*Flat calm morning after a night fish. Scott Barton fishing out of a JK ‘Liska’

Learn More about the Liska

I started night fishing (or Lights Out Kayak Bass Fishing) for bass out of necessity. Having two young kids at home coupled with my shift-work job, meant that bass fishing at night was sometimes my only option to get out on the water. To feed the bass fishing addiction, I felt that I needed to make the most of the precious time I had for bass slaying sessions. Since our bass season in Ontario is a short one (June – November), the odd night-time fishing adventure seemed to be the answer. I went solo the first time I went out, not knowing what to expect. It didn’t take long before I was hooked up and having a blast! It was a perfect, calm, bright and warm night. In one single night of bass fishing, I had caught two of the biggest largemouth that I measured for the entire summer. I also tied my personal best smallmouth record on the same outing as the sun gently lifted above the tree-line.
Night kayak bass fishing is an overload on your senses. If the top-water bite is on, hearing the SPLASH before feeling the SMASH will make your heart race and hair stand on end. Night fishing is a whole new challenge. It’s flat out ALOT of fun!
(There’s a ton of added bonuses such as seeing a starry night, absolute quiet, watching the sun set/rise. Totally awesome!)

Lights out Kayak Bass Fishing
*Night-time largemouth bass taken on an Arbogast jointed Jitterbug

There are several safety factors to consider when kayak bass fishing at night. Personally, the lakes I choose are quiet lakes where there is little to no chance of seeing another boat after dark. If a quiet lake is not an option in your area, I highly recommend sticking close to shore and fishing in back bays. Kayak night anglers ideally want to stay away from travelling open water or channels as much as possible. If you are to travel open water stretches, it is imperative that you follow local regulations regarding lighting on your kayak. I always check wind/weather using the Windfinder Pro App. If there is any risk of a storm, or if the conditions are too windy, I postpone for another time. The last thing you want to do at night is battle wind or weather. It’s enough of a challenge to night fish on a calm, clear night. Make sure you are rested enough to drive home. Either nap the day you hit the lake, or plan some shut-eye when you get back to your vehicle in the morning. If you’re camping on the lake, a quick snooze for a couple of hour’s mid-night is a great option! And of course, ALWAYS wear your PFD!

YakAttack VISICarbon Pro for is my go-to for lighting. Something I do before launching, is to take the VISICarbon pole out of the mighty mount located at the and place it in a rod holder closer to my seat. By doing this, it gives you the ability to reach for it and easily turn it on or off depending on the conditions. If it is a clear night with a bright moon, having a light above you impedes the ability for your eyes to adjust. If it’s a dark moon or if there’s cloud cover, the light will stay on all night. The brightness on my fishfinder gets dialed down to 1. I also wear a LED headlamp that can be switched to red mode. Red seems to preserve your night vision.
If you want to up your night fishing light game, I’d highly recommend the YAKPOWER system. I’ve fished with friends who use these lights, and they are the ultimate in night fishing function and safety.

Lights out Kayak Bass Fishing
*Roberto Briones using the YAKPOWER lighting system

Personally, I like to keep my lights out bass fishing system very simple, as organization is key when fishing in the dark. I bring one small Plano box and a couple spare bags of plastics. On most nights, the tackle box I bring never gets opened. I keep a pair of pliers and scissors in a cup holder next to me on my Jackson Liska.
There are a couple of standard organization strategies I use day or night. My net is always in front of me, angled 45 degrees towards the bow and held in place using a YakAttack roto grip. My phone acts as my camera, and it’s always stored in a waterproof phone pouch with a lanyard around my neck. I use voice commands to turn on camera mode and to take photos.
Four rods are my go-to on a night bass fishing session. Every single rod is spooled with Power Pro braid and a fluorocarbon leader (same as day fishing). I prefer rods in the 7’-7’6” length with a medium/heavy power with a fast tip. The reels are typically 7:3:1+ range. I bring one 7’ medium rod paired with a Shimano Stradic CI4+ reel. I prefer this set up for the topwater/senko combination.
The baits I prefer for night fishing are broken down into four categories.

Worm

Bass Assasin Belly worm 11”
Weight: 3/16 Strike King tournament grade tungsten
Hook: 7/0 Owner Oversize worm hook

Creature

Keitech Crazy Flapper 4.4” or
Keitech Mad Wag 7”
Weight: 3/16 Strike King tournament grade tungsten
Hook: 4/0 Gamakatsu Superline EWG

Topwater (night) / Senko (sunset/sunrise smallies)

Rapala Skitter Prop
Classic Arbogast Jitterbug

Yamamoto Senko 5”
Hook: Gamakatsu Finesse wide gap 1/0

Swimbait

3/8oz. Lunkerhunt Skirted swimjig with a Jackall rhythm wave swimbait trailer

Lights out Kayak Bass Fishing

*An assortment of Scott’s favourite night baits

Using these baits covers a wide range of options when encountering a variety of cover, bottom composition, depths and the bass’ mood. Working the worm and creature slowly on bottom with a drag and shake technique is great tactic. Both the worm and creature are also light enough that they can be worked at a quicker pace in a topwater fashion. If I need to go deeper, I will work the swimbait at a quicker pace along drop offs or deeper weed edges. The only change I’ll make during the night may be to switch out plastics. If I’m fishing before sunset or after sunrise, I’ll replace the topwater lure and tie on a wacky-rigged senko. My favourite tactic is to pull up to smallmouth structure (i.e Island’s, humps etc) and start throwing a un-weighted senko. There’s something about the slow drop that they cannot resist! Many of my largest smallmouth have taken the bait during this prime time.

Lights out Kayak Bass Fishing

*Sunrise smallmouth bass

Keys to Kayak bass fishing at night

1. Safety- Choose a quiet, shallow location on a lake where motor-boats won’t be speeding by. Follow local regulations regarding lighting and safety equipment. Check wind/weather before heading out to make sure it is safe for the duration of your outing. Fish with a buddy (ideally). Dress for the weather, put on some eye protection and ALWAYS wear your PFD!
2. Plan ahead- Ideally you’ll already have knowledge of the lake, launches and areas where you’ll be fishing. Scouting a new launch or new waterbody in the dark is not ideal.
3. Sleep- If an all-nighter isn’t in the cards, set your alarm for 2a.m and head out for a few hours before sunrise. Conversely, you can start in the evening and fish until midnight. Both are great options to get hooked on the awesomeness that is night-time kayak bass fishing.
4. Organization- Plan the layout of where you want your tools and baits for easy access in the dark. Re-trying in the dark is a major bummer. Use a variety of plastics that match up with the hooks you already have tied on.

Make this the summer to try Kayak bass night fishing if you haven’t already experienced the thrill. Make plans now. Call some fishing buddy’s, pick a few dates on the calendar, and stick to it. I promise you won’t regret it!

Lights out Kayak Bass Fishing

*Michael Cox with a sunset smallmouth bass (Lanark,Ontario)

Scott Barton