Small Waters Strategies – Night Fishing

Small Waters Strategies – Night Fishing

Jul 21, 2013

Mitch Looper’s Eight Great Tips to Tap the Night Bite

By Abe Smith

Note: Mitch Looper hunts giant bass in small Arkansas reservoirs with amazing success thanks, in part, to working those waters on the “night shift.”  I’ll share my videos and interviews with Mitch on his small waters strategies in the months ahead. – Mike Pehanich

Night owls prowl the darkness with stealth and keen predatory instinct.

Meet Mitch Looper. The “Night Owl.”

He works the darkness while other anglers sleep, and the darkness rewards him handsomely.

Mitch Looper specializes in catching giant bass from small impoundments, and a key to his success is fishing them at night.

His night moves have accounted for six bass over 10 pounds and more than 100 bass over eight pounds from small waters near his home in Hackett, Arkansas, and he “can’t even recall the number of ‘sevens.’”

His best largemouth bass catch was a bass of 14.7 pounds from Lake Ozark that biologists determined through electrophoresis analysis to be the largest northern strain bass ever taken in Arkansas waters.

Looper pursues largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass alike at night, and, unlike most anglers who simply take to the darkness to avoid the mid-summer heat, he works the night bite all year long.

“I like to fish the pre-spawn and spawn at night,” says Looper. “No one else is out there, and big fish show up in places you won’t ever see them in daylight!”

He catches giant bass because he targets giant bass.

“I’m willing to fish all day for one big fish, but that is not my goal,” he declares. “My goal is to find a flurry of big bites, and that will happen if I am in the right place at the right time at night.”

Streamlined and simple

Night fishing multiplies the degree of difficulty of any angling problem several times over, and it can halt a badly planned outing before it has even begun. Planning and preparation are critical to getting those bites and getting the giants to boat – and for avoiding mishaps!

Looper streamlines his lure and tackle selection, knowing that whatever can happen will!

“I usually have only four rods at night, and sometimes I have only three,” he says.

Looper awaited the light of day to photograph and release this monster, but night fishing requires special preparation.

Three of those rods are rigged with his mainstay Booyah jigs in sizes ranging from ¼ to 1/2 ounce. His primary trailer is a Yum Money Craw in a craw-brown or other brownish color – a color he regards as particularly effective in spring. He also uses a lot of black and blue jig/trailer combinations, especially on summer nights.

His favorite for giant largemouth is the Booyah A-Jig, a lure that led Alton Jones to his Bassmaster Classic victory in 2008.

“It has a big thick rubber skirt like a mop jig, and it is the main lure I throw for largemouth at night,” says Looper, who trims all his rubber jig skirts to optimize their pulsating action. “I love that living rubber skirt. If you trim it right, it will keep moving for a long time after you have quit working the jig.”

His two other jig choices are also his primary baits for nighttime smallmouth. He fishes the Booyah Bed Bug in “fairly heavy sizes” and the Booyah Pigskin Jig, a football-style jig that he uses almost exclusively on deep hard-bottom points.

On waters with big smallmouth, he also adds 1/8- and ¼-ounce tube jigs to his arsenal.  “I like some purple in that tube,” says Mitch. “At night, that is about all that matters.”

The optional rod has a spinnerbait.

“If there’s a chance it will be windy at night, a lot of times I am throwing a great big spinnerbait,” says Looper, who often changes out willow blades on his half-ounce spinnerbaits with a #4.5 Hildebrandt Colorado up front and a #8 fluted silver Indiana blade on the back. He will substitute a #10 fluted silver Indiana when he uses the heavier ¾-ounce spinnerbait.

He spaces the blades with beads to maintain blade action at the slowest retrieve speeds. His colors are basic white or white and yellow.

Scout lakes in daylight above and below the surface before taking them on at night. And keep you tackle arsenal simple.

1)   Pick a big fish lake – Mitch Looper targets lakes with a primary forage base of shad. “I really don’t think that bass get over 10 pounds very often on a bluegill diet,” he says. Water clarity also factors into the equation. “It seems small lakes with clear water grow the biggest fish. If bass have lived in muddy water a long time, it is so much harder for them to locate and catch enough prey to become great big bass.”

2)   Pick big fish locations – Night giants like shallow hard-bottom feeding areas with quick access to deep water. Looper looks for classic structure linking both. “Nearly all the big bass I catch at night are relating to a creek channel, ditch or short ledge,” he says. “And I like areas where the channel only runs along the bank for a short distance before it turns away.” Swimming beaches are often good, too, especially for big smallmouth. Do your research during daylight hours before you reach the water!

3)   Be a moon watcher – Nearly three-quarters of all world record fish are caught within three days of the full moon. The second best time is the “quarter moon” phase. During these periods, Looper concentrates his fishing around the moonrise and moonset. “For me, it is more important to fish in the right places during the three-hour period around the moonrise or moonset than to fish for 10 hours,” he says.

4)   Light at the ready –Though Looper uses “the smallest amount of light I can get away with for the job,” he emphasizes that good working light is one of the most important elements of night fishing. He has headlamps for both him and his partner. He also paints the lens of his 6-volt lantern red and carries a spotlight “just in case.  He mounts a flashlight on his net for landing fish.

5)    “Sound” casting advice — Looper concentrates his fishing in 10 feet of water or less on most waters but will stretch that working area to 20-foot depths on ultra-clear lakes. Learning the difference between the “splat” of a lure landing in shallow water and the “plunk” of a lure that hits the surface in 15 feet will come in handy.

6)   Use a big net – A big net is essential to the health of fish and fisherman alike at night. Mitch takes a tip from the musky fisherman and carries an oversized Beckman that allows him to land the fish quickly and remove hooks over the side of the boat. “Fishermen lose that fish of a lifetime because they are not ready for it,” he says.

7)   Line selection and care – Looper opts for 25-pound monofilament almost exclusively for night fishing because mono is more manageable, especially in the cold, and its stretch provides insurance against the powerful surge of a giant fish. The bigger diameter protects against the abrasive teeth of a big bass and the knicks and ticks of cover and hard bottom bumping. He uses line conditioner liberally.

8)   Keep it slow – Three retrieve speeds work at night: slow, slower and slowest.

Finally, Mitch advises anglers to buddy up for the night bite. The safety benefits are obvious, but there’s more.

“We always experiment,” says Looper. “That’s how we learn.”

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