Night Bass Fishing
“We are heading into summer and that means fishing at night for bass.”
On the weekends, during the day, the lakes are crowded with recreational boaters and many of the bass are dormant, making fishing difficult at best. However at night the lakes are empty and the bass are feeding.
The key to successful night fishing for bass is choosing the right lake to fish.
The lake needs to have
- relatively clear water
- visibility 3 feet or more
- a good shad population
Lake Norman, near Charlotte NC, is a prime example of a good night fishing lake. The water usually has 4-5 feet of visibility and it has a good shad population.
Once you’ve selected a lake you still have to figure out how to catch the bass. And in order to catch bass consistently at night you need to be aware of 3 key types of cover; boat docks, rip-rap, and natural rocks.
1. Boat Docks
Boat docks offer bass a prime feeding area for bass at night. Many docks have lights that are on all night. These lights attract plankton and insects which in turn attract baitfish to the lights. Bass being opportunistic feeders are attracted to the lighted docks due to all the baitfish activity.
Docks that are near a main creek or river channel and have immediate access to deep water are the ones to key on. Bass on heavily pressured lakes can be spooky, even at night. So you want to approach these docks slowly.
Start by fishing the very outside of the area that is illuminated by the light on the dock with a couple of different baits. Then progressively move further in on the dock, again using different baits.
Finally, fish the poles or floater with different baits. This process takes time but will keep you from spooking the bass and help you determine the specific bait the fish will hit on a given night.
When fishing around lighted docks 3 key baits come to mind: u-tailed plastic worm, medium running crankbait, and a buzzbait.
With these 3 baits you can cover the majority of the water column which will help you to define whether the bass are feeding on top, at mid depth, or on the bottom.
Dark colors and medium size to large baits get the nod at night. Since bass are using their lateral line to track the vibration the bait emits allowing them to find and strike your lure, not sight.
Rip-rap is another key piece of cover to fish after dark. On most lakes in the southeast, shad spawn on rip-rap banks in the late spring and early summer.
The peak of their spawning activity occurs at first light, last light, and very late at night.
When the shad spawn is going on, rip-rap can produce some fabulous fishing after dark. You want to look for rip-rap banks that have immediate access to deep water and are near the main creek or river channel. If you see any shad activity on the surface near the rip-rap, that is an area to spend a little more time fishing.
Key baits for fishing rip-rap at night are; a swim jig, a chatterbait, and a buzzbait.
These baits allow you to cover a bunch of water and tend not to hang up very often. You have to experiment with sizes depending on water depth and wind speed. However, the 3/8 oz size in a dark color is a good starting point.
3. Natural Rock
Natural rock can hold quality bass at night. Shad will spawn on natural rock banks and crawfish tend to hang out in these areas. Again, you want to look for bluff banks near a main creek or river channel.
Key baits are a swim jig, a walking type topwater, a chatterbait, and a buzzbait.
Target type topwater baits are used around specific pieces of cover. The key to these baits is they trigger a reaction strike from a bass.
Target type topwater baits work well under clear or stained water conditions. Examples of this type of bait are; prop baits (Brian’s Prop B, Devils Horse), poppers (Pop R, Rico, Yellow Magic), buzz baits (double bladed, single bladed) and frogs (Spro Frog, Snag Proof).
Colors for this type of bait should also be baitfish oriented.
The key to finding and catching bass at night is to keep trying different types of cover working different levels in the water column until you hit the bass.
For example, bass could be using lighted docks in 20ft plus water or docks in 3 ft of water. They could be on rip-rap in 1 ft of water or rip-rap in 12 ft of water.
The same goes for natural rock. The bass could be on bluff walls in 12 ft of water or shallow points in 1 ft of water.
The only way to figure out where they are on any given night is to pick one type of cover and water depth to start at, then keep changing until you locate the bass. But understand, if you find them one night, they might have moved to another type of cover or a different water depth the next night. You just have to keep moving and experimenting until you figure out the correct deal for that given night.
That brings us to the question:
What type of baits do you use at night to catch bass?
There are just a handful that seem to work consistently. Texas rigged u-tailed worms, medium running crankbaits, chatterbaits, buzzbaits, and swim jigs.
With texas rigged worms, bigger is better at night.
You can’t go wrong with a 9 to 12 inch dark colored worm, a 5/0 straight shank hook, and a 3/8 oz. bullet weight. This big worm moves a lot of water which helps a bass to find it in the dark.
There are a wide variety of medium running crankbaits that will work at night. You should focus on baits that run 4-8 feet deep and put off a lot of vibration. Dark or shad colors tend to work best. With chatterbaits, black in the 3/8 oz or 5/8 oz sizes seem to work best. They should be rigged with a curly tailed black or blue trailer. Blade color does not seem to matter.
Buzzbaits should be in the 3/8 oz or 1/2 oz sizes in black. Blade color does not seem to matter much and a 2/0 trailer hook will increase your strike to catch ratio.
Swim jigs in black/blue color with a double curly tailed trailer tend to produce better. The 1/4oz to 1/2 oz sizes tends to work best, depending on wind speed.
You want enough weight on the jig to be able to cast it and feel it during the retrieve. However, if you get too much weight, you will stay hung-up on the bottom all the time. You just have to experiment until you get the right weight jig for a given nights conditions.
Tackle for night fishing should be on the heavy side. Bass can’t see very well at night and are feeding mostly on vibrations going to their lateral line. Therefore using smaller diameter line sizes is not important to getting more bites.
Big line in the 15 to 25 lbs test range gets the nod. This should be fished on baitcasting equipment with 7’to 7’6″ ft length medium heavy to heavy action rods.
Many times you are dealing with large bass that you can’t see. You need heavy tackle to land these fish.
Night fishing is much different than day fishing and takes some getting used to. Once you give it a try, it will open up a whole new world of bass fishing for you this summer.
About the Author
Wayne Hauser is a Touring Professional Bass Angler who is currently fishing on both the FLW Tour and in the BASS Opens. The 2013 season was his first year on the FLW Tour. He has fished the BASS Opens for 2 years. Wayne has a wealth of knowledge about bass behavior, techniques to catch bass, and how to do well in bass tournaments, which he will share with us in his articles. He is from and currently resides in North Carolina and is married with one son.
Wayne shares more of his experience with us in the articles below