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Shadow Captains

O ne of most debated aspects of night fishing for bass during the summer months is moon phases and the mountain lore around it.

Is the fishing best just before, during or right after the full moon? Probably 50 percent of the night stalkers I have quizzed over the years believe moon phase makes a difference their night fishing success. Others aren’t so sure.

No doubt, the muted glow of the full to semi-full moon makes it easier to navigate a boat safely at night. Another popular contention is it is easier for bass to silhouette a lure against a starlit sky when the moon shining bright overhead.

Some anglers believe too much moon at night can be a bad thing—that it opens the door for bass to cruise open water and school on shad, just as the do in the daylight hours. Others share a conviction that different phases of the moon do weird things to a bass’s behavior and feeding patterns, and even dictate which styles and colors of lures might work better than others. The theories go on and on, sort of like the deep pool of articles you can turn up on the subject with a simple Google search on the Internet.

When I ponder thoughts of night fishing, I often think back to what fishing guide Randy Oldfield told me one sultry summer night as we fished for bass under a cloak of darkness at Lake Fork.

 “Personally, I think big bass are just like me,” Oldfield said. “I’m a big ol’ guy. Whenever I get ready to eat, I’m going to eat. It doesn’t make any difference what the moon phase is.”

I’ll second that motion. In my book the best time to go fishing is whenever you can. When it comes to night fishing, if that means fishing from sunset to midnight, midnight to sunrise or anytime in between, then so be it.

You can’t catch a big bass unless you’ve got a hook in the water. And you certainly can’t accomplish that from a vertical position on the couch or buried up in a cozy bed.

Year-in and year-out, some the biggest bass caught during the summer months are reeled in at night. Some veteran shadow captains believe summertime bass become more active at night because water temperatures grow progressively cooler after the sun goes down. It’s a feel good thing.

Others think it has to do with boat traffic—or a lack of it.

 Both of those theories hold water in my book, especially the latter. Lakes are almost always more crowded during the daylight hours during summer as recreational boaters and jet skiers are out in force, particularly on weekends. More traffic means more racket, and more racket tends to make fish spooky—especially the fat girls.

If a night fishing trip is in your future, it will pay to go prepared and know ahead of time something about what you getting into. Here are a few tips to make your trip more enjoyable and ultimately more productive.

Stay Quiet: Big fish don’t get big by being stupid. If they smell or hear a rat, they more than likely won’t stick around. It’s quiet and peaceful on the water at night. If you want to be successful at catching fish, try to keep it that way. Any sort of disturbance you make, such as crashing the boat into a stump, grinding the trolling motor prop on bottom or in brush, slamming a storage box lid or dropping something in the floor of the boat will likely alarm everything in the area of your presence. It’s also good idea to turn off sonar to eliminate the definitive sounds emitted by transducers 

Carry a Light: Always keep some type of light handy so you can see to retie hooks, locate baits and other stuff you might need over the course of the evening. Lights that clip onto the bill of a ball cap or on your shirt are ideal. StreamLight makes a great one called the Clipmate. It has a super bright LED powered by a rechargeable lithium polymer battery that can be recharged using a variety of USB power adapters or by inserting the built-in charge tab into a USB power port.

When using a light, be sure not to shine it across the water. It could blow your cover because bass could detect the artificial light overhead.

Use Your Head: It is never a good idea to run boat at high rates of speed in the dark, no matter how well you know a lake. You never know when wave action might wash a log off the bank, or when you might cross paths with another boater whose navigational lights aren’t turned-on or are not functioning properly.

Dim the Screen: If you have a big screen electronics unit on the console, dim the screen or turn it off altogether while running down-lake. Bright screens can rob you of your night vision. Always be cautious of your surroundings when relying on a GPS to navigate.

Fish High Percentage Areas: Big bass like to feed in places that offer a quick and easy escape route to deeper water. Humps, points, ridges and flats adjacent to channel swings are good places to soak your lures. Aquatic vegetation such as hydrilla that forms a distinctive edge where shallow water meets deep can make a spot all the more productive. Some of the best daytime spots will also be good night fishing spots. If you know of a spot with a history of producing big bites, check it religiously because there is obviously something there that the fish like.

Baits for the Big Ones: Big bass are opportunistic feeders that are prone to grab a big meal here and there as opposed to chasing down a bunch of little ones. Many of the biggest summertime bass are caught at night using big, bulky lures such as 10-inch worms and jigs. These baits can be worked slowly and easily around the heavy cover that big bass prefer. Darker colors like black/blue, black/neon and grape are good color choices. Other good baits for night fishing are spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and even large topwaters from time to time. On dark nights some anglers like to insert small rattles into their plastics to give them some sound to make it easier for fish to find the bait.

It takes dedication and patience to stay on the water at night. Whether you’re looking to beat the heat or hook a career bass, it can be well worth the trouble.




Ranger Boats



Email Matt Williams at [email protected]

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