The spawn is mostly history. It’s time to start thinking about going after them at night. Nighttime fishing is becoming more popular every year. I don’t see that changing. There’s a good reason for this trend — you can catch more fish at night. In the center and southern parts of the country, we start chasing them after dark around the middle of May. Up North you might want to wait another couple of weeks. Don’t wait too long, though. If you do, you’ll miss out on a lot of big brown bass.
What happens after the spawn is that the days get longer and the water gets warmer. That makes smallmouth bass move deeper. They’re looking for cooler water. At some point they get pretty much inactive during the day. That all changes when the sun goes down. They’re predators. Darkness is their friend. It’s when they feel safe moving and feeding.
Another thing that contributes to good nighttime fishing is that there’s less disturbance on the water at night. Once Memorial Day comes — May 28th this year — everyone and their brother is out boating, skiing, swimming and doing who knows what. At night things calm down. The fishing gets better.
One thing that doesn’t contribute to better fishing is surface water temperature. The fish do not move at night because the surface water cools down. That idea is just plain silly, at least as it applies to smallmouth bass. A temperature drop of a degree or two on top doesn’t mean a thing to a fish hiding in the deepest water in the lake. The better nighttime bite is about the deep water staying cool, the safety of darkness and the relative lack of recreational activity on your lake or river.
The safety factor I mention is for the fish, not for us. It can be dangerous for humans on the water at night. The first thing you should do to get ready for the night season is clean out your boat and put everything away. Things don’t look the same in the dark and a minor problem, like falling overboard, can turn into a big one in an instant. A clean boat is a safe boat.
The next thing you should do is run around your waters during the daylight and check everything out. Make sure you have bearings and markers that you can see at night and that you can use to orient yourself without a GPS. I know a GPS unit will put you right where you want to be. But it’s easy to get confused at night. You’ll be better off if you use your eyes and your GPS.
And always wear a life jacket. The truth is that almost no one drowns wearing one. Check out the statistics. Wear a jacket and you’ll likely live after an accident. Leave it in a storage locker in the boat and you may die. If you die you can’t go fishing anymore.