Bass fishing does not need to be complicated, although many guys fall into the trap and end up spending thousands of dollars — from a bass boat to a huge range of tackle and rods.
All that stuff is fine and good, but if you’re looking to catch a true lunker, you really don’t need all that stuff, just go fishing at night.
Although bass fishing at night is effective year-round, summertime is the easiest time of year to catch largemouth bass. Bass stay in the shallows during the summer months making it easier to target them from shore. The water temperature will be at its zenith, and so will the bass’ need for protein intake. So the big fish will be hitting the feedbag.
Stay Cool When Bass Fishing
To beat the summer heat, especially in Southern California, head out to the lake on a cool evening. Bass are very active in the dark and have both the eyesight and sensory organs to make them super efficient at hunting down prey in the dark.
When bass fishing even in the colder months, nighttime finds bass moving into the “über-shallows” as they search out prey, often next to the bank. Even larger bass come into shallow places that they would never venture into during daylight hours.
One of the key elements of night bass fishing is to keep it simple. And there is no simpler approach to bass fishing than targeting these bucket mouths from the shore.
Many diehard bass anglers swear by using all-black lures at night, as they silhouette well and are easy for bass to see in no-light or low-light conditions.
A heavy action, 7- to 8-foot bass rod (longer rods are easier to fish from shore), with a quality bait-casting reel loaded with 65-pound braid, and a short fluorocarbon leader will suffice. Mono or fluoro will also work for your running line, but heavy braid is recommend as you will often have to pull fish from heavy cover, and up on to the bank to land.
One of the beauties of nighttime bass fishing is you can use a wide range of lures — plastics, crankbaits and wire baits such as spinnerbaits and buzzbaits can all be fished effectively.
My crew in Japan particularly likes to fish big swimbaits at night to target larger bass. While you may not get bit as often, when you do, it’ll be a fatty.
To get started, a good approach would include a handful of reaction baits, and if conditions are tough, a pack of Senkos and some 3/0 to 6/0 offset hooks will get the job done.
For big baits, large floating trout imitators, such as the MS Slammer (or similar type/profile) are deadly. Simply cast these out and slowly retrieve them on the surface.
Whatever type of lure you select, it is important that you throw it during daylight hours, and watch how it swims or fishes with varying retrieves. This is why many anglers like to get to the lake or pond at sundown, and fine-tune their tackle. Play with the spool and brake settings to develop a particular retrieve speed for the lures that you plan to fish. Then, when darkness falls, you’ll be ready to go on the attack, making casts and retrieving with confidence.
Since bass will be found in places they would not normally be during the day, simply walking the shoreline and making fan casts is a good way to locate fish in a lake that you are not familiar with. If you only have time to focus on a limited area of a lake, a “primary” lake point (one of the major points that stick out the farthest on a lake) is a good place to focus on. Work the area methodically.
Structure and cover, although not the same, are also good places to focus on and place some casts. Most So Cal lakes are really reservoirs, made for drinking water or irrigation proposes. So here the structure is basically everything that was there before the area was turned into a reservoir. Prime structure includes rock piles, humps and saddles. Cover basically refers to the fish-holding elements that are found after the impoundment was filled with water, including docks or weed beds.
In addition to your rod and reel, pack a simple backpack with the following:
1. A small selection of your “confidence” lures that you wish to fish that night.
2. Pliers and/or line cutters.
3. A digital camera (or your phone) to take pictures of your catch and a heavy-duty freezer Ziploc to store anything that might get damaged if wet.
4. Bug spray.
5. Something to drink.
6. A simple hand scale or measuring tape.
7. A light. Headlamps are great because they keep you hands-free, but use the light sparingly as it will spook fish.
I put the light purposely at the bottom of the list as I seldom use the two LED lights I carry in my backpack (I always bring one spare). First and foremost, try to avoid shining a light near the water, as this definitely will spook shallow bass. Getting used to fishing with no lights at night makes you a better “predator” and will enable you to fish and function when you do not have a light (or when your batteries go dead). Learning to tie on lures (I use a Palomar knot for bass) by touch takes a bit of practice, but once you are used to it, there is really no need for a light. It goes without saying that you should use your light at night for safety proposes and when walking on steep, slippery shorelines, or unfamiliar territory.
Once you land your personal best largemouth, unzip your backpack, and record your catch. First, make sure that you lay your fish down in a wet or soft place. The edge of the lake is a good place as long as the fish cannot escape. After taking pictures, measure your catch. Even if you have a digital scale in your backpack, there are times when getting a weight may prove to be difficult, namely battery issues you can still use the “bass formula.”
Length x Girth (squared) divided by 927
This formula is surprisingly accurate, and was developed by Don Peters. Take your tape measure and measure the length of the fish and the girth as accurately as possible. Say your fish is 22 inches long with a girth of 18 inches. According to the formula — 22 x 18 x 18 divided by 927 — the fish weights 7.68 pounds. This particular fish actually weighed 7.45 pounds, which is certainly close enough for a weight on your catch.
Targeting bass at night keeps you out of the hot, sticky conditions and can be deadly on big fish. You don’t need a boat, and can simply carry one rod and a couple of lures.
Night Fishing for Largemouth Bass