Night fishing for bass has become, to a degree, a southern tradition. Summer in the south is defined as Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend. Everyone brings out their water toys, ski boats, jet skis, and house boats. The lake traffic becomes very much like a freeway. Fishermen are becoming accustomed to getting out on the lake at daylight and fishing for a few hours until the lake starts becoming crowded and then retiring to breakfast. The temperature increases during the day and the fishermen wait until late evening to go back on the water and fish until dark. This activity lasts for four months and most fishermen only get to fish a sum total of about 4 or 5 hours per day. This amount of time is not sufficient for most fishermen. The alternative is to spend more time on the water during the day, but you have to dodge the skiers, jet skis and sight seers.
One other way to spend more time on the water is to start night fishing. As a general rule, the night time is cooler and the boat traffic is minimal. Many fishermen are very receptant to fish at night because they are afraid of being eaten by bugs or getting lost at night. They have heard all kinds of stories about things that can happen to fishermen at night. Having fished over 30 night bass tournaments and many, many nights of just plain fun fishing I can assure you that most of the stories are BS!
To have an enjoyable and productive night fishing experience does require some planning. If you fish during the day, are you bothered by bugs like mosquitoes or gnats? If you are not, chances are very good you will not be at night either. If bugs are a problem, use a good bug spray. Be very careful about getting the spray on your hands and transferring it to the bait. Wash your hands after applying the bug spray. I fished many a night on a small lake outside Camden, Arkansas for several years. I remember the first time we arrived at the lake just before dark and immediately noticed a noise that was unfamiliar. I asked my partner what it was and he said "Mosquitoes." I thought he was kidding until we got on the water and by chance bumped into a Cypress stump with a bit of leaves on it. We were swarmed with the little critters that were the size of a small helicopter. As long as we were careful, the bugs were not a problem. We learned how to fish this lake at night without a hassle from the insect population. Most large reservoirs or lakes are not overly infested with pesky insects and usually, if not fishing with a bright light, you will not be bothered.
This brings us to the question as to whether or not to use a light and what kind? One of the major problems with night fishing is the limited vision thus making it a real adventure to cast a lure toward the bank. What kind of light can you use? A lot of fishermen turn on their stern light and use it to fish with. This is good if you are fishing by yourself but, if you have someone with you, the light will be in their face all night thus limiting their ability to fish. You can mask off the side of the light in the boat and that will help tremendously. This light is generally fairly bright and will draw bugs. Incidentally, wives do not like bugs, if you did not know that.
Another alternative is one of the lights made for night fishing such as the Night Stalker sold by Bass Pro Shops. This light uses one or two fluorescent type bulbs and casts a very soft light. You can get these with "black light" bulbs or white bulbs. The combination of one white bulb and one "black light" bulb works very well. The black light bulb causes monofilament line to show up very well at night so allowing you to watch your line very easily. This type of light comes in a plastic case that has feet with suction cups for attaching the light to your boat. They use your boat battery as a power source. Most have a plug of one type or another for plugging in to an accessory outlet. I installed a combo courtesy light and cigarette lighter under the driver console on my boat and my night light has a cigarette lighter type plug so making it easy to hook up for night fishing. Fishing at night during the full moon stages will, generally, provide enough light to fish by so that a light from the boat may not be needed.
A lot of fishermen use the cap lights for performing various tasks within the boat but I have found a small 12 volt lamp installed under a console will work much better. You have to be very careful about having a light of more intensity swinging around in the boat because inevitably it will cast a shadow from the boat over the water you are fishing and spook the fish.
You are going to have something diminished vision at night so it is imperative to keep your fishing space as uncluttered as possible. You definitely do not want to trip over something loose and take an early bath or bad fall. Organize your fishing deck with just a couple of rods, a net tucked out of the way, and a small bag or tackle box of lures you plan on using. You do not want to have to dig through a dark compartment for baits or tackle.
Practice good safety procedures on the water after dark. Make sure your running lights are operational, wear or keep your PFD's close for easy access, have a good flashlight and a high intensity spot light available. Carry a cell phone. Also use your kill switch while running to your fishing spots.
In the second part of this article we will discuss the types of baits used for a successful night fishing trip.