Fishing under a blazing sun at the height of summer is difficult to take, no matter how eager you are to land a lunker. Bass aren’t too crazy about hot weather, either, which is another reason why the nighttime is the right time in lakes where air and water temperatures climb uncomfortably high in the daylight for both anglers and fish.
After the sun sets and water temperatures are more bearable, baitfish and other forage become more active and trigger the hunting instinct in bass. Bass can feel the presence of moving objects nearby without seeing them, and lures that vibrate or displace a lot of water get their attention.
At night, and in any water of limited visibility for that matter, bass find lures by trailing the “shock waves” that the baits emit as they vibrate through the water. These vibrations are detected by a natural sonar system located in the lateral lines of fish. Also, bass can hear sounds in the darkest water, such as those made by minnows dimpling at the surface or feeding crayfish scuttling through the rocks.
Choose your night-fishing lures accordingly. My picks include lipless crankbaits with built-in rattles, deep-diving crankbaits, spinnerbaits (both in-line and safety-pin style), giant Texas-rigged plastic worms, jig-and-eel combos and noisy topwater lures like buzzbaits, poppers, propbaits and wobblers.
Anglers who don’t have much night-fishing experience often associate the sport with wobbling surface lures like jet-black Muskie Jitterbugs. While it is true that surface lures catch a lot of bass after dark, sub-surface baits also are effective because bass don’t leave their favorite deep-water structures if food is available there. They have no trouble zeroing in on a crankbait moving through their dining room, even on the blackest night.
If crankbaits are on the menu, fish them along the inshore edges of drop-offs where bass might be prowling. When you’re cranking, it’s important to reel in your lures with a steady retrieve, whether fast or slow, so that bass can home in on them. Erratic retrieves often cause the fish to miss. To locate bass quickly, try trolling diving crankbaits around points at different depths and vary their speed.
Spinnerbaits also make great nighttime lures and will call up fish at any depth. For shallow shoreline applications, try a yellow Snagless Sally. You can cast it onto the shallow aquatic vegetation you might have trouble seeing at night and the lure won’t get fouled. Get extra vibration by adding a big, fluttering curlytail grub to the hook.
When bass are offshore a bit, tie on a safety-pin-style spinnerbait with the biggest blades you can find. Bulge a large single-blade spinner like a Ledgebuster or Zorro Aggravator just under the surface from shallow to deep, or slow-roll a black spinnerbait such as the Terminator Night Bait near the bottom when bass are staging around submerged humps or drop-offs.
Buzzbaits are great shallow-water lures, day or night. Add a trailer hook to the lure and reel it back as slowly and steadily as possible while keeping the blades churning enticingly.
TOP TO BOTTOM
As noted, noisy wobblers are great producers in the dark. Propeller baits like the Smithwick Devil’s Horse are old favorites, too. Cast them into areas where they can do their magic without fouling in moss or weeds. A slow, steady retrieve works best. If you hear bass blasting bait in heavy cover, try a big weedless bait like the Mister Twister Tri-Alive Top Prop or an unweighted, Texas-rigged plastic worm–the biggest one you can find. Good choices include Bass Pro Shop’s 12-inch Tournament Series Squirmin’ Worm, Zoom’s 10 1/2-inch Ole Monster and Culprit’s 12-inch Original.
Add a sinker and crawl the worm across the bottom when bass are deep and won’t go after anything moving faster than a snail. The slower you fish the giant worms, the more enticing the vibrations emitted by their fluttering tails. Jigs with wide, flaring skirts and equipped with pork eel or crayfish trailers also connect when bass aren’t in the mood to chase down bait. For either type of bait, use heavy line–20-pound-test–and a rod with a muscular tip for efficient hook setting.
Night-bassing is not for everyone, but try it when the lunkers are on the prowl, and you might get hooked. Hearing an explosive strike in the area where your lure landed, or feeling that tug on the line as a bass inhales your spinnerbait, will more than make up for a few hours of lost sleep.
A NEW BABY
If you can’t trailer a big bass boat, the Bass Baby might be the best alternative to reach those offshore lunkers. The boat, which is 8 feet long, is ideal for car-topping or hauling in the back of a pickup. The Bass Baby weighs just 143 pounds and has two swivel seats. Built-in wheels allow you to push or pull the boat by hand as you make your way along a trail toward a secret fishing hole. (About $560; Connect-A-Dock; 877-742-3071)