Zeke Cernea and I had been planning this trip for some time. We were on a small city reservoir just outside Monroe City, Mo.
This is a fantastic body of water with plenty of structure and plenty of big bass. We had a specific area of the lake we wanted to fish that night.
There were hundreds of submerged logs and trees. We were going to fish two of my favorite methods: for largemouth bass, at night, with large, noisy topwater plugs and also on the bottom with soft plastic baits.
Many new challenges arise when fishing after dark. One of the biggest potential problems, especially on a large body of water, is getting lost.
Most of your familiar landmarks disappear with the sun. Navigation becomes a little hazardous and sometimes not knowing exactly where you are can get a little tense.
I remember one night when a 2 or 3-hour catfishing adventure turned into an “all-nighter” because I could not find my marina on Table Rock Lake in SW Missouri.
Be sure of your directions and be sure somebody knows where you are supposed to be.
Another interesting aspect of night fishing is blind casting. Granted, if you have a good moon, and after your eyes adjust, you can see more than you thought you would.
But all too often trees, stumps and even the shore can sneak-up on you at unexpected times in unexpected places.
Making a full overhead cast with a level-wind reel and having your lure hit a tree limb five feet out can cause a mess in your reel that you could not get out at noon, much less at midnight.
Always be sure you are casting to open water and make sure your casts are shorter than usual.
I am not going to dwell long on this next subject, but it does deserve a mention.
Bugs will be your most aggravating adversaries. Mosquitoes drive me nuts, I hate ’em. Be prepared. Every time you turn on a light to change baits or get a soda or remove a hook from your partner’s arm, bugs will form a cloud around your head. Be prepared.
But that is enough of the fun stuff, let’s get serious. The baits you use at night should differ greatly from those used as visual attractors.
Audible attractors now become the lures of preference. Large, water-churning machines that wake up and agitate the bass are what you need now. Here are my suggestions.
Buzzbaits can be great baits to aggravate bass at night. Bass have an uncanny ability to find and hit their target at night.
Buzzbaits often cause even full or lazy bass to react by striking at the noise and movement.
Another great night lure is the “MotoLure.” These baits come in many colors and styles. I personally like baits like the MotoLure. I like chugging them more vigorously at night.
I then let the lure vibrate for the full length of its cycle. I do not think you can have a lure make too much noise at night. The more frantic the action, the more chance of coaxing a strike.
This MotoLure, in a frog pattern, was the lure I chose to start with that night. Zeke had on a black 10-inch worm and we had a perfect night to test our nocturnal fishing skills. Zeke drew first blood.
I felt Zeke set the hook and heard his reel lose a little line. The fish jumped a couple times and the moonlight glistened in the rippling water.
Zeke lifted it over the boat and guessed it to be between 4 and 5 pounds. Not a bad start.
We continued to fish the cove with very little success. Zeke coaxed another hit, but failed to get a hook set. I, on the other hand, did not turn a fish for the first hour.
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As we made our way out to the point, my luck changed.
I cast my lure across the point in about seven feet of water. On the second chug the water around my lure exploded. I leaned back hard as I set the steel.
He fought well but he was not quite as big as Zeke’s first. He was maybe two-and-a half pounds.
“I’ll try that point again,” I said, as I released the bass and prepared for my next cast.
The MotoLure could not have hit more than a foot from the previous cast. Again on the second set of vibrations things started to happen.
There was no splash when this fish hit. There was a slight sucking sound, like the last cup of water going down the bathtub drain and then a massive pulling sensation on my line.
Again, I was very definite when I set the hook.
This fish did not come to the top and break water like the last one. She went straight for the bottom and we both knew why. She was heading for cover.
She was determined to get there and I was determined to keep her in open water.
The fight was on.
“It’s a dandy,” is all I said to Zeke.
He laid his rod down and eased back to lend a hand, if necessary.
Zeke and I do not over-estimate our fish. If we hear the other guy say “dandy” we know he means it.
You never know what help you might need with a big fish, especially at night. The more hands to the task, the better.
This bass stayed down and under the boat. My medium-heavy, six-and-a-half foot casting rod was strained as the bass stripped some line off my reel.
“Ya must have her hooked good,” my partner said. “She’s pullin’ hard enough to rip ’em out otherwise.”
I had to be careful because of all the structure, but I finally got her on the other side of the boat, in deeper water.
A couple of short runs later she came to the top, but she was not finished yet.
When she broke water she began to roll, like most big bass will. She was a handful, but she calmed momentarily, to catch her breath I guess, and Zeke netted her with his right hand as he held the flashlight in his left.
“She is a hawg,” was his only comment.
Zeke held the light as I gently removed the hooks from her mouth. We weighed and measured her. We took a couple of pictures and I released her as quickly as possible.
“Good job, partner,” was the message from the back of the boat.
She weighed a bit over 8 pounds and was the heaviest of the ten bass we caught that night.
The thrill of a bass of that size on topwater at night cannot be matched. I highly recommend a nighttime bass trip for you this summer.
It is exciting and fulfilling. Have fun, but most of all, be safe.
(Mike Roux can be reached at 217-257-7895.)