It’s not just a good way to beat the summer heat while increasing your chances of catching a big bass. It’s the sights and the sounds and the moonlit mood that makes night fishing special.
I’m a little more relaxed, a little more attuned to the natural environment, so I’m a better worm and jig fisherman at night. With my vision limited, my sense of feel become more acute, but that with my vision limited, my concentration on feel naturally becomes more intense.
Every once in a while during my years working as a fulltime fishing guide, I’d have a client ask me to teach them how to fish a worm or a jig. This was before the Carolina rig became popular and well before anyone fished a jig by swimming it, so what they wanted to learn was the covered skills of finesse fishing.
They wanted to master that fascinating and challenging game of detecting a bite through the subtle ticks and bumps one feels when a bass inhales a worm. Fishing a Texas rig or a jig in the traditional way is a direct contest of senses between man and fish. It’s the most intimate fishing contest I know, and it remains my favorite way to fish.
It comes down to the simple aspect of feeling the fish before they feel you, but it is filled with many subtle variables that all depend upon what my old Bull Shoals friend, Doe Clayman, so aptly described to me decades ago as “good hands.”
We were night fishing at the time, and although I didn’t admit it to him, I was honing my finesse fishing skills. We were letting our baits drop to 20 or 300 feet deep along the sides of sloping underwater points. At that depth, there are few ticks or bumps to be felt, but a “mushy” feeling.
Because it was night, and because I was trying to impress this famous fisherman, I concentrated intensely and picked up on this most delicate bit right away. That’s really the key to all finesse fishing: concentrating totally on feel. It helps to have a thin, stiff and highly sensitive graphite rod, but being able to block out or suppress all other sensory perceptions is the mental aspect that develops “good hands.”
This is naturally easier to do at night, because there are far fewer distracting noises. It’s not that nights are noiseless. The cricket sing a regular chorus, punctuated periodically by the low tones of bullfrog. An incessant whippoorwill provides the backbeat, and a questioning owl or pack of distant coyotes may chime in for a solo, but it is mostly a monotone melody easily ignored.
Mostly, however there are no distracting sights to steal concentration from feel. Most vision is confined to the immediate area and the fishing at hand, and if a black light is used, the glowing florescent line not only becomes visible, it becomes the most visible thing on the entire lake. This neon line, looking the size of a small rope, is hard to ignore.
When clients would ask me how to fish a plastic worm, I’d tell them to put on a six-inch worm and a one-quarter-ounce sinker and throw it into places where they knew what was on the bottom, then pay attention to the different feel the bait had as it climbed over rocks, stumps or brush, and how that felt different from when it was pulled through weeds.
“When you can determine the type of cover your bait is hopping through just from the way it feels, and especially if you can tell if the rocks you’re in are large or small, smooth or jagged,” I would say, “then you’re not likely to mistake it when a bass picks up your worm.”
When they would ask me to “teach” them how to fish a worm or jig, I’d suggest they book a night fishing trip with me. Many wouldn’t do that for various reasons, but I suspect a few grown men are still afraid of the dark.
I’ve tried to teach it during the day, with very limited success, but every time I took a client/student out at night, by the next morning they had “good hands.”
It wasn’t really me. The night taught them how to concentrate on feel.