Night fishing for bass can be a truly exhilarating experience. The strike, headshakes and tail walking — sensations to behold during daylight hours — are even more pronounced and magnified when the moon settles in for the night. Although typical baits such as topwaters, cranks and spinnerbaits will always catch fish, changing things up with a flipping jig can be a bonafide big bass producer. Here's the lowdown for working them under the full moon.
Moon River. When darkness falls, large and smallmouth bass will both attack these baits with formidable efficiency and skill.
Not Just a Largemouth Lure
Flipping jigs are predominantly thought of as a largemouth bass lure. This is certainly true when the sun is shining, but when darkness falls, large and smallmouth bass will both attack these baits with formidable efficiency and skill. The main reason for this is the prey they represent.
A flipping jig is the spitting image of a crawfish, both in shape and movement. As night falls, these nocturnal crustaceans begin to forage for food amongst the open areas of the lake bottom, crawling out from the dark crevices they occupy during the day. This in turn brings both species of bass out for the hunt, cruising sand and rock bottoms while gobbling up these delectable treats.
For a good flipping jig bite, your body of water should contain a decent population of crawfish. Most lakes will have them, and it is as easy as flipping over a few shoreline rocks to unearth the answer.
Location is Key
In order to catch bass at night with a jig, you need to figure out where their hunting grounds are. When dealing with largemouth, I look for sand or rock flats, with a small spattering of vegetation thrown in. Rock points will also produce, as will breaklines. Sand beaches can also be a hot bed, as crawfish flock to these areas when searching out food. If working a deep rock lake, look for slab, rock or boulder shoals.
I will generally work a flipping jig in water upwards of fifteen-feet deep, but as a rule, will start in very shallow water and work outwards. I am still amazed at the skinny water I routinely find largies in at night — their backs barely under the water while chasing down craws!
Target rock shoals for smallmouth bass. These large expansive "flats" will always hold cruising smallies, and offer a tremendous jig bite come night fall. Other areas to consider are sand or mud flats, rock points and humps. My most productive depth for smallmouth is between 5 and 15 feet, but this can vary throughout different bodies of water.
No matter which specie of bass you target at night, pay attention to their location during early morning forays on the water. They won't move far from that position come night time.
Tricks of the Trade
Working a flipping jig at night is quite different from daytime use, mainly due to the reduced vision the angler has. Instead of flipping or pitching to recognizable structure points, a night angler is blindly casting to larger areas that are spread out before them.
Twins. As this photo shows, flipping jigs replicate crawfish to a T.
When fishing shallow water (less than 5 feet deep) I prefer an underhanded pitching motion when making a cast. This will create a splashless entry, leaving less chance of a spooked fish. When faced with deeper water, stealth and silence is not so much of a concern. In fact, a splash over deep water can actually bring fish up off bottom, slamming the jig before it makes its way down. This often happens when smallmouth are aggressively feeding.
It is best to let the fish dictate the style of retrieve they want. If dealing with aggressive fish, let the jig sink to the bottom, bringing it back to the boat with 6-inch or foot-high lifts and drops. This will replicate a crawfish scooting about bottom. When fish are in a more subdued mode, deadstick your jig on bottom for 15- or 20-second intervals, slowly dragging it inches at a time back to the boat. You'll soon discover what the fish want, and can alter your technique to best suit their needs.
Keep casts within 20 or 30 feet of the boat. The more line you have out, the less sensitivity you will feel, and working jigs at night is all about feeling your bait and strikes.
Bass will often attack a flipping jig at night in a number of ways. Largemouth will either slam the bait, for which there is no debating the strike, or softly suck it up and swim off to the side. This is where angler feel comes into play. By keeping most of the slack out of your line, these "cunning" strikes can be better felt.
Smallmouth will also slam a jig, but many times will "smack" it in fast succession. This can be felt through the line and rod as a series of "tap-tap-taps." It is my belief that this is how smallies immobilize crawfish before engulfing them. (If you feel a "tap" at night, you can be certain that Mr. Bronzeback has come to play.)
The Setup. The author ties on a brown fliping jig before taking the first cast of the night.
When choosing a jig for night fishing, a few pointers should be taken into consideration. A do-all size for the bait is 1/2 ounce, and this will cover most conditions you are faced with. If dealing with very shallow water, drop down to a 3/8 or a 5/16-ounce jig. Dark hues are your best bets, with black, black/blue, black/purple and brown being the favored choices.
Look for a bulky jig, as this will give off a greater silhouette in the darkened water. Pork or plastic trailers both work well, with a crawfish imitator being your best bet. Four-inch trailers have worked well for me.
Rattles are mandatory for flipping at night, as the "clicking" sound will attract fish from a distance, while also giving the lure a lifelike sound. Choose the loudest rattles you can to bring in the big boys.
Always use a commercial fishing scent product on your jigs. This will attract fish to your bait, while also providing a natural taste for that extra second or two of hold.
A flipping rod is mandatory, as is a baitcast reel. Choose a rod between 7-foot, 2 inches and 7-foot, 6 inches for optimum casting, sensitivity and fighting capabilities. I still rely on mono line for my bass fishing, and usually outfit my reels with line in the 20- or 25-pound test. Braided line is an excellent choice for night fishing, and will enable you to feel those taps and strikes more effectively. Choose a test rating that is comparable to the mono strengths.
Toss a flipping jig under the full moon this coming season. They work great on largies and smallmouth and offer up some fun times (and big fish!) for those willing to give them a go come night fall.