You’ve got the lake to yourself. No pleasure boats. No water skiers. No Jet-skis and no other fisherman. The sun has set and the only sounds to be heard are the bull frogs and the whippoorwills. Before too long you’ll be hearing lunker bass sloshing around in the shallows. What we’re talking about here is midnight Bassin’. Fishing from the time the sun goes down until it comes up again in the wee hours of the morning.
The time when the faint-of-heart are home snuggled in their beds with visions of 10 lbers. dancing in their heads. Night fishing is not for everyone. If you require a certain number of hours of sleep every night and can’t stand the thought of missing the 11 O’clock news then maybe its best if you leave the night fishing to someone else. But if you like the idea of having the lake to yourself and having a shot at the Bass of a lifetime then maybe its time to catch a nap in the afternoon and launch your boat when everyone else is pulling off the lake and heading home.
- Special Preparation
- Night fishing requires some special preparation and precautions. Once the sun sets you won’t want to be spending much time tying on lures and searching for other important items such as your flashlight or your landing net, if you use one. So get all your tackle and equipment ready before you head out to the lake. Pick out the lures you plan on using and tie them on before you even leave your driveway. Be sure you have fresh batteries in your flashlight and the lights on your boat are in good working order. Life jackets are also a must, especially while running the outboard motor. Safety is of the utmost importance. Be sure you pick a lake that you know well. Everything changes after dark. Even a lake that you know well will look unfamiliar to you once the sun goes down and darkness sets in fully. Try to put in before the sun sets. Pick out some land marks on shore and use them after dark if you need to find your way back to the ramp. If the fog sets in after dark stick close to the shoreline or get off the lake. Trying to cross the lake when its blanketed in fog is one of the worst things you can do. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find your way off even a 300 acre lake. Many people have spent hours going in circles because they thought they could find the other side of the lake by going in a straight line. Easier said than done.
- Tackle Requirements
- Night fishing is not for wimps. Nor is it for wimpy tackle. The absolute lightest line I would recommend would be 10 lb. test, but only if you have a favorite top water lure that you like to use on a spinning rod. Lines best suited for night fishing are in the 14 to 20 lb. test range. The size of some of the lures you’ll be using and the potential for big fish dictate using tackle that will hold up under demanding conditions. Losing a big bass because it threw the hook is disappointing but losing it because your line or tackle wasn’t up to the task is heartbreaking. Don’t take chances. Rods should be equally suited to the task at hand. Medium-heavy and Heavy action baitcasting rods in the 5 1/2 to 7 foot range are best. Some of the heaviest top water lures may even require the use of a 7 1/2 foot Flipping Stick. The extra strength and leverage these rods give is a big plus. With night fishing its better to be safe than sorry. Remember, you’re fishing at a time when the biggest fish in the lake are actively feeding and they’re not afraid to slam anything they think is an easy meal.
- Lure Selection
- Your lure selection for night fishing should be pretty basic. That’s not to say that only a few lures will work at night but you’re better off to start with a few proven lures and expand your selection once you’ve become accustomed to the ins and outs of night fishing tactics. Without a doubt, the most productive lure you can have in your boat for night fishing is the spinnerbait. The single spin is a staple for this type of fishing. Baits in the 3/8 oz. to 1 oz. range are productive with the 1/2 oz. bait being the most popular and the most versatile. Color choice is really a matter of personal preference. However, you have to remember that after dark everything looks black. So the logical choice would be to throw black. But any solid color will do the trick. The colors to stay away from are the translucent, see-thru type skirts that have become popular in the past two or three years. These won’t give the good silhouette that the darker, more solid colors will give. If all this talk of color sounds confusing just use this rule of thumb; black works best !! With regards to blade configuration, single spins with a colorado blade are the most popular and the most productive due to their distinct thumping vibration. This isn’t to say that they are the only spinnerbaits that work at night however. I have seen big bass caught on baits with a single willow leaf blade and I have personally caught big bass on tandem spins. Most were caught on either a 3/8 oz. sporting #4 and #5 blades or a 1/2 oz. with #5 and #6 colorado blades. I have also caught bass on baits as small as 1/8 oz. with a pair of #2 indiana blades on ultralight tackle and 4 lb. test. But I wouldn’t recommend doing this on a regular basis. Landing a 1 lb. bass goes from being a 15 second quickie job to a 1 minute ordeal that seems like it will never end. A big bass would definitely harass you for half the night or longer before breaking your line or stripping every last inch of it from your spool and laughing at you as it swims away with your spinnerbait dangling from its jaw. Only to jump next to the boat 20 seconds later to tease you as it attempts to throw the lure. Topwater lures are an old standby for some of the old-timers, and for good reason. They’ve been around for as long as anyone can remember and they still account for a good number of big bass caught each year. There are a few proven models that are worth mentioning although they are not the only ones that will work at night. The most popular, by far, would be the Jitterbug which is made by Fred Arbogast. This lure is famous for its bloop-bloop-bloop action as it wobbles across the surface just begging a big bass to come and get it. The largest of these is the Musky Jitterbug which weighs a hefty 1 1/4 oz. This is definitely not a lure for wimps. I know of many bass over the 6 lb. mark that have been caught on this lure at night, including my own personal best of 9 lbs. 2oz. and another one caught by a good friend of mine that tipped the scales at just under 8 lbs. If you don’t feel comfortable throwing something this big and bulky you might want to try another one of Fred Arbogast’s creations known as the Jitterstick. This lure is available in 3/8 oz. and 5/8 oz. sizes. It is basically an elongated version of the original Jitterbug with a propeller on the tail end. The 5/8 oz. version matches the Musky Jitterbug in length. It just doesn’t have the width or bulk and sports a smaller lip on the front. But don’t let its smaller size fool you. It is a potent lure that can call up some awfully big fish including some smallmouth that will give you the fight of your life. If you’re more into numbers than quality, then the standard 3/8 oz. Jitterbug is the lure for you. It is a time-tested lure that never seems to lose its magical appeal to fish of all sizes. One other topwater plug in this same category is the Crazy Crawler made by Heddon. It looks and sounds a little different than the Jitterbug but does basically the same thing when retrieved. Regardless of which one of these you choose, a slow steady retrieve seems to be the most productive. And if a fish takes a swipe at it and misses, just keep on crawling it along. Many times they will come back for a second try. If they fail to make a second attempt, be sure to throw back to the same general area where the first strike occurred. The fish will usually be in the same area and may be able to make a more accurate stab at it the second time around. Throwing back to the same area with something other than a topwater lure is also a good idea. A spinnerbait is the best choice for this tactic. Many times a fish will immediately smack a spinnerbait when they would have only watched a topwater plug go skittering by overhead.
- Things to Remember
- Preparation is probably the most important aspect of night fishing. Not only with regards to your tackle but also with regards to your boat and your personal items inside the boat. Don’t clutter the floor of the boat with unnecessary items that become a tripping hazard after dark. If you get onto the lake well before dark and have been fishing for a few hours before the sun sets you will most likely have extra tackle lying around that will not be used after dark. The best thing you can do is to take a few extra minutes, while it is still light, and put away anything that will not be used after dark. You should also make sure you have a few important items out before it gets dark. Clothing to cover your entire body is critical. Mosquitoes can literally drive you off the water if you are not properly prepared for their twilight invasion of your evening paradise. Insect repellent can also be important. Just be extremely careful when applying it that none of it gets directly on your line. The results could be disastrous. Don’t let this talk of pesky little insects scare you off, though. By the time it gets fully dark they have usually ventured off to bother the poor souls who are stuck on land. One last item that I refuse to fish without at night is my hat. This may sound foolish to people who have never fished at night. But once you’ve spent the first night on the lake without one, and have gotten tired of dodging bats for fear they will get caught in your hair, you’ll never again leave home without one. It’s as good as a security blanket.
- Weather Requirements
- The ideal weather conditions for night fishing are a flat lake surface and little or no moonlight. If a slight breeze kicks up you don’t necessarily have to quit fishing. You can either stay in the area and adjust your presentations accordingly or you can move to the lee side of the lake and try to find active fish there. More important than wind, though, is water temperature. My own personal findings, over the years, show that water temperatures must stay consistently in the mid 70 degree range or higher for consistent night fishing action. I have caught fish at night in water as cold as the mid 50 degree range. But the action is sporadic, at best. Once the water temperatures are suitable and you just can’t stand the thought of someone else having all those lunker bass to themselves, catch a nap in the afternoon and prepare to do some midnight bassin’. You won’t be sorry.