Summertime crowds on Mississippi’s open waters are often a turnoff to anglers and, it turns out, to big bass as well. For those looking to find new opportunities, the question may be more one of when than where. Chasing largemouth bass at night is a chance to play a brand new game on the same familiar field. Changing techniques to a nocturnal base primarily involves lure pattern and color choices, line and light equipment choices and a calm, steady dedication to safety.
“You can fish the same places at night you’d fish during the day, and pull in a little shallower even,” says Clay Coleman, of Clay’s Bait and Tackle, in Tupelo. “The bass feed up shallower at night.
“Most of the guys I know are beating the banks and boat docks and gravel bars, fishing fairly shallow around anything with a light on it.”
Deep water structures, especially any holding treetops or other vegetation, are outstanding night spots as well.
At night, bass hunt by spotting their prey’s silhouettes. Solid, dark lures are easier to silhouette, so in situations where no flash is available, black lures prevail. In areas where some light, either from a boat dock or a bright moon can come into play, the opposite holds true. Especially on a full moon night, a solid white bait can work even better than a solid black bait for silhouetting and being visible to the fish.
“I used to throw a big black spinnerbait with a big black blade,” Coleman said of his own night fishing adventures. “I’ve gone to a big white spinnerbait with a silver blade, especially if I’m throwing it around boat docks or around anything with a light on it. That silver reflects the light better than the black or gold blades. That silver one is going to flash better under water. There is absolutely a time for a straight up white bait or chartreuse, and time fishing the areas with lights shining is that time.
“On a dark, black night with no moon, black is it. Black, black and purple, black and red, black and blue, black and hot pink, those colors seem to hold up best.”
Along with sight, Coleman has found scent to be a critical factor for success.
“All of their sensibilities are in play at night,” he said, “and I’ve had it proven to me that scent matters at night. I was fishing in the same boat with a friend, same equipment, same worm, same everything. I’d sold him the gear he was using and I was using exactly the same thing, and he was getting strikes left and right and I hadn’t had one. We were working the same structure so it wasn’t a matter of him being on the front of the boat and getting to the aggressive fish first. I was changing lures, changing worms, trying to figure out why I wasn’t getting a strike, until he finally tore up the worm he was using. He opened his bag to replace it and the garlic wave that rolled out nearly knocked me off the boat. I took my worm off, put one of his on, cast and immediately caught a fish, then caught fish consistently right along with him the rest of the night. Scent absolutely matters at night.”
The angler’s sensibilities are put to the test at night as well, and the question of how much of what kind of light and where is a key factor.
“You’ve got to have navigation lights on for safety, but those lights are pretty dim and the fish aren’t going to see that,” Coleman said, “but if you’ve got some kind of a bright spotlight on or a headlamp on as you’re bringing a fish to the boat, it will absolutely freak them out as they’re coming up to it.”
Black lights, on the other hand, are a true Godsend and wonder.
“A black light is wonderful to have, and there are a ton of options out there,” Coleman said. “There are some you can stick on your boat, there are some that are made onto the boat, some that you can permanently attach, some that stick on with suction cups, and the black lights don’t seem to spook fish as they’re coming up to them.
“Now, most of the black lights have a fluorescent light on the back of them, and if you kick that on, man, that helps you tie your bait on, and, besides, it help to have a headlamp on when you’re re-tying, but if you’re trying to land a fish with a light on, man, that’s no good at all. You’re about to freak some fish out and it’s really hard to land them. Especially a good spotted bass, a light really freaks them out. So if you can boat flip them or get them in a net before you start turning lights on, that’ll really help, but a black light is just wonderful.”
Beyond the black light’s gentle illumination, it makes monofilament line fluoresce, a vital asset when seeing the line in the water is important.
“Most guys are using just monofilament clear blue fluorescent, and now there are a couple fluorocarbons that will glow in a black light. P-Line CX is a copolymer. That really helps if you’re on a slow bite or throwing a big worm.”