5 Night Fishing Tips You Need To Know To Catch More Bass
By: Jeff Burlingame
On those long, hot, summer days, one of the best ways to beat the heat is to hit the water when the sun isn’t out.
Night fishing for bass is a surefire way to catch a bunch of big fish, and it’s hard to find a funner way to fish. The sound of a bass slamming your topwater off in the distance will get anyone’s heart rate going. Plus, fishing at night lets you escape the summer fishing crowds during the day.
Although it doesn’t call for much more than a good headlamp, some bug spray, and a few key lures, a few special tips, tricks, and tactics will get you fishin’ in the dark like the Nitty Gritty.
#1: Loud Lures Are Your Friend
In the dark of the night, you need to go out and get a bass’ attention. The best way to do this is to fish with loud lures.
We’re talking about baits like buzzbaits, lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwaters, and vibrating jigs, but don’t limit yourself to just loud vibrating lures. You can also use other ways to be “loud” like scents and water displacement
At night, bass rely heavily on their lateral line to find an easy meal. The lateral line allows them to “hear” by feeling the vibrations of their prey. There is no better way to mimic this than a lure that thumps. While bass do have good low light visibility, they are still going to use the lateral line as their primary sense under the cover of darkness.
If you need a more subtle technique like a jig or plastic due to the mood of the fish, try to work some sort of rattle in your presentation. Crawfish are noisy critters, making them an easy and high percentage target for roaming nighttime bass.
Bulk up your bait a little at night and use something a bit bigger and heavier. The bigger the bait, the more water it pushes, in turn letting the fish easily feel the subtle vibration of the jig.
You may also want to try using a little scent on your baits in addition to the rattle. A little shot of garlic or baitfish scent on your jig might be the difference between catching a bass or that bass swimming by without even knowing the bait was there. Lures that have built-in scents are also available and can make some magic at night.
#2: Use The Moon To Your Advantage
Full moons are nights when you need to be fishing -- there won’t be any werewolves, we promise.
The reason is rooted in more than just the lunar table. The full moon gives the fish the ability to see a little better in the water, and they take advantage of that by feeding up.
Bass are mainly opportunistic sight feeders, so any time they can gain a slight edge in their senses, they’ll use it to fatten up. In addition to the bass feeding, you will be able to see a little better, making night fishing a little easier, espcially for newbies.
Don’t write off half-moons or even new moons either -- the fish are still feeding. This is especially true in very clean bodies of water where bass are groggy during the heat of the day.
These nights can be awfully fruitful, especially when there is a little wind chopping up the water, too. Bass love to feed under a slight chop on clear bodies of water.
Fish baits slower than you would during the middle of the day. Bass have an uncanny ability to hit the baits so aggressively that they’ll actually completely miss the lure altogether. This conundrum is even worse at night when they have a harder time seeing what they are eating.
Even on the fullest moon, always remember to work baits with more of a slow, non-aggressive cadence.
#3: Think Colors That Catch
Generally, when bass fishing during the day, you’re going to want to “match the hatch”. This can still be true when night fishing, but believe it or not, you’re generally better off using black lures.
Black lures cast a nice silhouette against the moonlit night time sky, allowing bass to hone in on your bait a lot faster than with other colors.
Jigs and plastics in black and blue, spinnerbaits with black skirts and blades, and black vibrating jigs are all baits that we like to throw when chasing nighttime bass. Anything that has a good amount of vibration and water displacement is a top choice.
Many anglers swear by fishing a big June bug-colored Texas-rigged 10 to 12 inch ribbon tail worm when targeting bass in the dark.
Other colors that can be useful are shad imitators like white or silver when bass are chasing spawning shad in the shallows, and red craw colors when they are up shallow-eating crawfish in the spring.
Just always remember that you need to match your bait for the water clarity first and foremost -- the dirtier- the darker. If the water is muddy, you might be better off skipping out tonight and finally taking your girl to do something nice for once.
#4: Know Where To Look
The best lakes have fairly clean water and a lot of shallow cover, with a good bed of weeds like milfoil, coontail, or eelgrass. Nighttime bass will undoubtedly be up in the shallow weeds feeding on bluegill and other unsuspecting fish.
Here is where you’ll need to use spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and topwater frogs to navigate thicker vegetation.
Bass are more likely to roam at night than they are during the day. This means shallow inside weed edges, rip rap banks, and around docks.
Plan for the fish to be cruising and looking for a cheap unsuspecting meal. Transition areas from deep water into shallow act as a funnel for fish coming up from the depths to feed under the cover of darkness—look to start here and work your way shallower as the evening goes on.
Also, you’ll want to look for any type of man-made artificial lights attached to bridges, docks, and even moored boats. These lights are magnets for insects, baitfish, and most importantly, bass. The bass love ambushing their prey from the shadows of structure and feeding up on hatching insects attracted to the bright lights. Some anglers also believe that attaching black lights to your boat can actually attract fish your way, and is another tactic to think about when setting out at night.
#5: Pack Like You’ve Done This Before
Think light. Both literally and figuratively.
You won’t need every bait in your tackle box in the middle of the night, and you’re best sticking with the baits we mentioned earlier (hope you were paying attention!).
You’ll also want to consider packing the following:
- Flashlights and headlamps are paramount for navigating a dark boat, retying, and just about anything else you’ll encounter on the lake at night.
- Bring enough food and drink to get you through your time spent on the water. There is nothing that can cut short a good night of fishing faster than the pangs of hunger or an unquenchable thirst -- plus, nothing’s going to be open and a gas station ham & cheese ain’t quite the fishing motivator.
- Bug spray is needed to escape unrelenting mosquitoes that are human-hunting near the water on summer evenings. Pro tip: also bring some vanilla extract to repel gnats.
- A GPS is a must for navigating dark lakes in the boat. It will also come in handy in case of an emergency so you know exactly where to send help to.
- A strong spotlight for boat navigation when moving from spot to spot or heading to and from the boat ramp. You’ll want to be able to see any debris in the water or navigation beacons to keep you on course.
- A good bit of patience is key to night fishing success -- the fish are more scattered and can be a bit tougher to catch, but you’ll be rewarded with your personal best bass by staying out a little bit later than the retirees on their pontoons.
- A fishing buddy is always good to bring, but if you decide you want a little alone time, make sure someone knows where you are and can check in with you to make sure there isn’t a Titanic situation going down because you got too excited reeling.
If you aren’t bass fishing at night, you’re missing out. Some of the largest bass we’ve ever caught have been under the cover of darkness.
Don’t let yourself be deterred from fishing when you have to work late, you might just catch the biggest bass of your life after the sun’s gone down.