Night fishing

Cool, quiet fishing that leaves plenty of time for family

One of the big misconceptions about Lake Martin is how good a fishery it really is. One of the characteristics that makes Lake Martin so popular with recreational boaters and swimmers is its relatively deep and clear water. This is also a characteristic that has frequently haunted the bass angler who is new to Lake Martin. Clear water that appears to offer limited cover for the fish could be a little intimidating to someone new to the lake. The fact is Lake Martin is producing some of the best quality bass I’ve seen lately, as evidenced by many recent tournament results.

One of the other misconceptions about Lake Martin is that it’s not very fishable this time of year due to all the recreational traffic. I’ve enjoyed fishing Lake Martin more at this time of year the past few seasons, because we take family trips to the lake. I’ve found that if I get out early, the boat traffic is really not all that bad until about 10 or 11 a.m. This means I can get a good five or six hours of fishing in peace; and then, make it back to hang out with the family the rest of the day.

Night fishing is another alternative. There is little to virtually no recreational traffic most nights, especially the later it gets – with July 4th being the exception for obvious reasons. The air temperatures at night are much cooler, and it’s a unique type of fishing that you really don’t get to do any other time of the year. For me, night fishing provides an escape from the rigors of tournament fishing, yet it offers elements that help me hone my skills.

Of all the fishing I’ve done in my life, there are still individual trips that stand out, one of which is a trip I took with my dad one summer. I imagine I was around 8 or 9 years old.

I remember him saying that we wouldn’t leave the house until 9 o’clock that night. We launched our boat at Kowaliga and proceeded to bounce around fishing pier lights that hung close to the water (there were no underwater lights back then).

I was amazed at how many fish we/he caught, and they just seemed to bite better the later it got. I dozed off between a few stops since I was not adapted to pulling all nighters yet, but when I was awake, I had a blast. I must have, because that trip stands out vividly after all those years.

When I began fishing from a boat by myself, I fished a lot at night during summer vacations. It’s something that I’ve always looked forward to at this time of year.

When I moved to the Montgomery area, I started fishing Lake Jordan some at night and quickly learned that it was a little bit different. I was lucky enough to have a friend show me how to fish a spinnerbait in the dark.

I learned that catching bass at night didn’t necessarily require a pier light, and I realized that bass use other senses (I suspect their lateral line and hearing) to hone in on a lure at night. After enjoying a lot of success on the Coosa and even Tennessee river lakes with a nighttime spinnerbait, I figured I’d give it a try on Lake Martin. Sure enough, it worked here, too.

My nighttime spinnerbait configuration is all about making noise or, more importantly, vibration. I have more success fishing the bait close to the bottom with a pulsing retrieve. A solid black, black-blue, or black-red skirt is best on a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce spinnerbait. This may sound a little heavy, but keep in mind you want the bait to stay down in the water column.

The most important component of the nighttime spinnerbait is the blade. I like a bigger (No. 5 or 6) single Colorado blade most of the time, but it seems that a No. 4 single Colorado might be better for Lake Martin. Typically, I prefer my blade color to be gold or a black nickel. I know it seems odd to throw a black bait in the dark of night. I presume it creates the best silhouette for the fish, but whatever the case, it works. I know this, because I’ve caught more on the black colors at night than traditional daytime colors.

I throw the spinnerbait on a 7-foot 3-inch heavy action Halo Twilite rod, a 7:1 baitcaster and 15-pound Seaguar Invis X flourocarbon. This is a pretty stout rod for a spinnerbait, but I need to be able to get a solid hookset after using such a slow retrieve.

The flourocarbon line gives me added sensitivity and keeps my bait from riding up as much on the retrieve. Most strikes feel like the blade just stops turning, and the line goes slack. When I feel that change of pace in my bait, I immediately set the hook upward. It seems like the fish has been tracking the bait when they strike similar to a swimming jig or swimbait, and you need to be able to take up the extra slack as their momentum continues towards the boat.

Deep down, I enjoy night fishing in the summer, because it’s unique; it’s cooler; and it’s usually pretty peaceful; however, I have noticed there are elements that have helped me become a better tournament fisherman.

Fishing at night causes me to be more in tune with my bait. I notice the feel of the bait and how it reacts to the speed of my retrieve and the movement of my rod. It also helps me recognize a bite better.

Fishing in the dark is a little like being blind folded. I can see some, but I seem to key in more closely to my electronics for help in determining where I am and what is going on around the boat. It has certainly helped me improve my skills as an offshore angler, and that’s been helpful to a guy who prefers beating the bank.

When considering areas to fish at night, remember places in which you’ve had success during the day at this time of the year. Those will typically be brush piles, rock piles, stumps, etc., that are close to deep water.

It’s best if you have a nice creek or river channel swing close to the structure. You might think the fish are more apt to roam when it’s dark, but it seems they cling more tightly to cover. The situation is similar to muddy water in which their visibility is limited, so having a nice object to relate to seems to give them a sense of safety as much as an ambush point. I can’t say I blame them with the big stripers that patrol the open water like sharks.

In the end, if you enjoy fishing, don’t be deterred from the joys of fishing Lake Martin in the hot summer. Though I can choose from a lot of different fisheries when I’m home, I still enjoy all that the lake has to offer.

I hope this summer you’ll find some time to enjoy what a great fishery Lake Martin can be. It is definitely a multi-sport reservoir and should get the credit is deserves as such.


Greg Vinson is a full-time professional angler on the Bassmaster Elite Series and PAA tours. He lives in Wetumpka and grew up fishing on Lake Martin.