Can your bass-catching future prove bright when fishing at night? The answer is yes, if you follow a few rational realizations about where bass might harbor and what tactics you use, from retrieve to lure selection.
First, don’t let the dark atmosphere daunt your determination. That said, play it safe; bring the necessary lighting aids and don’t just head out onto the water aimlessly, lest you collide head on with what you can’t see. If you learn some nighttime basics in catching and staying safe, you can make a successful future out of a dark situation.
Just as daytime bass fishing demands it, your thinking cap should stay on your head when bassing at night.
The night shares much in common with daytime bass fishing, actually, but it also presents a few twists and turns from your normal outing.
For one, you need to think about light, where it might exist in an otherwise black night, how to take advantage of it, and how to keep safe without it.
Secondly, you need to shift your paradigm when it comes to presentation, mostly because what a bass sees becomes less relevant than in the daylight.
You can use many of the same lures as in daytime, but others that boast a great catching history during the day may not be worth squat at night because of the visibility factor.
So, how do you best approach your first freshwater bass fishing trip at night?
1. Wise use of lighting
Whether for safety or catching, light can be the difference between a successful nighttime outing for bass or an adventure in being blindfolded with rod and reel in hand.
Experienced night bass anglers will first point to light when tipping you off about how to find and catch. They will point you toward docks.
Why? Because many host lights for docking or simply for walking if not for security sake.
Smaller fish flock to lighted piers and docks to feed on yet smaller organisms, including aquarian insects, crustaceans and other small swimmers.
In turn, hefty, hungry bass follow the minnow trail all the way to the boardwalks and pilings. If deep water exists within a stone’s throw, all the better for finding bass in this scenario.
At the same time, make sure your running lights and spotting lights are ample. The dock always wins in a collision.
2. Know what spawns at night
Some smaller fish spawn at night during spring and early summer. Often, the drop in temperature at night spurs spawning from minnows such as shad or flathead minnows.
For instance, the flathead prefers water at 64 degrees Fahrenheit for spawning—a temp that is hardly available in some lakes and ponds during the heat of day.
Because some minnows spawn at night, be sure to cover bottoms in fairly shallow waters that feature small rocks or gravel. Where small fish spawn, bass will tend to follow.
As for bass themselves, they spawn in shallow water during spring and the females tend to stay in the same shallow water for extended periods, including night.
The male will course this type of water at night for food. Therefore, look for shallow benches or inlets first, especially in spring.
3. Rock the night
Just as during the day, rocky bars, submerged rock islands along the bottom and rip-rap all serve as feeding stations and sanctuaries for bass.
A lot of small aquatic life dwells in rocks, including crustaceans, and it serves as protection for the small and large, as in bass.
4. Night Fishing Technique for Bass
When fishing at night, noisy lures do draw notice from bass. Their lateral line detects sonar rays readily and directs their approach to prey, whereas during the day, vision aids such pursuit.
However, your casts with any kind of lure should not land the lure or bait atop the bass, just as it shouldn’t during the day. Cast past the bass’ lair and retrieve the bait or lure back toward the area where you believe the bass are dwelling.
Some nighttime bass anglers believe they should retrieve their lures with a little more bump and pump than usual because without the visibility afforded during day, bass need to rely solely on sound.
Others, however, believe that because it is so dark in the water, a moderate to slow retrieve is best once the bass hears the lure and lurches toward the sound.
Once it comes close enough to the offering, the bass can then actually see it, assisting its ability to strike accurately at the lure.
Try both methods to see which one works best on your chosen nighttime lake or pond.
5. Lures and baits
Soft plastic baits probably rank as the No. 1 go-to lure for catching bass at night. Worm, lizard and frog imitations should be fished hard before resorting to other lures.
Keep hook sizes the same as you would during the day. Don’t be afraid to go as big as 5/0 at night, however. Larger hooks are less visible to bass at night than they are during daylight.
Surface or top-water lures constitute a good second choice at night, especially during the early evening hours.
Jitterbugs and other clankers catch the attention of bass in the darker confines while even bigger-than-normal poppers on a fly rod can even cause enough commotion to draw a strike. But, again, cast beyond your target a bit to avoid spooking the bass.
As a tertiary go-to, try live bait (check your state regulations on live bait, however). The sense of smell is as fluid as the sense of water vibrations or wakes to a bass. Minnows, such as shad, or long nightcrawlers and water dogs are worth a try.
6. Night and muddy water don’t mix
Make sure the lake or pond water you fish is clear, not muddied or murky. The latter condition not only hazards unseen snags and obstacles at night that can disable your boat if not injure the angler, but it discourages feeding forays for the fish a bass preys upon as well as the bass itself. Fish muddy waters during the day.
7. Always be safe
Nighttime on the water in a boat presents a much different sense of wherewithal, depth perception and vision altogether as compared to fishing in daylight.
Obstacles or their silhouettes can appear farther or closer to the human eye than they actually are during the night. Darkness can distort your senses, even your balance or equilibrium.
Keep plenty of lighting aboard or on shore when fishing at night. Make sure your boat is stocked with an ample number of life vests and flares.
Check your boat’s running lights before leaving the driveway and don’t clutter the deck of your boat with as much gear as you would during the day.
More than one aggressive bass angler has tumbled overboard at night due to a trip over an extra tackle box, additional cooler or fishing gadget of some sort on deck.
To catch bass at night, it is imperative you stay above the water rather than in it.