In The Heat of the Night

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Published on: May. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

A friend of mine once asked me why I fished for bass when it's dark, the mosquitos are out in full force, you can't see where you're casting and you might run your boat into a stump or, worse yet, a bluff.

For anyone who has fished Lake of the Ozarks on a summer weekend, the advantages of night fishing are obvious. With thousands of watercraft on the lake during the day, the water gets choppy. It's enough to try the patience of the most laid-back angler. However, boat traffic de-creases dramatically around dusk. By 10 or 11 p.m., you pretty well have the lake to yourself.

Solitude is not the only good reason to begin your fishing after the sun sets. During the summer, bass avoid shallow water during the heat of the day. They move into the shallows at night to feed on baitfish. The average size of bass caught at night (at least for me) also tends to be a little bigger. Finally, night fishing is worthwhile just for the thrill of it. Hooking and landing a large bass in near total darkness is something that must be experienced to be appreciated.

Night fishing is most productive from mid-April through the end of September. June, July and August are the top months.

Some areas are better than others for night fishing. If you have a choice, fish in the clearest water you can find. Muddy water can be the kiss-of-death when it comes to catching bass at night.

Some of my best night fishing spots (which will remain secret) are lighted from a streetlamp or nearby dock. Lights attract microscopic animals luring the baitfish that feed on them. Where baitfish go, bass will soon follow.

Most bass attracted to these areas will not stay in the lighted open water. Instead, they hide in the shadow of a dock, retaining wall or brushpile. At times, they will hold in deeper water at the edge of the lighted area as they wait to ambush their prey, or your lure.

At night, and during other low light conditions, bass rely less on sight and more on feel to locate their prey. Most fish, including bass, have a row of small, pressure-sensitive pits running down each side of their body. The row of pits, known as the lateral line, lets fish detect changes in pressure caused by movement in the water around them.

How does this relate to fishing? A

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