Dawn is a Darned Good Time for Bass Fishing


I haven’t always been a morning person. During my high school days, I slept in whenever I had the opportunity. However, my father was a farmer. He usually rousted me out of bed fairly early and always against my will.

At present, it is rare for me to linger in bed very long after sunrise. The reasons for this are many. One, I have some arthritis and just “lying there” begins to hurt after a while. Two, I am in that age group of men who just don’t sleep as long as they used to, don’t ask me why because I have no answer. Three, I enjoy getting up in the morning and getting the day going. The world is quiet before the “rumble” begins. I just seem to get more out of the day by beginning early. Four, I have found that this is the very best part of the day to go fishing!

Beat the summer heat

During early summer when the days are hot and the sun shines brightly, many anglers quit fishing altogether. They declare that the fish won’t bite under those conditions. Nothing could be further from the truth. May and June are two of the months when I regularly make some of my best catches of farm pond bass. Weed growth has just gotten underway. The water is warm, but the fish still “put on the feed bag.” The secret here is to know at what time of day to catch them.

Fortunately, I live within walking distance of two small private ponds that are stocked with largemouth bass, bluegills and a few other predatory species of fish. So, it is no onerous task for me to be on the banks of one or the other before the sun peeks over the horizon. At this glorious time, about the only other creatures that are stirring are the birds that are beginning to sing and a few bats that are still catching bugs. As a matter of fact, I actually have had bats hit my rod tip in the darkness as I made a cast. I guess they mistook it as a big, flying insect. No harm was done, but it did surprise me.

Why get out at the crack of dawn?

Why the morning hours for fishing success? The baitfish in the water invade the shallows during the low-light hours to feed on tiny plankton and insects in the hope that the low visibility will hide them from larger predators. The bass instinctively know this and invade the shallows to feed upon them. A largemouth is primarily a sight feeder, as evidenced by the bulbous eyes in its head. However, it also is very efficient at feeding in the darkness by relying upon two of it other senses—hearing and smelling.

A bass “hears” by picking up vibrations with its sensitive lateral line that runs along its side. As they feed, baitfish emit vibrations, so does a scurrying crawdad or a marauding salamander. A bass senses this, opens its big mouth, flares its gills and sucks its prey in to be swallowed and digested. All this happens in a split second.

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The olfactory sense is not as well developed, but any baitfish emits a certain odor that a bass can detect even in the darkness, hone in on and attack.

So, in the wee hours of the morning, I usually begin with a surface lure such as the old reliable Jitterbug or the Hula Popper, work it slowly across the surface and wait for an explosion. For the most part, slower is better since it gives the fish plenty of opportunity to find the lure, follow and inhale it. One caveat. It is very easy to jerk one of the surface lures out of a bass’s mouth. When you hear or see the strike, pause for a fraction of a second until you feel the weight of the fish, then set the hook. Hard.

After the sun rises

When the sun is up and the surface bite falls off, and if the pond is not too weedy, I switch to a crankbait such as a Rapala minnow or a Heddon Tiny Tad. By casting it out and reeling it in parallel to a weedline or past any docks or downed trees, I can pick up a few stragglers that are still lurking in the shallows.

As the morning progresses and the sun beats down on the water, I’ll tie on an artificial worm weighted by a slip sinker just ahead of the hook, cast it into even deeper water and crawl it over the bottom. I’m not sure just what it represents, but the bass don’t seem to care. Day in and day out, it is one of the most reliable lures in my tackle box. With the worm, wait for the “tap-tap” of a bass that has the lure in its mouth, reel up the slack in the line and set the hook.

With whatever method is used, there is little doubt that early morning fishing requires a stout rod and heavy line to wrestle the fish to the shore or the boat. Carry a pair of needle-nosed pliers to unhook the fish, grip it by its lower jaw to immobilize it and gently return it to the water to be caught again on another day.

By this time, it is about 9:30, the temperature is climbing, the deer flies are beginning to become active and it is time for me to go home, drink a cold glass of milk or tea, review any pictures I may have taken on my digital camera and plan my next outing. If you also are a morning person, give some “dawn patrol” fishing a try.