I am positive there are many anglers out there who are intrigued, if not fascinated, by the prospect of attempting to catch a bass on a lure in darkness. But if you’re inexperienced or not particularly confident that this method even works, then a great starting point is at least having the right selection of lures at your disposal.
Firstly though, imagine those beautiful sunny days out on the coastline - a secluded cove where there isn’t a breath of wind, the sea is crystal clear and with hardly a ripple on the surface... Enjoy it, have a swim, a picnic and top up the tan safe in the knowledge that when darkness has truly set in, that very beach could be ‘invaded’ by some very decent bass indeed.
The reason I mention such benign conditions is that once the sun sets, that whole area will become (from the above the surface at least) a tranquil paradise. However, amongst those sub-aqua inter-tidal zones all manner of hunting will be occurring. Crabs, small fish, squid and cuttlefish will be busily conducting their own pursuit of food and the bass will be ready and willing to take full advantage of all this movement - more often than not, sneaking into position at a very specific and predetermined state of the tide.
Lure selection dependant on the conditions (be it sea state, light level or darkness) can be critical to your chances of success therefore, if you’re contemplating casting into such seemingly peaceful surroundings then keeping things extremely understated and subtle will often tilt the odds in your favour. Of course, all lure types (paddle tails, surface lures, shallow swimming divers, sinking lures etc.) will all catch bass in the gloom however, as is well known, bass will venture into very shallow water - even more so when they feel safe and can move stealthily over a reef. For all of the reasons above, I am very particular about what I carry with me when I’m ‘donning the head-torch’.
So onto the actual lures - if everything is very ‘still’ the first lure I will attach is a 5” or 6” senko such as a Wave Worm Bamboo Stick. If the Moon is high and bright my inclination is to commence with a darker coloured pattern - so that it is silhouetted against the bright sky. Conversely, if there is less ambient light available, then it is white all the way for me. Quite why white is so consistent could be down to the majority of anglers using this colour at night, or there could actually be something in the way it looks to a bass - the way the light reflects off of it perhaps?
Senkos or stickbaits. Innocuous yes - but they work exceptionally well.
If no bites are forthcomingeven after mixing up the retrieve via twitches, slow, medium and then a fast rate (to the extent of it travelling just under or even on the surface) then I will look to what has become one of my favourite lures - the Pearl coloured Albie Snax. (NEW alternative Pirate Lures Bass Treats)
A 8lb+ bass caught by one of Marc Cowling’s guided clients on an Albie Snax in 2ft of water.
Cylindrical and shad (small fish) like, and with more of a slaloming action on the retrieve, there are occasions when that additional movement can make the difference. Moreover, if there does happen to be a slight swell running, their rigidness and broader profile means they maintain their stability in the water. Again, a steady retrieve (one full turn per second) has been the most successful method, but some anglers drift them or even fish them as surface lures.
The Albie Snax rigged onto an Owner 6/0 weedless Twistlock hook.
If there is a crosswind present or indeed a stronger parallel current running then a lure that I have total faith in is the needlefish - the ones I use are from Jim’s Lures. Essentially, these cleverly weighted wooden masterpieces sink horizontally and rise to swim in the top 12-18” below the surface on a steady to moderately quick retrieve. Don’t be put off utilising them even in depths not that much greater than this (covering relatively level expanses of reef) as there is most certainly something about the way these ‘needles’ cut through the water in a straight line with no intrinsic action that drives the bass wild - less is sometimes more as they say.
An 18g Jim’s Lures Needlefish - do bass think these are squid?
Finally, when there is virtually no ambient light at all (pitch black if you like) then if the bass are not forthcoming on the lures mentioned above then I believe the bass switch to using their ‘non-sight’ related senses (hearing/lateral line) to home in on the vibrations and rattling noise caused by a wriggling diving hard minnow with a couple of ball bearings knocking inside it. Lures that I carry for this purpose include the very shallow running Maria Squash F95 and IMA Hound Sonic 100F.
Diminutive and deadly - small shallow diving lures are excellent at night.
Marc Cowling is a successful shore based, bass fishing guide specialising in catching these magnificent sporting species on lures.