Night Fishing Then and Now

Times have changed, so has “Nocturnal Bassin’”

The water exploded. The huge largemouth bass engulfed the black, battle-scarred jitterbug. The ensuing battle was on and the excited young man dove for the landing net as he scrambled in the dark. Meanwhile, his Grandfather, who had endured so many lengthy battles before with these hard-fighting largemouth bass of the night, dove for the heart pills, hidden in his tacklebox. Such are the thrills of fishing for, “Giant bass of the night.”

In those days. Days when an aluminum boat, one rod, one reel, and one old, metal tackle box (encrusted with several layers of paint, displaying globs of melted plastic worms), were all a man needed to go fishing, times were simple. Those restless anglers that ventured out in the dark, seeking their quarry, the ever elusive largemouth bass, found preparation, only took a few minutes.

Even water safety rules of that era were mostly left up to the angler. Enforcing modern days rules such as, outboard motor kill switches, life jackets for every boat occupant, running lights “on all night”, charged fire extinguishers and other mandatory, safety rules, were mostly unheard of and usually not strictly enforced. Why, there weren’t even any bass tournaments!

Times have changed. Night fishing anglers have got to have preparation. Getting ready for an entire night of fishing, means more than just rigging many rods, instead of just one. By today’s water safety rules every boat on Alabama’s lakes and rivers must have running lights “on all night”. This means, whether your navigating the lake, fishing on the main lake or far back up in some tributary, or even just plain anchored down, you must have lights on fore and aft. (That’s the front and back of the boat, for you first timers). Why? You may ask. Like I said, times have changed.

Gone, are the days, of just a few small boats puttering around in the dark. During summer, over half of Alabama’s anglers resort to night fishing, due to the intense daytime heat. Added to the growing confusion, are the growing list of bass tournaments, many are which are held after dark, due to the popularity among today’s bass tournament anglers. Then there’s those high powered bass boats. There’s nothing wrong with that. Disobeying Alabama’s water safety rules is, and can often prove to be fatal, unfortunately to innocent by-standers. That’s why we have water safety rules.

Besides running lights, you will need black lights or some type of dim light, for fishing the banks, especially during dark nights with little or no moon. Without them, you will spend needless hours of retrieving hung lures from bushes, trees or other shoreline cover. Although only rare occasions have shown mishaps, keep in mind that those bushes harbor mosquitoes, wasps and even snakes.

For running at night, you must have a high powered spot light. No matter how many years of experience you have fishing any particular lake at night, you never see those floating logs, or other boaters, until its to late. More lights? You bet, the more the better. Its very frustrating rumbling around in the dark in one of today’s bass boats and many boat manufactures have taken that in mind when designing these modem day vessels.

If you don’t already have ‘em age areas helps tremendously. Two flashlights should be on every trip, one for each angler. There are even small headbands with lights on a flexible snake-like stem, for hands-free knot tying during the night. Even spare fuses, bulbs, or running lights, are a good precaution to avoid getting a ticket, or worse yet getting caught out in the dark without running lights. Some anglers even install high powered running, head lights on their boats.
Lights aren’t enough.

In the old days, “seat of the pants” anglers just threw some old cushions in the boat. Nowadays every person in the boat must have a life jacket. Wearing one, after dark every time the boat is on plane, is highly advisable. Boat occupants should always make sure the driver of the boat is not drinking alcoholic beverages and that he/she is wearing an outboard motor kill switch. Besides, most bass tournaments have these two mandatory rules and water safety patrols can impound boats and jail the occupants, especially when the driver is are caught drinking or intoxicated.

Enjoying a safe night of fishing means including many, many, more variables in your trip. Some, that many anglers either forget, disregard or have never experienced, can bring unneeded frustrations, if not included in your night fishing checklist. Charged batteries are a must. Even bringing along a spare battery may be needed to run all those lights, bilges, aerators or other electrical items at night.

If not moving around a lot, an outboard motor battery can’t receive a good enough charge from the motor’s alternator and can run down by the end of your trip. If you have trolled all night and your trolling batteries are drained, you could have trouble getting today’s big, outboard motors started. Even jumper cables should be included for emergencies in your boat or to aid other anglers that have battery troubles. So now what else? Plenty, remember, you’ve got to be prepared for any emergency to avoid one.

Boat anchors are great, especially when you find that good spot where the fish are bunched up or feeding and want to stay put. Without one, you could drift away from a spot that took all night to find, often leaving the fish far behind. A big, long-handled, hook-proof landing net is a must. Big bass feed at night and many have been lost at boatside due to angler error or having the wrong equipment.

Breakdowns? They happen. I once trolled all night, ran down both batteries. Went to crank the outboard motor and nothing. The aerator, that had been running all night, had ran down the cranking battery. Had I not had a small paddle tucked away for just such an emergency we would have had to sat there. Far up in that little creek, miles from the boat dock, in the dark, with only a small flashlight, until help arrived. Now, I have a cranking battery, for that purpose only.

So, what else? Mosquitoes are pests no matter where you fish, so repellents should always be included. Long sleeve shirts will help. Bring along a jacket to. It gets cool on the water at night. Emergency kits can include many items. Band-Aids, bandages, methiolate, snake bite kits, syringes, prescribed medication, or a clean sterile knife or razor blade and peroxide, may be needed for removing hooks and sterilization. Never leave anything to chance, its a long way to get medical help when out on these lakes at night. Any emergency could arise so being prepared is more than being necessary, it could save a life.

Other emergency kits must include several items for boat or tow vehicle breakdowns. Your boat always needs to have spare spark plugs and the tools to remove them. Oil, gas, drinks, ice, food may be needed, so check these necessary items prior to the trip. Many convenience stores near the lake are closed after dark. This also includes everything needed for the outboard motor and trolling motor. Spare props, pins and cables can’t be found when you need them.

Check your tires and wheel bearings before the trip. Its no fun being broke down on the side of the road in the dark. Bring along spare tires, grease, bearings, seals and the tools to remove then. Even lights or a small air compressor that plugs into a car cigarette lighter, can help during these roadside emergencies. A strong hydraulic jack, precut 2 by 10 inch boards and even a few bricks may be needed if you have to pull over in mud, soft grass or along a bad roadside.

So as you see preparation is the key. Just safely getting to the lake and back home requires a lot of getting ready for night fishing. There are many items I failed to mention. Anglers of yesterday did not have the convenience of a cell phone. They are worth their weight in gold during emergencies. If you don’t have one, borrow one for the trip and leave the number with a loved one or two. Also tell them what lake you are going to, where you will be launching and when to expect you home. All that’s left now is your tackle.

From top to bottom bass will hit any lure in the box at night. Being prepared means having everything you need, where you can find it during the night, when its needed the most. Fishing after dark means you can leave the light line and finesse lures at home. Although some very clear water lakes may require this type of tackle while fishing during the day, nocturnal hours on most our lakes, calls for the use of heavier line and stout equipment.

Besides, due to most lakes having lightly stained water conditions, most bass feed by detecting underwater vibrations emitted by potential meals (or your lures) and the use of lateral line detection, the bass’ “radar” after dark. Lures that emit a lot of flash and vibration, make plenty of noise and water displacement, are often needed to aid the bass in finding your offering or getting bit. Adding rattles or even fish attractants will also help.

So be safe. Enjoy one of the finer things still left in this life, night fishing. But bring along you heart pills, you may need ‘em. There are some Big Bass to be fooled after dark by the persistent angler.

Some things never change.

Good Fishin’

Reed Montgomery

About Reed Montgomery

Alabama's Oldest, Professional "Bass Fishing Only" Guide Service For Over 40 Years Fishing all of Alabama's Lakes for all Species of Bass and Striped Bass.

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