Go Late for Early Season Largemouth Bass

Don't wait until the dog days of summer to extend fishing hours after sunset.

NIGHT FISHING FOR bass is normally reserved for summer, when anglers want to escape the heat and get an edge on sun-shy fish spooked by daytime pleasure boaters. But veteran Arkansas angler Mitch Looper starts fishing after dark as soon as water temperatures reach a very unsummerlike 48 degrees. • Over six springs, he's landed 60 bass of 7 pounds or more. Every one of them hit a ⅜-ounce jig after dark. The largest was a northern-strain largemouth that weighed an incredible 14.41 pounds. • If you're willing to put in some late nights, Looper's strategy could have you tangling with your local lakes' biggest bass this spring.

FISH SILENT, FISH DEEP A good night-fishing lake grows big bass and offers water clarity of at least 2 feet, says Looper. It should also have steep dropoffs close to the bank. "The best of these will fall off from about 6 to 12 feet deep," he notes. By focusing on these specific areas, Looper reduces an entire lake to a handful of key locations.

To avoid spooking bass, he runs his electric motor on low speed, fishes without lights, and makes no boat noise. He also casts long. "You can't plop a jig on top of a giant bass and expect to catch it," Looper says. "I cast beyond my target and work my jig very slowly down to the fish."

He uses a 6½-foot, medium-heavy baitcasting rod, sensitive 20-pound fluorocarbon line, and a Pflueger President 6.3:1 reel. "You need a high-speed reel to catch up to the fish. As soon as you set the hook on a big bass, it almost always rushes toward the boat, on its way to deeper water. And the bigger the bass, the faster it runs."

A Booyah Boo Jig with a black, watermelon, and peach skirt is Looper's first choice. He dresses the hook with a Yum Chunk or Wooly Hawgtail in either watermelon or green pumpkin.

Instead of fishing all the way through from dusk until dawn, Looper rises in the middle of the night. "After night fishing for 20 years, it finally hit me that I rarely got any big-bass bites until about 4 a.m. Now I don't bother going out until around 3:30. This way, when a bass does grab my jig, I'm awake enough to take advantage of it."