Anglers have limited hours to spend on the water so making the most of the day is important. Figuring out when is the best time to catch the most fish is something every bass angler wants to know.
Bass are most active when there is less light penetration in the water. This can be early morning or later in the evening. The mid-day hours can also produce active bass when the wind is breaking up the surface or when the clouds are out.
Understanding bass behavior will help anglers catch fish during the optimum time periods and also during less active parts of the day.
Bass are simple, instinct driven creatures. They do not overthink their day like we do as anglers.
To survive they must consume more calories than they burn.
During lowlight periods, more forage species are roaming about because the lack of light can help to conceal them from predators. As the sun climbs in the sky, those same forage species bury up into cover. This means the bass do too.
Bass also lack the eyelids to shield the intense sunlight. The higher the sun in the sky, the deeper into the shade they will go.
On some lakes and rivers with abundant forms of cover this means they may stay shallow. Docks, vegetation, and laydown trees all offer shade and places where our favorite predator feels comfortable.
On waters that lack a lot of shallow cover, the bass will often move offshore and deeper to avoid the intense light. In most bodies of water, there is a part of the water column where the sunlight dissipates. This is an excellent place for bass to hang out.
They can lurk in the shadows waiting for an easy meal to attract their attention.
The Best Time to Fish Depends on Your Fishing Style
Fishing lures can be easily categorized in two ways: horizontal presentations and vertical presentations.
Many bass anglers, especially those new to the sport, prefer a bait that is moving and fished horizontally in the water column.
This includes lures like topwaters, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits. These cast-and-retrieve offerings are most effective when the bass are more apt to be roaming and searching for food.
This type of presentation matches up perfectly with lowlight periods.
When fishing in this manner, anglers are searching for active bass.
If anglers prefer to use soft plastics on a Texas rig, jigs, and other lures that are presented in a vertical manner and often are fished on the bottom, lowlight periods may not be the best.
As the sun climbs high in the sky, it pushes bass deeper into the shadows.
They will nestle down into a weed bed or hunker up underneath a log or dock.
Vertically presented lures, like a jig, excel in these situations. The more intense the sun the higher percentage of success because we are probing the areas where the bass are attempting to escape the bright light.
Wind and Clouds Change Everything
An excellent lowlight morning bite can be extended when wind and/or clouds are present.
Both of these atmospheric conditions disrupt the light penetration coming into the lake or river.
Bass Fishing in the Wind
Fishing in the wind can be a gamechanger.
The microorganisms, like zooplankton, are at the mercy of the wind. These tiny creatures are pushed into the windiest shorelines attracting tiny predators like minnows, baitfish, even crawdads.
The larger fish, like bass, are attracted to the suddenly active food chain and a feeding frenzy can take place.
Many anglers attempt to get out of the wind because it makes casting and boat positioning difficult. That is the opposite of what we want to do as anglers. Wind blown banks can extend the lowlight activity all day and create unbelievable fishing opportunities.
When the wind is howling, horizontal lures that search out active fish are perfect choices. The above-mentioned topwaters, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits are all good lures to use during these conditions.
Bass Fishing When it’s Cloudy
Gray days can also extend the lowlight feeding periods. The wind may-or-may-not be present on cloudy days, but the fishing style and concepts are the same.
When bass are out actively seeking food, the same lures are effective.
That doesn’t mean that vertical presentations cannot work during cloudy or windy days, but the percentages of success go down when the bass have moved away from thick cover.
Bass fishing is all about the percentages and lures that move and cover water when it is cloudy increase an angler’s odds of success.
What About Catching Big Fish?
Yes, we can catch a true giant during any time of the day, but I find that the opposite is true of weather conditions when looking for a personal best bass.
Think about percentages again.
When the sun is high in the sky and there is no wind, it tells me that those big fish are not going to be out roaming about. These lunkers are instead going to bury up in some thick and nasty cover.
I have a great idea of where to start looking. It helps me to eliminate 99% of the water.
The best lures to find and catch these trophy fish are now offerings that are more vertical in presentation. This style of lure, like a jig or soft plastic, can penetrate the heaviest weeds, search the thickest brush pile, and skip underneath docks.
An easy meal that happens to drop by a big bass is often something that predators cannot ignore. It is a win in the calories vs. energy burned conundrum.
Ease of Catching Fish
There is no doubt that lowlight periods are easier to catch bass than when the sun is beating down.
The lures required to search for active fish have a smaller learning curve. A new bass angler can take a crankbait out of a box, tie it on, and have success on their first day of fishing.
A flipping jig takes skill and practice to cast accurately. It is also a challenge to convince yourself that throwing the lure into the thickest stuff you can find is the right thing to do. The odds of getting stuck are much greater and no one likes to lose lures.
If an angler is looking for the optimal time to catch bass in the widest range of places, then lowlight conditions are the best choice.
The same is true if the lures that are most exciting to you are those that are fished in a horizontal manner. Cast-and-wind presentations are much more effective in the early morning and late evening.
But don’t limit yourself to the obvious lowlight periods. The weather can throw wind and clouds into the mix at any time.
These conditions can extend a good lowlight bite throughout most of the day.
As the sunlight penetrates through and the shadows disappear, switch over to lures that fall vertically through the water column and can probe those areas where bass like to hide.
Always think about the percentages and put your lures in the places where the odds are in your favor.
Tight lines. Be safe and make sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you will change their life.