By Gerald Almy - email@example.com
One of the most common questions novices have about night bass fishing is what's the best moon phase? Well, I'm sure it affects bass behavior, but the truth is I've actually had good luck on all moon phases. If you're new to the sport, a little bit of moonlight is nice to help keep your bearings and see where the shoreline is.
If the moon is extra bright, it can actually help pinpoint bass for you. Concentrate on casting to locations in the moon's shadow. Bass will wait in ambush there, on the dark sides of docks, logs or bridge pilings.
While the moon phase question is up in the air, one thing you should definitely try to avoid is fishing on a windy night. It just complicates the already difficult conditions more in terms of boat handling and casting accuracy, and makes surface fishing less productive.
Try to be on the lake at least 30 minutes before sunset. This allows you to get your gear ready, launch the boat and arrive at the area you want to fish before total dark sets in.
Your eyes will dilate slowly as daylight fades, allowing you to see as well as possible after all sunlight is gone.
It's not unusual for fishing to be slow for about an hour after the sun first sets. The fish have likely fed just before the light vanished.
They'll usually begin foraging again, though, within an hour or so after dark. That action may then continue all night, or it may come in flurries, growing spotty for a while, then resuming around midnight.
There's typically a lull after about 1 or 2 a.m. If you have to get up for work the next morning, this is a good time to call it quits. If you persist, though, action will often be decent during the night and exceptional right before first light emerges again.
The best places to fish at night are basically the same places you fish during the day. Points are excellent, as are fallen logs, brush piles, weed bed edges, drop-offs and humps. Bridges are hotspots at night, as is the riprap along roads.
Docks are prime spots, especially on lakes such as Smith Mountain and nearby Anna. If the docks have lights, fish the dark side of the pilings and deck. That's where the bass will wait for unwary baitfish to swim past. Sometimes at night you'll also catch bass in unlikely spots such as swimming beaches or boat ramps, since they're not being disturbed by human activity.
Every lure that works for day fishing can also score at night. Some especially useful ones for docks and deep structure are plastic worms, crankbaits, jigs, grubs and vibrators (lipless crankbaits). For medium and shallow depths, go with spinnerbaits, vibrators, thin minnow lures and topwater offerings such as chuggers, wobblers and poppers.
Crankbaits are good lures because they displace lots of water and create loud vibrations to attract the fish by sound when vision is less useful for them. Use models that dive the appropriate depth for the water you're fishing and lean towards ones with rattles inside, so the bass can pinpoint them easily. Reel these back with a slow to moderate retrieve, punctuated with an occasional pause.
Spinnerbaits are excellent night lures. A three-eights to three-quarter ounce model with one or two wide Colorado blades is a good choice, since it creates a loud, thumping vibration that fish can easily detect. Try these lures by themselves if the water is clear or with a plastic trailer or pork rind dressing if the water is slightly murky or stained.
Use a slow, steady presentation most of the time, but also occasionally v-wake the lure fast just under the surface. This is especially useful during the doldrums of summer. If these tactics don't produce, try "yo-yoing" the lure by yanking it up fast several feet, then letting it drop back down.
Plastic worms seem like an odd choice for night fishing, but they are surprisingly effective. Use big ones from 7-9 inches for night fishing, so they create lots of vibration and are easy for bass to locate.
The Texas rigging method is best if snags are a problem. If the lake bottom is clean, though, you'll hook more fish with worms rigged with multiple hooks. Fish them Carolina-style, 18-36 inches behind a barrel sinker.
Besides worms, stock a few jigs and tip them with a plastic trailer or better still, a pork rind dressing. That latter combination displaces lots of water and is a great offering for night bass.
Topwater fishing is my favorite way to go after largemouths, day or night. After dark I turn to stickbaits and poppers at times, but it's hard to beat the tried-and-proven Jitterbug. Use three-eighths or five-eighths ounce versions for most of your fishing.
If you think especially large bass might be roaming, go with the 1 1/4 ounce model. When fishing that large lure, attach the two side treble hooks together on the top with a small rubber band to allow you to probe weeds and brush more effectively without getting constantly hung up.
Whether you choose a worm, spinnerbait, jig or topwater plug, though, hold on tight after you make your first nighttime cast. The biggest bass of all are on the prowl after dark, and they strike with a vengeance.
-- Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.