Fishing with the Stars
Most anyone can catch bass in early spring when the spawn is on but come summer it can become much more difficult. The lakes and rivers become crowded with personal watercraft, swimmers, skiers and tons of fishing tournaments. Even isolated smaller bodies of water become more difficult because of the summer heat during the day. But come nightfall, especially on a heavy pressured lake, the odds can grow substantially for catching big bass. Knowing and following a few basics in night fishing can provide you with some excellent fishing while the lake is generally less crowded and a lot quieter.
Safety First… Always have a float plan with a family member, neighbor etc. Somebody needs to know where you will be fishing and an approximate time you should return. Always wear at PFD the entire night while fishing. If you are fishing an unfamiliar body of water, ALWAYS arrive before dusk and make a preview run to where you intend to fish. GPS is an awesome device but it does not account for small docks, stumps swimming buoys and other hazards you could encounter.
There are a myriad of techniques and strategies for night fishing, but you can essentially boil it down to 4 distinct approaches.
1 - Docks and lights - By far one of the most productive patterns can be simply looking for boat docks and piers with either above water lighting or submerged lighting. Some of these lights are on timers so you may have to check an area several times after dark. The lights naturally attract insects which attract minnows and smaller fish which attract the type fish you are after. Your best approach here may be to observe for a few minutes what the feeding activity is and where the fish are oriented in the water column. If the bass are chasing near the surface any surface lure like a buzz bait, soft jerk bait, walk bait or prop bait may prove productive. Fish that are lower down but appear aggressive will take a square bill, spinnerbait or swimbaits. If the situation calls for slower fishing use jigs, worms or creature baits on the bottom.
2 - Coves and shore lines - During the day time the coves and shore lines tend to take a beating from recreational water activities along with the daily encounters of the bank beaters. After dark not only does this activity cease but the water temperature tends to slowly drop a few degrees. Fishing a topwater bait parallel to the shore lines can be an awesome way to get some fantastic night action. In this case stealth and less visible light are important. While lights can attract fish when they get use to it avoid bright lights in areas where they are not accustomed to seeing it. Favorite lures for this type fishing include the time proven Musky Jitterbug, the buzzbait, prop baits wake baits, spinnerbaits and walk baits. One word of caution when fishing top waters with treble hooks. Wait to actually feel the rod tip go down before setting the hooks. It’s hard to dodge a flying lure in the dark. Also it should be noted that in many cases a big bass does not take a lure to actually eat it on the first strike but instead tries to stun the meal. If you encounter a blow up on a bait but miss the fish, often times allowing the bait to sit motionless in the water results in a second strike that is more explosive than the original bite. Naturally if you think fish are not feeding aggressively you can slow down and fish worms, jigs and slower worked baits if needed.
3 - Ledges, Humps and points - These honey holes can be very productive if you have the electronics to locate fish on them, Though an occasional topwater bite may occur on a feeding school over a hump or point you’ll probably be fishing deeper in the water column here. Big worms, jigs, big Colorado blade spinnerbaits and cranks will often be the best choices here.
4 - Flats, Stumps and vegetation - As the water cools and the insects begin to move about, bluegill and other small fish begin feeding around and in lily pads, stumps, and in other structure in the flats. Here where possible Musky Jitterbugs, buzzbaits and other top waters fished around the outer edges of structure can be excellent. Frogs, spoons and other weedless lures worked in the heavy cover also produce well. Fishing giant soft plastic worms very slowly in and around heavy cover also should be on your list.
Be sure to check back every Tuesday for more tips from our staff experts and pro-staff from around the country.