Nighttime bassing is one of the best ways to hook a summer giant.
Night fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass has definitely been gaining fans over the last 5 or so years, but it’s still a concept that only a small percentage of the bass fishing public buys into.
Whether you fish from shore or a boat, it’s a foreign experience until you get used to it. The darkness obliterates your depth perception and you will find yourself casting baits 20 feet into the bushes and trees at times. The darkness also deepens the mysteries of the water and woods and the running of your imagination may signal an early end to your first few attempts.
I wrote it off for a very long time when I was a kid, just assuming that the fish would not be able to see well enough to feed effectively or that they would just not be very active at night. Something I have learned in the time since is that some ponds have a night bite, some don’t and others only have them in specific places. If you’ve been toying with the idea of making a night trip for freshwater bass, the week of the full moon in August has proven to be one of the best of the season. The bright moon illuminates a lot of the mysteries that might otherwise lurk in the shadows and, my experience has been that the bass are typically very active during this summer moon.
You can fish just about anything you would fish in daylight, but I tend to stick with surface baits and my favorites are the Whopper Plopper and the Boo Yah Poppin’ Frog. I like to stick with surface baits because, even with a bright moon, it can be hard to tell what you’re casting into and many tosses will be rendered useless by a mop of weeds thanks to an overshot with a lure that doesn’t float. Still, if you’re very familiar with the body of water you’re fishing, a well-placed jig can catch some big summer bass when dropped into structure after dark.
My best catches have come on the two lures mentioned including a largemouth caught in Maine that may have touched 7 pounds that ate a Poppin’ Frog and a 24-inch smallie that whacked a Whopper Plopper while vacationing in upstate New York. Both of these catches were exhilarating with intense battles and I don’t think I would have caught anything even close to the sizes of these fish if I had only fished in daylight.
The Best Spots
I feel like I need to preface this by saying these are the best spots “in my opinion” because there are certainly anglers out there who do a lot more night fishing for freshwater bass than I; but time and time again, these locations have given up fish. The first and most popular spots are coves covered in lily pads, there’s something about the shadowy underworld of the lily pads that calls in some brutes during these hot summer nights. This, of course, is the realm of the frog and that’s almost always what I throw in these areas.
The next area that produces lots of fish for me are shallow expanses of rock and sand, especially if they are close to a drop-off or sunken riverbed. I have my best success in these spots by memorizing where key structure is hidden below the surface, large boulders, logs and especially submerged stone walls will produce night fish consistently, all summer long. These areas are perfect for the Whopper Plopper, but another favorite way to cover these shallow expanses is throwing large wake baits like the Bull Wake or any 5-inch rat wakebait.
The last area to never miss is any place where shadow lines—natural or artificial—abut prime structure. Many lake house owners will affix lights to their docks, spotlights from shoreline homes may cast shadows against a reed line, or even a large tree casting a shadow in the moonlight is worth a cast or two. That monster largemouth I caught in Maine was hunting in the shadows below a lighted dock; I pitched my frog right to the piling and popped it into the halo of the dock light, and as soon as it appeared in the light, it disappeared in a toilet flush take.
No matter how you fish during these summer nights make sure to bring a minimum of two lights, I wear a headlamp and keep a ‘focusable’ spotlight around my neck, which is especially handy when I get caught in a tough spot in my boat or kayak. If you’re in a boat, definitely bring an anchor and anchor up wherever you hook a fish, it’s quite common for spots with one fish to hold several others. Conversely, if a good-looking spot doesn’t produce after five or six casts, keep moving.
Night fishing for freshwater bass is one of the best ways to hook large fish in the summertime, it also allows you to extend your time on the water and adds a new arrow to your warm-weather quiver. I saved the most important piece of advice for last: don’t forget your bug spray!