Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Finesse Fishing for Bass at Night. What?

One thing that most bass anglers know is that bass will feed at night.  Of course, the most popular methods include tossing topwater plugs, noisy rattling crankbaits, buzzbaits, and thumping spinnerbaits.  I've discussed night fishing in two other posts where you can get a good take on those techniques, so if you need to catch up, here are the links:  "Night Buzzin' for Summer Largemouth" and "A Night Fishing Trip to Remember".  But one thing that many people that fish for bass don't know, is that you can be successful using finesse techniques for bass even on the darkest of nights.
Smallmouth bass like this one will readily bite soft plastics on light tackle at night.  When the hard baits aren't working for you at night, try a finesse approach.
I've discussed finesse bassin' before in a post titled, "Finessing Largemouth Bass" where you can apply all of those techniques at night when certain conditions permit.  In this post, I'll discuss the finesse bassin' techniques that have worked well for me over the years and under what conditions work best.

One thing that I've noticed is that when fish are very active, most of the time they'll hit aggressively on hard baits at night, but when they don't, have a rod ready with a plastic worm or jig and give them a try.  For specifics on tackle set ups or different techniques for finesse bassin', please refer to the link above.  The rest of this post applies that info towards the dark hours of night, or mostly dark at least.

So what works and when?  Generally speaking, when it's pitch dark out or no moon, I prefer baits that will tease the lateral line of bass by putting out some sort of vibration.  Curl or ribbon tailed worms will do just that.  In addition to the inherent properties of your soft plastic, jigging methods could provoke strikes.  Action on your bait puts out vibrations.
Action tailed soft plastics, like the ringworm (second from the top) and caterpillar grub (bottom) will emit vibrations that the bass can hone in on even in the darkest conditions.  The ribs or knobs on those lures may assist in putting out additional vibrations.  These lures will work at any time at night.  Tube jigs (top) are great crawfish imitations, and the Zoom Super Fluke and Senko when worked near the surface work well at night as well.  All of these lures can be finessed slower on the bottom too, especially during brighter nights and full moons.
Crawfish imitations are a good bet at night too.  Why?  Have you ever shined a flashlight at the waters edge at night to see what's active?  If you have, you've no doubtedly noticed that the crayfish are most active at dark.  Crayfish are like candy to a bass, and a very high source of protein, so when their food is most active, I'd expect the bass to be ready to eat when the opportunity presents.
Crayfish are like candy to bass, and they're most active at night.  Try crayfish imitations at night, you might be rewarded.
In fact, most invertebrates tend to be more active at night.  Ice anglers that fish for nighttime crappie after dark know this, as the increase in daphnia, copepods and other crustaceans affect the returns on their electronics and their view on their underwater cameras.  And, the predatory fish often become just as active.  It's the same with bass.  If you want to catch a lunker, night fishing might just improve your odds, especially on heavily pressured waters.

What about minnows and other prey fish?  If you've ever owned an aquarium, you may know that many fish go into a trance like state at night.  It's not sleep as we know it, but for all practical purposes, they sleep.  And, for those inexperienced aquarists that have even introduced a predator into their tank, have you noticed that the numbers of your other resident fishes may have been reduced?

Minnows when disturbed at night by a predator will dart and move, and the "school" is not formed to protect them.  They can't school with each other because they can't see.  And, they become confused when disturbed, and become easy prey when a predatory creature finds them, like a bass or catfish.
This dandy largemouth bass inhaled a plastic action tailed worm during a dark summer night.  Finessing at night can pay off for you too.
Conversely, when you have a full moon, you might not have to impart as much action, or you may get strikes on "do nothing" type soft plastics, like tubes, soft stick baits, or soft jerkbaits.  Bass have good visibility, and you probably already know how active they are at dusk and dawn which are known as the magic hours, so it stands to reason that during a bright moon, bass will feed when presented with the opportunity.  After all, they are opportunistic predators.

The color of your lure is probably the least important factor when choosing an option, but many anglers prefer black, with the popular line of thought being that they produce the best silhouette.  There may be some truth to that, but honestly, between you and me, I do just as well with chartreuse or green pumpkin, even white.  My belief is that the action of the bait, or what you impart on your lure, is far more important than the choice of color.  Scent added to your soft plastic, or using those that are made with scent infused, could play a factor in producing a strike or not.
You may not think that finesse plastics will catch bass at night, but this bass sure does!
Another general rule of thumb of mine is when it's darker out, I fish faster or higher in the water column.  I'll either jig the lure more, or keep my rod tip high and keep the lure as close to the surface as possible.  It's my opinion that bass may more easily see the silhouette of your lure, and tend to feed up in those situations.  Conversely, I find that I can slow down more if there is more light out there, such as during a full moon.  Why?  The fish can see it on the bottom, so the silhouette plays a less important role.  That's my belief anyway, and I don't have any scientific proof, just my personal experiences.

Before I go on, let me restate that those rules above are very general, and if the fish aren't biting, by all means, break them.  Whatever it takes to generate a bite is the best rule of thumb, so don't paint yourself into a corner.

So, are bass always active at night?  No, they may or may not be active.  I'd consult the solar lunar tables to assist you, but in general, I find them easier to catch at night during the warmer months.  They will feed at night all year long though, but it's just that they don't chase down prey like they do during the warmer months.  They simply conserve energy and wait for the prey to come to them.  So, when it's colder, put the lure in front of them.
My buddy Howard will be the first one to agree that buzzbaits are an effective tool at night, as evidenced by his catch in this picture, but he'll also agree that finesse bassin' may produce when other methods don't even during the darkest hours.
Bass will sometimes go into a slumber at night, and for those that have kept bass in fish tanks, you'd know this.  But, with the introduction of prey items that actively emit the vibrations of prey, or other things that trigger a feeding response in bass, you'll see them wake up and seek the prey.  Sometimes agressively too.


The Old and the New
OK, I have to change gears.  I just want to point a couple things out, and by saying the old and new, I'm not at all referring to peoples ages here. 

So, first let me point out that one of my old links to another outdoors blog deserves additional recognition, and that blog is Gene Mueller's World of Fishing & Hunting.  Why?  Well, I could probably go on for a page or two of reasons, but what comes to mind is his continued dedication to the outdoors folks of the State of Maryland.  He produces fishing reports and news for Marylanders, D.C. outdoors folks, or Virginians, even though he no longer lives anywhere near there.  Please visit his blog (linked above) regardless of where you live, but if you're a Marylander or Virginian, or from the Washington D.C. area, keep in mind he's still lookin' out for us.

Gene's still lookin' out for us, so let's make sure that we look out for him too.  Please visit his blog.
Also, to get to know Gene a bit more, check out my post titled, "Interview with Gene Mueller, Outdoor Writer Celebrity".

Thanks Gene!  We really appreciated your efforts!

Now on with the new.  I've been following a blog that is new to me, but a few years old now.  Fellow angler Jon Griffiths has a very fine outdoors and fishing blog.  I've had the pleasure of reading his posts on fishing forums, but just recently found his blog, and I'm now a fan.  So, let me introduce his blog to you, and please pay it a visit, the Opportunistic Fisherman.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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