Everyone has been there at one time or another. You get up nice and early on a perfect Saturday morning and head out to the lake to get some chunky bass action. Alas, when you arrive, there’s a parking lot full of trailers, a tournament in progress, plus a conga line of boats in all your spots and in spots you’d never even dreamed of fishing. There’s paddle-boarders, kayakers, joy riders, steam boats (yep, they have those at the Nock too) crisscrossing the lake and your nice relaxing day of wetting a line is now a crowded Black Friday-esque chore of playing dodge-a-kayak or playing hang ten as yet another monster wake rocks the boat. Not to mention it’s 95 degrees with 90% humidity and you’re getting cooked like a crawfish in a spicy etoufee. Not quite what you had in mind when you woke up at the crack of dawn huh?
So you ask, how does Mr. BassNasty handle this type of unfortunate situation that seems to happen way too often during those golden day of summer? Well, good sir/madam, Mr. BassNasty kicks back in his pool on a floaty, enjoying a icy cold wobbly pop and soaking in the rays while the rat race at the lake carries on without him. But how can Mr. BassNasty just sit there and do nothing while the lake is churned into a hot mess? Easily good sir/madam, because Mr. BassNasty makes plans to go out when sane people stay home or are at home in bed cursing their sunstroke, seasickness, frustrations, and dreaming of all the fish Mr. BassNasty is about to catch!
There’s really only one alternative to beating the oppressive heat and fishing successfully. That’s getting out on the lake on off hours. When everyone is pulling out and going home to watch the latest episode Off The Hook, (super awesome fishing show with Eric Young of TNA Impact Wrestling fame) you’ve got the DVR rolling and are putting your rig in. When everyone is heading for cover, you’re chomping at the bit to get out there and put the steel to ‘em!
However, to get the most enjoyment and success from your off hours fishing trips, you need to do a little prep work before you head out into the darkness. Here’s a list of tips and tricks to help you avoid the learning curve!
1.) One of the most important things to do is know the area you’re going to fish. Have a solid mental image of the features of the area, such as the shoreline, structure, and cover. The more you are familiar with an area, the more you will not be just casting blindly hoping for a fish, or blowing up the best spot by trolling right over it. You will be casting with purpose, working those fish holding areas and maximizing your chances of hooking up.
2.) Another of the invaluable things that you can do to maximize your night time fishing success is have a good flashlight. From tying solid knots to netting fish, de-hooking a wayward bat to digging out backlashes, or just looking for that particular bait in your tackle box, a flashlight is essential to saving yourself time and frustration. I use a hat mounted light like this one as you never have to search for it when you need it, and it always shines where you are looking.
3.) I’ve fished at night before, during and after heavy rainstorms with great success and returned the next day to find the lake was the color of mud from all the rain. I caught numerous fish that rainy night fishing in muddy water and total darkness. Why? At night the fish are relying on senses other than vision to locate and feed on prey. I use scents and rattles as well as lures that generate water movement to help the fish locate my baits. My friend Garrett, who is a diehard night fishermen, reapplies scent to his lures religiously every 5 casts to maintain the strongest possible scent profile. Also, don’t be afraid to use your go-to daytime soft plastic setups at night. Just add a rattle to it and you’ve just made a go-to nighttime soft plastic bait.
Give yourself as much of an edge as possible and help the fish find your bait. Even though you can be an all-world precision caster during the day and know spots like the back of your hand, at night it’s a whole different ballgame as reference points (like the shoreline) you’d usually use during the day are obscured or invisible at night. So slathering your lure in scent as Garrett does and using rattles can give you the opportunity to overcome the poor lure placement and presentations that WILL happen at night as a matter of course. They will help you increase the potential fish that can be caught that would otherwise miss your bait.
4.) Bug Spray. Wear it or prepare to get feasted upon and hassled by every mosquito and gnat in the general vicinity of the lake, Multiply the bug count if you’re fishing large sections of weedbeds and pads. As well as the bitey critters being more active at night, your boat’s navigation lights will serve as a beacon not only to other night boaters that you’re there, but also like a bitey version of ”Diner – Open Til Late, Eat Great!” billboard sign. Spray down your exposed skin except your face, then spray your clothing, your hat, and your hat’s brim to keep them away from your face and ears. You can also spray down your boat’s carpeted deck for some extra bitey repellence. The scent you use on your lures will mask and/or eliminate the bug spray smell from your hands that may transfer to your lures.
5.) Now to talk a little night fishing safety. I’m not talking about carrying a .45 with silver bullets during a full moon, but fishing at night does bring it’s own special hazards.
-If you fish alone, wear a vest. I do. Fishermen drown in the daytime when it’s easy to get your bearings after you fall in. Eliminate light, and a tumble into the dark waters is even more disorienting and that vest will save your life. There’s tons of manufacturers that make light inflatable vests that won’t make you sweat like Rosie O’Donnell at the Jersey Shore standing in line at Mack and Manco’s.
-If you’re throwing lures with treble hooks, wear clear lensed glasses. I wear polarized sunglasses during the day all the time, and especially when i’m throwing cranks or topwater lures with trebles for eye protection from wayward hooks. At night you’re basically fishing blind, so you’ll have no time to react if the tree fish decides to return your bait to you, or a giant bass skies and throws your super sexy topwater lure at you at 150mph so clear lensed glasses will give your vulnerable eyeballs a modicum of protection. Most sunglasses manufacturers have alternate clear lenses available for their sporting/fishing models.
-Use your NAV lights. It’s the law. Plus scrambling to find your NAV light switch while fighting your possible PB bass while another boater is bearing down on you is a life threatening situation that’s easily avoided by following the rules.
6.) I can’t write an article about night fishing without mentioning black lights and fluorocarbon lines. If you’re a line watcher and would rather see exactly where you’ve cast, hooking up a black light in your boat and fishing with fluorocarbon line I’m told is like fishing with a light saber. Mr. BassNasty thinks it’s a cool idea but he doesn’t do it as he likes to fish in the darkness and to be able to look up and see the majesty of the stars and Milky Way. (By the way, did you know you can see the Milky Way band only 30 miles away from a major metropolitan center like Philadelphia with all it’s light pollution? Just fish in the dark and after a while you’ll get your night vision and it’s an awesome sight!)
7.) If you fish in the dark, try to avoid looking into lights and read THIS to help you better adjust your eyes to the dark before you go out.
8.) Keep hydrated. It’s still 80-90+ degrees even at night, and even though the sun isn’t beating down on you, you’re still sweating and losing moisture.
9.) In the summer heat, the fish will be deeper during the day and transition to the shallows to feed on bait fish at night. How deep they are depends on the thermocline. So, turn up the gain on your fish finder and use the thermocline to help you locate areas where it intersects with structure, cover and areas that bass would use to transition between shallow and the deep.
10.) Are there any special lures or techniques for fishing at night? I can honestly say no, as all the chunky bass pictured here have been caught using your typical daytime techniques including Texas-rigged soft plastics, and also, surprisingly there is not one topwater bass pictured, so that should give you confidence in your daytime fishing techniques. So get out there and beat the heat!
Mr. BassNasty and BNF would like to thank Cory Long and Garrett Kramer for their help with this article.
update: Here’s an article by one of the old school masters of bass fishing Rich Zaleski on Night Bass. (link)