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Summer nights.

7118 Views 33 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Capt. Alan
Following the summer transition period were bass establish their home range for the warm summer period comes summer nights, the magical time when bass roam the shoreline breaks. Again I must make the disclaimer that bass are bass and not all bass are northern LMB. Smallmouth and spots behave differently at night as they do in daylight. Lets focus on LMB both the northern and Florida because I don't see any difference at night in there behavior. Smallies and spots tend to stay deeper on secondary breaks and isolated cover more than LMB at night.
Most bass fisherman agree that bass tend to seek cover during the brightest hottest summer days and locate under docks and weed mats. I don't necessarily agree to this scenario, however will concede that bass will move up towards shallower cover as dusk approaches. Why? the baitfish have relocated to hide in the shallow cover and the nocturnal crawdads and frogs become active. The food chain is more available along the shallower shoreline cover than the deeper sanctuary areas.
Where should you fish at night, isolated shallow cover the a roaming bass can hold on looking for an easy meal. Avoid large weed flats that offer baitfish a big hiding area and fish the edges or open pockets and isolated structure near the shoreline.
Best lures at night are lures the bass can easily locate and strike accurately. Fast moving lures erattic motion lures may attract a bass, however the bass can't time the movements to strike it and missed strikes are missed bass.
Steady moving surface lures, steady moving crank baits and the deadly big plastic worm, oversized slow falling jig or slow big bladed spinner baits are the tools of the night. Line size is not a factor, so go up in line strength to reduce retying. Night is not for finesse fishing, go big and go slow and steady. Use lures that offer a dark silhouette for bass looking up at the gray water or dark shades of purple rule the night. Gold blades offer more contrast at night on large single Colorado blade spinner baits. Black and red crank baits, black 10" worms are great night lures. Rattles to locate jigs and worms work well.
Rig things simple and reduce the rod choices to a few with one out at a time.
Lights are important for you to see what you are doing. GPS or a good knowledge of the lake is essential so you won't get lost at night. Extra everything is the rule; lights, clothing, cell phone, anchor, batteries. Keep it simple and keep safe to enjoy the darkness. Make sure someone knows you are out fishing and expects you to return. Keep your life jacket on, bug spray on and away from your lures. Flash lights are important, take a few back ups.
Lots to talk about when night fishing, like getting your boat ready, tackle and presentations. Night summer bass fishing is one of our sport hidden treasures, enjoy it.
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Good tips, Tom. Preparing for a good night is high on my list. No matter how careful I am it seems something always goes a little wrong, but I try to make the trip as smooth as possible. Here's a list of my own essentials.

1. Carry spare bulbs for the two navigation lights. A burned out bulb is not a good excuse for not having bow or stern light on when the blue lights pop up behind you.
2. I run flashlight batteries through a tester to make sure they are hot. There's a 12 volt plug-in light stowed away as a backup, a 5 million candle power spotlight with 12 volt adapter cable, at least one head lamp for hands-free use, and a couple of small AA battery flashlights. The new type you shake to use doesn't put out enough light.
3. There's a pair of 55 watt white fog lights on the bow that sure make a big difference when needed. When a boater is headed my way I pop them on, flash them because most fail to judge the closing distance accurately. It works. Many times someone coming right at me in the dark will stop dead thinking they are about to ram a ramp with a vehicle shining their headlights into the water. For whatever reason other boaters are too often attracted to other lit boats.
4. Make certain everything on the boat works, and the outboard is in top shape, fuel tank topped off. Little problems we put up with in daylight become monster problems at night.
5. I take one heavy baitcasting rod and eliminate all tripping hazards, including tackleboxes. There's no need for a long distance casting spinning rod or a large selection of lures.
6. I carry a head net that looks like a bee-keepers hat for those times when bugs bite through 100% DEET or are so thick you choke on them. Long-sleeved shirt and long pants complete your protection. When the night temperature is too high for full coverage (sweat pouring and threatening to set off the bilge pump) I set off 2-3 little misting gadgets sold at WalMart. They make a cloud of vapor around us that drives air temp down a good 15 degrees. I take along a half gallon of distilled water for those. I eat a 1/2 tsp of garlic before going out, along with some Thiamine (vitaminB1) to keep most bugs off.

I'll leave this for others to add theirs. One big safety tip about navigating. No matter how familiar you are with a lake at night, a dense fog can cancel out that knowledge. I keep in mind every boat is lost whether they are or not, so trust nothing out there. On my way out of a ramp area I begin making a GPS route out into the lake then end it. Later I could simply navigate to the end of it and follow it back. From the end of the ramp route I start a new trail. Before the maximum number pf trail points is reached I name and save it, then start another trail, and so on. In the event you fall out and the boat floats away, someone finding the boat could back-track to hopefully find you. Empty drifting bass boats are frequently found with no clue where it had been. Meanwhile those trails are valuable for re-tracing a safe route back home if visibility becomes impossible. Another BIG advantage is like when I broke down one night. The trolling batteries were down and none would crank the outboard. I didn't have a pull rope in the cowl or anywhere. All we had was one paddle. I had enough battery to use the GPS trails and map to figure out the shortest safe deep way to a marina where we finally arrived with the least paddling.

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That's a good place to fish for sure. Lights around docks are big fish attractors. Lake Hamilton at Hot Springs lights up like a big Christmas tree every night, red, green, and white all along the shorelines. The light draws insects, and that draws baitfish and frogs, then come the big predators. Lately a new light phenomenon has begun growing. It's an eerie submerged green light that REALLY draws a lot of fish. So far there aren't enough, each such dock having a few too many boats moored around it all night. I figure lakeside residents turn the light on when their friends call to say they are anchored and ready. Same folks every time.

You bring up an important issue with tying knots at night. Turning on a lamp to tie a knot draws all the more bugs and kills night vision for just long enough to cast a bait onto shore or over a tree branch. I use the biggest hooks I own as long as a soft plastic can accept them. The thickest, longest, baddest hook is as invisible as a crappie hook. They have larger line eyes, too, so I can poke a doubled line through it in pitch black. Finishing a Palomar knot is a breeze once that line is through. Try it while watching TV. Easier than you think.

Having GPS and great confidence, boaters around here run wide open regardless of visibility. It's illegal but some folks ski all night, some in the nude. Drunk operators abound. I keep to the shallower areas away from major waters because of just enough really mean jerks that will harass a fisherman. Huh. That doesn't last long. I have several wildlife officer's home numbers and can get one of those 85 mph greasers on the water in an hour. They have some fast boats confiscated from drug dealers.

My favorite night bait from now on is a Zoom Monster worm (or larger) in any dark purple or black color with 6/0 thick wired striper hook and 65# braid. I use a rubber band to make the hook weedless. I like it to float somewhat with no sinker, hook just Tex-posed. If the fish are breaking I love a black Jitterbug or Zara Spook, but most of the treble-hooked baits collect too much floating vegetation in the shallow places I fish.

There are no private docks on Ouachita, so marinas are prime fishing territory, especially on moonless nights. I have phone numbers of security workers at each marina who appreciate a courtesy call BEFORE floating in around the slips. Those guys will drive you to another area to get your tow vehicle if you work with them.

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On any given summer day I estimate the night bite will net 3-4 times more bass than fishing in daylight. We might struggle one day to boat a limit of 6, but that night the catch will likely go to 20-25 heavier bass. At the same time there will be folks good by day that can't buy a bite at night. A little interview usually shows up why.

Keith, I wear a RayoVac LED headlamp mostly with the same options. But some of our bugs see and come to the red. Around here yellow bug lights on the house don't work anymore. They draw bugs. Yellow night lights along streets now host swarming bats and clouds of insects. Even dimmed the light from my GPS-sonar screen draws bugs, even on night view. I bought a battery operated bug chaser that seems to work for now, a Sunbeam product. Label is broken off. I couldn't begin to number the nights we've had to slow way down outboarding because of the pain and mess of a rain of bugs slapping our faces. It's a lot like traveling through light sleet. The windshield is useless, coated with gut.

I get about as many backlashes from mono as I do braid, and at night either case means laying that reel out of action or slicing the line and ripping it out, replacing under less than desirable conditions. I carry one rod at night but several preloaded reels. By using the super sized hooks I must set the hook hard. If it grabs some tough tissue like the roof of the mouth, type of line won't cost me a fish. That anchor of a hook is likely to connect solidly and hold that fish. He isn't coming unbuttoned. In the south many of our fisheries demand a heck of a setup to manage a large bass swimming into the most impossible cover available. I've many times had to hold the line tight to prevent more travel while ripping up hydrilla where the line has made a turn. Eventually we make it to the fish and the fight resumes, thought not nearly as dramatically. It takes a lot out of a bass to navigate thick hydrilla that won't let baitfish get in or back out. At least in daylight you can see what is about to happen and maybe prevent it. At night you find out what happened and try to fix it.

A great light that won't spook fish but will help netting visibility is one like this at The one locals have been trying out is another brand, and I can't find it online yet. It was on special at the last boat show. I don't think they are online yet. These things work.

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I went out with of of the bait booth guys to show him what can be caught on Lake Ouachita, getting on the water just before dark Saturday night. The pros have been mostly catching 1-2 pound bass, and mostly bringing in less than a limit. I caught a 3 pounder right off on a 10" black Zoom Monster, and my partner caught a 4 pounder 30 minutes later, lost a pig 10 minutes later (est. at least 6 pounds) at the same spot no farther than 1/2 mile from the Brady ramp where they launched those 4 days. At least he knew the lake has the potential. It was a spot in a cove with deep standing timber. That's all he needed to see, so we loaded up and went home. The trouble was the bass just were not biting well days, so the key was to target the big bass first as close to morning as possible, then work on a limit the rest of the day. Most of the guys went for the limit first, then try for a kicker. That wasn't a good call, as I've written about here before. Getting in that conventional habit can ruin your tournament. I watched a lot of humiliated anglers walk up on the weigh-in stage carrying no fish, one one pounder, two weighing 1.8 pounds, barely legal. What stubbornness! Mark Davis passed tips to Suggs that matched what I was saying all along, and here's how Suggs pulled it off Sunday. From FLW site: "Suggs targeted big fish Sunday using a 10-inch Berkley PowerWorm and a spinnerbait. His efforts yielded just two bass weighing 6 pounds, 1 ounce. When added to his catch of five bass weighing 11 pounds from Saturday, however, the fish proved to be enough to fend off his rivals and claim the world's most lucrative prize in a bass-fishing tournament. "I focused on suspending fish around submerged trees in 30 to 40 feet of water with the fish sitting in 20 to 25 feet near main-lake breaks,""

I don't think any of the others caught on to that pattern in time, though I told a bunch of folks selling baits what it would take to win the million dollars. The spinnerbait part threw me. I wouldn't have tried that since our bass see so many every day, and usually stop biting them when pressured like that. Suggs has been fishing Ouachita a long time, a former guide at Mt. Harbor, so I figure he already had a good idea where to go and what to do. The bass have definitely turned to night feeding, which speaks volumes about how to fish for them days.

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