Beneath the surface of summer bass

After Dark

If you’re interested in night fishing for bass, the best advice I can offer is that you not get started until well after dark. The period from sundown until then is usually unproductive. Some have speculated that the bass’ eyes are adjusting at this time and they’re trying to gain their night vision, but I don’t think so. Based upon my observations, between sundown and 10 p.m., the bass are moving and gathering. It’s not until later that they’re ready to feed. A lot of their activity depends upon the moon. Several days before the full moon is a good time to catch nighttime bass on surface lures. Prop baits are among my favorites. Cast them out and let them sit for 30 seconds or so before twitching them very slightly. I gradually increase how hard I’ll twitch the bait until I’m moving it about 6 inches at a time. It’s a terrific method after dark when the moon is almost full. My biggest nighttime bass weighed 12 1/2 pounds and hit a topwater bait.

Another tip that will improve your night fishing is to make sure you’re familiar with the area you plan to fish before the sun goes down. The last thing you want to do is disrupt the solitude of the darkness by stumbling into your area after dark, running your boat into a stump, making a lot of noise, flashing a light across the water or otherwise alerting every bass in the area to your presence. You need to slip in slowly and quietly with your trolling motor on the lowest speed. Your first cast needs to be right on the money, and you need to be there without the bass knowing about it.

If night fishing isn’t your idea of fun, you can still catch summertime bass during the day if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to do it. In Florida, where I live, summer seems to last six months or more. At the beginning of the warmwater period, there are times when bass feed voraciously, putting on weight after the spawn. When that’s happening, anyone can catch them. More often, though, the bass are selective about when and where they eat. This is when there’s no shortcut to time on the water, observing conditions and learning about the daily habits of bass on your favorite waters.

Dinner Bells

One of the key summer feeding periods on some of my favorite waters comes between 5 and 7 p.m. Here in Florida, in the months of May and June, those hours can be magic for big bass. Again, once the sun goes down, generally after 8 p.m. in the summer, the bite will likely shut off for a couple of hours. The “magic hours” may vary somewhat for you, depending on where you live. You’ll have to get out there and unlock the secrets of your lake to find out. That takes time and dedication, but it’s more than worth the effort. I’ll cover that in more detail later.

In the early 1980s, I enjoyed my best summer of trophy bass fishing. Over a period of 40 days in May and June on a single 50-acre lake, I caught 82 largemouth that weighed 10 pounds or more. They all came between 5 and 7 p.m., and I never would have found or caught them without learning their habits by going out day after day and observing. I caught most of the bass on 10-inch golden shiners. The biggest weighed 13 1/2 pounds, but I lost one that would have weighed at least 16 pounds. I used the big shiners to keep small bass away. You might think that I was catching the same bass repeatedly, but that’s not the case. I marked each big bass I caught before releasing it, and I only caught one of the 10-pounders twice.