When it comes to fishing for sport, there aren't many fish as sought after as the largemouth bass. More people in North America fish for largemouth bass than any other species of fish. These bass, though, can be finicky creatures that are hard to catch.
How then do you maximize your chances of catching them?
Picking the perfect time of day to go fishing is one of the best ways. Without taking seasonal variations into account, the best fishing for largemouth bass happens early in the morning, from dawn to about 8:00 a.m. and in the late afternoon from about 5:30 p.m. until dusk. Just remember dusk and dawn.
They're most active at these times because this is generally when they're hunting for food. Bass are very aggressive when searching for food, and they'll attack just about anything that moves while they're hunting. Although bass do most of their hunting with their sense of sight, they don't do it in bright light conditions. In fact, they see best in low light, which is why dawn and dusk are the perfect times to fish for them.
Because they see best in low light, you'll also have good luck catching them on very cloudy days or in murky, muddy water. It isn't just that they see well in low light, either. They also prefer to hunt in these conditions because it makes them practically invisible to their prey.
Does this mean you can only catch bass when they're searching for their meals? No, you can catch them at other times, but it definitely makes it easier when they're hungry.
Sometimes you can rouse a lazy, well-fed largemouth bass by getting lucky and striking close to him with your initial cast. This works because even bass who are full will strike out at something that practically falls in their lap, so to speak.
There are other times when you can potentially catch a few bass. Some of these include at night if there is a full moon and in the warmest part of the day during winter. We'll discuss the best seasonal times to hunt bass a little further down.
Because overcast, cloudy days lead to low-light conditions in the water, they're great days on which to fish for bass. Zoom Salty Super Fluke are some of the best lures to use on these types of days.
These are soft, jerk-bait lures that bass go nuts for, especially when it's cloudy outside. Depending on the temperatures accompanying these cloudy days, though, you'll want to use a different method of fishing. All jerk-bait is used with a type of "rip - rip - pause" motion, but when it's cold outside, you'll need to wait as long as six seconds between each rip.
When it's warmer out, the fishing process is much faster. You don't need to wait nearly as long between rips. Different bass fishers use hooks between 2/0 and 3/0 sizes. Bait the flukes with the hook directly into the nose. This allows for the greatest movement while reeling.
These flukes work well in most every season, as long as the weather is accommodating; however, they work best in the fall, when a largemouth bass' main food source is shad. The flukes shine brightly and catch the attention of lots of fish.
Anglers are often divided over which colors they perceive to be "the best," but we prefer natural colors. These include green albino, Houdini and smoking shad. There's also a rainbow shad color that works fine too.
You can also use spinning tackle when fishing for bass on overcast days. Medium-weight lures work best, especially if you're using a spinning reel as opposed to a baitcaster. This type of tackle also allows you to fish in both the shallows and the deeps as you please.
Bass have the same senses as most other fish - touch, taste, smell and hearing. However, where they really shine is with their sense of sight. We discussed this briefly above, but we didn't talk about why their vision is so great.
Bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, have excellent, sophisticated vision. They can't see in total darkness, but they can see in very low light.
Their eyes have a very distinct design. They almost "absorb" light in order to enhance their depth perception and their ability to see colors. The lower the light, the more their eyes absorb it, allowing them to see far better than their prey in these conditions, making them great hunters.
That's why it's best to fish for bass in low-light times of day, such as very early in the morning and very late in the evening; those are their prime hunting times.
When you hear the word "predator," you usually think of lions, cheetahs or tigers. Not many people think of fish unless those fish happen to be sharks. Bass, though, are definitely predators. In fact, they're ambush predators. They like to hide in underwater plants and other areas which can conceal them. Then they strike out quickly, grabbing prey such as shad, bluegill and frogs who have no idea they were anywhere near them.
Knowing how bass like to hunt for their food is important to learning how to catch them effectively. It'll also help you figure out where and when you'll be the most successful at catching them.
The best time to catch bass in the winter months is usually right in the middle of the day. For most areas, the prime time is between noon and four in the afternoon.
If you live in the southern United States where the water doesn't often get cold enough to freeze, you can conceivably catch bass year-round, but the prime timing is different.
When it gets really cold outside, bass tend to move around a lot less than normal. They're sluggish and hang out around the bottom of the water; they don't like to expend a lot of energy. However, they still have to eat, and they usually do this during the warmest part of the day, which is between noon and four.
This is the time of day in winter when the temperature reaches its highest point. This causes both predator and prey to move around a lot more. The light conditions are less important to bass during these times because they're simply trying to find the warmest spots possible to feed themselves.
If you live in areas where your lakes and rivers freeze over in the winter, you may think you're out of luck when it comes to bass fishing. Most people agree that fishing for bass through ice is impossible.
Those people are wrong.
You can go ice fishing for bass in the winter months. It's definitely more challenging, but it can be done. If you live in one of these areas, your prime bass fishing time is a little shorter than in the warmer areas. Bass under ice tend to be most active between the hours of noon and three in the afternoon.
In the springtime, bass fishing is best done right at dusk. Early morning before dawn can also yield some fairly good results. Springtime is a heavy feeding time for bass because they're eating to regain what they lost over the cold winter months. They do most of this hunting right before the sun goes down, making the prime fishing time for bass between six p.m. and dusk.
There are three main factors to consider when determining the best fishing time for bass: temperature, depth and color perception and optimal lighting.
In the spring, the temperature at dusk is just starting to cool down from the warmer temperatures of the day, meaning it isn't too hot or too cold.
This is also the perfect time light-wise for bass fishing because the sun is going down, making it harder for the bass' prey to see them, but making it very easy for the bass to see the prey. The light also helps them see color more easily and have the most accurate depth perception possible.
Because all three of these factors are perfect at dusk, it's the optimal fishing time. Early morning is okay too, though. While the temperature hasn't quite reached where it needs to be in the early mornings, the other two factors are spot-on, meaning you're still likely to catch quite a few fish.
It's worth noting that this guideline is for mid- to late-spring. When spring is first beginning, it's still going to be cool and the daylight hours are still going to be much like they are in winter. For this reason, if you go bass fishing during the first of spring, you'll want to use the guidelines for fishing in the winter, which means your best time of day for catching bass will be in the middle of the day.
When the end of spring rolls around, you'll be able to use the guidelines for either spring or summer, which we'll address next, to pick the perfect bass fishing time for your area.
Because summer and spring are both in warmer months, the best times for fishing for bass in the summer are going to closely mirror those of the spring. You're going to have the best luck at dusk. However, because temperatures are warmer than in the spring, you'll have just as good a chance of catching bass at dawn in the summer, as well.
These times are prime bass fishing times in the summer because dusk and dawn are when bass are most active in the summer months. The light is perfect for their hunting during these times, but the water is also at the perfect temperature. Bass are just like humans in at least one respect; they don't like to be extremely hot.
So during the hottest part of the day in the summer, bass keep low onto the bottom of the water's bed, as far away from the sun's rays as possible. In the mornings, before the sun is fully up and the day hasn't warmed up and in the evenings, when the sun is going down and the water is beginning to cool down, they rise up and start hunting.
You can have some luck fishing in the middle part of the day in the summers, but only if it's a cloudy, overcast day. On these days, the clouds are covering the sun, and the water isn't quite so hot, giving bass incentive to swim around and hunt for food.
Night fishing can also be very lucrative if there's a full moon in the sky. The full moon provides enough light for bass to clearly see in the water, so they like to come out and hunt for food.
It's not a great idea to go bass fishing at dawn on the morning after a full moon because the bass are likely to be full and tired and not receptive. Don't worry though; they'll definitely be hungry again by dusk of that same day.
In the early part of fall, fishing patterns for bass mirror that of summer fishing for bass. As you move into the later part of fall, closer to the winter months, you'll want to adjust your fishing schedule to be similar to the winter fishing guidelines.
Mostly in fall, though, the best bass fishing is done at dusk, with early morning fishing being a great back-up plan.
Fall is another very heavy feeding time for bass because they're getting ready for the upcoming winter months. During the fall months, bass are eating everything they can get in their mouths. Their favorites are bluegill, minnows, shad and small frogs.
They hunt the heaviest between the hours of about six in the evening and dusk. Again, these hours are the best hours because of the three main factors in a bass' feeding schedule: temperature, depth and color perception and light.
Dusk in the fall meets all three of these requirements. The temperature is just right to entice bass to hunt. The light is low, allowing them the best possible depth perception and the strongest ability to see color. The low light also gives them the ability to conceal themselves and remain unseen by prey, while still allowing them the ability to see prey perfectly.
The early morning hours also mimic these three features, as well, with the exception of the temperature, which may not rise quite enough in the mornings to reach optimal temperature for bass activity. Still, if you can't get out on the water at dusk, your second-best option will be hitting the water in the early morning hours.
As we've already mentioned, you'll want to adjust that prime time to midday as it moves into later fall. In late fall, the temperatures will start falling, meaning it's too cold for bass in the mornings and at dusk. They'll be more active in the middle of the day when its warmer by late fall.
As we've already mentioned, bass will definitely be out on full moon nights. However, on nights when the moon isn't full, can you still go bass fishing and hope to catch anything?
Well, bass mostly hunt using their sense of sight. On nights when the moon isn't full, there isn't going to be a lot of light for bass to see by, meaning they aren't as likely to be out hunting because they simply can't see prey.
Bass are lazy. They don't like to swim around and waste a bunch of energy hunting in areas where they don't have enough light to see. This doesn't mean they don't eat at night, though. It simply means they change their hunting habits.
Instead of swimming around looking for food, at night bass will usually bed down in specific locations where they know small prey is likely to pass by them. Then they can strike out and grab the prey without wasting a lot of energy.
What does this mean for you?
It means bass fishing at night isn't going to be very easy on nights when the moon isn't full. On a full moon night, bass are just as aggressive as they are during the day, and you'll have a lot of luck catching and bringing home a full catch of fish.
However, on non-full moon nights, this just isn't the case. That doesn't mean you can't bass fish at night, but it does mean that it's going to be harder, and you're still not going to catch nearly as much as you would during the day. If you do insist on nighttime fishing, though, there's a very specific style of fishing you'll need to use.
You'll want to use a method of casting called "fan casting," where you cast out in an area just like a fan going around in a circle. You'll want to move about six inches between each cast, and you'll have more luck if you swap out your bait regularly.
When it comes to choosing baits, you also want something that's very flashy and eye-catching. Your bait needs to be big, gaudy and loud. Bass won't be wasting energy hunting for food, but if something big and loud and bright falls in front of them, they might be tempted to investigate it. Buzz baits, poppers, spinners and swim baits are best.
Weather will definitely have a big impact on any fishing trip. Cold fronts, especially, will change up your methods for fishing for bass. If there's a cold front coming in, you won't need to wait for the optimal time of day for fishing. The bass will sense the front and go crazy for food. Two to three hours before a cold front, you'll be able to catch a ton of bass.
Once the cold front has settled in though, you'll want to wait several hours for the fish to adjust to their new temperatures. The cold will make the bass lazy and more sluggish. You'll have a harder time catching them, but it won't be impossible, especially if you're fishing during the warmest part of the day.
Because overcast days provide optimal light conditions for bass, rainy and cloudy days will make your fishing trips much more successful.
Always make sure you have the right equipment for the season, time of day and weather conditions.
Oftentimes, fishermen - especially relatively new, inexperienced fishermen - don't want to follow all these rules and guidelines and just want someone to tell them which is better - morning or evening? The trouble is there is simply no easy answer to that question.
You can have great luck fishing for bass in both the morning and the evening. In the fall and spring months, there seems to be a tendency for bass to come out more in late afternoon/early evening, but morning fishing yields good results too. In late spring and all through summer, early morning fishing might possibly yield more results, but afternoon fishing works too.
In the winter months, of course, the best fishing is done neither in the morning nor the evening. Midday fishing is best when it's cold. Furthermore, on mornings after a full moon, you're not going to have a lot of luck no matter what time of year it is.
So, in conclusion, we're of the opinion that for most of the year, you're going to have pretty even results both around dawn and around dusk: dawn until eight a.m. and about six in the evening until dusk. There are some exceptions, which we listed above, and if you ever forget, you can always come back and look at our handy guide.
However, if you're feeling lazy and don't want to stick strictly to the guidelines, your best bet is to remember dusk and dawn. You'll have very successful fishing trips at both these times at least 80% of the year.