuary and offshore locations. I have caught barramundi, trevally, tailor, mackerel, several tuna species, flathead, bass, giant herring, tarpon and many others with it.
The Bendback style of fly relies on a relatively old tying method. Although it worked well when tied with traditional materials, such as hackles and bucktail, it works even better when tied with new-age synthetics. The idea behind the Bendback was to produce an unweighted fly which would swim with the hook point up to provide some weed-proofing and snag-resistance. The hook also adds a little profile to the fly and makes it resemble a herring, mullet or gudgeon and, at other times, a thinner-profile bait such as whitebait, frogmouth pilchard and other minnows. The Bendback Bait really is a universal pattern.
The Bendback’s ability to be fished in reasonably heavy cover makes it a great pattern to add to your collection. It can be fished over very shallow flats where flathead are your target and it rarely fouls on obstacles such as shell grit, rocks and mangrove stubble.
Another good use for this fly is for fishing along the edges of weed beds, especially in the impoundments where bass and barra are often the target, such as Lenthalls Dam. The fly can be slowly worked along the front edge of the weed and will rarely foul when it bumps into the odd stray strand of weed, which is a problem many other patterns cannot overcome. It also makes a good offering around snags, bridge pylons and rock bars where mangrove jack, estuary cod, trevally, tailor and other species are the target.
Plenty of materials can be used when tying Bendbacks but there are some factors to consider before tying on any long fibre that takes your fancy. I have used streamer hair, a fairly long crimped fibre with a degree of stiffness. More recently available materials such as Kinky Fibre, Slinky Fibre, Neer Hair, Polar Fibre and DNA, are just too limp for this application and will tangle with the hook point when casting. I have found that Streamer Hair is great for the Bendback Bait as it still moves in the water, is translucent and rarely fouls with the hook point when cast.
I use colours that promote the basic image of a baitfish; a darker back and lighter belly. I would tie this contrast for saltwater fishing but if I were tying this fly for bass or barra in the freshwater then I would use darker colours which silhouette better against the dark backdrop of the weed beds. There are several flashes that can be used but I prefer Krystal Flash because it is fairly straight and sits well with the other materials.
I have purposely used black thread on this pattern as thread is required only around the head section and when a black and white self-adhesive eye is used, the pupil becomes very prominent. If you wanted the eye less conspicuous then you could just use fine mono thread, which virtually disappears once epoxy is added.
Hooks used for tying Bendbacks can vary. There are some pre-made Bendback hooks available such as Tiemco’s 811S but you can easily shape you own from any O’Shaunessy pattern hook. Some hooks that are chemically sharpened (especially carbon steel hooks) are hard to bend and rather brittle. Mustad 34007 or S71S SS will probably be the easiest patterns to use and find. The latter is a chemically sharpened stainless steel hook but seems to be fairly durable.
You will need a sturdy pair or pliers (preferably locking pliers) or a bench vice to bend them. The larger the hook, the thicker it will be and therefore harder to bend. Be careful that you hold the hook securely when bending so you don’t slip and become your first catch.
(1) Take your pliers and bend the hook so that it is similar in shape to the example in the vice. The other hook I am holding is the original before bending to give you an idea of the degree of the bend.
(2) Tie the thread in behind the eye of the hook with a jamb knot or similar. Lay a small bed of thread for the length of the newly bent section, which will help secure the materials to the hook when epoxying. Cut a small amount of the belly material streamer hair, about 7-8cm long, and tie in just behind the eye of the hook with a series of wraps.
(3) Cut about 5-8 strands of Krystal Flash, which is the same length as the belly material and tie in on top of the belly material. The Krystal Flash strands should be slightly staggered in length.
(4) Cut a similar amount of streamer hair for the back to that which you used for the belly, ensuring it is at least as long or longer. Tie in on top of the other two materials and then build up the head section a little with the thread before whip finishing off.
(5) Place on your self-adhesive eye and then epoxy over the entire head area. Make sure you get a little bit of epoxy just behind the head to help hold all the fibres in place. You may need to preen the fibres to get them lay correctly while the epoxy dries.
(6) Use your scissors to shape the fly into a basic baitfish profile so that the fly tapers towards the tail. Your Bendback Bait should be a beauty.
HOOK: Mustad S71S SS 2/0 (bent to shape)
THREAD: Flat waxed nylon (black)
BELLY: Tiewell Streamer Hair (polar bear)
FLASH: Krystal Flash (olive)
BACK: Tiewell Streamer Hair (smoke)
EYE: Self Adhesive 2mm (glo with black pupil)
FINISH: Devcon 5-minute epoxyReads: 137