by Captain Paul Rose
In Part 1 of night fishing, we reviewed a few safety tips, precautions and that sense of readiness which makes your experience a bit easier, safer and more enjoyable. Part 2 is making the fishing productive, which is always a plus. When I think about night fishing, visions of largemouth bass always come to play.
The largemouth is prevalent in our local waters and is becoming, if it isn’t already, the number one sought-after gamefish but not without a price. Lakes pressured by recreational anglers, bass clubs and even the pro circuit can make fishing tough at times, especially for the weekend guy. Add in the summer heat, higher water temperatures and increased pleasure-craft traffic and it’s not hard to understand why ol’ bucketmouth becomes even more elusive. Anglers with a bit of an adventure flare and a lot of caffeine realize night fishing is a way to adjust to circumstances out of their control.
Largemouth along with a host of other gamefish such as crappie, stripers and catfish all adjust to the above problems. Fish will typically retreat to the safety and comfort of deeper waters on long summer days. But this same pattern reverses as the sun goes down. Savvy anglers adjust as well.
Before venturing out, it is imperative to know your lake in the daytime just as you would a bathroom trip in your house at 3am. Not only is it a safety issue but it’s the way you know where to begin. Otherwise, finding spots at night just becomes a shot in the dark, as they say.
Once you’re out, focus your initial efforts around wood and weeds. Find these areas and you will find bass. Docks with light attract all parts of the food chain including predators. Add structure below a light under a dock and you may not need to travel far, always a bonus with gas prices soaring. I heard from a longtime fishing partner who swears by white boat docks. It is felt the white background against a dark sky allows bass to find its prey easier. Bass do tend to miss more at night so the idea has some merit. Be observant during the day when on the water and you just may pick up a few of these night honey-holes.
Long tapering points, beach areas, edges and bars are also productive places to fish. Remember an edge is created anytime two opposing or opposites meet. Light vs. dark, moving water vs. stillwater, or weed vs. rock are just a few examples. Any fisherman that learns to recognize edges, whether in freshwater or saltwater, will be more successful. Remember edges can be very dramatic or very subtle.
The same tackle is used at night as in the day. What you are most used to is probably more important. If your not use to a fly rod or bait-caster, I would use the spinning rod at night. Be rigged and ready. Have multiple rods with different lures ready and at an arms reach. Changing lures and tying knots is best done in the daylight. With that in mind I still have a headlamp and extra batteries ready. A small lantern is also nice on-board.
Conventional tackle should include a top-water rod – I still love a black Jitterbug – and a soft plastic rod – great with an 8-inch black rubber worm. These two outfits get me through most nights and they always seem work. Call it confidence if you will. I try to avoid lures prone to snagging such as a crankbait with 3 treble hooks. Go weedless, fish around structure and you will have fewer problems.
Flyrodding is another option and more fun than most methods. Try a deerhair popper for top-water and a dark wooly bugger for subsurface presentations. Clousers and Deceivers around those dock lights in varying sizes will catch anything that swims. Use a stripping basket to avoid line management issues. Regardless of your choices become a minimalist at night, stay organized and stay simple. This actually works well anytime. Spend time fishing with the lure in the water!
With fish becoming less wary at night, more aggressive, opportunistic and feeding shallower the above approaches works pretty well. Plus darkness covers any liabilities an angler may have such as casting distance or pinpoint accuracy. Rather than changing lures, try changing techniques. Let a top-water sit after a cast or try a quick retrieve as soon as it hits the water. Try swimming a soft plastic thru cover rather than bottom bouncing. Keep in mind sound is amplified at night so use it your advantage. Distances can be tough to judge at first but soon you will develop your night vision. Try a dark night or try the full moon night. Werewolfs seem to like it.
Try a night trip this summer and you are sure to like it. Plan it. Do it. The bass – and who knows what else! – are waiting.
Carolinabonefishing.com is a fly fishing guide service owned and operated by Capt. Paul Rose located in Charlotte,NC. Paul offers a saltwater clinic using tailing carp on area lakes as a teaching tool for fly anglers out of a Hellsbay flats skiff. Other destinations include the NC mountains for trout and the Lowcountry for redfish. Paul is also a member of the Southeast Outdoor Press Association. Visit his website at carolinabonefishing.com or call 704-616-6662. For additional information or story ideas, email him at Paul@carolinabonefishing.com.