Re: Bass Taper = Shooting Head?
As riptide said, a bass taper is just a more "dramatic" weight forward line, with a heavier front taper for casting large wind resistant flies, and is typically a standard length fly line of around 90 feet.
A shooting head is usually only 30 feet or so. It's usually connected via a loop to loop with a "running line" not to be confused with backing. Running line is slicker, flexible, and thinner. There are alot of different types from "Amnesia" a mono line with low memory, to braided to coated stuff that looks like a very thin fly line. The idea is that the shooting head is false cast with just the SH out of the tip of the rod. On the final cast, at release, the SH pulls the running line out through the guides. If you try and false cast with the SH and running line out of the tip, the loops will collapse and the the SH will "hinge" at the connection between SH and the lighter thinner running line.
There are good points and bad points:
Good- for some types of fishing- mostly in SW or steelheading, many folks that use them carry a wallet of different density SHs, with fast sink to floaters to cover different depths. You can do a quick on-stream change with the loop to loop connection, with the running line out of the tip, just swap out the loops, and you're in business, no need to change spools of rethread guides. They're also good for covering a lot of water blind casting. Typically you'd use a SH with a grain weight equivalent to 1 or 2 line weights heavier than the rating of the rod... so a you'd use a 300 grain SH, which corresponds to around a 10-11 weight line on an 8 or 9 weight rod. Matching up SH's with rods is a bit tricky- depends on rod actions, casting style etc.
The downsides of SHs: The timing is a bit more critical than full length lines and they're pretty unforgiving for a beginner. They are also not as accurate. If you are trying to throw something in a tight spot 50+ feet out, with a regular fly line you can measure distance off to the side false casting, and then drop it in the hole. With a shooting head, you can only use the 30 feet of SH, so would have to guestimate the distance on the release and let it rip. Controlling the running line can be a bit of a problem, especially in wind. Because it's so light, it has a tendency to blow around all over the place and find things to wrap around. Some people use shooting baskets to control loose fly line, and they are especially useful with SH's. And, depending on the running line, if you do a lot of deep wading and your fingers are in the water a lot, a running line can cut your finger to pieces.
I'd consider SH's more of a specialty type thing good for very specific applications.
Hope this helps.