Night fishing is becoming more popular all the time. One reason is the number of pleasure boats that are on the water. A lot of our big lakes look like parking lots on the weekends. Another reason is the improvement in GPS. It’s a lot better than it was even four or five years ago. You can find the exact spot you want in the middle of the night without any problems.
The thing that’s remained the same, however, is the moon and its effect on the fish, and that’s really important. The only thing that makes a bigger difference to the fish is the weather.
My favorite moon phase for numbers is from a quarter to three-quarters going towards full. Those phases give the smallmouth enough light to see and feed, but not so much light that it causes them to move towards the shady side of the bank.
They bite a lot of different types of baits during this phase. Black spinnerbaits, darker crankbaits and Texas-rigged creature baits or worms will all produce. And, when the wind is down and it’s really hot, the topwater bite can be almost unbelievable. Try a black Zara Spook, black buzzbait or a black Jitterbug. Long casts and slow retrieves usually work the best.
My next favorite moon phase for numbers is the new moon. The darkness seems to give the smallmouth a sense of security. That puts them on the feed. I use the same baits. In fact, the list I just gave you is what I use whenever I’m fishing at night. There’s no reason to mess around with what works.
The best moon phase for size seems to be three-quarters to a quarter going towards the new moon. I don’t know why, but the really big ones want to feed at this time. It can be tough, though, if you want to catch a lot of fish. Some nights you’ll be fishing for two or three bites, and it’s common to fish for three or four hours without a bite.
You’ll notice I haven’t talked about the full moon. That’s because I think it’s the worst time of all to night fish for smallies. There’s too much light. You have to fish it like you would the sun. That’s sounds OK at first, but it’s not easy in the dark. You have to know a lake really well to be successful, and even then it’s hard.
Besides, bass will chase shad out in open water when there’s a lot of light. That’s a difficult situation. It’s not like during the daytime when you can see the water breaking and run right to a school. At night all you have is sound. You can’t find them quick enough to get to them, or at least I can’t.
One final thing about night fishing: your electronics will help you find the right spots. They will not tell you that there’s another boat or a big rock right in front of you. Keep your head up and pay attention to what’s around you.