Bass anglers should have no fear when using vibrating and noisy lures after dark.
Summertime on the lake draws a crowd of folks for various water sport adventures. Everyone is looking for a method to beat the heat.
With high boat traffic and a sharp summer sun, bass anglers look for some type of reprieve. Catching a bass can prove difficult under these conditions.
But the lake becomes a different world under a soft summer night sky. The boating crowds have vanished and for the most part the waters have calmed. Bass and bass anglers welcome the coolness of the night.
After the sun has long been tucked in and darkness covers the lake, there are things that can go thump in the night.
Bass fishing after dark is different in some ways yet similar to others than in the daytime. During the hot days, bass will adjust to be more active at night. With some adjustments and planning, the thumps you hear will be at the end of your line. And the nightmares will be gone.
Night Gear Prep
Before hitting the lake for a nighttime fishing excursion, anglers should do a little preparation with their tackle and gear. One of the first steps is to clear out any clutter in the boat.
Remove any gear that is not absolutely necessary for the night trip. Extra rods, tackle boxes / bags and other stuff that could interfere with moving around in the boat.
“Only take along the tackle you need,” advises B.A.S.S. Elite pro Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala. “A couple of rods and some lures should be enough.”
Vinson recommends using one or two tackle storage boxes to hold the lure and soft plastic baits. After dark, anglers can waste valuable fishing time searching through a bunch of tackle looking for that one special lure. Use one box for spinner baits and hard lures. Another box can hold the soft plastic lures and a few hooks.
Place the lure boxes in a storage compartment that is easily accessed. This keeps them handy, but out of the way to prevent tripping. Also, only keep one or two rods on the deck. This helps prevent tripping and falling overboard or stepping on a rod.
Some type of flashlight is a must. A small pocket-size light is handy to help tie on lures and unhook fish. Some flashlights offer a soft fluorescent lens that is much easier on the eyes. Large bright lights are better suited for navigation. But, they can provide too much light for close-in work and will affect your night vision.
“I use a headlamp light for night fishing,” comments Cody Payton of Oxford, Ala. “These type of lights keep my hands free for tying on lures.”
Certain models of the headlamp style lights offer green or red lighting. These colors are easier on an angler’s eyes and don’t affect night vision as much as white light.
Bass Thumping Locations
Payton advises to look for bass at night in the same areas as you would during daylight hours. Cover is still key. Stumps, rocks, weeds and drops at channel ledges should hold bass. Piers and boat docks are also prime locations for nighttime bass hideouts.
“During the summer months I like large shallow flats,” Payton says. “If these flats have some brush tops, they make it even better.”
Another area Payton targets for nighttime bass is rocky shelves and points. These locations attract baitfish and the bass will usually follow. Also, many night anglers will overlook these spots.
“Under the cover of darkness, bass will tend to chase lures out farther from the structure.”
On more developed lakes, lighted piers and boathouses are worth fishing. The lights attract insects and baitfish and the bass will be there for a midnight snack.
Look for lights that are close to the surface of the water. Vinson says for some reason the bass prefer these types of piers.
Under the cover of darkness, bass will tend to chase lures out farther from the structure. Although they may not be actively feeding, bass will run down a lure close by. Still, anglers will want to get their lure in or as close to the cover as possible.
Payton says each lake can be a little different on the type of cover and depth where the bass will hold. On R.L. Harris Lake (Wedowee), the bass will tend to be a little deeper. There he concentrates on brush tops in 10 to 20 feet of water.
At Lake Guntersville, the grass helps keep the bass up a little more shallow. Grass lines and weeds around 10 feet is a good starting point.
Lures for Thumping Bass
Almost any lure can be used for bass fishing at night. However, a couple of key lures seems to always produce bass after dark.
Anglers should focus on a few productive lures to keep the fishing simple and the catching hot. Most nighttime anglers will opt for a spinner bait, buzzbait, or a large soft-plastic worm.
Spinner baits are probably the top choice for night fishing. These lures can cover plenty of water and the vibration mimics shad, bream or other bait that bass feed on. Also, bass can track or hone in on the lure from a longer distance in the dark waters.
“My go-to spinner bait is a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce size with a large Colorado style blade,” advises Payton. “I prefer the color either black or white.”
A white spinner bait at night may be going against the grain. But Payton explains why a white bait works at night. He says under a full to half-moon there is more light reaching the water. The bass can see the white spinner bait easier under the bright moon.
The large Colorado-style blade gives the spinner bait a distinctive thump as it is reeled through the water. The thumping gives off vibrations that simulate a baitfish swimming along. The bass can also feel the vibrations from the blade through its lateral line.
Payton fishes his spinner baits on medium-heavy casting rod for around six feet, six inches to seven feet long. A baitcaster reel with a 6.3:1 gear ratio spooled with 14- to 17-pound-test Fluorocarbon line is ideal.
“When fishing the spinner bait at night I use a slow, constant retrieve,” Payton says. “I don’t want the bait flat on the bottom, but real close.”
Another go-to lure for Payton for night bass is a mega-size plastic worm—large dark-colored worms from 10 to 12 inches long. He will rig the worms Texas style with a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce slip sinker with a glass bead ahead of a 5/0 hook.
The worm rig is fished on a heavy action casting rod around seven feet. The reel is spooled with 20- to 25-pound-test Fluorocarbon line.
“I want the worm down in the brush,” Payton explains. “I will pull the worm slow, dragging it over each limb and letting it fall back.”
The worm bumping the brush emits sound that signals a crawfish or baitfish is injured or attempting to hide in the brush. The tail of the worm also sends out some vibrations of its own. Although not as pronounced as the spinner bait, bass can still hone in on the sound.
“There has been some debate on the best time to fish at night.”
Sometimes Payton will cast a large jig with a trailer. This setup gives a large profile for the bass to see the lure better under the night sky.
Top-water lures are also a top choice among nighttime bass anglers. Buzzbaits, chuggers, spooks and Jitterbugs have caught the share of bass in the dark. Generally, these style of baits perform better on less-pressured lakes and rivers. But nothing can beat the explosive sound of a bass erupting on a top-water bait in the dark.
There has been some debate on the best time to fish at night. Some anglers head out just before dark and fish into the night. Others may not get on the lake until after 10 p.m. and fish until daylight.
Payton says he will usually fish all night during the summer. However, most of the fish he catches is from around midnight to early morning.
During the heat of summer, night fishing is a sure way to beat the heat and the crowded lakes. You can bet there will be some things that go bump in the night. And those things will be big bass thumping down on your lures. Then you’ll know it’s a great day, or night, outdoors.