The Hackass Baitfish
When you need a large profile baitfish that pushes a ton of water, this is a great pattern.
By Gil Greenberg

The Hackass Baitfish is a large profile fly with significant bulk, and yet it casts fairly well. The trick is in its hollow structure and use of water-shedding synthetic material. It was originally tied much bulkier and used as a musky fly. But, by incorporating softer, less crimped material, I was able to increase castability and sink rate while maintaining a large profile. I have had success dredging this fly over reefs for snapper, grouper, coral trout, and various trevally species, but my favorite way to fish the Hackass is off of pressure points where currents collide with reef drop-offs.

To effectively fish these types of positions the boat needs to be oriented in deeper water where it is less affected by the current. The angler casts fast-sinking lines at a 45-degree angle “upstream,” and slowly feeds line while the fly sinks. The trick is to maintain contact with your fly while it sinks, as takes do occur on the drop. Once you feel confident that your fly is in the zone, rip it back with a two-hand retrieve. I sometimes slide a pair of tungsten beads onto the lower strand of the loop in my loop. That way, the beads are trapped between the eye of the fly and the knot of my loop. I jig the fly vertically, pausing for a few seconds between retrieves of 5”-to 10” of line. I use this jigging technique when I dredge reef sand wrecks as well. In addition to adding weight, the tungsten beads click with each jigging motion jig, adding a sonic element to the fly.

On the freshwater side, this fly serves as a fantastic bulky fly for large predators. I have caught arapaima, pike and musky on this fly. I do switch up the colors, with purple/black/gold being my preferred arapaima pattern, red/white for pike, and classic perch colors for musky.

As far as tying the Hackass, there really isn’t anything new or groundbreaking—just a hollow tied baitfish pattern on a large hook, using Megafish fiber, Atomic Flash, and a Fish Skill Fish Mask. I really like the balance between bulk, stiffness and movement that these materials provide. I do employ a couple sneaky/taboo techniques at the end, which remove bulk and allow the fly to swim in an ideal manner—hence the name, the Hackass Baitfish. Now, if you are a pro at hollow stacking synthetics, or are using an airy, heavily crimped material, like a Steve Farrer blend, you can probably skip these final steps. For the everyday tier like myself, they help keep the fly looking clean and swimming properly. I’ll make note of these techniques in the step-by-step section of the article.

Substituting Megafish Fiber for different materials, such as EP Fiber, Unique Hair, Supreme Hair or even Big Fly Fiber results in a similar fly, but with different characteristics. One of my favorite variations is to use a Steve Farrar blend as the base for the hollow tie, but with a head and outer layer constructed out of Megafish Fiber. The best piece of advice I can offer when tying this monstrosity is to keep it airy, and don’t stack the materials too densely.


Hook:  Gamakastu sl12 (saltwater) or CS86 Universal Predator Fly Hook (freshwater) sized 6/0-8/0

Thread:  Ultra Gsp or 3/0 denier

Body:  Megafish Fiber

Flash:  Atomic Flash

Head:  Fish Skull Fish Mask


Step 1:  Lay down a thread base and lock it in with super glue. I used gel as it is what I had handy, but regular super glue works better.

Step 2:  Tie in a small, half-inch long chunk of baitfish Megafish Fiber. This is used as a base for the rest of the fly to be formed around, so try and get it to flare as much as possible by using tight wraps. Make sure it is centered and even. You can trim it flat after tying it in.

Step 3:  Tie in a thin, pen-sized chunk of two-inch long Megafish Fiber, hollow style. To do this, place the material on the top of the hook shank, close to your first tie in point from Step 2. Materials should be facing the eye of the hook. Use a few loose thread wraps to hold the material as you work it 360 degrees around the hook shank; then secure it with tighter wraps. Using a hollow tube, such as a pen body, push the Megafish Fiber material backwards to a 90-degree angle. Pull your thread forward and build a cone-shaped thread base that pushes the material so it faces the bend of the hook. Do not wrap around the material as if tying it down; use the thread base to lightly guide the material towards the shank.

Step 4:  Repeat Step 3 two times to add layers and create bulk. Each layer should be an inch longer than the last. Keep your tie-in points tight to each other so they stack, they flare, and create bulk.

Step 5:  Using a comb to brush out your layers and push them back towards the tail of the fly. Remember you are trying to create that classic hollow profile.

Step 6:  Use some adhesive to hold the form of your fly in place. I use Gorilla Glue. The purpose is to keep a nice profile for you to continue stacking Megafish Fiber over. I like Gorilla Glue because it’s water based and dissolves when the fly gets wet.

Step 7:  Repeat Step 3, adding two or three more layers

Step 8:  Tie in 15 to 20 strands of Atomic Flash on each side of the hook. You can leave the flash long for a flashier fly, or cut it short and keep the fly more subtle. Make sure to keep the material on the sides of the hook rather than the top and bottom where it would get lost in the bulk.

Step 9:  To build your head, take two pencil-sized chunks of Megafish Fiber, one gray/blue and the other baitfish colored. The blue/gray Megafish Fiber should be two inches shorter than your last layer, and your baitfish Megafish Fiber should be about 2/3 the length of your last layer. Instead of wrapping these 360 degrees around the hook, keep the gray Megafish Fiber on top and the baitfish Megafish Fiber on the bottom. You can tie these hollow or conventionally.

Step 10:  Repeat Step 9 one or two more times.

Step 11:  Whip finish, then apply some gel super glue around the end. Remove the hook from the vise and push a Fish Mask over the eye of the hook. Hold in place until the super glue begins to harden. Then secure it with wraps around the eye and whip finish again. While Fish Masks are not necessary, they are very handy and ensure your head comes out clean. They also add just a little weight to the fly.


Step 12:  Add some bars by placing cardboard behind the head material and drawing small “V”s with an alcohol-based permanent marker.

Similar to finishing off with a Fishmask, the next two steps are not necessary but are a quick and easy remedy if you stacked the Megafish Fiber too tightly, or just ended up with too much bulk. These steps remove material in a uniform and strategic manner, which helps the fly move better through the water.

Step 13:  Use thinning or feathering scissors to help taper the fly and remove some of the bulk. Don’t overdo it. I like to remove material with two snips on each side of the fly and two snips from the top and bottom. Then I repeat the process.

Step 14:   Hold the fly and fold the Megafish Fiber layers over the eye to expose the inner layers. Take a sharp pair of scissors and start cutting out the inner layers. This removes most of the bulk while maintaining the fly’s shape.

Gil Greenburg Bio Image

Gil Greenberg

Gil Greenberg is the founder of Gil’s Fly Fishing International. He holds a degree in marine biology and has always felt most at home on the water. At age 18, Gil bought his first fly rod and took it on his family’s annual walleye fishing trip. Just like so many fly-fishers before him, he was instantly hooked on the fly. To date, Gil has thrown flies at fish in over 25 countries, spanning five continents. Before getting into the fly-fishing industry, Gil served in the IDF and worked as a fisheries consultant in the Solomon Islands.