Night Fishing For Bass: Topwater Fishing At It's Best
Quiet serenity while night fishing
The Most Fun You Can Have in the Dark With Your Clothes On
When a friend offered to take me night fishing for the first time, I asked if he was serious. He was.
But why in the world would you want to fish at night??? The answer became apparent after several casts that night. Big bass feed heavily in low-light conditions, and as the sun sinks low, they go on the prowl for anything that moves. And that includes frogs, minnows, bugs, snakes and anything else that they can silhouette against the sky from below and attack. Like topwater fishing lures.
But Why Are The Bass Feeding at Night?
During a typical summer day, most lakes and streams are a hub of human activity. Boaters, fishermen, swimmers, water-skiers and jet skis all combine to drive bass into seclusion. Another factor is the bright sunlight and excessive heat, which force bass to find a shaded, out-of-the-way area to hide out for the day. Bass will gladly pass up a meal during the day, rather than venture out to mingle with 1000 humans and brave the bright sunshine. When dusk arrives, the fish are ready to swallow anything that makes a noise or catches their interest.
How to Pick a Perfect Night for Topwater Fishing
In my experience, there are several factors that affect night-fishing success.
- When the weather is oppressively hot, it's prime time for topwater fishing after dark, for the reasons mentioned above.
-Wind can also affect your fishing success; choppy water is not conducive to a bass locating your noisy topwater lure after dark. Pick a night when the wind is calm and the water is like glass.
-Moon phase is another factor. Pick a night when the moon is full or near full...this helps YOU see a little better, and helps the fish to see your lure against the moonlit sky when viewing it from below. Nights with good "natural lighting" mean fewer missed strikes from hungry bass, since they can more easily zero-in on your lure with a little backlighting.
Fishing Gear You'll Need For Night Fishing
Although you CAN catch bass at night from shore, fishing from a boat is certainly the way to go. This will allow you to get into the backsets and stump fields of your favorite lake and ambush the fish in their comfort zone. A smaller boat is preferred...the 12 to 14 foot range is perfect for this type of fishing, because the boat will be easily maneuvered in the dark. The boat should be carpeted to avoid transmitting bumps, bangs and thumps into the water when fishing.
-a small trolling motor will help you move the boat quietly once you reach an area where you want to fish.
-a flashlight is a good idea when fishing at night. You'll want some light for tying on lures, and for netting and landing your fish. When you're on the water, keep the flashlight beam pointed into the boat to avoid scaring nearby fish.
-a tangle-proof net (like a rubber net) is great for landing fish after dark. You don't want to waste your valuable fishing time untangling your line from a nylon net.
-a medium action fishing rod, strung with 10 to 15 lb. test fishing line. Heavier fishing lines will impair the action of your topwater lures and make the lure presentation look "unnatural" to the bass.
- and of course, topwater lures.
The Best Topwater Fishing Lures to Use
After years of night fishing, my time-tested favorite topwater lure is the Jitterbug. This lure has a concave metal lip attached to the front, which gives it a characteristic wobble when it is retrieved. The lip also gives it a unique sound when it is pulled in at the right speed: a bloop-bloop-bloop that drives bass wild. I've found that the best size is the 5/8-ounce in the red and white color pattern, although the frog color lures work well too.
Another favorite is the Hula Popper. This lure has a hollowed front end, so that when you jerk the rod tip slightly, it hops and "pops". A plastic skirt is attached to the back of the lure, which adds a little extra action to it's movement. Larger sizes like 1/2 ounce work well, but I use a slightly smaller size when fish are skittish or if they seem to be "playing with the lure" or striking short. The Hula Popper is a great choice when casting into tight areas where other "long retrieve" lures would get snagged up.
For working a large area quickly, I use a Prop-Scout. This lure has small propellers on each end that churn the water and help alert the bass to it's location. I like to cast in a fan pattern with this lure, then follow up in the same area with a slower-moving lure like a Jitterbug.
Tips and Techniques For Night Fishing
- When you find a quiet area to fish, work it well. Sometimes fish will play the waiting game...they will ignore the lure for awhile, then all hell will break loose when they're tired of their space being invaded by bizarre-looking lures.
- Be as quiet as possible. Nothing will turn fish off faster than unexpected noise in the middle of the night.
- Find the optimum retrieval speed for the lures you are using. A Jitterbug, for instance, requires a medium-slow retrieval speed to impart the best action and sound. Experiment until you find the best retrieval speed for each topwater lure that you're using. Change it up occasionally as well; bass have a trigger instinct that tells them that their prey is trying to escape. If you speed up the retrieve occasionally, it gives the fish a sense of urgency in their attack.
- Fish near shorelines, submerged trees and stumps, and over dropoffs for the best results. Bass seem to congregate in the area between shallow water and steep dropoffs, where they can investigate movement in both areas quickly.
And the last tip?
Don't forget your camera...you'll need it to get pictures of the huge bass you'll be catching.