Can Bass See At Night?


Bass fishing takes a certain skill.  Add to this the cover of night and the odds may seem stacked against you.  Read on below to ease your anxiety and increase your odds of catching more bass at night.

Bass have surprisingly impressive sight and can see at night thanks to special physiological characteristics.  Their nighttime vision is stronger when ambient light is present or water clarity is high. The construct of their eyes make bass successful hunters at night.

Yes, bass can see at night, but how do outside stimuli affect them when they are in their nighttime habitat and you are out for a night of fishing fun?  Read on to learn more about how a bass’ sight can work in your favor and how it can work against you if you are not prepared.

Factors That Affect How A Bass Sees At Night

  • The Eyes and Brain
    • Bass eyes consist of a relatively huge ocular lobe.  According to Chris Horton, the size of the ocular lobe in bass indicates that their brain invests “much of its neurological resources in its ability to see” (source).
    • The construct of the eyes and the brain’s dedication to sight make bass successful hunters at night, one of their favorite times to feed.
  • The Lighting
    • More light means bass can see sharper images and from further away. As they swim deeper, the quality of their sight diminishes.
    • With increased light, bass can see color instead of just shadows and movement, making lure selection more important.
    • While a new moon will not provide much light, a full moon can illuminate the water nicely for bass to see better.
    • Artificial lighting from the boat or a nearby dock can help bass to see; however, their sight is limited, directional, and can be blocked depending on the angle of light penetration.
  • The Water
    • During or after a rain, the water can become cloudy or muddy.  If the weather is inclement before or when you cast off, know that bass cannot see as well to find prey.
    • In cloudy water, switching to a lure that contrasts with the surroundings will improve the bass’ ability to see it; especially in the darker surroundings of night.
    • Whether the water is clear or cloudy, bass are actively seeking food at night.  Make sure you have the right gear on hand regardless of water conditions to increase your odds of a successful outing.

Eyesight Makes Bass A Top Predator

Understanding Bass Vision

  • Their large eyes protrude leaving only two blind spots that are directly below and behind. Having no eyelids helps to maximize the bass’ use of sight. Since bass feed primarily by sight, this is arguably their most important sense.
  • Their peripheral, distance, and detail discernment are impressive.  Bass have 180-degree lateral vision on both sides, can see up to 50 feet away in clear water, and can distinguish fine detail of an object.
  • The positioning of the eyes allows each to have a wide arc of vision.  Bass locate prey laterally and then use frontal sight to focus on their mark before striking.
  • Bass respond to motion.  They can track fast-moving objects and are attracted to erratic movement.  Night or day has less significance when we consider this inherent skill.
  • Research shows that bass have retinal rods and cones that enable them to see a small range of color.  Although this particular capability decreases at night, it is another attribute that gives bass an advantage in finding food.
  • Under the right conditions, bass can see beyond the water surface even at night.  If you move quickly or wear reflective clothing they can get spooked.  Be ready when you cast too, as bass may see the lure coming and react faster than you can.

6 Tips For Bass Fishing At Night

  1. Pick Your Fishing Spot.  Pick a fishing spot with clear water.  The clearer the better, but a minimum of 2 to 4 feet of visibility is ideal when fishing for bass at night.  Muddy lakes can be the bane of your existence since it is harder for bass to spot bait.
  2. Anchor Your Fishing Boat.  Anchor your boat in a location likely to have a concentration of bass.  The best locations feature a hump, gravel bar, rock points, or drop off.  In general, deep water close to the shore is a good fishing spot.  In these areas, the natural food chain is in action.  Smaller fish live and eat here, attracting larger fish which attract larger fish, and so on.
  3. Patience And Fishing Go Hand-In-Hand.  The sound of your boat and human activity during daylight hours can keep bass at bay.  Once people have departed, the sun goes down and your boat is situated and quiet, cast your line and wait. Like in the movie “Field of Dreams” where the players showed up at night, trust that if you fish it, the bass will come.
  4. Go After The Big Fish.  If you are after the big bass, night is a prime time to fish. Night is when they are out and about.  Put your big lures in action and avoid catching too many smaller fish because the commotion will alert the big bass roaming nearby.
  5. Don’t Scare The Bass!  Night means less ambient noise.  Doing your best to mimic the natural environment will boost the return on your fishing expedition.  As stated before, keep still and quiet.  Also, minimize lights on your boat as very bright lights can be alarming to bass.  Finally, you don’t want to overwork your bait when fishing for bass at night.  
  6. Have Your Rods Ready To Go.  Prepare your rods before you venture out on the water.  This is a difficult and frustrating task to do in the dark and will waste precious fishing time.  Have several rods baited and ready to go when you leave the dock.  As for the inside of the boat, it should be organized and clear of loose items.  If your boat is cluttered you increase the chance of injury and unnecessary noise.

Nighttime Lures for Bass – 101

There is a wide range of lures for successful nighttime bass fishing.  Within this selection, however, we find consistencies among opinions about what lures are best.

Travis Faulkner and Don Wirth prefer “bold and loud lures” for shallow waters (source).  A large spinnerbait with a rubber imitation or a “standard jig tipped with a chunk trailer” are their go-to picks.  They also suggest that it is prudent to choose your lure color after observing moonlight and cloud cover.

Many night-fishing anglers agree spinnerbaits are best overall, but they have favorites when it comes to attachments, color, and weight.  Some prefer a red pork frog, rubber craw, or spider jigs.  Others may reach for a red/purple or black skirt.  Still, others use larger hooks that are masked at night, and heavier baits for deeper water.  Additionally, rubber worms and lizards can entice bass with their movement and subsequent vibration.  If there is a significant wind, a larger spinnerbait can go further in attracting attention.

Worm fishing can be an effective night time fishing technique.

Successfully catching bass at night isn’t just about the lure itself.  It takes the finesse of a practiced angler to get the job done.  The angler must gage when and how to move the lure.  Sometimes, precise movement or vibration is called for and at other times erratic movement is what attracts the bass.

Expert fisherman and lure designer, Mitch Looper, recommends knowing where to use which type of lure (source).  With grass or other thick cover, use a spinnerbait which is less likely to get hung up.  When fishing among lily pads and the like, jigs will sound the dinner bell for larger bass.  Big bass also respond to worm imitating baits near weed lines.  If the weeds are very thick, a buzzbait will call bass out.

Careful color selection of your lure is important.  Fishery scientist, Ralph Manns, says

“…a black belly against [a] lighter sky shows well.  A patch of yellow-green or light blue against a dark background increases the chance of a bass detecting a lure when it’s looking down or outward” (source). 

He explains colors that contrast to the surroundings are what stand out to bass at night.

While many night anglers use black spinnerbaits, some experts report enormous success using baits that are white in color.  One of these experts is Dean Stroman.  He says, “White crankbaits and white jig and craw are…a major part of my night arsenal” (source).  But don’t be too quick to discount other dark colors when picking lures; Dean also gets good results with dark red, blue and black.

Lighting Your Way To Successful Night Fishing

Lighting plays a big role when on a bass-fishing excursion after dark.  Lighting can be applied for your safety and give a fishing advantage.  Used unwisely, it can be a buzzkill.

Launch your boat from a well-lit dock to avoid an accidental fall prior to your outing.  Dock or shore lighting is a compass for home if you plan to venture far out. 

 If you plan to fish inland, illumination will attract prey that bass like to hunt, drawing them in near your position.  Lighted shores can appear to bass as mild daylight, creating areas of “shade” where bass like to feed during the day.  An area that has consistent lighting attracts prey and, as a result, hungry bass.

Some anglers prefer a full moon over a half moon for fishing conditions.  Because the moon-phase argument lacks consistency, moonlight is a consideration for the individual.  During an outing, anglers might want more light to help navigate the water, and manage rods and bait.  Others like less light and swear by the fishing advantage it gives them.

Night bass anglers differ on whether to use lighting at all; how to use lighting is an entirely different consideration.  Some believe low to no light is best to keep a low profile. 

 Rather than rely on the moon or artificial shore lights, crafty anglers install blacklights on their vessel.  Blacklight casts a glow similar to moonlight which is non-alarming to the bass.  The bass go about their business oblivious to your presence, and you can see the area around you and what your hands are doing!  

Take it a step further and use fluorescent monofilament lines; their glow from the blacklight will show subtle line movement, improving your reaction time in that brief window.  

The Bass Bottom Line

Get out there and do some night fishing!  The bass will show up so you might as well engage them in a game of nighttime chess.  Start by strategically choosing your location, lighting and lures.  Toss in your line and git ‘er done.  Oh, and be sure to arrange for the next day off; great night fishing means no sleep!

Jason Bradstreet

I’m Jason Bradstreet. I grew up fishing tournaments with my Dad who was a well-known Central Florida Bass Guide and tournament angler. I have been bass fishing for all of my life am passing the love on to my family. Now, I serve as a bass fishing coach and captain to my kids who fish tournaments in the Bass Nation circuit. Our family loves to fish. We research, practice together, and enjoy both recreational and tournament bass fishing as a family. We are excited to share what we’ve learned on this site!

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