Why You Should Be Bass Fishing at Night: Tips and Tricks to Own the Dark

Heat stress and fishing pressure work together to suppress the bite during the day in the summer. But at night, cooler water temperatures and empty boat launches can be the best time to catch monster bass.

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Summer can be a tough season to catch bass.

High water temperatures stress largemouth bass, suppressing their immune systems, causing cell death, and crushing their appetite. And the hordes of anglers who descend on the water when the weather is warm and sunny spook bass terribly, making them less active than they already were due to the heat.

Savvy fishermen have a solution to both problems: switch to night fishing when the heat is on.

Let’s dig deeper into why you should be fishing for bass more at night this summer, and let’s cover some tips and tricks to help you own the night.

Heat Stress and Largemouth Bass

Man Fishing Bass

Largemouth bass are cold-blooded animals, meaning that they can’t regulate their body temperature like we can. Instead, their internal temperature is more or less identical to the water around them.

The ideal water temperature for largemouth bass is 81 F. 

At this warm temp, the largemouth’s biology is perfectly supported. They feed voraciously, grow quickly, and benefit from increased immunity.

But in much of the South, 81 F is more common in the spring and fall than the summer, and water temperatures in places like Georgia, Alabama, and Texas can be nothing short of brutal in June, July, and August.

And as the water creeps toward 90 F, which it will across large swaths of the country, bass start to really feel the heat.

Repeated studies demonstrate that above 90 degrees, largemouth bass will cease feeding almost entirely, lose weight rapidly, fall victim to opportunistic infections, and experience cell death.

None of these are good things.

The bass’s strategy for avoiding being boiled to death is limited by the oxygen saturation of the water. Sunlight supplies energy to the phytoplankton that release oxygen into the water, but photosynthesis is more or less limited to the top three feet of the water column.

Below that, high temperatures and poor sunlight penetration work hand in glove to decrease oxygen saturation.

As a result, bass must choose between breathing and boiling, and since they’ll die in just minutes without life-giving oxygen, they choose the heat, staying shallow even when there’s cooler water beneath them.

Fishing Pressure: Summer-Spooked Bass

2 guys holding fish

If that weren't enough of a problem, far more anglers take to the water in summer than any other time of year, in part because of factors that have nothing to do with fishing.

With kids out of school and summer vacations in full swing, warm, sunny weather being common and long weekends abounding, legions of boats take to the water, creating traffic jams and short tempers at boat launches baking in the hot sun.

Cars Towing Boats

Nice weather and long weekends bring anglers to the water in droves.

And while largemouth bass aren’t geniuses, they learn pretty quickly to recognize common lures and techniques, associating them with the unpleasantness of being hooked and caught.

That’s why it’s important to consider finesse techniques if your fishing during the day, and if you want to know more about this topic, please check out this article:

Why You Should Be Using Finesse Techniques this Summer: Bass Fishing When the Pressure’s On

Larger, older bass are especially likely to spook, as they’ve had years of experience being hooked, caught, and released.

Why Fish at Night?

When the sun sets over your local lake, pond, or river, two things tend to happen.

First, the air and water temperatures drop considerably. That relieves some of the stress suppressing bass feeding during the day. It also dramatically increases oxygen saturation in the water, as cooler water can hold more of this vital gas.

Second, prey items that were waiting for the heat to relent a bit become more active. Shad will begin feeding in the shallows, the frogs will leap onto lily pads and begin their nightly chorus, and insects of all kinds will arrive and land on the water, sending ripples racing across the surface.

And you better believe that sundown changes largemouth behavior.

Really massive bass that were sun-shy and lure-spooked will transition to the prey-rich shallows where water temperatures and oxygen levels now support very active feeding. And with an abundance of prey items emerging at dusk, the bass will hammer anything that moves to make up for their heat-induced anorexia.

This bears repeating: between sundown and sunrise, largemouth bass will head into the shallows, feeding voraciously on bluegill, shad, minnows, insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, and anything else they can find.

And when you have the water to yourself, you can catch the fish of a lifetime as it comes to life at dusk!

Night Bass Fishing Tips

We’ve discussed this topic at some length, so if you want a refresher, be sure to check out this article:

Night Fishing For Bass: How to Catch Largemouth Bass After Dark

Bass are sight predators, but at night, vibration is king

Largemouth bass are blessed with extremely keen eyesight, and in clear water, they grow much more quickly and much larger than they can in murky, stained, or muddy ponds, rivers, and lakes.

The reason is pretty simple: when visibility is good, bass find it easy to locate and catch food.

At night, especially when moonlight provides some underwater illumination, bass have every advantage over prey like bluegill and minnows. They see better in low light, and Mother Nature has armed them with sensitive lateral lines and hearing, allowing them to detect the miniscule vibrations of a minnow’s tail and the tiny vortices created by swimming bluegill at a range of about 6 feet.

As a result, you should focus on two things when selecting your lure:

  • you want dark, subdued colors, and
  • you want plenty of vibration and noise.

Night fishing lure selection

What kinds of lures should you throw at night in the shallows?

I have 5 picks that I never hit the water at night for bass without.

Buzzbaits

 

A good, black buzzbait is nothing short of murder at night.

A ¼-, ⅜-, or ½-ounce buzzbait like the Booyah Buzz hits all the right buttons.

Booyah Buzz

It casts well, letting you stand back from the shallows and avoid spooking skittish bass. It provides plenty of vibration and sound, alerting hungry bass to its presence and helping them key-in on a potential meal. And that skirt creates the same tiny water movements that prey do, mimicking the “sound” of minnow, shad, bluegill, and other common menu items.

Chatterbaits

I don’t leave home without a ⅜-ounce Z-Man Original ChatterBait in “Candy Craw” with a “South African Special” Zoom Z-Craw trailer. 

Z-man original chatterbaitZoom Z-Craw

 

The chatterbait is ideal for working the edges of tall, submerged weed beds and grass, and when lifted off the bottom and allowed to settle back again, draws reaction strikes like few other lures can.

Often overlooked, the chatterbait can be almost without equal at night.

Spinnerbaits

The War Eagle Night Baits Spinnerbait, armed with a loud Colorado blade that thumps like mad is perfect for running down the lengths of a point, along weed beds, and adjacent to the shore.

War Eagle Night Baits Spinnerbait

It can cover a lot of water quickly, and works well as a search bait in the dark.

Adding a sweet trailer like a 3.8-inch Keitech Fat Swing Impact makes your spinnerbait almost irresistible, as the subtle movements of the body as it traps air bubbles and the writhing tail add up to a lot of excitement for hungry bass.

Keitech Fat Swing Impact

Topwater

Heddon Torpedo

One of my secret weapons is the clear Heddon Torpedo. This 1 ⅞-inch topwater lure doesn’t look like much, and I had my doubts until the first cast near some lily pads.

The water exploded as a big bass hit that torpedo harder than the white whale rammed the Pequod.

Bass really key-in on the vibration that prop creates, as well as starts and stops or a “walk the dog” action.

Trust me: if you’re not throwing the Heddon Torpedo, you’re really missing out!

Another topwater lure from Heddon that’s nighttime magic is the Super Spook. It’s 5 inches of surface disturbing, dinner-bell ringing perfection!

And if you haven’t thrown a good frog like the Booyah Pad Crasher or Lunkerhunt at night, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how that amazing action translates into strikes after sundown.

Lunkerhunt

Rat-L-Traps

Bill Lewis’s Rat-L-Trap

Bill Lewis’s Rat-L-Trap sure ain’t new, but there’s a reason it’s been around this long: it’s dynamite when visibility is low.

Its wriggling action, loud rattle, and erratic deflections off rocks, stumps, logs, and grass trigger reaction strikes in the dark. Its perfect head-down orientation means that your sharp treble hooks aren’t going to get hung up as often as you’d expect, allowing you to throw this lure into the thick of things where bass are waiting in ambush.

Final Thoughts

With the heat and crowds pressuring mid-summer bass, savvy anglers switch to night fishing to beat the sun and avoid their competition. 

Not only are the bass more active at night, they’re less skittish, too, and you’ll catch more and better fish after dark with the same level of skill.

Hit the water at dusk, select the right lures, and you’ll make memories that last a lifetime!

As always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so please leave a comment below.

 

About The Author
John Baltes