Re: setting the fly.
Don't know that I qualify as a hardcore basser, but using the strip set will likely help you hook fish. The fly rod, by its nature is a Fantastic shock absorber. To apply substantial hook setting force, you would have to rare back with the fly rod REALLY hard.
This could cause you to hook something behind you or hit yourself with a flying hook. At the very least, the fish will have no option of going for the fly a second time, as it will be at least 10 feet away.
Instead, try using what we call a strip-set. To do this, you don't have to move the fly rod at all, but rather just give a sharp tug with your other hand that you are already using to strip the fly in. A strip of one foot will be about all that is necessary. This eliminates the flex of the rod softening the force to which you are pushing the point of the hook into the fish's jaw. It also means the fly will only be about a foot away, if the fish wants to go for it again. Once you feel the fish securely hooked and wiggling, you may need to release some line as you lift the rod into an upright position to fight the fish.
This may sound somewhat complicated, but you will get to where it is second nature pretty quickly.
On the small fish you're not hooking, it is very possible they are simply not taking the fly deep enough into their mouths to be hooked. Sunfish are notorious for doing this, and if you're fishing a popper with rubber legs, may actually be trying to rip the legs off. It can be infuriating, but its always fun to see fish hitting a fly on top.