Last Updated on September 23, 2020 by Virgil Renfroe
As the heat of summer starts to kick in, families come out of the woodwork for barbecues, boating, and summer fun. While that might all sound great, as a bass angler, I know what you’re thinking – bad fishing. This is the time of year where night bass fishing starts to kick up.
When all the boaters and picnickers go home, the real bass anglers come out to play. But, if you’re out here to win, you need to have the right strategy, and fishing at night isn’t easy, and it requires a bit of a different methodology. The good news is if you follow a few simple steps, bass fishing at night is extremely rewarding.
Equipment for Bass Fishing at Night
Let’s talk about some equipment changes. During the day, you’re used to a certain type of equipment, but once the sun goes down, the game changes a little. Here are some things you maybe didn’t think of bringing along!
Get yourself some blue fluorescent monofilament and pair it with a black light on your boat. This combination is brilliant because it makes the line stand out like a laser in the water. The better you can see your line, the higher chance you have of hooking a bass.
Many of these black lights attach right onto your boat, and you can’t even see them during the day. They illuminate all casting angles, and some will even dim so you can lower it if you have a lot of moonlight or increase the brightness if the moon isn’t making it bright enough for you.
I will always bring some form of light for my head when I go fishing at night, and usually, I bring a combination of flashlight headlamp. These are great because I can remove the light and use it in my hand but put it onto my head when I need both my hands-free.
This piece of gear is important because you will need it when you’re trying to net a bass on the side of the boat, pull the hook out, or snap a quick nighttime photo of your catch. You’ll need both your hands-free to work properly, so holding a flashlight won’t cut it.
These are two pieces of equipment you should have no matter if it’s day or night, but I just felt it’s important to throw them in here too. The pliers will help you bend the hook to the right shape and get it out of the mouth after you hook a bass. Scissors are for cutting braided line if you choose to use it.
Night fishing for bass brings upon a new element of disaster, and those are mosquitos. If you forget to bring bug spray, you won’t have to worry about all the other pieces of equipment because you won’t catch anything. You’ll be too busy swatting and slapping yourself in the face all night!
Make sure you always bring plenty of bug spray. In the past, I’ve also purchased citronella bracelets, and they also have pins that you can wear on your hat to keep bugs away. It was hit or miss as to whether or not they’d work, but you can find some high-quality options.
I always recommend going in this prepared, and nighttime bass fishing adds a little element of danger. You need to have everything planned out, so you don’t catch yourself in a bad situation. Bringing some extra batteries will ensure you don’t end up in the dark when you need to find something in the boat.
Bring Someone/Tell Someone
While this isn’t exactly a piece of equipment, it’s a super important thing to remember. You must absolutely tell someone where you’re going. If you live alone, find someone to tell or casually work it into a conversation at work or wherever. Let someone know that you’re going fishing tonight.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard stories of anglers (many times older or elderly) going out fishing at night, and I see on the local news that they fell out of their boat and drowned. Please, for you and your family – if you have to fish alone, you need someone to be accountable for your return.
Just tell the person you’ll send them a quick text when you’re back home and that you’re trying to stay safe and smart.
Best Night Fishing Lures for Bass
So, you’ve got your gear all loaded up, and now you’re thinking about bass fishing at night lures and baits. Whether you’re fishing for largemouth or smallmouth, all of these lures should do the trick. I’m going to break down my choices for the best lures and explain some of the reasoning behind it.
Remember, I always like to specify that this is my opinion and while I always back it up with a little biology and fishing knowledge, it’s not a “concrete” fact that any of these lures are the “best.”
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think or if you have a lure that does the trick for you at night!
Let’s get into it!
My favorite lure for nighttime bass fishing is a spinnerbait. I use a single Colorado blade black bait, and I let it drop to the bottom of the water. As soon as I hit bottom, I give it a few cranks, let it work it’s way back up some and then let it drop down again. If you deploy this strategy, make sure you’re prepared to feel a bite on the descend because that’s when it will happen.
Make sure to keep the line tight for this because you’ll be using the reel to create the action and allow for the spinner to drop back down after you crank it.
For this, I don’t use just any frog; I’ll use a black popping frog because they make a lot of noise, and they’re great for fishing in dense cover. One important thing to keep in mind about fishing at night for bass is that you’ll have to go to places where you wouldn’t normally go. Bass are relatively dormant during the dark hours, so you need to do something to bring them out.
Popping frogs are a great way to get them out from their cover and into more open water. You’ll start creating activity, drawing attention, and then next thing you know, they’re biting all your lures all night.
Be extra careful when you’re fishing dense cover and make sure you have lights on your boat. I’ve been in a few situations where I nearly got stuck on the water because of a stump slightly below the surface. Fishing at night requires a lot more vigilance when you’re navigating, and it’s not the time to take a risk or push your luck.
Get a ⅜ ounce jig and pair it with a dark-colored craw. You’ll want to cast this baby right into openings in vegetation. If you can locate a lot of tall grass along the shore but look out for small open areas, you’ve found the gold mine, and you’re sure to catch something in there.
I would suggest going for the frog first because that’s always my top option when fishing dense cover, but if they’re not biting the frog, a flipping jig is my close second choice.
A buzzbait is a great option, especially in deep water. If you’re fishing in a place that doesn’t have a lot of weeds and you’re along the rocks, you’ll want to bang it off the rocks and let it make a bunch of noise. I’ve had many successful nights using these in places with more clear water than dense cover.
Texas Rigged Worm
The last option I’m throwing your way is a Texas rigged worm. Texas rig involved flipping the hook around and inserting the sharp end of it back into the worm. This process creates a weedless lure that won’t drag anything back with it and ideally, will create the best possible presentation.
This strategy is great when fishing dense cover and in low visibility because you might not be able to see exactly what you’re casting into. If you’re fishing a wacky style worm, you may end up losing a few of them because you didn’t see the pads or grass you just threw the lure right into.
Night Bass Fishing Tips
Time to talk about some of the best ways to catch bass at night. These tips and tricks will help you not only be in the right place at the right time but when you’re there, you’ll have everything in your arsenal ready to catch the next bass that bites your hook.
Does the Moon Impact Bass Fishing?
I’ve had this discussion with a few different people, and everyone has a different opinion. Some people believe that bass only bite during a full moon, some say the opposite. I haven’t personally experienced a dang thing when it comes to the moon.
There are so many other factors to keep in mind relating to nighttime bass fishing that I don’t think the moon phase has anything to do with it.
Of course, the moon will impact the amount of light you have, which will impact the color lure and size you use, but if you think there’s some deeper meaning to why you had a great night with a waning crescent moon (or whatever), there isn’t.
What does matter is the season, the weather, and the water. Night fishing is geared more towards the warmest months of the year because the water temperature remains warm throughout the night. When the temperature dips down below freezing outside, you’ll have a hard time catching anything at night because the bass won’t move no matter what you do.
Your best bet for fishing at night is going out during the months of June, July, and August when the nighttime temperature doesn’t drop below 60 degrees most of the time.
Get the Weather Report (and look back too)
Weather is important for a few reasons. First, it’s a major factor in water clarity, which will impact what type of lure you use and how you use it. Take a look at the last five days and see how many days of rain you had. If you have more than one, you’ll want to use a brighter lure when you fish at night because the water clarity will be much lower.
When you’re fishing in murky water, you want to stand out and draw attention so the bass will come to check you out.
The second reason weather is important is safety. You don’t want to go out fishing at night during an intense storm or if there is thunder and lightning. Many anglers say they have a ton of success fishing at night during storms, but I don’t think it’s worth it.
That said, if you’re getting a light drizzle throughout the night, that will help with topwater fishing, so you’ll likely want to throw the frogs out there and see what happens.
Match the Lure Color to the Moon
The amount of light that the moon supplies is the most important factor in determining the color of your lure. If you have a pitch-black night with no moonlight, you’ll want to go with a black lure. If you have a bright shining moon, you can use an attention-drawing lure color like orange or red.
If the moon is out, but it’s overcast, split the difference and use something a little less vibrant. You can use your judgment there. Understand that the movement of the bass depends on temperature, weather, and light. If it’s dark and cold, you’ll have a harder time getting them to feel confident enough to strike. That’s why we use a dark lure because it’s less intimidating.
Bring Along Plenty of Safety Gear
Catching the big fish is great, but not so much if you’re putting yourself in danger. Fishing at night requires you to bring along some extra safety gear that will ensure you’re never at risk for something bad happening. Like I said before, the most important thing you can do is bring someone with you. If you can’t, make sure someone knows where you are.
The first thing you want to bring is a first aid kit. You never know when something will go wrong, and when you’re working in low light, you can poke yourself, cut yourself, or worse. Bring along a high-quality first aid kit, and many of them are small enough to fit in your tackle box.
Life preservers are a necessity when you’re fishing at night. I’m not saying you need to wear it the whole time, but you should always have it in your boat. I told you the story about how I almost got hung up on a stump, if I had to jump out and loosen up the boat or swim to shore, it would sure be nice to have a life preserver because you never know how far you’ll have to swim.
I even like the idea of bringing an emergency blanket with you in the boat. If you do end up having to jump in the water at some point, having that blanket to keep you warm until you get to shore is a nice luxury that many may overlook. Even if you leave it in your car, it’s always good to plan for the worst.
Slow Down Your Presentation
Whether you’re fishing topwater lures, crankbaits, or jigs, you want to slow it down a little. Big bass aren’t nearly as active at night, and when you’re fishing dense cover, if you expect to draw them out, you’ll need to slow it down.
Their metabolism slows down at night as well, so you need to think like a fish. If you’re fishing for smallmouth that feed on shad, you’ll need to think about the fact that they might only bite if you aggravate them enough.
Bass are opportunistic feeders, which means they’ll bite something simply because it’s there, but they won’t do it at night if they think it’s going to be too much of a challenge. Make it easy for them by using the right color lure and slowing it down to make you look weak.
Keep the lure Active
While you do want to slow the presentation down, you still want to keep it active. In low light, the visibility isn’t as great, so you’ll benefit more from noise than you will color. If you’re stopping too much, you’re not going to draw enough attention, which won’t lead to much success.
Night angling requires you to cast and retrieve at a steady rate, and this is especially true when the bass are active. Bass have somewhat weak sonar senses, so they won’t pick up on small movements like some other fish will. Make your presence known in the water with a loud spinner or popper and keep it moving.
Scope the Area Out
This is an excellent tip that my father always told me. He said, “if you’re going fishing at night, never go somewhere you haven’t been before.”
There are some areas where you can’t fish at night because the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources actually prohibits anglers from fishing on a boat after dusk. However, you can still fish from the shore.
Of course, there are some places where you can sneak on, but you’ll catch yourself nothing but a fine if you get caught.
Anyway, if you’ve never fished the place before, I would recommend going there during the day to scope it out. Look for power lines, low hanging trees, stumps, rocks, excessive weeds in the shallow water, and so on. During the summer months, it doesn’t get completely dark until 9 pm anyway, so get to the lake at 8 and look around.
Rig Up Before You Go
Here’s another great tip I haven’t seen anywhere else. Do all the hard work before you get to the lake, and the sun goes down. Make sure you’ve got the rod all rigged up with your hooks and your lure, so you don’t have to fiddle around when you’re out there.
The last thing you want to do is drop your gear or waste valuable fishing time trying to tie knots in pitch blackness.
Whether you have a headlamp or not, it’s worth it to be prepared ahead of time. If you have more than one rod, you can rig each one with two different lures that you think you’ll use so you can just switch back and forth.
Don’t Overdo it
Travel light for a few reasons. First, it’s a pain in the butt to carry a ton of gear in the dark, but you also don’t want to stand out. Only bring what you plan on using and make sure it’s convenient enough for you to carry around.
I also make sure to bring plenty of water and a little bite to eat while I’m out there. When I’m fishing at night, I’ll usually make a sandwich and bring some nuts or a granola bar.
Some of the biggest bass I’ve ever caught have come right as the sun is going down, but the fishing doesn’t have to stop there. Fishing at night is a unique experience that everyone should try every now and then.
Keep all the safety tips in this article in mind, travel light, pay attention to the weather, and use the right lures for the job.
Oh yeah, and one more thing. Make sure to call the boss before you head out and tell him or her you won’t be in tomorrow! Thanks for reading and be safe!