Toledo Night Hawk

An Article written by Jerald Horst

Oh yeah, I like night!

No sweat; no sunburn; no glare!

And the bass bite is good at night—if you are with someone who knows what they are doing.

It also gave me a chance to hang out in the shade of Darren and Eve’s first class boat house on the Negreet Creek arm of Toledo Bend Reservoir.

It was snazzy: a full deck, an outdoors kitchen, and a television. Inside were slung a Yamaha WaveRunner personal watercraft, a 24-foot Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge, and a 20-foot Skeeter SX 200 bass boat, the latter of which Darren won in a tournament.

I was actually there to fish with their son Zac, a recent addition to the ranks of Louisiana fishing lure makers. I probably didn’t give the shy, soft-spoken young Cajun proper attention.

I was too busy watching Eve whip up supper over the water. The shrimp, squash, corn-on-the-cob, potatoes, and onions, all seasoned up with Cajun spice and steamed in aluminum foil, went down the hatch mighty easy.

The day was hot enough to fry a lizard, with the afternoon thermometer hanging around 100 degrees. It wasn’t fit for man or beast. In the sun, buckshot-sized beads of sweat poured down my face.

I was glad this was a night fishing gig. Not till 8:00 o’clock did it become less hostile. The view from the boat house faced west, offering an unobstructed view of a gorgeous sunset, a peach glow that suffused the horizon over the big lake.

It wasn’t until an hour before the trip that Zac’s pop made up his mind to join us. Darren, a slightly older and duskier version of his son, is a solid convert from “gung-ho” (his words) bass fishing to crappie chasing.

His narrative is funny.

“When I was bass fishing, I used to see old people sac-a-lait fishing and I would say if I ever come to that, put a gun to my head.

“When I bought this place up here is when I started sac-a-lait fishing. They are better-eating and you can catch a lot more in a shorter period of time than fishing all day for 5 bass.”

I was to learn, however, that Darren hadn’t let his bassin’ skills get too rusty.

 

Night Moves

Why fish at night?

It’s easy to predict one answer—It’s not so blamed hot!

But Zac Dubois has more.

“During the summer, I don’t fish in the middle of the day. Only early in the morning or late in the evening, but mainly at night.

“I understand that bass can be nocturnal. They sleep in the day and feed at night. I’ve seen fish that I couldn’t get to bite in the day. Then I go back at night and they tear it up!

“You improve your chances to catch big fish at night too. This lake gets a lot of recreational boating and fishing pressure. I believe bass are smart and I believe that they adjust to the activity by feeding at night.”

But night fishing isn’t just doing the same things you do in the daytime, except after dark, he explained.

“In the summer, they don’t want to eat a lot of little shad. They want one big bite—a big meal rather than a bunch of small meals. They can attack one big thing, swallow it, and then lay up.

“I use bigger weights; they hit the bottom harder. I never use 3/4-ounce weights in the spring.

“If you use a spinner, use one with a single large Colorado blade to produce more vibration. At night, bass feed by using vibration and noise rather than by sight, although I know fish can see profiles in the dark.”

The subject of sight brings up lure color. Dubois likes dark colors for night-fishing—black, blue, and purple variations.

Going hand-in-hand with his tendency to use heavier lures at night, he uses heavier lines, simply because line is less visible at night. Still, with the exception of jigs, where he uses straight 65-pound test braided line, Dubois always spools with 17-pound test fluorocarbon.

Into the Dark

Shortly before our jaunt, Zac and Darren decided to spurn their high-powered bass boat for the luxury of the Fishin’ Barge. So, under a luminous full moon, we chugged serenely down the creek arm to the main lake to fish.

“Another good thing about fishing at night,” said Zac, “is that it’s calmer. If the wind is blowing over 8 miles per hour, it’s hard to fish the main lake. In the heat of the summer, the best fishing is in the main lake rather than in the shallower creek arms.”

Darren paid attention to his split screen sonar-GPS during the run. “As in the day, it’s important to follow marked boat lanes,” narrated his son.

“It’s best to plan ahead and lay out a track on a GPS during the day. Wherever the bass are in the day, they will be at night, only biting better. Or if you have a good spotlight, you can follow the reflectors on the boat lane markers.”

“Some electronic map cards will have the lanes marked too,” added Darren.

“But they are not always accurate,” qualified Zac.

After hitting the main lake boat lane, Darren turned the barge north until he was “offshore” of the lights of Cypress Bend Marina. He slowed the big pontoon craft to a crawl and zig-zagged toward the marina over the edge of a flat that was 8 feet deep, dropping off rapidly to 40-foot depths.

He maneuvered the barge with his trolling motor, watching the depth sounder screen closely.

To me, the structure on the screen could best be described as a hump. “People around here would call it a ridge or mound,” grinned Darren at my deficit in Toledo lingo. This is known as the Tennessee Bay area.”

It didn’t look like any bay to me—it looked like a small ocean.

“Their tactics were to cast to the top of the ridge and retrieve the lures down the drop-off. Zac started with a black and blue Strike King Denny Brauer Structure Jig and a black and bleu (YES THAT IS THE WAY HE SPELLS IT) Poodoo Craw that he worked with a jig and glide motion.

Darren opted to slow-crawl a Carolina-rigged black and red Poodoo on the bottom.

“One thing about night fishing,” he murmured, “is that you have to concentrate. It’s all done by feel. In the daytime, you can watch your line. If you lose your concentration at night, you can hang it up.”

Darren struck first. “There’s one” he grunted on a modest, but pretty two-pounder. After he caught another one, Zac decided he had enough of the Strike King.

He whipped out June bug red Custom Big Worm. “It’s my confidence bait,” he exclaimed. “I get the most bites on it, although I get more big fish on a jig.”

It worked.

The night air had a charm of its own. It was almost dead calm and the pair was serenaded by low volume country music. In the background, camp lights glimmered brightly over the water.

“It feels funny to be bass fishing from a party barge,” chuckled Darren.

For my part, I liked it!

After a few more fish, they tired of the spot and moved further north, passing between Twin Island and a point of the main shoreline.

Fishing here was on a sunken brush pile the pair had located by accident earlier while running with their depth sounder on. The brush pile was in water 28 feet deep. The pair threw into 13 feet of water and retrieved their lures downhill.

Zac went back to his black and blue jig and black and bleu Poodoo Craw. Darren stuck with his Carolina rig. Both paid off as each jacked fish out of the brush.

Three fish later, Darren moaned, “Oh man, I lost my last black and red one. I guess I’ll have to use a black and bleu one.”

Zac added his lamentation. “I never have enough time to make baits for myself. I’m always busy making baits for everyone else.”

It was amusing. Earlier in the day, Zac stopped at Toledo Town & Tackle and bought a pack of black and bleu Poodoo Craws that he had shipped to them earlier in the week.

“It isn’t the first time I’ve done that,” he admitted ruefully.

They patiently and persistently stayed on the brush pile, casting into the inky night, their baits plunking out of sight in the darkness. Apparently though, patience had limits.

They decided on a totally different tactic. Back to Negreet Creek arm they went to fish the lighted docks. It was a totally different game, with the well-lit piers and boat houses providing visible targets. The lights weren’t submerged Green Monster-type lights, but rather overhead lights.

Occasionally, feeding bass even showed themselves, offering a version of sight-fishing.

Zac successfully fed them his black and red Texas-rigged Big Custom Worm, producing his biggest fish of the night.

For his part, after he lost all his red and black Poodoo Craws, Darren seemed to lose concentration. At 2:00 a.m., he yawned widely and rubbed his tummy. “How late do you want to fish,” he asked?

The younger man took that as a signal that his pop wanted to pack it in and stowed his rod.

Zac himself could have probably went at it all night.


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