I fished bass tournaments at night for a whole lot of years before I became a pro, and I enjoyed it a lot. Now, I fish at night for pleasure, and I enjoy it a lot.
August is as good a time as any to fish at night, because fishing during the daytime can be pretty tough, and because on most of our public lakes in South Carolina, there’s a lot of boat traffic. Fishing at night is a way to get out and not get frustrated by the100-degree heat and the jet skis and pleasure boaters.
I’ve seen years when you can catch big fish during the daytime in June, but when dog days set in, those fish don’t feed as much during the day as they do at night. That’s the time to catch a big fish.
There’s usually a good bite around dusk, but there’s usually a lot of boat traffic at that time, with people trying to get off the water; I’ll wait a little while to go out, usually until around 10 p.m. I’ll stay out as long as I feel comfortable — depending on what I’ve got to do the next morning.
I think the key to anyone’s success fishing at night is fishing structure and cover. I like to fish brushpiles or whatever cover is available, whether it’s lily pads or docks. Fishing at night is all about cover. I think it’s a security thing, more for the baitfish than predators. Big shad — all prey fish — they will try to find a way to be invisible, and being protected right next to cover is one way.
Fish like to get closer to cover when the water is muddy, and I think they like to get closer to cover at night, too. Before, say, 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the bait might not be tight to the cover.
One way to think about it is, I don’t go to a restaurant that’s got a good lunch buffet at 9:30 in the morning, but at noon, I know that there will be something there to eat. Fish get conditioned in the same way. They know the bait will move closer to the cover after dark, and during the summer, in the hot water, they want to use the minimum amount of energy to get the maximum amount of food. If my wife brings me a nice big piece of pie while I’m sitting on the couch watching television, I’m going to eat it. But if she tells me the store in town has got pies for sale, I’m probably not going to get up and go buy one.
Bass act the same way in hot weather that they do in the winter when it’s cold. They’re cold blooded, so they slow down when it’s cold and when it’s hot; they don’t want to move much and expend any energy. When bass move during the summer, people know they move vertically, but they don’t know that they move from up to down. They’ll move from being suspended down to being in the cover, without having to move much horizontally.
Now you can catch bass at night on the same kinds of baits that you do during the daytime. But, where I might fish a brushpile on Lake Murray with a crankbait during the daytime, I’d rather fish a big Texas-rigged worm or a big Mop Jig after dark. I want that bait getting down through the cover, through all the limbs, to where the bass is down in that brushpile. I want to be knocking on his door.
I like to fish a big bait at night — a 10-inch worm or a big Mop Jig with a Flappin’ Hog trailer — because I want a big bait that has a big silhouette. Without making things complicated, I tend to downsize as the water clears up, but I fish bigger baits when the water gets dirty and at night. I want that big bait dropping down right in his face, because that bass wants as big a meal as he can get when it’s hot.
So when you get a chance this month, if you feel like staying in the air conditioning but still want to wet a line, think about doing it after dark. I’m sure the big tug you get on your string will make you happy you did.
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