Picking a spot to fish at night is about thinking like a fish. They’re mostly dormant during the day because of the bright sunlight, heat and activity on the water. But they still get hungry and have to eat. They just do it at night.
In clear water highland-type reservoirs, the best place to look for them is in deep weedbeds. They’ll hide there during the day and then move around at night looking for forage. That usually means crayfish, although they'll eat shad and alewives, too. The good weedbeds are usually near creek mouths and along creek channels where there’s a steep drop into really deep water.
The best way to get them to bite is to fish a jig and trailer. It’s important to use something that has a natural color to it. I like brown or green pumpkin, but you might find that some other color works better in your lake. There’s nothing fancy about the retrieve. Let your bait fall to the bottom and then jerk it up a few times. If that doesn’t work, try dragging it through the weeds. You’ll snag a lot, but you’ll also catch a lot of fish.
I know some guys who think drop shots make good rigs for this, but I disagree. They have a tendency to hold the bait above the weeds. That makes fishing easier, but the fish don’t seem to be able to find the lure that way. I think it’s better to make a ruckus in the weeds.
In shallower, natural lakes and in some rivers, the smallmouth will move up against the shore when it gets dark. When they do that your best bet is to throw a dark crankbait or topwater lure. Size matters. Pick a bait that’s about the same size as what they’ve been feeding on. It’ll look more natural.
A trick I use with both types of lures is to make sure my retrieve is steady and predictable. It doesn’t help much to jerk things around and change speed or direction. The bass either don’t like that or they have trouble zeroing in on it for the kill. Either way, it doesn’t work. You’ll catch a lot more of them if they can predict where the bait will be before they try to grab it.
You can also use a jig up shallow if you want. They’re especially effective if there’s a mixture of grass and rock along the shoreline and if it drops off into deep water. Try dragging the jig along the bottom. Make sure it hits something so they know it’s there. And don’t fish it too fast. This is a feeding kind of bite.
Over the past three weeks we’ve covered the basics of fishing after dark. It takes some practice to get good at it, but it’s well worth the effort and time it takes. Night fishing is becoming more popular every year. If you do it a time or two, you’ll understand why. Read Part 1 and Part 2.