August is the hottest month in the Carolinas, and if you’ve been on the water on a windless day, you know how miserable it can be for bass fishermen. Not only do you have to put up with the heat, but the recreational boat traffic is as strong as ever. Even though gas is $4 a gallon, it seems like everybody has got enough to run around all day.
That’s why I love to fish at night. I grew up fishing a lot of night tournaments on Lake Murray, and not only do you get to beat the heat and the boat traffic, it’s really your best chance to catch a big fish.
One thing you have to do is go slow — running and fishing. You have to be defensive and look out for guys whose running lights work perfectly but they don’t use them. I’ve had a few close calls over the years, and I don’t want any more.
It’s probably the chance to catch big fish that get me out at night more than anything else. My first 8-pound bass was caught fishing at night, at 2 a.m., when I was 12 years old. They definitely feed better this time of year at night. Big fish don’t feed as much during the summer when the weather is really hot. They’re lethargic, and they tend to move up and feed more when the water has cooled down the most, and that’s in the last few hours before daylight.
When I was younger, I could fish all night, catch a nap, and still be going strong the next day. Nowadays, however, I prefer half-night trips. I’d rather get a few hours of decent sleep, then get up and out around 2 a.m. and fish four hours. At that time of night, virtually all the recreational boat traffic is gone, it’s cooler, and you get to fish the time when day really breaks. I can get home an hour or so after daylight, catch a 2-hour nap and be able to function the next day.
You fish what’s really a full summer pattern. I’m going to fish places on the main lake, points and places close to the river channel — not in the backs of creeks. You’re narrowing down the places you can fish, which makes it easier. You want to target places with the best available cover, whether that’s standing timber, docks, grass and really, you can start to catch fish on brush piles if you know where any of them are.
One thing I think a fisherman really ought to do is fish the brush piles that SCDNR puts out. A lot of the year, they’re too deep to fish, because they have to put them out deep enough that no boats hit them — usually, that’s 18 to 25 feet of water. If you know where they are on your lake, don’t be afraid to fish them.
People think, "Everybody fishes them," but if you noticed, there aren’t really that many people fishing them, and they definitely hold fish. I’ve caught lots of fish around them at night in August.
As far as baits go, you’re looking for something big and dark. It’s hard to beat a big Texas-rigged worm like a Trigger-X Hammer worm. I like to fish dark colors like junebug and black/blue. That big piece of plastic, in a dark color, makes for a big silhouette a bass can see better as it’s falling down to her, and since big fish don’t feed as much, when they do feed, they want a big meal.
I fish more slowly at night than during the day; I think fish need a little extra time to find your bait. The other thing I do is add scent to my baits. It’s a personal thing, but it’s not gonna hurt, and it might help fish locate them. When I was growing up, fishing night tournaments with Scott Martin, we used to keep our worms in plastic bags and spray ’em with Bang or whatever scent we had. Nowadays, most soft-plastic baits have the scent impregnated, but it can’t hurt.
The other thing is, I’ll always have a topwater bait or two tied on. The best topwater fishing is the first 30 to 45 minutes around daylight — in August, that’s usually between 5 and 6 in the morning. When I’m fun-fishing, I love to catch fish on topwater, and the best fishing is the last few minutes before daylight and the first little bit after it. I like to fish buzzbaits and prop baits. Catching fish on topwater is absolutely a blast, and it’s one of the reasons I love to fish that second half of the nighttime cycle.