After Dark Bassin'

Bass Class with Keith Clow

Why would any bass fisherman stay on the water during the hot days of summer and fight the extreme heat, ski boats and real tough bites when these fishing conditions could be avoided by fishing in the evening and at night? Quite often when I'm night fishing and enjoying the almost non-existent boat traffic and catching above average size bass, I often wonder why more bass fisherman don't partake in night fishing. Don't they know that one of the best ways to increase the odds of catching their first 10 pounder is to fish at night? Don't they know that bass are nocturnal predators in their feeding habits and that's year around? Could it be they don't partake because they are unsure of the where, what and how to's of night fishing? Well, that's what this article is all about. The basics of night fishing in the summer months and yes winter time night fishing too.

Being a licensed guide and a Professional Tournament Fisherman/ Seminar Speaker, I get asked many questions related to bass fishing. And the questions run the spectrum from A to Z. But when someone asks about night fishing the first answer is almost always the same. I tell them; fishing for bass at night is not much different than fishing for bass during the day. Many people are amazed that bass can be caught using the same daytime methods and lures at night, but it's true. But, before talking about the methods, tackle, lures etc... for catching bass at night, I want to talk about the most important ingredient. Safety! Yes, SAFETY! Safety first, last and always.

The most important safety factor while on the water at night, is the ability to be seen. It can be as important, if not more important than the ability to see. Therefore, the running (navigation) lights on your boat must be in good working order. This not only gives the other nighttime boaters the ability to see you; it's the law!

"I often fish with no lights, but I am always ready to quickly turn on my anchor lights when I hear another boat approaching."

Most of the bass boats today have the anchor light switch on the front bow panel. This will alert the driver that there is another boat close by. When driving from fishing spot to fishing spot, it is very important to drive at minimal speeds. Floating debris such as logs is difficult to see at night and so are the DUMMIES out there running without any lights at all! The bass boats we have today may be able to go over 60 M.P.H., but that kind of speed at night is just too dangerous! Always think and practice safety.

Using a spotlight is a real asset for identifying a spot or checking to make sure your path on the water is clear. I have used the 12 volt 400,000 candlepower spotlights and the 6-volt spotlights and they both work well. One big difference between these two lights is that the 6-volt spotlight doesn't melt your carpet like the 400,000-candle power does if left on while laying it on the floor! A spotlight can be a real lifesaver, especially if you are in trouble. But use discretion in shining your spotlight around. One of the most aggravating things about spotlight use is the guy who shines it directly into your eyes blinding you. Remember that blinding someone is a two-way street, so apply the "Golden Rule" when using your spotlight. Another real good idea is to get to the area you're going to be fishing before dark, so you can familiarize yourself with that area before the sun goes down.

The only important equipment change from daytime fishing to nighttime fishing is using heavier line. The same rods and reels will work fine, but stay away from using light line. Fishing with small diameter lines such as 6# or 8# is really not necessary at night and can cause a lot of grief when that trophy fish breaks off. Donut be afraid to use REAL STRING! The best overall line I have found for night fishing is Trilene 15# Big Game. Even if you are just throwing crank baits, the abrasion and strength factor of heavier line is far superior to smaller diameter lines and sure adds to the confidence factor of not breaking off. Many fishermen especially here on Clearlake think that 15# is even a too light!

I cant think of a bait that bass fishermen use during the day that won't work just as well, if not better at night. One thing I tend to do differently, is use baits that have a larger silhouette like big 3-inch crank baits or big blades and big trailers on a spinner bait for my hard bait selections. This is also the time for you to use BIG WORMS! I'm sure you have heard that the 90% of bass caught are caught on plastic worms. I know I always heard that when I started and it has proved itself a truism. Grubs will catch fish at night and so will 4" and 6" worms, but one of the biggest fish producers is 10 to 14-inch worms. And Berkley 10 inch Power Worms is without a doubt not only my long-time favorite, but also the choice of the many other successful night-fisherman I know. The 10" Power Worm is the most consistent and productive worm this bass fisherman has ever used at night!

One of the best ways to rig the plastic worm for this type of fishing is "Texas Style" using a large hook, 4/0 or 5/0, and a 3/16 ounce bullet weight. The lighter the weight, the easier it is to fish the worm in the rocks without constantly hanging up, and rocks are what you really want to be fishing in at night.

The colors of baits to use at night should lean toward the darker and/or contrasting colors. Black (my favorite) or black-grape or even black/chartreuse if there is no moon and the water has some color are very consistent colors to use. If you are fishing during a full moon and the water is very clear, sometimes reds with metal flake work well too. I have found that these color suggestions will also work with crank bait and spinner bait selections. I have been questioned about using rattles at night, and I don't think I have a BEST answer. Many nights on guide trips, I will rig one client with a rattle and the other without a rattle and the amount of bites seems to be identical. So, school is still out on that answer. But "Confidence" is the key word. I personally don't use a rattle during a full moon in clear water, but will use one if there is no moon and the water is stained. This is the way I do it and it gives me confidence and confidence is the best lure in any anglers tackle box. Using high visibility lines with Black Light can be a great advantage. The hi-vis lines will look like ?"rope under the black light and not only is it easier to pick out backlashes, you will be able to tie knots (without your glasses!) under black light too. I personally try to keep light use to a minimum. I know using lights at night is a controversial topic, but I believe that less light is always better at night. And sometimes it's very difficult to fish with too much light because it causes night blindness. I tell my clients; " if you hear a splash after you cast into the darkness, that's a good cast! If you don't hear a splash after your cast, we have a problem!" I do keep a light handy in the event of a backlash or tangled lines or locating that big fish to net her.

If it's possible, anchor on the spot you want to fish. This will enable you to turn off your sonar (it does make noise) and there will be no need to be running a trolling motor. (more noise)

The best choices for just where to fish at night should involve three specific ingredients, Rocks, Deep Water Access and More Rocks! I can't stress the rock ingredient enough; it's almost a must. Rocks and close by deep-water access should narrow the number of spots for you to choose from. Points, steep rock walls and submerged islands should be your first choices.

There are a few more things you should know about night fishing. No matter which bait you are using, try to keep in constant contact with the bottom. Maintaining contact at all times not only gives you the feel of exactly where your bait is, it is also making noise and noise attracts the fish to the lure. I know it's difficult to maintain constant bottom contact with a crank bait, but do your best to bump the bottom as often as you can. Also, there are many fish attractants on the market today and they work. I've been using Smell Jelly for the past few years and have the confidence that it works for me. Some of the other scents people have used in my boat have so much garlic that I want to put the boat on the trailer and go get a pizza instead of fishing.

Night fishing should not be limited to the summertime, especially if you are looking for that trophy bass. Night fishing can be as productive in November as it is in July. Obviously you have to dress for the colder conditions and be a little hardier than many, but Big Bass eat at night in the winter months almost as aggressively as they do in the summertime. Also, use the same baits in the colder months as you did in the warmer ones with the exception of using bulky jigs. Another reason for night fishing in the colder months is that you will have the lake all to yourself! I can't remember ever seeing another bass boat on Clear Lake when night fishing in the winter months.

The challenge and the excitement of night fishing will bring you some great memories of the sport of bass fishing. Now that you know how and where to catch those big ones, get off that couch and enjoy!

The bass you "properly" release today is the bass you can catch tomorrow!

Keith Clow