UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Ouachita

Night Moves

Walmart pro Wesley Strader has fished night tournaments for years. One of his go-to lures is a locally made spinnerbait, shown here.

It's summertime, which means bass anglers with a taste for competition are probably tossing their weekly allowance - and their pride - into the kitty at jackpot tournaments down at the local res. What is it about fishing for gas money and bragging rights that makes summer night tournaments such an anticipated tradition?

In any case, if you fish the local "(insert day of the week)-nighter" on your lake, you're probably going to be doing a lot of tournament fishing after dark. And if you don't know it already, everything changes when the lights go out.

To help you keep your tournament success going while the folks at home are asleep, we laid out a step-by-step game plan on how to approach an after-dark event. As you'll notice, some of the steps are the same as those you'd employ in the preparation for a daytime event. Yet, there are a few key wrinkles to this guide that have paid off big for several Walmart FLW Tour pros.

Step 1: Gear Up

Night tournaments require special equipment and preparation. Black lights, fluorescent line, head lamps - these are not exactly essentials during the day, but they can be at night. Of course, you can fish without them, but not if you want to succeed consistently. They help keep you from wasting time.

"Having the right gear is critical," Walmart pro Wesley Strader says. "You can be more efficient and won't miss bites."

So what do you need? Glad you asked.

Black lights: There are new models with suction cups on them that can be easily attached to the gunwale. Other models must be hard-wired, such as the Punisher Lures CASTGLO L.E.D. Fishing Light (punisherlures.com) seen here. The purplish light they emit is just enough to allow you to see the bank, while not disturbing the fish. Plus, a black light pairs really well with ...

There are many products that will help make night fishing much easier.Fluorescent line: Strader's favorite is 17-pound-test Stren monofilament in clear blue, but any blue fluorescent line, when hit by the black light, will glow. That helps to see bites, make accurate casts and time the splashdown of a lure to avoid backlashes.

Glowing buoys: If you're planning on fishing offshore like Kettle Brand Chips pro Dan Morehead does, you better have buoys that glow. You can buy some that do, or else make your own. Morehead drills small holes in his buoys, drops in a couple mini glow sticks and then plugs the holes with duct tape.

Headlamps/Spotlights: Use the spotlight to navigate the lake and the headlamp to navigate your boat compartments and net fish.

Dimmed electronics: Dimming the backlight on your electronics allows you to maintain night vision better throughout the evening. Consult your owner's manual to learn how to dim your unit.

Step 2: Refine Your Lures

Lure selection is pretty simple after dark. For the most part, you can fish with a spinnerbait with a single Colorado blade and bulky jigs, although some pros prefer a soft-plastic worm. That's really all you need. How you modify and fish them, though, can be the game-changer.


Rattle Head single Colorado Spinnerbait.• The lighter the wire (0.30-inch diameter is ideal) the more vibration, which is a good thing.
• Everyone has a favorite spinnerbait trailer, but Strader and Morehead prefer the same trailer for night-fishing: a Zoom Big Salty Chunk. It's bulky and looks like a crayfish (more on that later).
• Trailer hooks are a must. If the fish are just slapping the lure or you're fishing around snaggy cover, thread the trailer hook through the soft-plastic trailer and rig it on the main hook. This will keep it from swinging around wildly.
• Both pros like to fish their spinnerbaits on or near bottom. Slowly crawling the lure so it's constantly touching bottom is one way. The other method is to lift and drop it on and off the bottom. Either use the rod or give a quick burst of cranks to get it just off the bottom and let the blade thump. Switch up techniques often, since bass change their preference regularly.


• Here again, you can't find a better trailer with more bulk than a Zoom Big Salty Chunk.
Omega Flipping Jig. • While any jig will work, one with a rubber skirt will flair more and create a larger silhouette in the dark.
• Add rattles to help the fish find the jig.
• Fish it as you would during the day.

Step 3: Game Plan

To make the transition easier for himself, Morehead equates night-fishing to deer hunting. Considering that he once won 14 of 16 night tournaments on his home lake, Kentucky Lake, placing second in the other two, Morehead's strategy is sound.

"Just like deer are nocturnal, I believe there is an entire population of bass that goes out at night to feed," Morehead says. "The key is fishing shallower than you would during the day because they are active fish."

"Shallower" is a relative term depending on where you fish. So let's look at two situations.

Shallow-Water Lakes:

Strader looks for shallow areas that top out anywhere from 2 to 7 feet deep and are adjacent to deep water.

"Nine out of 10 times, if I'm fishing at night, I'm fishing points," Strader says. "They're the quickest way for fish to get to the shallows and feed."

Offshore-Oriented Lakes:

Morehead stays offshore at night and targets the same types of ledges in the same areas that he would fish during the daylight, though shallower.

"If I was fishing ledges that top out at 17 feet during the day, I'll switch to ones that top out at 10 or 12 feet after dark," Morehead says.

Look for ledges that are next to the main river channel and have hard bottom. Rock seems to be especially important in the early summer, with shell beds being good as well. Wood can be a bonus most of the summer, but as you hit late summer, offshore ledges that have wood become more and more of a necessity to attract fish that have abandoned their postspawn schools.

Step 4: Practice

Many guys practice all day before a night tournament. It's not necessary.

"Practicing during the day is no use at night," Strader says. "It goes against everything the fish are doing."

Instead, fish the night - or better yet, several nights - beforehand. Try to locate a good spot to catch a keeper or two before it gets dark, then run-and-gun in practice to figure out where the fish are likely to be when the lights go out. Don't worry so much about catching fish as much as simply locating them.

Make sure to identify important landmarks after dark too.

"GPS has made it less of a necessity, but figuring out landmarks on shore is still a big deal at night," Strader says. "You may want to reference a mountaintop or a light on a house to keep yourself oriented and know where to cast."

Once you figure out which type of point or ledge the fish are using, refine it more. Are they on pieces of wood? On the steep backside of a slow-tapering point? Up on top? Do they want shell beds rather than gravel? Figure out such details so you have a milk run of spots.

Step 5: Execute

Do-or-die time. You've put in the practice and preparation. Now it's a matter of going out and catching the fish. The key is following your game plan.

For Strader, he likes to have a couple of fish in the box before it gets dark to alleviate the pressure. Plus, he figures he can always cull them out if he gets on a good bite after dark.

For Morehead, no fish equals no worries.

"Nighttime is the right time," Morehead says. "You can get right in a hurry if you find the sweet spot. You just can't panic, because panicking after dark is even worse than during the day. You need to stick to a game plan instead of trying new things. Trust your pattern, and keep running it. If you put in the preparation, it will pay off."

... Read more in our July 2012 issue of FLW Bass Fishing magazine.

Editor's note: This is just a sample of some of the compelling and informative content readers will find when they open the pages (or navigate through the online digital edition) of the July issues of FLW Bass Fishing and FLW Walleye Fishing. If you are not currently an FLW member, consider signing up to gain unlimited access to the many great fishing articles featured each and every month in FLW Bass Fishing and FLW Walleye Fishing magazines as well as a host of other benefits that an FLW membership has to offer.

Tags: sean-ostruszka  magazine-features 


Fishing the All-American

My wish is that everyone who competes in BFL tournaments will get to experience the All-American. It truly is an amazing experience, and a goal that everyone who competes on the weekends should strive to achieve. READ MORE »


Eric Jackson Q&A

We caught up with Jackson just prior to his Tour debut on Lake Okeechobee to learn more about his background in the outdoors and how he got started in tournament fishing. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 111 - Bradley Hallman



An Ill Wind at Okeechobee?

The wind can be a bass fisherman’s best friend or worst enemy. On its best behavior, it creates a temporary current, positions baitfish and helps an angler move around more stealthily in shallow water. READ MORE »


Aquatic Plant ID

Val Osinski, the owner of Gambler Lures and winner of the 2015 Costa FLW Series event on the lake, knows as much about the Big O as anyone and is an expert on finding and targeting bass in its various grasses. When we had the opportunity to ride along with him for a tour of the lake and to learn to identify some of the grasses, it was a no-brainer to accept. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 110 - JT Kenney and Kyle Monti



Poche Services Set

Funeral services for Dylan Poche, the 18-year-old Bass Fishing League angler who was stabbed to death Saturday night, are scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Freedom Life Church in Natchitoches, La. Visitation will take place at Freedom Life beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. READ MORE »


Time to Shine for Setzer

With three years on Tour and a Co-angler of the Year (COY) award under his belt, Braxton Setzer believes now is his time to start casting from the front. READ MORE »





Glenn Browne’s Timeout is Over

By his own admission, Glenn Browne isn’t the most organized guy. After the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee, he spent hours returning stuff to its proper place and tossing out the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates in a bass boat during a tournament. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 109 - Mike Surman



John Cox Gives Himself a Makeover

Last fall there was a rumor going around that John Cox was entering the electronics age and souping up his boat with sonar gear. Just to clear the air, the Florida pro reports that though he did flirt with the notion of incorporating an offshore strategy centered on depth finders into his act, he eventually abandoned the idea. READ MORE »


Austin Felix is Ready for the Big Time

Back in the spring of 2014, Austin Felix and his University of Minnesota teammate Chris Burgan were on the top of the FLW College Fishing world. With a win in the National Championship on Lake Keowee, Felix was headed to the Forrest Wood Cup as a pro. READ MORE »


FLW Canada Sets Tournament Sites, Dates

FLW Canada, one of four partners in FLW’s International Division of the Costa FLW Series, recently released its 2016 tournament schedule. The season includes three two-day regular-season qualifying events and a three-day championship. Anglers fish as two-person teams. READ MORE »


Jigging Spoons for Winter Bass

Of course, the application of the spoon hinges on finding bass in the first place, which is the biggest challenge. Walmart FLW Tour pros Jason Johnson and Clark Reehm are experts at finding winter bass in their respective regions of the country and offer FLW readers some advice on where to look and how to get them to bite the spoon. READ MORE »


How Bryan Thrift Got to be so Good

My No. 1 focus out here is to support my family and make a living. Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m going to make a valiant effort. READ MORE »


High School Fishing Makes the Grade

Jacob Smith and Daniel Clark are typical teenagers, at least in everything except bass fishing. In that, they are above average, as the two juniors from Travelers Rest High School in South Carolina proved in the TBF/FLW High School Fishing Florida Open held Jan. 17 on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »


FLW Mexico at the Starting Gate

Our excitement is so great that we wanted to share this important news with all of you. Believe me, fishermen in Mexico are talking it up as if it were dock talk surrounding the Forrest Wood Cup. What really matters at the end of the line is knowing that FLW is showing its true devotion to promoting bass fishing and making it a truly international sport. READ MORE »


Making the Case for Haynes as AOY

As many have noted, the Walmart FLW Tour schedule for this season looks a lot like it did in 2014. Back then, in his sophomore year on Tour, Randy Haynes had one of the strangest seasons you’ll ever see. He finished 104th at Okeechobee, 149th at Sam Rayburn (ouch) and cranked out top-30 finishes everywhere else. READ MORE »


FLW Podcast 108 - Jason Lambert