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Night Bass Fishing - Choosing A Light

Choosing A Light


Let there be light

A head lamp or small LED lamp that clips to your hat brim is great for hands-free use. Don't shine flashlight or spotlight beams at the water surface where you intend to fish.

Check with your state's boating laws. Between sunset and sunrise, boats are required to keep bow lights (red/green) on when moving and the all-round stern light at all times, even when anchored. For current Tennessee boating regulations on lighting, see http://www.state.tn.us/twra/boat001b.html.

You're much more likely to be approached by law enforcement at night for lighting infractions than for any other navigation rule or a license/title/livewell check.

Be extra vigilant when running at night. Don't outrun your field of view; that is, be sure you can react to an emergency and stop within the area you can clearly see. Carry a spotlight to check your path, and watch out for other anglers sitting on points or on the channel with no lights showing.

I've been using UV lights, usually called blacklights, for night fishing going on 20 years now, and they make a tremendous difference in both my casting accuracy and strike detection at night. In general, blacklights serve to make "fluorescent" mono and "superlines" like PowerPro glow like purple or chartreuse Jedi light sabers. Line watching is especially important for fishing slow-moving baits like worms, tubes, and craws at night, especially when fish are not striking aggressively. The highly visible line makes it easy to detect the tell-tale twitch of a subtle strike.

In theory, fluorescent light will light up a line fifty feet and more away from the boat, but it penetrates water only a few inches. This means that it is invisible to fish a foot or more under the surface and that line underwater doesn't glow. I'll admit I haven't checked out this theory by swimming around my boat under water at night, but I guess I should.

I use blacklights for fishing along banks and around exposed cover. When I'm off the bank and fishing shelves or humps, ridges, shelves and drop-offs, though, I sometimes turn the lights off and fish by feel or by watching the moonlight or anchor light glint off my line. More than one really fine smallmouth angler has declared to me that any boat light -- even blacklights -- will spook smallmouth at night.

The best lights I ever used are ones my partner and I made ourselves years back, but these days I use a "Piggy-Back" lamp by Zorro Baits. It comes with a standard cord and 12 volt plug and costs about $80. The piggy-back model has a blue fluorescent bulb and a small incandescent white light bulb. The amount of white light can be controlled with a built in rheostat, while the UV lamp is on or off.

There are plenty of other UV lamps on the market, starting with the plastic ones like the BlackEye FL-222B that you can pick up at Wal-Mart for as little as $25. Most of them use the same type of bulb, which is the most important part of the whole apparatus.

Some lamps also include a white fluorescent bulb, which is fine for docking or when you stop fishing and want to light up your work area, but it produces too much light for use while fishing. One nice feature of the Zorro light is the flip-top cover that swings over the top. Usually, it shields the boat, but if you want light inside, you just swing the shield over and then the light shines where you need it.

I already have my next UV light picked out. It will be the Nucli-Eye Extreme UV LED Fishing Black Light. Three times brighter than conventional blacklights, it draws only 1/5th the power and casts a wider beam of light, plus it's much smaller and lighter. It has one row of UV LEDs to illuminate your florescent line and another row of blue LED lights to light the bank. You can switch between the UV only, the blue light only, or a 50/50 mix of both. There are no bulbs or lenses to break and the unit is fully waterproof and built to take abuse. The LEDs should last for about 20,000 hours of use. The price on the Nucli-Eye is about $250, but its little brother, with only the UV LEDs, is a hundred dollars less. See them at http://www.wiredworms.com/NucliEye/NucliEyeAtom.html.

The UV light is primarily used to illuminate your line, although when used alone it provides a little definition to bank structure and foliage. As my eyes age, I find myself needing to add a bit of extra light to be able to see the overhanging tree branches, dock pilings, buckbrush, and laydowns clearly. Zorro's white bulb on a rheostat is a good option for people in the same boat, but my advice is to avoid the white light as much as possible. On clear, rocky banks switch it off entirely.

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