Night birds, especially aquatic night birds, make strange sounds-like a kid puking. The small waves, as they break over the gravel/rocky shore, sounds like the incessant giggles of a gaggle of school girls. The croak of tree frog is reminiscent of a baby breaking wind. The plop-plop of my Jitterbug in four feet of dark water, 30-yards from the boat and just short of the bank, tells me the cast did not hit the bank. That is a good sound. All is well.
I can no longer see at night. But, the bigger fish, especially smallmouth, tend to hit better at night when the daytime temperature is going to be 100. As a result, with life jacket securely in place and my feet firmly ensconced in Mark Campbell's big, deep breathing boat, I am fishing in the dark.
There was a time, a time when I could see about as well at night as in the daylight, when I loved to fish at night. I would return to Cove Hollow dock just as Jack Evins was launching.
And, no brag, just fact, I was good at it. Over the years, fishing Priest, Center Hill and Dale Hollow, I caught a lot of big smallmouth at night. By big, I mean the ones from 4-6-pounds.
I saw no reason to change my lures or tactics on this hot, summer night, nearly 15 years later. But there has been one major change. Back when I was young and bullet proof, (spelled "stupid".), I only wore my life jacket when the boat was running. Now, I wear it all the time. BTW- Now, I also carry a cell phone as per orders from my wife.
On one rod, I had a 1/8-ounce GitZit in a dark green, baby bass color. That would be thrown on the banks that had some moonlight, shallower banks. It was rigged with the lead head, inside the body. On a second rod, I tied a 1/8-ounce black and blue jig with a dark blue, crawfish trailer. That was for the rocky or gravel banks, slightly deeper water. It is a consistent, night producer. On rod three, was a moccasin-colored soft, plastic worm with a ¼-ounce weight. The fourth rod, featured a ¼-ounce, bass style Roadrunner. That was for deep water, off-shore structure. And the last rod was for pre-dawn action. It held a black Jitterbug.
Night fishing aficionados, right now are saying, "What? No dark spinner bait?" Trust me, I had one handy, it just wasn't tied on.
The reason being, except for the Jitterbug, I want to go bump in night. Make no mistake, the spinner bait in dark colors is a killer at night.
Most of the big bass I have caught at night, I caught bumping something-either structure or the bottom-and fishing slowly. Ninety percent of the strikes, were so light, they were nothing more than just a change in the feel of the retrieve. Now and then, the familiar tap of a classic strike would come. Often, it is a drum or a buzzard, (hybrid, stripe, striper). But in the deep summer, the feeding pattern was such that sometimes, the line just felt "funny". When that happens, set the hook. Maybe it is a rock or log, maybe it is a fish. Take the chance, set the hook.
Every one of the five rods-all open face, spinning reels-was loaded with 6#-test monofilament. Why? Reason number one is feel. I can feel the lure better. Number two is lure action. I can get better action out of the lure with light line. I can visualize it as it comes back. Number three is stretch. I want stretch in my line. Not one time in over 60-years of fishing has line stretch caused me to miss a strike or lose a fish. What it has done, is allow me to get free from unwanted rocks or logs. By using something called a bow and arrow technique, I can "pop" the lure free. Plus, over the years, I have found four and six pound test to be plenty strong enough if the drag is properly set and you know how to back-pedal a reel. I have had very few fish break off. I buy Sigma, six-pound test line by 5,000-yard spools. That is almost three-miles, a decade or more of fishing line. I keep it in my freezer. The line I am using now, is almost 20-years old and still ultra-strong. I bought that spool for $24 from Sonny at the old Snow's Hill Bait Shop. I expect it will outlast me.
So that is how I went to J. Percy Priest equipped to battle the brown fish with Mark, "Big Bird" Campbell.
As we pulled onto one of my favorite roadbeds, I reached for the GitZit. The roadbed meanders through 8-11-feet of water and is a prime, nocturnal spot for me.
I recall a night, way back in the 80's, when the Late Russell Jackson and I fished a night tournament out of Elm Hill. At 10:45, we had one keeping fish in the boat. At 11: 30, we left the road bed with a limit of five that later tipped the scales at 23-9 and we had big fish, a 6-2, largemouth. All of them came from that roadbed and all hit a black, 1/8-ounce Doll Fly with a blue, U-2 trailer.
I take up the slack and slowly raise the rod tip a couple inches. I give it a slight twitch and let it settle. On the third or fourth twitch, it slightly tightens up. I set the hook.
You lose a lot of lures on that roadbed. The sides are lined with stumps or something. I have set the hook in a lot of those stumps.
But, when something on the end of you line goes bump in the night...
Set The Hook!
Word of warning: When the water is higher than usual, be especially careful. You may think you are in deep water and actually be in dangerous territory.
You can't judge by how far you are off the bank.
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