As every hard-core largemouth angler knows, fishing at nighttime is the right time to catch big bass.
Falling water temperatures trigger prey items like shad to move shallow as the sun sets. The frogs begin their evening songs in the lilies, big water bugs skate across the surface, and minnows swarm among the water grasses.
Everything a largemouth bass eats is moving near shore when the stars come out, so it’s a safe bet that you’ll find hungry bass there, too.
And, of course, it never hurts that most of the lake traffic has left for the day, including all but the savviest fishermen.
If that doesn’t pique your interest in night fishing for bass, nothing will.
Want to know more? Keep reading!
Table of Contents (clickable)
Related: Bass Fishing Tips
Bass Fishing at Night: Biology Basics
In many of the places they call home, Micropterus salmoides are the apex predator, the very top of the food chain.
Often the largest fish in the lake or pond, nature has blessed bass with keen eyesight, powerful muscles, and a frighteningly expandable mouth. That combination allows them to feed voraciously by day, but it’s their super-sensing lateral line that enables them to find prey at night.
Just as vibrations in the air strike your eardrum and are translated into sounds by the nerves and structures of your inner ear, the long line of nerves and the water-filled membrane of the largemouth’s lateral line converts subtle changes in water pressure into “sound,” alerting the bass to the presence of prey.
A largemouth’s lateral line is its super-sense at night.
Even the tiny fluctuations of pressure created by a struggling minnow alert hungry bass to a ready meal.
As sensitive as the lateral line is in these predators, its range is limited by the degree of disturbance in pressure. More vibration creates more “sound,” and these “louder” disturbances travel farther through the water.
What this means for you: vibration is king
For the most part, bass won’t be using sight, which is their preferred sense, to locate prey at night. And with plenty going on in the background to clutter subtle vibrations--the gentle lapping of wind-driven waves on the shore, the vibrations of cattails rustling in the wind--the best lures for night fishing need to be anything but subtle.
Imagine you’re waiting in a crowded restaurant for a to-go order. You’re listening for your food, but there’s a lot of background noise. A louder call is more likely to cut through the background, alerting you that it’s time to grab your grub.
The same situation happens every summer night on your favorite lake or pond, and if you want to ring the dinner bell for bass, ring it loud!
How to Catch Bass at Night: Our Top Tips
Only kids are afraid of the dark, right?
One reason we have an inborn fear of the dark is that we can’t see threats as well in no- or low-light. And on a boat, especially when there are a few rods on the deck and other hazards to trip over, darkness really does multiply the risk of injury.
This is no joke at night!
It’s important to keep the deck of your boat as clean as you can. Minimize the number of rods you bring, skip the full tackle bags and limit yourself to a few essentials, and fight your fish sitting--or kneeling--down.
Always night fish with a buddy or two, let someone know where you are and when you’ll be back, and make sure that you have the life-saving gear you need ready-to-hand.
While you won’t need sunscreen, leaving the boat ramp without bug repellent is a huge mistake!
If hot summer nights are known for anything, it’s swarms of flying insects, and I’ve seen the mosquitoes and no-see-ums get so bad that you’d beg for a full-body net!
While that’s an option that can work well where the mosquitoes are unbelievably bad, for most of us, a good repellant is the better option.
I’ve used gallons of Off! Deep Woods Sportsman in swamps in Louisiana and Mississippi, and I swear by it. But it contains DEET, so if you’re sensitive to that chemical or want to avoid it, Repel makes an effective DEET-free spray.
Whatever option suits your needs, just don’t forget it at home!
Blacklight and headlamp
If you’ve ever fished at night, you’ll know how disorienting darkness can be. Not only can it make it much more difficult to navigate your boat without electronics--every place looks like every other in the dark!--but it’s almost impossible to thread line through the eye of a lure, tie a good knot, or do the thousand other things that demand precision.
A good headlamp is essential for night fishing.
One essential for night fishing is a reliable, comfortable headlamp. We’ve reviewed some of our favorites before, so if you’re in the market for a new one, take a look:
I like mine to have variable brightnesses to conserve battery life, as well as a red setting to save my night vision. And from working with sharp hooks to finding the right lure in my tackle bag, I’ll use a headlamp a hundred times in a single night.
But there’s a secret weapon out there on the lake at night: blacklight and fluorescent mono.
This boat is ready for night fishing.
Just take a look:
Watch the moon
Most anglers already know that the moon phase affects fishing, but by night, the moon is nearly everything!
You can bet that the fish will be biting!
I think about six moments on the water, planning my fishing around these times:
- Sundown - I want to be on the water no less than an hour or two before sunset, taking advantage of the dying light. Fish really turn on now, and for species like pike, this is as good as it gets.
- Moonrise - Predatory fish sense the moonrise, and it causes them to turn on their feeding like they do at sun-up. Know when the moon will start to peak over your local lake, pond, or river, and be ready!
- Overhead - This is another key moment that fish respond to for reasons that science is only just starting to understand.
- Underfoot - Like an overhead moon, fish turn on at this time for reasons that are poorly understood but well-verified.
- Moonset - Like sundown, as the moon sets, night predators will become more aggressive feeders, and the really big ones will be moving.
- Dawn - I doubt you can find an angler who doesn't know how good the fishing is in the hours around sunrise.
You’ll also want to look for a full moon or no moon, as the crescent moon doesn’t draw out as many big fish.
Loud lures in dull colors
Lure selection for night fishing bass is critical, and we’ll take a good, close look at your best options.
Two things are important, upfront. First, vibration is king. You’ll want your lure to register on the lateral lines of as many bass as possible, so subtle is not the way to go. Second, low to no light means that color and pattern are largely invisible, and drab colors seem to work well.
One of my go-to night lures for largemouth is a chatterbait.
Built to produce vibration from both the squared-off blade and the action of the soft plastic trailer, a properly worked chatterbait is a thing of beauty after sundown.
This video shows you how it’s done, with the simple pop and drop:
But keep in mind that bass can’t use their eyes to key in on a lure, and they’ll miss a lot more at night as a result. Slow down, decrease erratic action, and run the same patch of water a few extra casts.
Dull, dark, and loud: that’s the magic combination for big bass at night!
Never overlook spinnerbaits at night, especially not if they're armed with a big Colorado blade that thumps like crazy.
That’s just what you’ll find on a War Eagle Night Baits Spinnerbait, and these subdued lures are hard to beat when buzzed over weed beds or run down the side of cover.
For more options take a look at our spinnerbait guide for bass: Best Spinnerbaits for Bass - Color, Vibration, and Flash
If there’s an overlooked night fishing technique, it’s definitely top water.
Torpedos like Heddon’s Super Spook are simply magic in the dark. 3 ½ inches of deadly topwater vibration, popping and “walking the dog” with a “black shiner shad” Super Spook is almost sure to get the attention of a big bass.
Another option I’ve used a lot is the Heddon Torpedo in “black shiner.” That big propellor and blunt nose work wonders on the surface, summoning big bass from the next area code.
Deadly. That’s the word I’d use to describe the effect of running a Rat-L-Trap into logs, rocks, and other hard surfaces anywhere near a bass at night.
These noisy crankbaits have been a favorite of night anglers since their inception, and there’s no question how effective they can be.
One of my favorite after-dark options has just a hint of flash, the ½-ounce “blood line shad.” With plenty of wriggle and lots of vibration from the rattling beads, this lure ups the ante with just a touch of scale-like flash in any hint of light.
Chasing bass at night is a great way to beat the fishing pressure on high-volume lakes and to take advantage of largemouths’ nightly movement to the shallows.
And with these tips in mind, we’re sure you’ll score a monster.
If you found this article helpful or have something to add, we’d love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below.