Night Fishing

Jimmy Houston Night Fishing Falcon LakeI love to fish. Everyone knows that, I am sure, but the only times anyone sees me fishing is in the daytime! In essence, one of my favorite times to fish is at night. I just love it! I really can’t explain what it is that so attracts me to night fishing, but I would like to explain a few of the techniques and some of the protocol I’ve learned about night fishing over the years. As everyone well knows, whatever knowledge one can acquire, the better the chances of a good catch.

The first thing I want to explain is that when night fishing, you should fish the same areas as in the daytime -- with the exception of shallow waters. At night, shallow-water areas that are normally considered off-limits are fair game, especially if the lake is a clear-water lake. These are a high-priority area to fish.

The reason for this change in technique is that largemouth bass are basically scaredy cats. They are frightened to death to roam around in clear, shallow water. I have no idea what they think is going to attack them, but they avoid the shallows like the plague. At night, though, they put their big-boy pants on and roam up and down the banks and flats, devouring all the forage they can. Largemouth bass are gluttons!

Knowing this, night fishing is all about fishing the shallow areas, but not until a little later at night. When the sun sets, one can sit in the boat and look across the water, and it will be smooth as glass. As evening sets in, little rings begin to appear on the surface, along with a little popping or slurping sound. And later, every now and then a gully whopper splash as a largemouth bass gets his evening meal. This scenario is the food chain. The first circles are the smaller fish feeding on small insects. Then the sunfish and bream feed on the larger insects, and then the bass feed on the bream and shad, frogs and snakes. Happens every night in the warm weather months.

So, where do I start fishing at night? I like the brush and timber, cattails, bulrushes and weed beds. I guess my favorite is the lay down trees. Bass will nestle up in these trees, waiting to move into the shallow areas and hoping to ambush an unsuspecting perch or frog. They traditionally suspend next to the lay down where the tree touches the bottom of the lake. This is called a “junction” area. Bass are renown for attaching themselves to junction areas. Look for them when you are fishing any time.

The next area I like, as I mentioned, is weed beds. If I can find an area that is next to deeper water that has a weed bed just under the surface a few feet, I know I am going to catch a few bass … and generally a good one or two. The bass settle down into the weeds, and their green color matches up with the color of the weeds, camouflaging them from the unsuspecting forage swimming along above them. At the right time, they explode upward and get a “largemouth” full of evening food.

As the night settles in, I try to pay attention to activity along the shorelines. If I see or hear bass breaking as they feed along a bank, I make a mental note of where and make plans to visit that area later on.

Why do I wait? Simple: The big boys -- those large, large largemouth bass all fishermen think about and dream about -- did not get to be that big by being stupid. They are cautious and move about in a methodical manner to protect themselves (again, I don’t know what they fear). As the night wears on, they will move about more and more. I found that from about 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. is the time frame that most of those lunkers will begin to feed -- seldom before.

But I will not take away the fact that on any given evening, one can run into some really big fish earlier in the evening. All rules are meant to be broken.

What baits to use is another topic to itself … but again, fish the same areas at night as in the daytime, then fish the same baits as in the daytime.

And I did say that all rules are meant to be broken or at least modified; top waters are a favorite of mine. I love the unannounced explosion of a big bass inhaling a top water bait! It will make one’s heart literally skip a beat or two. And if you really want a heart attack, tie on a buzz bait!

Now, I am talking about topwater baits such as Zara Spooks and
Pop R chugger-type fishing baits. Top water baits that have a rhythm to them as they are retrieved. The largemouth bass use their lateral lines as a sort of sonar to home onto the lure -- and boom! Bass don’t have to see their prey to be able to attack it.

For that reason, most folks are dumbfounded when I tell them that plastic worms are good baits to fish at night. A buddy of mine from Texas used to fish the ultrasoft plastic worms at night. He used black ones, too! The super softness is important because when the bass take the worm in their mouth, they will hold it longer than traditional worms.

My favorite lure for night fishing is the
Heddon Zara Spook. Most bass fishermen know this bait as a stick bait. It is fished with a unique technique called “walking the dog.” (Charlie Campbell made “walking the dog” a household term with his exceptional skills fishing the Zara Spook.)

The latest Zara Spook is called a Chuggin Zara Spook, and there are other versions of the Zara Spook, as well. Check your Bass Pro Shops catalog for all the models. This bait not only walks from side to side when retrieved, but when the rod is flipped down a bit, it also makes a “chugging” sound, which really gets the ole largemouth’s attention. I prefer the shad color or the frog pattern. But in reality, they all work at night since the bass are reacting to sound, not color.

A few tips to remember about night fishing:

  • Don’t run the big motor unless it’s just an absolute necessity like going home, for that noise will clear out the area of bass.
  • Use your trolling motor as little as possible, or at best, on a low speed. The rotation of the prop will spook the bass.
  • Keep your running light on if you are on a public lake or in an area where there is a lot of boat traffic. This is a law in some states.
  • Wear your lifejacket at all times. If you are fishing alone and you fall in, no one will hear you. Absolutely no one.

So, to sum up, start out fishing the laydown timber, weedbeds, bulrushes and cattails, moving on to the shallows later in the evening. Topwaters are probably the most productive bait to use. Spinnerbaits are good, too, as are buzzbaits. Keep boat noise down as much as possible. Observe all boat safety rules. Fish the same structure as in the daytime with the same lures as in the daytime.

Good fishing to ya!
by Jimmy Houston