The shadow knows

Stephen Headrick

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

When I take people out night fishing in the summertime, they're usually surprised to see that I fish the shade — even after the sun goes down.

"Smallmouth hate light," I tell them. Then I suggest that they fish the areas exposed to moonlight while I continue to work the shady stuff. After they fall behind by a couple of fish, they're back casting right beside me to the darker areas.

I'm no biologist, and I can't tell you a lot about the smallmouth's sense of sight. I understand that their eyes have both rods and cones, so they're well adapted to seeing in color and under low light conditions. But I don't know that they see things the same way we do, and until someone learns to speak smallmouth I'm not sure that anyone else knows, either.

What I do know is that big smallmouth are frequently ambush feeders and that they rely on their ability to hide or surprise their prey to feed. They're like muggers hanging out in a dark alley waiting for someone to walk past.

For that, darkness helps. It helps them to avoid being seen and it probably gives them a sense of security and well-being that makes them more willing to feed.

Put the same fish out in the open where the water's better lit, and you're not going to get more feeding or a better sense of security. In fact, I think feeding will slow way down.

That's why you'll always find me casting to the shady side of anything — day or night, sunny or cloudy, clear water or muddy.

Smallmouth bass are shady characters!

Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me atStephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.

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