Night time is a great time for bank anglers. Many predators move into the shallows once the sun goes down, allowing anglers a chance to hook into some trophy fish. This is your chance to catch monster catfish! Just make sure you have the right gear and the best bait for night fishing, and get out there!
In general you can use the same baits that you use during the day time…
But if you want to dial things in and increase your chances of catching more fish, then there are a few things to consider. Let’s jump right in!
Sight Sound and Smell
Fish depend mainly on three senses when searching for food. Sight, sound and smell. Take away light as the sun goes down and visibility drops greatly.
Focus on Sound and Smell
Take away sight and the fish focuses mainly on sound and smell. So to figure out the best bait for night fishing, we need to use a bait that either makes a lot of vibrations, and/or puts off a strong smell.
You have to know your target. If you want to catch carp then a noisy bait isn’t going to work.
But if you are fishing for a predator like flathead catfish or bass, then noise that mimics a struggling bait fish will be important.
Live Bait is The Best For Night Fishing
If you are after a predator fish like catfish or bass, then live bait is going to be your best bet for night fishing.
These types of predators come into the shallows at night in search of smaller bait fish.
Some of these baitfish may have been injured during the day from birds, turtles, or other predators.
This makes them an easy target and a quick meal for bass and catfish.
By using live bait while night fishing, you are giving the fish exactly what they are looking for. An injured snack that can’t escape… Kinda sad if you think about it…But it works!
These are the shad and minnow species. Bait fish are preferred by catfish and bass because they are soft and easy to swallow.
To catch these fish you’ll need a cast net and preferably a boat with a fish finder.
One downside to shad is that they are not as hardy as bluegill and some will die, even if kept in a live well.
Spiny fish like bluegill and crappie have sharp spines in the dorsal fins which make them a little more tough to eat than bait fish.
However they are still a main food source for predators so don’t let this stop you from using them!
They are also easier to catch if you don’t have a boat and cast net.
How to Catch Bait For Night Fishing
Bluegill are the easiest to catch with a rod and reel.
Just use a small size 12 hook with a little piece of worm or Kraft-Singles cheese.
Use a very small foam bobber for better sensitivity.
Shad can be caught in great numbers using a cast net.
I’m not very experienced with cast nets, but here is a great instructional video that tells everything you need to know. This is Luke from CatsandCarp.com. He really knows his stuff!
How to Hook Live Bait
Hook live bait through the back between the dorsal fin and the tail.
Make sure you use a big enough hook. You want plenty of hook point showing. A 7/0 circle hook is a good size for small to medium sized bluegill. Use a 10/0 for big bluegill.
Also, make sure the hook point is clean of any scales that may have stuck on there while hooking the bait.
Live Bait Rig
There are many variations for live bait rigs, but two main types. Some will keep your bait pinned down to one location, while the other type allows it to drift around.
If you are fishing fairly open water and you’re not sure where the fish are, then using a bobber rig would be best.
With this bobber rig you are able to control the depth of your bait by sliding the bobber stop up or down your line.
If you don’t have bobber stops you can still use a clip on bobber, but you’ll only be able to fish about 4 feet deep.
Sinker rigs like the sliding sinker or high low rig keep your bait pinned to the bottom.
This is good when you know the fish are near the cover and you want to keep your bait close without allowing it to swim into the cover and get you snagged.
This sinker rig pictured above, helps to keep your bait off the bottom. It also gives great sensitivity because there is no sinker between you and the hook.
The downside with this rig is that once you catch a fish, that sinker will be dragging along the bottom and has a chance of getting snagged.
This sliding sinker rig shown above, is a good basic sinker rig. The line is allowed to slide through the hole in the sinker which gives you the ability to clearly feel the bites.
Artificial Bait For Night Fishing
If you are fishing for carp or channel catfish then artificial baits are the best for night fishing.
Fish like carp and channel catfish hunt more with smell than sound. This is why stink baits are so effective on channel catfish.
Carp like fruity flavors such as fruits, berries, and corn. You can mix these ingredients into a dough bait. You can also buy powerful scent jells to add to your baits.
Pack Bait For Carp
Your best bet for carp is going to be some sort of pack bait. This goes for both day and night fishing. It can’t be beat!
These can be made with a variety of ingredients such as grits or panko, and stuck together with some sort of a liquid such as Karo syrup or the juice from canned corn.
There are many pack bait recipes out there. Here is a simple recipe to get started.
Mix the following ingredients in a bucket
- 18 oz. of instant grits
- 24 oz. of quick grits
- 2 cups of Karo syrup
You still need a hook bait in combination with a pack bait. Corn is an easy answer that works wonderfully. It can be hooked directly on the hook and carp love corn!
To use pack bait, form a handful of the pack bait around the sinker in a ball about the size of a baseball. Then stick your baited hook into the ball.
When you cast out, the ball will sink to the bottom and begin to break apart. This leaves a beautiful pile of chum right around your hook.
When a carp comes across that, it won’t be able to resist. He’ll suck your hook right in!
Check out this article for more carp bait recipes!
If you are after channel catfish, then stink bait at night is the way to go!
Stink bait can be bought at most tackle stores as well as Walmart. You may even smell it before you see it on the shelf.
Stink baits usually come in buckets labeled as dip bait or punch bait.
Punch bait is thicker and can be formed into a ball around a treble hook, or just use a stick to punch your treble down into the bait until it is well covered. This will keep your hands from getting smelly.
Dip bait is thinner and should be used with a dip worm.
Tie on your dip worm and hook and drop it into the dip bait. Use a stick to press and massage the bait into the worm.
These stink baits work best in streams where the current can drift the scent trail down to the fish and bring them up. But they can still catch you fish in the pond.
Best Night Fishing Bait For Catfish
If you are night fishing for channel catfish then stink baits will work best.
But if you want to target bigger flathead and blue catfish, then you are better off with live bait fish.
While channel cats will eat just about anything, blues and flatheads are out hunting for fresh meat.
Big catfish need high levels of protein which bait fish provide.
Best Night Fishing Bait For Carp
As mentioned above, pack baits work best when fishing for carp day or night.
Use powerful scent jells. Corn and fruit scents work best.
You can also add jello or Kool-Aid powder to your pack baits for extra flavor.
Best Night Fishing Bait For Bass
Live bait fish are hands down the best bass bait for night fishing.
Use bluegills near cover for best results.
Bass are ambush predators. They will be hiding out near rocks, weeds and downed trees waiting for an unsuspecting fish to swim by.
Using a live bait bobber rig works great because you can cover a lot of those ambush points. Just be careful not to snag up.
Gear For Bait Fishing at Night
Having not only the right bait but also the right gear is very important for a good night fishing experience.
Here are a few things I won’t go bait fishing at night without.
Bells are my choice for bite indication. They are cheap and don’t require batteries, or expensive glow sticks. They just clip on to the tip section of your rod.
Be careful when you cast… They can easily be flung out into the water if you forget to take them off. Always take off bells before casting.
Bite alarms make an electronic beeping noise when you get a bite. These can range from simple $10 alarms in the US, to fancy European alarms that cost a couple hundred bucks.
If I could afford a nice European bite alarm, I’d have one.
They are super sensitive and don’t attach to your rod. Some can be used with a transmitter/receiver which you can keep in your tent next to your pillow while you take a snooze.
But until I’m a rich man, I’ll have to stick with the $2 bell.
Glowsticks are those things you crack and shake up to make them glow.
You can buy very small glowsticks and devices that help you attach them to your rod tip.
These work great when you need to watch your rod tip while night fishing. Once the sun goes down you’ll really have to strain your eyes to see your rod tips. Glowsticks will give your eyes a break.
However you’ll still have to keep your eyes glued to the rods. Try not to fall asleep.
If you want to get a little shut eye, or are distracted with kids, then I recommend using a bell or alarm.
A headlamp or some sort of light is essential for night fishing.
Imagine tying a fishing knot with your eyes closed. It’s almost impossible.
Maybe you fish in a park with some lights, but a headlamp is still going to be much better.
Just remember to check the batteries before you go.
This can be as simple as a forked stick. But sometimes you show up to a spot and can’t find a forked stick to save your life.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be fishing than walking around hunting for a stick. So I have some cheap telescopic rod holders that fit into my tackle bag.
There are better rod holders out there if you want to spend a little more money.
I’ll say that with a forked stick, you need to stay close to your rods because a carp or catfish can pull it in pretty easily.
This isn’t required, but it definitely makes things more comfortable.
When night fishing with bait, you’ll usually spend a good amount of time waiting. Why not take a seat. You’ve probably had a long day and are ready to relax.
Bring some snacks or drinks along too. And if it’s cold bring a good jacket.