Every angler knows that the summer months can be one of the most difficult time periods to locate and catch bass, especially the big bass. Big fish can seem to be non existent at certain times throughout the summer, add this to the uncomfortably hot weather conditions, and extreme frustration is sure to follow. Just like us anglers the fish don't like the hot weather either, generally in the day time they will relate to deep structure such as ledges or brush piles seeking the deep cooler water, along with some fish that stay shallow relating to shade. While fish can be caught, the majority of the fish don't feed in the hottest parts of the day. If you don't have a day time tournament then the solution to finicky summer bass is not going fishing at all until the sun sets. Many anglers especially in the southern part of the United States prefer this much more comfortable time for fishing, and trust me they have some amazing results.
When the sun goes down many of the fish move to shallower cover. Picture this in the day time the big fish are holding out off the deep break on a river channel, well once the sun goes down those previously hard to catch fish will pull up on top of the ledge in shallow water and will feed aggressively. It seams like many fish in the summer almost become nocturnal, especially the big fish. Ten tournaments could go out of a lake in the day time with generally poor results and very few big fish caught. Now a night tournament could go out that very evening and you would be amazed and truly humbled by the numbers of quality fish that are weighed in.
When night fishing I feel it is very important to choose a bait that either has a bulky profile, or creates a lot of vibration. My go to bait for this very reason has always been a spinnerbait. I prefer a large heavy bait, generally something at least 1/2oz and often I'll throw a 3/4oz. Many brands make spinnerbaits designed specifically for night fishing applications. Two of my favorites are, War Eagle Spinnerbaits, and the Strike King Rattlin' Midnight Special. Choosing a color is relatively simple, when fishing at night the color that I've found works best is something black, this creates a great silhouette with ambient artificial light, as well as moonlight that is usually present. Add some sort of trailer such as a Bass Pro Shops Triple Ripple Craw Trailer, this will help create a bigger profile and will add vibration. Now the biggest key to why a spinnerbait is such a great choice at night is the blade. Most night baits come with either a number 5 or 7 colorado blade, this makes for a ton of vibration. If you're reeling in your bait at night and you can't feel it thumping then something is wrong. I like to slow role my spinnerbaits right on the bottom and through the cover. So chuck it and wind it back slowly bumping the bottom, and hold on tight because you can get some ferocious bites by a big hungry fish using this technique.
Two more baits I like to use are Chatterbaits, and Big Jigs. The chatterbait is great for catching fish at night, anyone who's thrown one knows how much vibration it puts off, and that is the key to why it works so good. I would stick with the same color rule as the spinnerbait choosing black for the silhouette factor. Fish the chatterbait just like you do with the spinnerbait and you will have similar results. Now some nights they just don't seem to want something moving, when I encounter this the jig is always what I switch too. A large black jig worked slowly through the cover will catch finicky fish that didn't want to chase the moving baits. Many companies offer a good black jig, all will work great if they have one thing, a rattle. The rattle like the vibration of the moving baits is essential for helping the fish locate and eat the bait. If you have a jig that doesn't' t already have a rattle then you can pick up your own rattles at Bass Pro Shops, and very easily get them doctored up right yourself. A Northland Fishing Tackle Buck-Shot Rattle Ring is the rattle I use when doctoring up my own baits. Don't be afraid to add this to your spinnerbait or chatterbait as well.
So you have the three key baits, and when I go out at night I leave just about everything else at home. Using these baits there are a few key things I target when searching for fish after dark. The first is rock, I don't care how hot the water is or how deep the rock is, if you get your bait around rock you have a good chance of getting bit. Many baitfish as well as crawfish use rock as protection year around. Often bass will hang out deep of the drop and at night will pull up into the rocks to feed on the wide variety of forage. When fishing southern reservoirs you will generally find rock around old flooded house foundations, road beds, and obviously rip rap banks. Another type of cover I like to target is brush piles. There is very little that I enjoy more then crawling my bait through a brush pile and feeling the rod nearly get yanked out of my hand. The easiest way to locate brush is around docks, many residents will sink brush around their docks for the purpose of attracting crappie and other panfish, this naturally will attract the predatory bass. The more difficult to find brush is located out on humps and off points in deep water. This can be overwhelming in complete darkness but a good set of electronics really helps. I use my Lowrance Gen 2 electronics to graph over offshore structure, when I see something that looks promising I will throw out a marker buoy with a light on it letting me know exactly where the structure is. The only thing left to do is figure out what angle the fish want and work your bait properly through the cover.
So don't be afraid to get out at in the dark and capitalize on the normally frustrating summer months. Safety is key any time you are on the water and especially at night. Make sure you keep your PFD on at all times as well as your running lights, and remember to take your time going from place to place. I truly love the peace and tranquility that comes with being on the water at night. Give it a try, chances are you will get hooked on it too. I'll see you on the water!!!