Before we get into lure choices and color, we need to talk about size. Early in the year you should be throwing small baits because most of the forage hasn’t had a chance to grow very much. By September, you should be fishing with real big stuff. Right now I’d say something in the middle is about right.
For my night fishing, I start with hair jigs and a chunk and rarely fish with anything else. Over the years I’ve become convinced that this combination will attract more smallmouth than just about anything else you can use after dark. I know some guys will disagree with me, but that’s the way I see it, so that’s the way I’m going to tell it.
My color choices change as the moon phase changes. During a new moon, or when it’s a quarter in or out, I’ll go with pure black. I think that’s the best contrasting color when it’s real dark. As the moon rises or falls — before or after a full moon — I’ll switch to black and blue or black and red. I still want mostly black, but a touch of something a little bit lighter helps the smallies see it better.
The light from a full moon, or maybe three-quarters full on either side, requires something a little brighter. I like olive green or light brown. I just think they can see those colors a little better when there’s a little more light. If it’s cloudy and overcast, though, I’ll go back to my black and blue or black and red.
Regardless of what color I’m throwing, I try to match my trailer color to my hair jig color. I don’t think wacky color combinations help you catch fish. Everything I see in the water is sort of matched color-wise so why use something that doesn’t look natural?
The full moon, or three-quarters on either side, also creates the one exception to my hair jig rule. I’ll often throw a spinnerbait when there’s a lot of light around. That’s the one time at night I think smallmouth bass can zero in on something moving. I like big baits with big Colorado blades. Dark colors seem to work best, and black blades are the only way to go based on my experience.
I almost always fish my spinnerbaits down deep, right along the bottom. And, I always try to bang into something like rock, wood or grass. That’s very important. Even if the fish are aggressive they need all the help you can give them to find and bite your lure.
Now that we’ve gone through most of what I think about moon phases and smallmouth fishing, I want to say something else. Don’t let the moon phase or anything I’ve said keep you off the water. Some of my best fishing experiences — including several I’ll always remember — were when I did something crazy and it worked out. The old saying is true: the best time to go fishing is when you can.