Largemouth bass live in freshwater and striped bass mostly live in saltwater, but that’s where the differences end. Both fish have a lot in common. Stripers and largies are aggressive, versatile and not too smart. They love structure, eat almost anything and live almost everywhere. Best of all, striped bass and largemouth bass love a midnight snack. To extend a fishing day into night, we tapped two after-hours bass anglers for their night moves.

Fight Night: Tactics for Bass Fishing After Dark

1 Casey Reed | Largemouth Bass

KBF Trail Series Winner, Old Town, AFTCO | Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

At night, I fish for largemouth bass two ways: targeting dock lights and fishing the shad spawn. Most of the year, I cast lures to bass hunting below lighted docks. From April through June, shad spawn at night drawing big bass into shallow water.

To fish the docks, I like a new moon to reduce ambient light. The fish are forced to feed below the lighted docks.

The most exciting night fishing is during the shad spawn. When shad spawn, they swirl around on the surface in a tornado. I can hear the disturbance and largemouth bass feeding on the surface. On a good night, the splashing sounds like a war zone.

kayak angler holds up a largemouth bass caught while fishing at night
Midnight matchup: battle of the basses. | Feature photo: Casey Reed

The best time to hit the shad spawn is during the full moon. The moon not only drives the fish into a frenzy, but it also allows me to see where my lure lands. I look for a rip-rap bank and land my lure as close as possible. Most of my bites come within a foot of the bank.

During the shad spawn, I use a topwater wake bait that makes a lot of commotion. My favorites are a Jackall Mikey and Storm ThunderStick. I retrieve the lure just fast enough to make it swim in an S motion with the beads barely rattling.

My Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 136 is rigged with green and red navigation lights and a 360-degree white light. I also have decklights and underwater lights. I use the lights when I am in a heavily trafficked area after dark.

When I am fishing, I keep the lights to a minimum. Less light allows my eyes to adjust to the dark.

I caught my personal best largemouth after the sun went down. I was throwing a drop shot around a big laydown in 20 feet of water. I felt a tug, and I set the hook.

The fish was pulling hard. I would gain line and then the fish would take the line back. After three big runs, I was convinced I hooked a big catfish. When I finally laid eyes on the bass, I did a double take. I was looking at the biggest bass I had ever seen. I netted the fish and started shaking uncontrollably. I calmed myself to measure the 25-inch bass. It weighed 12 pounds on my handheld scale. After fishing for years during the day, my biggest catch came at night.

2 Chris Vecsey | Striped Bass

Old Town, AFTCO | Orange Beach, Alabama

At night, I target redfish, speckled trout and striped bass.

The key to finding fish is locating current and concentrations of bait. I also listen for fish crashing bait on the surface.

When I don’t hear the fish, I cast to deep holes, bends in the creek and areas where I mark bait on the fish finder.

When I’m fishing in the lower bays, I’m not picky about current direction as long as it is moving. The best time to fish rivers and creeks is during a falling tide.

On the full moon, I fish open water and flats away from artificial light. With the moon shining on the water, the fish move into the shallows. When the moon is dark, I catch fish under the dock lights.

nighttime kayak angler holds up a large striped bass
Not to be outdone. | Photo: Chris Vecsey

For striped bass, I use big jerkbaits like the Yo-Zuri 110 3DB and Rapala Rip Stop, Jackall Rhythm Wave swimbaits in 4.8-5.8 and Berkley Fusion Bucktail jigs.

To safely fish at night, I prefer to fish with someone else. I leave a float plan before heading out and avoid high-traffic areas.

Proper lighting is key to fishing at night. I rig my kayak with a 360-degree white navigation light. I also use a headlamp and keep a powerful flashlight to shine at nearby boaters. On my life vest, I have a waterproof emergency strobe light.

I always keep a rod ready when I’m moving between fishing spots. One night last winter, I was cruising through open water and heard bait showering to my left. I couldn’t see the commotion, but I cast my Yo-Zuri 110 3DB toward the sound.

As soon as the lure hit the water, the line came tight. After a long, hard fight on a light spinning rod, I landed a 20-pound striped bass. If I had waited 10 seconds, I would have missed the fish.

Cover of Kayak Angler Magazine Issue 49, Fall 2022This article was first published in the Fall 2022 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Midnight matchup: battle of the basses. | Feature photo: Casey Reed



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