If you’ve often struggled to land bass during your fishing trip, it may come down to the time of day you are bass fishing. This article will cover the best time of day to fish for bass, and will cover both smallmouth and largemouth bass, as well as all seasons you may decide to go out on a bass fishing trip.
The Best Time to Catch Bass: Overview
Most anglers will agree that bass fish are most active when light conditions are low, such as dawn and dusk. This is due to the fact that bass are specially adapted to hunt their prey in darker and deeper waters, including throughout the night as long as there is some light provided by the moon. Water temperature will also play a role in bass fishing, and will vary throughout the seasons, but in general bass are able to be caught in all seasons and several times throughout the day.
Early Morning (5:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.)
Fishing for bass in the early morning hours from dawn until around 8:30am can be very productive. In these hours, smaller baitfish are waking up and becoming more active. And since these fish are prey for big bass, the bass will be taking advantage of this as well and hunting them down.
If you are fishing for bass in the early morning hours, use a shiner or minnow bait or other realistic topwater lures to draw in more fish. You want something that a bass will naturally recognize as food, and these two options are perfect in most states where bass are commonly fished for.
You can also have very good luck when using top water spoons and poppers, especially around heavy vegetation, fallen trees, stained water and shallower water where baitfish and bass may congregate but still attempt to remain hidden. Bass fish love to lurk around these areas in an attempt to ambush their prey fish.
Late Afternoon (5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.)
As with the low light conditions of early morning, bass fishing in the late afternoon as the sun starts to set is a great option. Largemouth bass love these lower light conditions when it comes to feeding and will not hesitate to take advantage of it, especially throughout the summer months as the water starts to cool off from the heat of the day.
When fishing for largemouth bass in the late afternoon and evening hours, try using your favorite topwater lure or other upper water column lures. You may need to experiment when it comes to retrieval speeds, however, as some largemouth bass may be more interested in slow retrieves over fast ones.
This is also a great time to just sit in the boat and watch bass moving from one area to another as the light gets dimmer and they start to become more active throughout the shallow areas when looking for food.
If you are considering night fishing for largemouth bass, you are in luck. Largemouth bass are extremely active throughout the nights as long as there is just enough light for them to make out silhouettes of smaller fish they target as food.
This is especially true in the summer when the extremely high heat of the day can send the fish much deeper into slightly cooler water in search of these small fish snacks. As the sun goes down and temperatures drop, largemouth bass fish will become very active searching for food throughout the night in shallower water.
If you plan on fishing for largemouth bass at night, you might find them to be very attracted to noisy lures such as rattlers. If you can get an appealing bass fishing lure that helps the largemouth bass locate it by sound or water vibrations, you’ll have great luck during the night. Night fishing is great during the summer through to the late fall.
Best Time To Catch Bass By Seasons
The changing seasons can keep some anglers guessing when it comes to the best time to catch largemouth bass. While they can be active year round, there are some seasons and times of day within those seasons when active bass are much more likely to take notice of your lure or bait.
During the winter months you might not notice many bass. While they are out there, and may take your bait, they will not be nearly as active in the much colder water temperature. On extremely cold days, such as 40 degrees or below, you will have to cast your lure into deep water in order to target bass.
During the winter, you will have the best luck at catching bass during midday when the sun is high in the sky and the day is at its warmest temperatures. You may even need to wait an hour or two into the afternoon in order for the water temperature to become warmer in comparison to the ambient air temperature before the fish tend to notice your lures.
As the winter cold leaves the area and spring warmth moves in, bass will start to slowly become more active over time as the water temperature starts to rise. However, since the early spring temperatures can still fluctuate and weather can be a bit unpredictable, largemouth bass fishing may not be as successful during the early spring cooler water as it could be in other months when water temperatures are more stable.
When fishing in the spring, you want to get the fish to take notice of your bait or lure, so don’t be afraid to use spinnerbaits, crankbaits, swimbaits, chatterbaits, and other large and noticeable lures to trigger a largemouth bass feeding response in both deep water and shallow water.
As spring continues, bass will start their pre-spawn behavior in water temperatures around 60 degrees. This is an excellent time to catch largemouth bass as they will be aggressively feeding and packing on calories before the full spawning behavior takes place.
Summer brings with it warm temperatures and sometimes crazy weather patterns. Bass will be extremely active and catching bass will not be nearly as difficult as it was in the spring, however you may need to cast your lures into deeper water where the water temperature is cooler and more comfortable for the fish.
This is a great time to try out some new lures since bass aren’t picky about what they will strike in the early summer months after spawning has completed. They’ll eagerly accept both live and artificial baits, so if you’ve been wanting to test out a new lure or rig, now is the time.
Bass will have one last major feeding frenzy during the early fall in a warmer water temperature as they get ready to move into winter and the cold water it will bring. This is a great time to catch bass on small baitfish including shiners and shad. You can also get their attention with most crankbaits and topwater poppers, and some spinnerbaits too giving you a wide range of options for the best fishing success.
Try to hit the water on days where the water is at its warmest, such as during the late afternoon or early evening hours. If a cold front is moving in, it may be best to avoid fishing altogether as bass will be very unlikely to show interest in anything you toss at them and will instead start feeding again a good time after the cold fronts pass.
Bass can be very unpredictable during their spawning season, but there are certain windows where they will be extremely aggressive and ready to strike at anything that moves. The most activity will be during the start of the bass spawn which happens in the spring when the shallow water temperatures are around 50 degrees.
Both male and female bass will gather in shallow water to perform their pre-spawn behaviors and hunt for their prey. During this pre-spawn time, fish for bass during the midday as this is going to get you the best results as the bass begin to be hungry and excited from spawning behavior.
During the spawn itself, bass will part ways and the females will move into deeper water with a more stable water temperature to locate their nesting grounds. Both males and females will still be actively feeding during the nights, but may not be as ravenous as they were during the start of the bass spawn. However, females will be extremely defensive and aggressive in protecting their chosen spawning bed and the deeper areas around it, so you may get defensive strikes on your lures if you drop it down to where females are holed up.
After the spawn, females will be extremely hungry after laying their eggs and will be actively searching for food. This is a great time to land some monster-sized females as well as some very active males. During this time, shad spawning is beginning so bass will be searching for these fish in order to feed themselves. If you can find shad spawning grounds in the early mornings or late evenings, you will most likely find some very hungry post-spawn bass as well.
Best Time to Fish for Different Types of Bass
One of the most popular sportfish in the United States, Largemouth Bass will normally remain in deeper water or on midwater ledges that drop off to much deeper water. If you’re looking for large fish during the spring, try casting your lure into deeper water that can be around 12 feet deep.
As bass are low-light hunters, they are most active during the early dawn and late dusk hours around 2 hours before and after the sun is present. You can also find them well into the night, especially if there is a full moon that provides some low light for them to hunt visually by.
Overall, the best time to fish for largemouth bass is during the early dawn or late dusk hours. You may see active feeding behavior in shallow areas such as shallow coves where the bass can locate their favorite prey fish including shad and shiners.
While not as commonly fished for as their larger bass relatives, smallmouth bass can be extremely fun to fight on the line. They are highly active and very aggressive predators in their own right, and can be one of the most popular bass species to catch in the late winter.
You’ll find smallmouth bass much deeper than largemouth, in fact, it’s not uncommon to find smallmouth at depths of 30 feet or more. Since they love being at depths such as this, they are easily caught during the height of the summer months when the temperatures are high and the sun is bright.
One difference between smallmouth and largemouth bass is that the smallmouth bass are not nearly as active during the nights. If you plan on specifically targeting smallmouth bass, cast your lures deep and remember that the best time to fish for smallmouth is during the early morning and dusk hours to get the best results.
Final Thoughts on the Best Time to Fish for Bass
While the majority of the best fishing times for most bass seem to fall in the early morning and late evening hours, you can still get some great midday fishing action during the late spring and winter months, as well as cooler summer mornings.
During the egg laying season when bass activity is at its highest, you may be able to hook some monster-sized fish right out of their spawning beds, but keep in mind your state may not have an active fishing season during the spawning times. This is to protect the fish and help them carry on with a new generation.
By catching large females during the spawning time, you risk dealing damage to the fish and her eggs. When in doubt, fish after the spawning time is over and the majority of the females have already laid their eggs.