Last Updated on January 20, 2021 by Virgil Renfroe
If you’re like me, you want to make sure you’re fishing at the right spots at the right time of year to make sure you catch the right fish. One of the most asked questions I’ve run into from fishermen honing their craft is “What is the best time to catch bass?” The question has many answers, some general and some specific depending on the type of bass, breed, and location of where you are fishing.
The Best Time to Catch Bass (Usually)
In general, the best time of day to fish for bass is either early morning or later in the evening (dawn or dusk), because bass tend to bite in low light environments where they are adapted to hunt and feed. This means that you can still have some luck catching bass in the middle of a rainy day when clouds cover up the sun.
As far as the best season to catch bass, it would be a mix between spring and summer when water temperatures are in the 60-80 degree range. The main answer you will hear is in the spring just before they begin spawning activities. As the bass prepare to spawn, they increase their feeding habits in order to fatten up and gain all the energy they need for reproduction. This causes them to be more aggressive and active, increasing the chances they’ll end up biting on your bait during the pre-spawn season.
Another correct answer is in the middle summer when bass feeding is at its year-long peak. The bass scatter on the lake, mixing between deep and shallow water, but tend to stay deep on hotter, sunnier days.
Best Time of Day to Fish For Bass
Early Morning (5:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.)
The best time to bass fish in the early morning would be between the hours of 5:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. This may change based on the season but typically the activity increases as you approach sunrise (while it’s still low light). Fish prefer bait like minnows or shiners in these early hours, and also respond well to artificial shoreline lures such as topwater poppers or plugs.
Late Afternoon (5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.)
During the late afternoon, low light returns to create another optimal feeding time for the bass. Topwater lures are also effective during these hours, but if it is unusually cold then fishing in deeper water may be a solution to low fish activity. Test out a number of retrieval speeds during this time, as fish tend to react differently to different speeds depending on the area you are fishing. This is true, especially in summer months when the low light hours last longer.
night fishing is always a good time considering the lack of other fishermen disturbing the fish and the ability for bass to see in low light. I will mention, that while they do function better in low light, bass do need some light to see so try to pick a night close to a full moon, with lots of moonlight to help you enjoy the tranquility to the fullest.
If it’s a dark, cold night do not expect to find much bass. They have a visual-hunting style, which means that they won’t exert much energy fishing if they are unable to see their prey. If you do attempt to try bass fishing at night, utilize noisy and large lures like a spinner, popper or buzz-bait which are big enough for them to feel in the nighttime water.
Best Time To Catch Bass By Season
Bass fishing in winter is slower, as they are saving their energy and are usually in deeper water under cover or ledges. Chances start to rise as the temperature rises and you can definitely catch after the water reaches 40 degrees (hopefully higher).
It is also important to look at water heating patterns. It is much more important if you see the temperature rising 36, 37, 38 and then 39 in a row than if it was 40 one day and 30 the next. Fish adapt to patterns and big female bass will react to the water temperature with activity and energy.
Remember, the best time to catch bass in the winter is midday when the air and water temperatures are at their highest.
Starting slow (as it goes), the fish begin to increase in greater numbers as rain brings warmer water. The weather is fickle in spring so you may get mixed results as temperature and precipitation can change quickly in the early season.
Watch out for cold fronts as they can put a number on some of your best fishing days, even if the temperature doesn’t drop drastically. When this does happen, the fish head back to deeper waters, where it would be best to use chatterbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits and worms in areas that point and from shallow coves.
Once the rain and temperature start to stabilize, the fish will inevitably begin to focus on preparing for spawning season. This usually occurs when the water is between 55 to 65 degrees, and can also be watched as connected Expect aggressive fish striking at your bait, and remember to use larger lures which will catch the bass’ eye. This is one of the best times of the year to catch bass, usually again at dusk and dawn.
As spawning ends, the thick of summer comes and prompts every bass to start feeding at high levels. They will have their highest energy levels and will be found at all shallow and deep waters. The hotter and sunnier the day, the more likely the fish are deeper, avoiding the intense sunlight. Most lures and bait will work during the summer, including top water baits, plastic worms, jigs and swimbaits. Open up your tackle box, have some fun and expect most lures to work as bass lures.
The fall season is a decent time for bass fishing, with slowing activity but a major feeding before they head into the winter. They will be looking for bait fish including shads and shiners. Spinnerbaits and swimbaits work well in the fall wind, with jerkbaits and crankbaits also attracting attention.
Fall is also the best time to catch striped bass, usually during peak or slack tide. This is another time to focus on the early morning and late evening hours, while avoiding cold days that suddenly drop water temperature.
Catching bass during spawn is a unique challenge due to the change in their behavior and energy. The fish slow way down and focus on only staying and protecting their nest. A popular trick is to place your bait in the middle of a nest and disturb/cause a reaction from the female bass. If females leave the nest look to find them in deeper water hiding.
While it’s not an exact science determining when the fish spawning begins, you can keep a track on it by watching the local fauna and land animals to see when mother nature is ready to give you an anglers’ advantage.
According to professional bass fisherman Rick Clunn, the spawn in the south can be timed according to dogwood trees; when the dogwoods start to bloom, the bass start reproduction.
Best Time to Fish for Different Types of Bass
Largemouth bass tend to stick to deep waters near the edge of the water such as at the end of a pier or a cliff. They can be found at depths of two to twelve feet, especially in early spring. You may find luck at the Northwest corner of the lake, where it tends to be slightly warmer. Focus on visible spawning flats which can be seen from the boat.
When it comes to catching largemouth bass, the seasons are largely accurate but it can also help to use what you know about them as hunters to improve your fishing. Largemouth bass use low-light to their advantage when hunting prey, and tend to be more common during dawn and dusk. They can be provoked as well, striking at baits that they notice in the water even if they aren’t hungry.
The time before, during, and immediately after the spawn is usually the best time to find bass because they are very active feeding themselves to reproduce.
Annual migration run time – spring and fall Striped bass want water temperature to range from 55° F to 68° F. In order to stay within this range, most striped bass migrate. The migration pattern is divided into the spring migration and the fall migration. It is during these migrations that the best striper fishing of the year occurs. However, anglers love the challenge and reward of the fall run and stripers love biting onto your poppers.
Dawn hours and 3 hours before dusk – Smallmouth bass have much smaller mouths than largemouth bass, although they can be around the same size as largemouth bass. Regardless, they are fierce predators with a sharp strike and ornery attitude. These species of fish can be caught anywhere around the country in all seasons. This type of bass, usually resides at depths, typically about twenty to thirty feet below the surface. They have the same keen vision of largemouth bass, which means they use similar predatory tactics. Smallmouth bass are most active during the summer season. The water temperatures are highest. Metabolism rates are racing too, and that makes them more hungry. If the water is the right temperature and it is overcast, you might haul in a ton.
If you haven’t had any luck at catching bass in the last few months, it’s time to change your approach. Remember a simple tip, it’s usually best to fish for bass around dusk or dawn in the late spring and summer season. If you’re out midday, hit the shaded areas where fish try to cool off. The important thing is to remember to enjoy your time outside. We are always lucky when we enjoy the thrill of the chase.