When a blazing sun and legions of water skiers keep you from enjoying midsummer bass-fishing action, perhaps it’s time to say “good night” to the bustle of day fishing and “good day” to the rewards of night fishing. Following are six tips to consider when facing the darkness for big bass.
1. Fish The Spotlights: Nighttime bass fishing can be most productive if anglers know how these fish react to the darkness. Some claim that bass are spooked by lights. Despite any such claim, waterfront lights burning continuously will attract biglargemouth bass through a food chain that begins with light-crazed bugs. On many lakes, to attract bass and crappie, dock owners hang bright lights around their docks. Where shad are the primary forage fish, it’s not unusual to see large schools of them circling below the lights, nor to watch a lunker bass charge from beneath the dock to engulf the hapless baitfish. Twitching a thin minnow imitator along the edges of docks often results in an arm-jolting strike. Yellow “bug lights” attract fewer insects, yet seemingly shed enough light on the water to draw bass. Whether bass feed more efficiently in dim light, or whether they are simply drawn to the bugs is not certain. Nevertheless, an angler’s odds of “gettin’ bit” under the steady glare of electric lights are much higher than in other areas. An added bonus to lighted areas is that anglers can see their lines and cast more accurately. That, in itself may account for the greater success of this night fishing strategy.
2. By The Light Of The Silvery Moon: Full-moon periods improve night vision and maximize fishing success. Studies of records provided by The International Gamefish Association show that larger game fish — bass included — are more active around the full-moon period. In addition most record catches took place near the day of either a full or dark moon. Using a sun-and-moon calendar help anglers determine when the full moon occurs, as well as the best fishing times in a 24-hour period.
3. Using Black Lights: Ultraviolet fishing lights make accurate casting possible, and they aid anglers in knot-tying and other line-handling problems. Under the effects of ultraviolet lights, also known as “black lights,” high-visibility monofilament line glows in the darkness, and the lure trajectory shines like a tracer bullet. Nighttime worm fishermen also can see the slightest telltale twitch of their line when a bass nudges the lure.
4. Sight And Other Senses In Low Light: According to Paul Johnson, author of The Scientific Angler and vice-president of marketing for Berkley and Company, Inc., the sensory-perception systems of bass do not attach the same priority to vision as animals that live above water. Johnson states: “As conditions make vision unreliable, bass can place less dependency on that sense (sight) and rely on other senses like sound and chemoperception. Therefore color becomes a minimal factor under night-fishing conditions.” “Chemoperception” is the term biologists use in reference to a fish’s sense of smell.” Hearing is a long-range sense; chemoperception is short-range — the sense which fish use when they get within ‘target ranges’ of prey,” Johnson said. “In some cases that range is as close as a few inches. I think bass tune their dependency on ‘chemo’ during low-light and night-fishing conditions. “You want to be careful of what odors you introduce into their environment. They may produce negative ‘smell tracks.’ Try to neutralize any negative odors or, better yet, introduce positive odors.” “Live bait is one way to get a positive attractant. If you use artificial lures, you should consider using a positive fish attractant or select lures with built-in attractants such as Berkley Power Worms and Power Grubs.”
5. Sound Off For Bass: As mentioned earlier, when feeding in high visibility, bass may rely heavily on sight. They also have sophisticated organs for detecting the source and direction of underwater sounds. This was first observed by Dr. Fred Janzow of Oklahoma State University. In one experiment, he had researchers place cups over the eyes of bass, then drop minnows in a tank. The bass eventually captured and ate the minnows. In low light, lures that rattle or vibrate will help anglers capitalize on a bass’ sense of “hearing.” A Steady retrieve, rather than a stop-and-go pattern, will help a bass locate and move to intercept the lure. Surface lures like the Zara Spook and Jitterbug, in addition to buzzbaits, appeal to a largemouth’s hearing sense. When bass won’t break the surface, however, rattling baits like Rat-L-Traps, Ratt’l Spots or others filled with steel shot can give anglers an edge. On today’s market are plastic worms and weedless jigs with these rattling chambers, which help bass find the lure in the dark. Bass Pro Shops’ Pro-Tail Worm is an excellent example of soft-plastic baits with a sound system.
6. Safety First: Night angling for bass can be exciting; at the same time, it requires care and consideration to be safe and pleasant. Though bugs are especially a nuisance at night, anglers can combat them with repellant. Repellants that contain the chemical DEET are most effective. Make sure running lights on your boat are operating. After night falls, keep them lit at all times. Stern lights must be visible from a 360-degree arc around the boat. Bow lights should be visible for “22.5 degrees above the beam,” as the U.S. Coast Guard puts it, or 112.5 degrees back from the bow. Bow-mounted trolling motors often hide bow lights on one side. Check your lights carefully; if necessary, install a bow light with a removable extension pole. A flashlight for night fishing is a must. Clenched between the teeth, the small aluminum AA penlight will make the frustrating job of knot-tying a snap. Its handy size allows it to slip comfortably into a pocket.
The point of bass fishing is catching bass. What could be better than doing it
when the air is cool, the water is quiet and the bass are hungry?
The answer is obvious: Take a nap this afternoon, and hit the big bass tonight!