If you read the last three columns and agree that night fishing is a good way to catch 'em, but you still don’t like it, that’s no problem. You can still catch a few good ones if you’re willing to get out of bed early or stay up late.
Just before daylight, or when the sun starts to set, the light drops and some of the smallies start to move around. Mostly they go towards the bank and shallower water. When they’re active like that, you can catch them pretty good.
I like the early morning best. In my experience, it gives you the best bite and best chance of catching a trophy. Part of that is because the fish have had a chance to roam around all night and they’re trying to get something extra to eat before they head back towards deeper water. But another part of it is that recreational boat traffic is not happening that early. It’s quiet. The party crowd likes the night, not the early morning.
Note, however, that I didn’t say "shallow." I said "shallower." If you fish really shallow flats during the summer — day or night — you’ll mostly catch little male fish that are wandering around looking for something to do or something to get into. The bigger ones are still over and around deep water.
Look for bluff walls, steep channel drops that run near shore and sharp drops out from rocky banks. The fish will suspend or cruise around these places looking for forage swimming on the surface or just under it. They’re feeding. That means we can catch them if we use the right lure and the right technique.
Over the years, my best baits have been a Heddon Zara Spook and a Rebel Pop-R worked parallel to the bank. Start out a ways and move in. You won’t disturb as much water that way. If the wind is blowing, fish them slowly because you’ll be getting a lot of extra action from the waves, and the fish will need time to find them. If it’s not blowing and the water’s surface is like glass, move them along pretty quickly. Make the Spook walk and the Pop-R spit.
I’m not saying this is as good as night fishing because, in my opinion, it isn’t. But if you just don’t want to fish all night this is probably your next best choice. And I’ve had some darn good catches fishing in the early mornings and the late evenings.
All the fish don’t do the same thing all the time. There’s usually several ways to catch them on any given day. We usually say to let the fish tell us what to do. In this case, there's room to do what works best for us.