Analysis from my bass fishing diary – Part 5 (Dawn, Dusk or Daylight?)
This is Part 5 of a 12 Part series in which I will share my thoughts, conclusions and overall personal experiences of Bass fishing over the past 7 years from the South Devon coastline. In the following parts of the series I will also cover:
- Part 6 – Sea temperature
- Part 7 – Moon phases
- Part 8 – Water clarity
- Part 9 – Sea state
- Part 10 – Air pressure
- Part 11 – Rocks, Beaches and Estuaries
- Part 12 – Which type of lure?
Note – Please bear in mind that any conclusions I make in this series are based purely on my own experiences and my diary entries. I am positive that there will be many similarities in the hypothesis of my fellow Bass anglers, or indeed, just as many conflicting or contradictory observations – I look forward to the debates!
Why 7 Years? Please go to Part 1 (Tide Heights) where I explain.
A client lure fishing just after dawn
It is well established that bass, or any predator for that matter, will utilise the periods of changing light levels to actively feed. Numerous studies have been conducted to prove that fish ranging from rockling, pollack and species of flatfish are instinctively aware that smaller prey items, such as sandeels and prawns either disperse, burrow or emerge at dawn or dusk respectively.
Some species of fish are active daylight (diurnal) feeders such as wrasse. Some are more active at night (nocturnal) such as conger eels or dogfish and some are more active in the twilight periods (crepuscular). Pollack are a great example of an inshore species that is definitely more active in dim light conditions.
But what about our friend the bass? I’ve read countless times that you will increase your chances of catching them on lures by fishing at dawn or dusk. Do my own experiences, diary entries and observations confirm this? Or is it a misconception that dawn and dusk are the ‘best times’ to catch bass?
A lure caught bass taken in broad daylight
Dawn, Dusk or Daylight? – My thoughts, conclusions and experiences
Below is a table whereby I have collated my diary entries into a simple format, in order to display the percentage of Bass caught during the specified periods.
NOTE: – Twilight is defined as the time between day and night when there is light outside, but the Sun is below the horizon. It lasts for between 20 – 30 minutes, very obviously twice a day, at sunrise and sunset.
Time of day/light period
Percentage of bass caught
The results above form the following conclusions:
- The overwhelming majority of my catches are made during daylight.
- My catches at dusk are 4x greater than my catches made at dawn.
- Darkness accounts for the least catches of bass.
- I was quite surprised initially after collating all the figures, as I thought the percentage of bass caught may be higher in twilight. But then I considered that it is, in fact, such a small period in the day (1 hour in total).
- 15% of my bass catches (primarily on lures) are made in that short 1 hour window, which is relatively high in comparison to the time spent on the shore during this period.
- I definitely fish dawn or dusk quite regularly – I would say 30 – 40% of my sessions encompass one or the other, so I’m certainly not a ‘daylight only’ angler.
- I certainly cannot attribute my catches being 4x higher at dusk than dawn to fishing dusk more often – I don’t mind getting out of bed early (the missus isn’t always happy though!).
- One aspect that could possibly bias my figures towards daylight is that my safety (and that of my clients nowadays) is paramount when I’m out fishing – I do not fish from rocks in twilight/darkness if the sea is rough.
- During full daylight, I am far more inclined to fish when the sea is rough (not dangerously so) as so long as I can see what’s coming, I’m relatively content. This is significant because my diary entries here confirm that a large percentage of my catches occur during onshore/crosswind conditions of between 5 – 20 mph when the sea will generally be slight – moderately rough.
- Calmer sea conditions will see me fishing at first or last light more often and indeed, into darkness – as I know I’ll have a higher chance of remaining safe!
- Additionally, as I’ve previously stated. I’m more likely to be fishing in areas with current (headlands or estuaries) or very quiet remote weedy/rocky coves (that are more conducive to producing bass in twilight periods in my experience) when it’s very calm and clear.
- I really haven’t conducted a lot of bass fishing in the dark, be it with lures or bait, so I can definitely say that the 2% catch rate can be accredited to not having put the hours in, so to speak. It is something I intend to complete more of in the next few seasons.
- The catches I have made in darkness have been on surface lures or shallow divers fished over reefs from beaches, or very occasionally deep water headlands – when it’s been very calm, mostly in the summer months.
A friend and fishing companion lure fishing just after the sun had set (twilight)
A moment to cherish
Back in the day when I used to lure fish with an 11 ft carp rod, bait-runner reel and 12 lb mono, I used to fish a mark that was literally sand on one half and a ‘rough as rats’ reef on the other; backed by boulders over high tide. It couldn’t be fished during the heat of day in the warmer months (this is back when people said you’d only catch bass between April and October) as it was a well-known and very well utilised nudist beach…
During my early bass lure fishing excursions, I would only ever fish over spring high tides, that in the summer months happen to coincide with the evening – so when all the ‘swimmers’ had disappeared on this particular spot. The area that I was casting over is a myriad of heavy kelp, rock pools and moveable rocks; where you can find all manner of creatures, and is about the size of a tennis court. On the highest spring tides there is about 8 ft of water over it.
The most wonderful, yet frustrating thing about this mark was the amount of ‘follows’ I used to endure from wrasse and bass! Sometimes they would follow the lure right up to the rod tip and as I would generally be fishing this mark during the early evening, in very calm, clear conditions (it gets badly weeded out in any waves/swell) it would drive me totally mad. They would never take the lure, even if I remained completely out of sight – crouching down in amongst all manner of things ranging from stinking seaweed, flies sand-hoppers and the like…
One evening, I was a little late eating my dinner and was contemplating not even bothering considering it had blown an easterly all day (everyone used to say don’t bother in easterly winds as well) and it was a good 2 mile walk incorporating a pretty knackering climb. However, I knew that bass were present in these types of conditions because I’d seen them with my own eyes and as the high tide time was slightly after dusk I thought I’d give it a try…
Up until this point I’d never fished the mark right into darkness. As I climbed up and over the final couple of rocks leading onto the beach, the setting sun and towering cliffs had long since combined to cast a shadow over the area and it was beginning to become quite gloomy. I probably had about 30 minutes of light left so after a few casts along the shore up onto the boulders I went – cast, retrieve, fanning the casts as I slowly moved along to where I had often received the ‘follows’.
By now it was almost dark to the extent that I could only just see the lure as it landed out in the gloom. A ‘bum’ cast saw the cheap minnow lure ‘plop’ about 15 yards from my stance. Three turns of the handle and WALLOP! The rod was practically ripped from my hands and a huge boil on the surface followed by line getting dragged off the reel signalled a decent bass, that after a couple of minutes, I managed to steer onto a flat rock about 10 yards to my right. It was the largest bass I had caught at the time and weighed 6.5 lbs… I did return the fish and incidentally the photograph below is of the actual lure that I caught it on, some 14 years ago now!
Did the fact that I had never fished this mark so late into almost total darkness make the difference? Yes, I firmly believe that it did. I knew from the visual sightings of bass, some of them large, that they were there in the calm, clear conditions mentioned but the changing light had seemingly made all the difference – it taught me a great deal about ‘how and when’ to approach these types of marks.
The lure below is from a company called ‘Mean Lures’ – the rusty hooks denote the fact it hadn’t seen the light of day for 8 years or so!
So what did this prove? I was absolutely delighted of course and this mark and many similar to it do produce bass for me each year – quite often in similar conditions. But is it enough to convince me that dawn or dusk is ‘the best time’ to catch bass?
In a word ‘No’… For me, I would take a moderately rough sea, with decent water clarity in any type of weather, on any tide height or tide state in daylight every time. That might come as a surprise however, notwithstanding my headland or estuaries marks, nearly all of the others will see me fishing from ‘relatively’ to ‘very remote’ rock marks and casting lures in an around weed-beds, gullies and sand patches.
Could or would there be more bass on these marks during twilight/dawn or dusk/darkness? On some of them maybe that’s the case, but I haven’t managed to fish every conceivable condition on every single one of my marks. Moreover, as soon as I made the decision that I wanted to become a guide (a few years ago) it became very apparent that I had to concentrate ‘getting to know my marks’ in different wind or tidal conditions before I could commence experimenting with the twilight hours.
Dusk… I remember catching quite a few pollack during this particular evening!
To conclude, when I have managed to fish some of my ‘hotspots’ safely at dawn or dusk I have overall, come away very disappointed. Each to their own I guess and I’m sure some lure anglers will absolutely swear by fishing outside of the main daylight hours. Personally, I would advise anyone new to this aspect of the sport to learn how to identify and fish appropriately any potential bass marks My series here and then concentrate on fishing them in as many differing conditions as possible in daylight.
Thanks for reading.