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MFBAB

Night Fishing - Bright Vs. Dark Nights

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I saw this exchange in A-Jays thread, and it got me thinking:

A-Jay Said: 

I cannot say for sure why I don't get nearly as many bites on a bright night as I do on a totally to near moonless night, but I do.

My version of the reason is that many of the lakes here have very clear water, so with a big bright moon, the advantage of "Darkness" is all but gone for me.   I can see shallow water cover quite easily, so I can assume the bass can see equally as well also. 

I'd love to be able to catch on the brighter nights as opposed to the pitch black ones, but my results make the choice easy for me. 

Moon = NO Bass.  No Moon = Bass. 

So fishing on a full moon is certainly Night Bassing, but for me there's less catching. 

 

Bluebasser Said: 

I also prefer darker nights.

Full moon nights are extremely difficult for me, but one thing I've noticed is I tend to get at least 1 big bite on bright nights.

If I had the option, I'd mainly stick to around half moon to a new moon. 

 

Catt Said: 

Three days either side of the full moon, I tend to fish deeper offshore structure. 

Around the new moon, I'll tend to move shallow.

then it's a coin flip! **Unless there's cloud cover,

 

Bluebasser Said: 

Maybe that's my issue. I tend to stay shallow at night regardless of moon phase.

I'll have to try backing off the bank next time and seeing if that helps.

I have started sticking to lighter colors during a bright moon and noticed an increase in productivity when I did that, but still way down from darker nights. 

 

.....Anyway, it really hit home HARD for me.  I immediately decided to go back and examine my fishing logs for the last year and see if this trend was real or just in my imagination. 

I have been night fishing a lot of ponds in my area from the bank for the last year, so I am basically always fishing shallow and my primary method is topwater, and mostly a *Buzzbait. 

This actually helps my data-set because I essentially have a control in place: Always Shallow / Always Topwater.  Therefore, I am able to compare results based on moon brightness without skewing the data with a lot of different bait presentations.

(*The topwater stuff just covers water and you don’t snag, which makes night bank fishing faster and easier, even if it isn’t always the best bait selection for the conditions)

OK, so I started running down my list. 

I decided that “Bright” was from the 1st Quarter-Full-to Last Quarter and clear skies,

And “Dark” was from the Last Quarter-New-First Quarter + Cloudy/Rainy Nights during the bright period.

- I had 92 night trips over the last 14 months. A trip by definition for me is however long I fish at any one pond.  In other words, in 1 night I might hit 3 different ponds, so they are all logged separately as 3 trips.

For “Bright” nights, I had:

- 13 Good Trips

- 22 Bad Trips

So 2-1 poor fishing.

For “Dark” nights, I had:

- 42 Good Trips

- 15 Bad Trips

So 3-1 Good Fishing. 

- I had 3 to 1 more good “Dark” nights than good “Bright” nights

- I had 1.5 to 1 more bad “Bright” trips than bad “Dark” trips

 

Then I isolated big fish stats (4-8 lbs. only):

There were 25 data entries in this category.

By straight Moon phase w no weather adjustment, I got:

“Dark” = 17 over 4

“Bright” = 8 over 4

- So 2 to 1 better on dark nights, but then I factored in clouds/rain for some of the bright nights, and it’s actually:

“Dark” or “Bright” + clouds/rain = 21 over 4

“Bright” and calm/clear skies = 4 over 4

- So 5-1 better odds of a big fish for me on dark nights, or “Bright” nights w some weather!!

 

This is pretty staggering.  I felt like I was catching better on the darker nights, but I never really took the time to break down the numbers until now. 

 

What did I learn? 

1 – Obviously, the dark nights produce a lot better, for both numbers and size

2 – I've got to alter my presentations on clear nights, I need to start treating the Moon basically the same as the Sun.  In other words, when the Moon is bright on a clear night, and is casting a shadow, just like the Sun…I need to finesse my presentations down and fish cover or fish deeper.

No Buzzbait on Clear/Bright nights-too easy to silhouette/switch to a clear Spook, Clear Baby Torpedo, or more subtle topwater

No Spinnerbait or Chatterbait on Clear/Bright nights/switch to Keel-Weighted Swimbait or T-Rigs on the bottom or in cover. 

 

I want to thank Catt, A-Jay and Bluebasser for bringing this to my attention.  Catt has always said “I fish the same baits at night as I do in the day”and I think I finally get it! He is treating the Moon just like the Sun, duh :)

Thanks guys, I hope this helps someone else. 

I'd love to hear others comments and experiences on this topic. 

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And there you go ~ You've been a Night Time Bassing Ninja for a while.

To add to your most comprehensive post,  any night, Bright or Dark - a Jig & Craw is a very good option.

Especially on a night with a little wind where the sweet sound of your buzzbait or other topwater may be obscured - a jig / swimjig can be money.

I'll acknowledge that a jig from shore can be a challenge at times but there are a couple of ways to over come them.

First, try using a Texas rigged skirt & plastic rig (essentially a punch rig) - the Texas rigged plastic is much better at coming through shallow cover than a standard jig with a brush guard.

Second, if conditions permit, using a lighter weight in front will help prevent the bait plunging deep into cover & snagging AND because it's lighter, in order to keep bottom contact, it will force you to fish it slower.  This is a good thing.

Another option for night time bank bassing is to rig your plastics with a lighter keel weighted (swimbait) style hook which again makes you fish slower to stay lower and you'll get a sweet glide to the presentation that is often very effective.

Here's a few options ~

Swimjig rig 2.jpgSwimjig rig.jpgRage-Rig-Craw-600.jpg A-Jay Jig.jpg

Jig Rattles.jpg 

A-Jay

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Thanks for that great summarization of info. It seems with your logs and 3 other experienced night anglers that its safe to say its a fact that the moon acts as the sun when night fishing. I am going to start my night ops this year and this will be in my thoughts as I plan. Thanks again.

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6 minutes ago, A-Jay said:

Especially on a night with a little wind where the sweet sound of your buzzbait or other topwater may be obscured - a jig / swimjig can be money.

Thanks A-Jay!  About the Buzzbait being obscured, I have had some amazing nights on that thing in rain and wind. I used to think the same thing about it getting lost in the surface clutter-but they can and will find that sucker!!  Even a 1/4 Oz. with a fairly small blade which is my standard size for ponds, it can be a killer in the rain. 

I've been running the topwater stuff this last year at night almost exclusively for a couple of reasons:

1 - I'm fishing a lot of new-to-me ponds, I just switched from boat to bank fishing after we had our first child, so I wanted to fish a lot of this new water with a consistent approach so I could more easily compare results on the various ponds.  The plan is to expand the repertoire after a few sample runs w the topwater regimen. 

2 - Just simplicity for bank fishing and ability to cover water fast. 

After this recent revelation on the light conditions at night, I will absolutely be altering my presentations A LOT more as the conditions warrant. The numbers don't lie.  I always advise people to keep good fishing records, and this is why we do it. 

I always considered myself a "Conditions" fisherman during daylight fishing, but as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I totally fell into the trap of thinking "Night-is-Night", it's all the same.  I've made the same observations as you noted in your thread about how the moonlight penetrates and how you can see underwater better on bright nights, and how the moon casts shadows just like the sun, and I just ignored it and kept chucking that buzzbait, but no longer :) 

I'm going to start fishing the same at night as I do during the day, meaning the same variables like wind/rain/clouds/water color will dictate bait selection. 

 

RE: Your punch rig, are you swimming that w the boot tail grubs?  I'm a big fan of the keel-weighted swimbait hooks (Rage Rig) and swimjigs in general, I just got the do-it mold this past year so they are pretty expendable cost wise for me. 

 

13 minutes ago, riverbasser said:

Thanks for that great summarization of info. It seems with your logs and 3 other experienced night anglers that its safe to say its a fact that the moon acts as the sun when night fishing. I am going to start my night ops this year and this will be in my thoughts as I plan. Thanks again.

I feel like an idiot for not realizing this sooner!  I've always tracked the solunar periods and I've never seen any meaningful correlations surface w that data.  I just totally overlooked the brightness factor as being such a strong determinant of their positioning at night (+wind/water color, etc...).  I mean, it's literally just like the sun during the day: it rises, it sets, it shines bright on a clear night.  The moonrise and set times do vary each night, but the influence of the light is seemingly very important. 

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On 6/16/2016 at 10:36 AM, Catt said:

Something else to consider is moon rise, right now the moon is up in the afternoon. But on nights when the moon rises after sunset I'll wait until a hour prior to moon rise to be on the water.

Moon set: right now the moon sets before sun up so for the last two nights I've left about an hour after moon set.

Catt, would you mind talking about this a little more?

Are you saying that the Moon rise and set is causing a light change, and therefore creating a feeding period, similar to the Sunrise/Sunset? 

I know that the moon rise and set are the "minors" on the solunar tables, and the overhead and underfoot are the majors...I guess I've been looking at the moon in relation to the solunar tables-from more of a "gravitational pull" aspect than from a "light" aspect. 

Am I getting warm??

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The fact that these stats were controlled by variable ONLY fishing from shore and ONLY using a topwater buzz bait completely eliminates so many variables that could have come into play.  Great statistics MFBAB

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3 hours ago, MFBAB said:

Thanks A-Jay! 

RE: Your punch rig, are you swimming that w the boot tail grubs?  I'm a big fan of the keel-weighted swimbait hooks (Rage Rig) and swimjigs in general, I just got the do-it mold this past year so they are pretty expendable cost wise for me. 

With a paddle tail or a big grub, definitely a swimming deal - with any craw / beaver, beast or creature - we're going low & slow in jig like fashion.

btw - a keel weighted big worm can do some nocturnal damage in the right situation. And that one can be crawled & / or swam/

A-Jay 

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26 minutes ago, gimruis said:

The fact that these stats were controlled by variable ONLY fishing from shore and ONLY using a topwater buzz bait completely eliminates so many variables that could have come into play.  Great statistics MFBAB

I've been keeping my records on a spreadsheet for the last couple of years and there are times when the trends almost jump off of the page when you are able to look at your fishing log in rows and columns....but this one was eluding me. 

I definitely had an inkling that the fishing had generally been better on the dark nights, and I've been able to get out the last few nights during this current full moon cycle-and the results have been fair with moments of average sprinkled in on these bright nights, so I was already thinking the moonlight was sort of a big factor.  Then when I read the exchange about the moon (quoted in the OP), I knew it was time to start digging just to either put my mind at ease or  start thinking about making some adjustments!!

I don't want to put this theory or data set forth as the end-all, certainly others results may vary, but I will begin to make some adjustments and over time we'll see how things go. 

Learning that you have a problem is only the first step, fixing it may take a little time but I think I'm finally getting my mind in the right place on the subject. 

I plan on basically pretending that the moon is to nighttime fishing as the sun is to daytime fishing, it it's up high on a clear night, I'm going to expect the fish to be tight to cover or on deeper structure.  If the wind blows and the clouds roll in, I'll expect them to be roaming or set up on feeding stations, etc...I'm just going to do what I'd normally do during daylight as the light and other conditions change. 

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I do much better on bright nights , but the water here is always stained  usually a foot or less of visibility .

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scaleface,

What sort of an approach are you using on bright vs. dark nights, or do you tend to use the same presentations regardless?  Just curious if you might be the reverse of my issue.

I feel like the more aggressive topwater approach I've been using across the board at night is hampering me during the brighter periods, but I would expect that if someone were T-Rig fishing exclusively (just as an example), they might have almost the exact opposite results as me. 

I do want to be clear though, I'm not trying to say that the fishing is worse on bright nights, just that it's worse using Buzzbaits and power oriented presentations almost exclusively, as I have been. 

I absolutely think that there is good fishing to be had during either bright or dark conditions, I've just been failing to make the proper adjustments for several reasons, but at least partially because I didn't fully realize how skewed my productivity was until today :) 

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Yeah, this all still blows me away.  Good stuff.  Thank you MFBAB for this thread, and A-Jay for kicking this all off with your earlier thread.

So, summer solstice tonight = BIG BRIGHT MOON!  I had a crazy evening before sundown (like, once-a-year crazy), and am getting ready to head back out for some high moon action.  I WON'T be throwing topwater though!  Thinking I'll try a keel weighted worm and a swim jig around grass.

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Now y'all making me think! ;)

I started night fishing for bass 44 yrs ago, usually starting in April & stopping in October. I have kept detailed records of all my trips day or night!

When I first started night fishing it was 3 days prior to & 3 days after the New Moon. The reason being was like many others I looked at just the effects of the gravitational pull only. With the sun, moon, & earth in a straight line during the New Moon the gravitational pull is three times stronger than the Full Moon. 

Coming from a saltwater background I knew the tidal movement was stronger during the New Moon & that had a huge affect on fishing. But not so much on bass in non-tidal waters.

After 10-12 yrs of record keeping & fishing every possible moon phase I realized it didn't matter.

"Three days either side of the full moon I tend to fish deeper offshore structure. 

Around the new moon I'll tend to move shallow.

Unless there's cloud cover, then it's a coin flip!"

This only applies to crystal clear nights with little or no wind which is rare; as I stated add cloud cover & everything changes.

I do not think a bass looking  a boat in bright sunlight is that spooked because it can see it from a distance but in bright moonlight the silhouette is upon them quickly & quietly!

Full moon nights with mostly clear skies (shallow water) I make longer cast while trying to keep my boat away from fish holding cover. 

Geez! Y'all covered so much I gonna have to reread it before I proceed!

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@MFBAB you're findings are pretty dead on with what I experience, except I use different baits. Scaleface had an interesting observation about the stained water being better on a bright night. I have access to both, so maybe next time it's going to be a bright moon, I'll opt for a more stained body of water and see if that changes my luck.

On bright nights, I've been having my best success on a white spinnerbait or white bladed jig. I too am seeing the moon as being almost the same as the sun on bright nights, which is why the lighter or more natural colors are producing better for me in those situations I believe. A solid blue or sapphire blue jig or bladed jig is one of my best all around producers at night.

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I'd agree that the stained water works better for me on average than the clear for the night buzzbait deal.  I catch more that way on average in water w less than say 18" viz regardless of the moonlight, but dark nights still outperform brighter ones for both clear & stained situations in my case.  My sample size included at least 40 different ponds with a variety of water colors. 

I do tinker with the blades (gold for dirty/silver or clear plastic for clear water or moonlit nights in dirty), skirts, trailers, retrieve speeds and sizes, but for me the buzzer definitely does not produce as well in ultra-clear water for either numbers or size.  I've been focused on running lots of new water for the last year, but if I were to start cherry-picking conditions to go after a good topwater bite on the clear ponds specifically, I would look for windy/cloudy/rainy/darker conditions; it just makes those clear water fish do some stewpid stuff that they won't do when they can see :) 

You and A-Jay done talked me into throwing some jigs in the near future!

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Another consideration region, A-Jay is up north in Michigan, Bluebasser is in Kansas, & I'm down on the Gulf Coast.

While there will be a lot of similarities there will be a lot of differences.

Do I look at the moon rise & set the same as sun rise & set?

Yes & no!

Only during the full moon!

When I say, "I fish the same areas at night as I do during the day", I'm talking physical locations of structure. Many will say the bass move up on feeding flats at night to which I answer they do during the day to!

The only areas I do change is night lighted areas; boat docks, boat launches, & shorelines with lights. Lighted areas attract bugs, bugs attract minnows, minnows attract bass. 

OK! Top water bite; dark vs bright moon

Again bright bluebird night no so much but throw in cloud cover & it changes.

Lures! No one mentioned deep cranks, traps, or hard jerkbaits!

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7 hours ago, Catt said:

Do I look at the moon rise & set the same as sun rise & set?

Yes & no!

Only during the full moon!

When I say, "I fish the same areas (baits) at night as I do during the day", I'm talking physical locations of structure. Many will say the bass move up on feeding flats at night to which I answer they do during the day to!

The only areas I do change is night lighted areas; boat docks, boat launches, & shorelines with lights. Lighted areas attract bugs, bugs attract minnows, minnows attract bass. 

OK! Top water bite; dark vs bright moon

Again bright bluebird night no so much but throw in cloud cover & it changes.

Lures! No one mentioned deep cranks, traps, or hard jerkbaits!

Ha, yes I guess I should have specified the Full moon on the Sun comparison, the New moon phase isn't very sun-like :)

When I quoted you before, I was talking about using the same baits as daytime, I think everyone tends to go out and focus on topwater only, black only, big baits, all of those stereotypical things associated w night fishing.  My point was, my interpretation of what you mean by fishing the same baits regardless of night/or day, is that you just go fishing and react to the conditions the way we are all supposed to do...You're not trying to reinvent the wheel at night.  AKA, if the weather moves in during the day or night, it causes the fish to change, if it gets bright and calm during the day or night, it causes a similar reaction, etc..You don't just go out and say, "well, the suns down, throw a big topwater all night!!" (which is to some extent what I've been doing a lot of the time, and a lot of the time it works, just not always). 

I'm agreeing totally on the topwater analysis, now I've just got to start "going fishing" at night on those brighter/calmer periods!

Although not mentioned, the Jerks (Floaters, wakers, and countdowns) and Traps are absolutely a big part of my arsenal, although I haven't been using them at night during the last year.  Deep cranks are tough for me from the bank though. 

I had committed to the topwater thing because I wanted to be able to go back and make an across the board comparison to all of these ponds I've been fishing for the last year, and I felt like limiting the bait selection as much as possible, at least for the night fishing trips, would help me to make a more consistent evaluation.  I was new to the numerous local ponds because I had always boat fished and also pretty green at night fishing in general a year ago, so I felt like "sacrificing" the first year or so would be a great way to build up a large fishing log covering as many different ponds, water colors, weather situations, pond types, seasonal patterns, etc. as possible. 

I've learned a lot from the experience, but although I have always entered the moon data for each trip, it never really occurred to me to look at the moon just at face value (bright/dark/rise/set), rather than through the lens of the solunar charts...so thanks again to you three for bringing it up in A-Jays thread!!

Lessons Learned: No guarantee of a topwater bite at night, only no sunburns!!

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Some think bass morph into a new creature when the sunsets & that they change locations (structure) just because of sunset.

What you will find in almost every body of water is there are shallow shoreline related bass, deep offshore related bass, & bass that move between the two.

As for lures if I'm catching em on a Texas Rig before sunset, the Texas Rig will continue to be productive after dark.

That is not to say the bite will not change during the night just like it'll change during the day.

@MFBAB the little light has went off ;)

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Most of my night fishing is done on a small 200 acre lake . There is 1 flat that has produced a few    big fish shallow . So I know they call this flat home . I have only caught two there during the day    .They were both maybe 10 foot deep . I've searched all over , deep , a drop off ...I'd like to find their daytime hideout . 

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If you're in dirty water, I doubt they are moving to anything very deep.  I'm assuming there's no grass, current, or anything like that.  I'd look for the best cover on that flat and deadstick something in the middle of it during daylight, or in the absence of obvious cover, I'd find the sharpest breaks adjacent to it, and probably the ones most associated with the bank, like corners or drains, but I'd expect the bass to be suspended adjacent to those breaks, not necessarily on the bottom, especially in summer, and especially if the lake gets a thermocline. 

That doesn't mean they are easy to catch, but they do that a lot in dirty water ponds/lakes here without a lot of cover (Ned Rig, Underspin, Jerkbait, sometimes ripping something like a jig off the bottom and letting it fall through them might trigger too).  With less than a foot of viz, you'll get a little temp/oxygen barrier around 3-4' deep a lot of the time in summer and they suspend on it when they aren't feeding. 

Were you catching them at 10' deep during summer or a cooler water period?  If it was summer, then they might suspending around 10' on a break or cover when they aren't active. 

That whole thing about suspending wouldn't apply for cold water, then I'd think bottom presentations. 

On second thought, forget all that.  I'd just throw a buzzbait at 'em on a dark night :) 

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1 hour ago, MFBAB said:

If you're in dirty water, I doubt they are moving to anything very deep.  I'm assuming there's no grass, current, or anything like that.  I'd look for the best cover on that flat and deadstick something in the middle of it during daylight, or in the absence of obvious cover, I'd find the sharpest breaks adjacent to it, and probably the ones most associated with the bank, like corners or drains, but I'd expect the bass to be suspended adjacent to those breaks, not necessarily on the bottom, especially in summer, and especially if the lake gets a thermocline. 

That doesn't mean they are easy to catch, but they do that a lot in dirty water ponds/lakes here without a lot of cover (Ned Rig, Underspin, Jerkbait, sometimes ripping something like a jig off the bottom and letting it fall through them might trigger too).  With less than a foot of viz, you'll get a little temp/oxygen barrier around 3-4' deep a lot of the time in summer and they suspend on it when they aren't feeding. 

Were you catching them at 10' deep during summer or a cooler water period?  If it was summer, then they might suspending around 10' on a break or cover when they aren't active. 

That whole thing about suspending wouldn't apply for cold water, then I'd think bottom presentations. 

On second thought, forget all that.  I'd just throw a buzzbait at 'em on a dark night :) 

The thermocline is usually in the fifteen foot range and I've caught plenty of bass that deep . I fish that depth on the points at night and catch nice fish . I just havent located the sweet spot on that flat .

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