Bass Fishing at Night 101: Cool Off and Catch Hawgs
It won't be long before spring become summer—and bass start biting better at night. Now's the time to brush up on the best after-hours gear and tactics
Fishing for bass at night is some of the most fun you can have on the water. As the spring fades into summer and the lakes become crowded with pleasure boaters, the bass wrap up their spawning process, and it can become increasingly difficult to catch them during the day. In this post-spawn phase, many bass move offshore and the fish that stay shallow become increasingly less active, as water temps rise rapidly and the bass seek shelter from the sweltering heat.
But there is a way to skirt all of these issues while escaping summer’s heat yourself and still catching plenty of fish—and that’s by bass fishing at night. Here’s everything you need to know.
Why Fish for Bass at Night?
With fewer boats on the water at night and cooler air temperatures to boot, night fishing is already a solid option for anglers who look at Sea-Doos with distain and would rather not lather on five coats of SPF-50 throughout the day. But there’s more to it than that: Bass often bite better at night once the water temperatures rise, especially fish in shallower water.
Bass are cold blooded, of course, which means that their environment regulates their bodily functions and dictates their moods. Many anglers know this when it comes to fishing in the winter, understanding that bass are much more lethargic and slow to react in colder water. But a similar slow down occurs in the summer, when shallow bass become less active in water temps in the upper 80s and 90s.
Once darkness falls, the shallows become a touch cooler, and the bass are no longer sitting under a massive heat lamp of the bright sun. As a result, they become more active and will do a good bit of their feeding at night. Bass tend to group up at night as well, not only on the same humps and ledges where you can find them together during the day, but also around dock lights, where bugs and small baitfish lure bass in by the dozens to feed. In other words, bass fishing at night is often just the best way to catch more and bigger fish when it’s hot outside.
How to Fish for Bass at Night
The best advice and tactics for bass fishing at night can range widely based on the type of bass you’re targeting and the location. But there are some overall themes that work well for a variety of species and throughout the country.
For starters, make sure you have some light sources with you. Headlamps, small flashlights, and interior boat lights can all be extremely useful when tying on lure lures and bringing a fish to the boat. That said, you want to refrain from shining the lights in the water as much as possible. Though bass like dock lights that are fixed in one location, flashlights and headlamps bouncing around and shining on the water are likely a detrimental distraction from your lure.
Casting at night can be quite challenging, especially if there’s no moon out. On a bright night, you can see the bank nearly as well in the dark as you can in the day time. But on dark nights, baits can end up in the bushes quite easily. If you’re fishing offshore, you’ll be able to rely on your electronics. But if you’re fishing the bank, try to avoid looking at your phone, graphs, or other bright lights so that your pupils aren’t constantly dilating. And looking down the bank instead of directly at it seems to help as well, using your peripheral vision to see the shore.
Best Baits for Night Bass Fishing
There are some basic ideas when it comes to bait selection for night fishing as well. If you fish muddy water regularly, you’ll notice lots of parallels. In water with low visibility, anglers rely on sound and vibration to draw the attention of bass to a bait. In the dark, the same methods work well. So buzzbaits on top and big bladed spinnerbaits or chatterbaits under the surface work really well, as two examples.
Go Dark When It’s Dark
Though it may seem counterintuitive, dark colors work best when fishing in the dark. Most bass baits for night fishing are black, often with some accent color like chartreuse, blue, or red. It seems like white or lighter baits would show up better. But the darker baits apparently create better profiles in the water for the bass to target. This is in the dark, mind you. When you’re fishing around artificial lights, you’ll want to change things up.
Go Natural Around Lights
Bass that are feeding around dock lights at night can see very well. So you’ll want to pull back from the loud and aggressive buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, and chatterbaits, and instead select small, natural-color baits that mimic the baitfish that are feeding on bugs around these lights. So anything from fishing a shakyhead on the bottom to a shallow-running crankbait can be used to target these fish that are feeding on bream, bluegill, shad, and other bait.
So, this summer, take advantage of the cool and serene evenings as the sun sets, air temps drop, and the bulk of the pleasure boaters head for the ramp. Look for bass to group up or roam around the same spots at night that you’d expect to see them during the day. Use dark-colored, commotion-creating baits when fishing in the dark and smaller, more natural presentations when fishing around lights. If you do this, you’ll find that you can have a lot of fun and loads of success bass fishing at night.