Stay cool and catch some bass, too!
As we get into the middle of the summer, things are heating up and the bass fishing is slowing down. What to do? This may be the time to give night fishing a try.
Here are some tips to get you started on your night-fishing adventures.
1. Put safety first with knowledge of the waters around you
Night fishing is not a good time to explore uncharted terrain, especially if it’s a lake filled with stumps, brush or especially shallow areas. It doesn’t matter if you’re bank fishing a farm pond or jetting across a 1,000-acre lake with a big bass boat, make sure you’re familiar with the waters you’re fishing before heading out in the dark.
I stress this for safety reasons first and foremost, but it will also reduce frustrations in the fishing. Remember, it’s going to be dark and hard to see, it helps to have a general knowledge of where the major snags are ahead of time.
Also make sure your boat is properly lighted. Chances are, there won’t be much nighttime boat traffic, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Many states have regulations on a minimum amount of lighting that must be on the boat. Also realize night fishing may not be legal on every lake due to restricted hours of boat operation. Know before you go.
It’s also a good idea to bring a buddy. Simply because if you get in trouble out on the lake, no one might realize you’re there until morning. Plus, they can help with lights when fighting fish and help with the inevitable tangles and snags you might get into.
When I’m fishing my parent’s pond, I generally don’t bring a light with me because there’s a bright yard light 50 yards away. So I just let my eyes adjust to the darkness and there’s just enough light to see what I’m doing. On a lake, you won’t always have that option.
Hands-free led-headlamps are pretty cheap and efficient for when you’re fishing the darkest areas. I wouldn’t point them directly at the water however, it could spook the fish. This is one of the things you’ll get conflicting opinions on. Some will swear shining a light on the water will attract baitfish, and therefore, bass. I tend to believe it’s going to spook more fish than it’ll attract.
A good alternative to a white light is a UV or black light. These are harder to find in brick-and-mortar stores, but easily available for purchase online. The benefit of using this type of light is two-fold. For one, it’ll save your night vision, and probably won’t spook the fish as easily. The other huge benefit is that a UV light makes clear monofilament line glow like a string of Christmas lights. This means it’s a lot easier to see those slight line twitches that signify a bite.
3. Lure and gear selection
While I’ve fished with a variety of baits at night, nothing beats a good topwater lure in my opinion. I like to use a large black jitterbug. The lure not only makes a lot of noise, which helps attract hungry bass at night, but it also stands out better for the fish lurking below. Think of the opening scene in the movie Jaws where the girl is silhouetted black against the surface of the water. That’s pretty much what a bass is going to see when looking at your lure. Just listen for the splash that indicates a strike. I actually find it easier to hook fish on topwaters at night because bass generally hit topwaters more explosively than normal at these times.
Keep in mind, bass will move into the shallows to feed at night. If you are using subsurface lures, shallower-running lures are usually best. It may not make a lot of sense, but in my experience, black or dark-colored lures work better at night than at any other time.
It might help to fish slightly heavier gear than normal. Even if you’re familiar with the water, you will get snagged more often at night. Clear monofilament is probably your top line choice. Colored lines are more likely to stand out at night if the fish is looking up at your lure from above.
4. Fighting fish
One thing I’ve noted while fishing at night is that the darkness can play tricks on you. Sometimes it makes every fish and every strike feel larger than it actually is. This is part of what makes fishing at night so fun because every fish feels like a lunker. But it also makes it harder to judge how to play a fish in the early moments of the fight. Be careful not to over-set the hook or over-play the fish.
There’s a reason most anglers have more break-offs at night than at other times of the day.
5. The Witching Hour is Bass Hour
What angler hasn’t gotten up early and hit the water at first light before? Not many I know. But sometimes, I like to hit the water even earlier than that. In fact, I discovered quite by accident how the fishing seems to be best just before the dawn, especially when it’s hot.
Years ago, I worked for a summer in a box factory. The job required me to get up very early to make the 30-mile drive to work with a co-worker. Often, I woke up too early in the morning. It was an especially hot summer that year and the bass were just not biting during the day.
But it was a totally different story on those mornings when I awoke way too early and couldn’t get back to sleep around 2:00am to 4:00 a.m. I could walk down to my parent’s pond and catch a dozen or more bass in a half hour between those hours. I just happened to be hitting the water at the only times of day that summer that things cooled off enough for the bass to get especially aggressive.
With recent summers getting hotter and hotter, it only makes sense to go night fishing because it’s more comfortable for the angler. But it’s also more comfortable for the fish. Fish hate the heat just as much as humans do. When it’s too hot to fish during the day, it’s generally just right at night.
I also firmly believe I got an aggressive response at those early morning hours simply because the fish hadn’t seen lures at those times before. Fish are so used to seeing lures during the daylight hours that I firmly believe they may let their guard down a little once it gets dark.
Experiment with the times of night you go out, sometimes you can get into a pattern of late-night/early-morning feeding that lasts a week or more. Such was the case of a few weeks of spectacular pond bass fishing at 3:00 a.m.
The other big bonus, you’re likely to have the water all to yourself at these late hours!
Night fishing can be a great way to beat the summer heat and can make for some exciting late-night adventures. It’s also a great way to change things up if you’ve grown a little bored fishing for bass during the day. Utilize some of the tips here and you’ll be well on your way to some exciting bass fishing after dark!