How to Catch Bass, Trout, and Panfish After Dark

Get the inside track on catching your favorite gamefish after the sun goes down.

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Just because the sun goes down doesn't mean the species you love to catch go to bed. In fact, sometimes the biggest fish in the pond, lake, or river don't eat at all until nightfall. Catching them past sunset requires some minor tweaks to your daytime tactics. These three will get you started night stalking.

Bass

Both largemouths and smallmouths stay active all night, especially when there's a full moon to shed some light. Aside from planning an attack around the lunar calendar, fishing after dark is a prime time to bust a heavy bucket­mouth or bronze­back on the surface. Opt for lures like the Jitterbug, which makes a lot of noise as it's slowly retrieved. The slower the retrieve, the more time a bass has to track and smack the lure. Be sure to give the fish a chance to turn and dive before setting the hook.

Trout

Big brown trout will hunker down all day and go on the feed after sundown. Now is the time to throw large streamers and stickbaits in dark colors. Remember that at night, fish see lure profiles, not colors, and dark colors produce better silhouettes. Stickbaits that rattle, and streamers with bulkier hair heads, will produce more vibration under­water, making it easier for big trout to home in. Work in slow twitches and strips, and set on any tap.

Panfish

Bluegills and crappies will happily chow down in the dark, especially near a light source. Light attracts small baitfish and bugs, providing a late-night feast for panfish. Fixed dock lights are magnets, but if you can't find one, pick up a portable floating light designed specifically for nighttime crappie fishing. Once you attract some bait to the light, work jigs from outside the range of the glow to inside. The biggest panfish often hang out just beyond the light's reach.

Photograph by Joe Cermele