Help: When Is the Best Time to Fish for Bass?

by | Published on: May 1, 2024 | Frequently Asked Questions

I’m sure you’ve heard the age-old adage ‘the early bird gets the worm’? Well, for many bass fishermen, there’s a belief that the early worm gets the bass. While we would love to boil our fishing advice into a bumper sticker-sized slogan, the truth is far more complex. To answer the question “When is the best time to fish for bass?” anglers need to pick apart far more than simply the clock.

The Best Time to Fish for Bass

Generally speaking, dusk and dawn are the most effective bass fishing times. But before you grab your pitchforks, frog rods, or other tools of destruction, let’s work through this answer together. Success isn’t confined to only specific times of the day. Weather and seasonal changes mean that the best times for bass fishing can vary from day to day, or even hour to hour.

Early Morning/Dawn

Dawn and the early hours of the morning are often the best times to catch bass, as they are typically very active during these periods. Bass have a strong preference for feeding during periods of low light, and become more active with the changing light conditions. Planning your time on the water around bass fishing feeding times is a great first step toward consistently catching big bass.

Generally, water temperatures are cooler in shallow areas, prompting bass to hunt for food there during the early hours. As the day heats up, they move towards deeper water. With that said, on mornings when ice forms along the lake’s edge, these shallow areas are often too cold for baitfish or bass to venture into willingly.

Early in the morning often means less competition on the water. This decrease in angler activity not only means quieter waters for you, but also less pressured fish, making them more likely to commit to presented lures.

Considerations for Early Morning/Dawn Fishing

Be mindful of your noise levels when fishing in the morning to avoid startling bass. The fish have spent a night with little manmade noise. Avoid slamming hatches, blaring the radio, or yelling, to reduce the likelihood of spooking fish and annoying your neighbors.

Set your alarms!

Lure and Gear Suggestions

While fishing in the early hours near shorelines and weeds, topwater baits such as poppers, plugs, and buzzbaits are all phenomenal choices. Don’t worry about the color pattern as the silhouette and commotion caused by these baits will draw a strike.

Interested in topwater lures? Find your perfect match with our comprehensive guide!

For deep water structures, a lipless crankbait is another tool that should be in your morning arsenal. The bait’s vibrations, rattle, and additional sound from colliding with underwater structures will entice even the most sluggish bass to hit.

Other Gear Considerations:

  • Headlamp: A hands-free light source is essential for landing a fish or tying knots.
  • Coffee: Tea or an energy drink can be substituted if needed.

Fishing at dawn is an ideal time to target bass as the lake wakes up

Late Afternoon/Dusk

Late afternoon and dusk routinely provide some of the day’s best bass fishing. As the sun begins to sink in the sky, bass will retreat into shallower water. Targeting transitional areas like mudflats, shoals, and shallow water structures will significantly improve your chance of finding bass as they move to forage in less-covered areas.

Results can peak during the twilight hours of dusk, just as the sun dips below the horizon. This is when bass have moved into shallow waters to find ambush points and take advantage of the increased activity of forage species. The responsiveness of bass is increased even further, as flying insects like mosquitoes and numerous frog species become more active, creating an all-you-can-eat buffet for the fish.

An added bonus is that most pleasure boaters and fairweather anglers opt to head off as the sun sets. With the lake open, finding fishing spots becomes much simpler, meaning you can take full advantage of the prime conditions.

A setting sun means fewer anglers, and hopefully more fish

Lure and Gear Suggestions

When targeting bass during late afternoon and dusk, several lures work well depending on the overall water conditions. In clear water, a metal spoon or spinnerbait catches the remaining light to mimic fleeing baitfish that are schooling at this time of day. Spinners and spoons can be retrieved at different speeds and depths, so you can use them to identify the depth bass are holding at.

As the sun sets, topwater baits become increasingly effective options. Smaller topwater bass baits like poppers and spooks fished parallel to weedlines and drop-offs can be used to mimic frogs, insects, and baitfish to great effect.

More Easily Spot Bass

While sunglasses may seem like a second thought, a pair of sunglasses are an angler’s best friend. Polarized sunglasses with green or amber lenses enhance visibility during low-light transitions, allowing you to more easily spot bass cruising near the surface.

Ready to master frog fishing? Explore our expert guide to get started!

Nighttime Hours

When it comes to bass fishing, nighttime hours present a feast or famine scenario. Under the cover of darkness, bass can hunt in the shallowest of water with virtually no interference from anglers, lakegoers, or predators.

Bass fishing at night does depend on the moon phase. Bass will use the light of the moon to crush baits on the surface or anywhere in the water column visible from below. Typically, the less moon there is, the less activity you can expect and vice versa.

When fishing bodies of water with artificial lights, such as dock lights and bridge lights, make sure you spend a few minutes inspecting each one. Manmade light draws in smaller fish and insects, which in turn attracts predatory fish.

Fishing topwater baits can pay off for nighttime bass

Lure and Gear Suggestions

Nighttime fishing is about upsizing lures to boost underwater vibrations and presentation. Large topwaters and swimbaits can be outstanding performers at night. If you’re trying to cover more water, a large soft plastic lure like a Carolina rigged 10-inch black worm is the perfect option.

When fishing at night with any lure, it’s essential to slow down. The slower the retrieve, the more time bass will have to key in on the lure’s position and strike. Since the fish will be unable to see you and may venture into shallow water, it’s wise to keep going until the lure is completely out of the water.

In preparation for any low-light or nighttime fishing, it’s a good idea to stage your gear before hitting the water. If possible:

  • Reduce the amount of tackle onboard
  • Rig rods with specific lures ahead of time
  • Store any unneeded deck equipment

A headlamp with a red or adjustable low-beam setting is ideal for reducing the temporary night blindness you may otherwise experience when flicking on a full-beam lamp in complete darkness to unhook a fish.


The best time to fish for bass hinges significantly on the time of day, but it’s vital to recognize that their behavior patterns vary throughout the year. Their foraging habits and preferred locations within the lake will shift with the changing seasons.

Instead of compiling an exhaustive list of fishing techniques tailored to each season, this section will focus on highlighting the prime times of day across each season. For a look into the nuances of bass fishing across different seasons, check out our in-depth guide.

Cold weather can still provide some hot fishing

Winter Bass Fishing

Winter is the coldest, darkest, and slowest season. Despite the cold weather, there are windows of opportunity for high-quality bass fishing, at a time when many anglers have already packed away their gear for the season.

Bass become sluggish in cold water, so you’ll have the best chance of hooking a fish in the mid to late afternoon, when the sun has warmed the water. Keep an eye out for extended periods of mild weather, which can really wake up the fish. Remember, slow-moving baits are the most effective choice for enticing lethargic bass.

Spring Bass Fishing

Springtime bass fishing presents both challenges and rewards in equal measure. The spring season brings rapidly changing temperatures and rain patterns that can turn even the best-planned fishing trip into a gamble.

As a general rule, the best times for bass fishing in spring are during the afternoon and evening.
While spring mornings remain cool, the gradual increase in light and warmth throughout the day begins to extend into the evenings, heating shallow water. This warmth entices bass to prowl shallow mudflats and grass beds, hunting for prey.

Additionally, this warm afternoon air increases the activity of insect species like mayflies, which will bring both baitfish and bass to the surface.

What About the Spawning Season?

The spawning season occurs during spring, when water temperatures reach approximately 60 degrees. As the water warms, bass migrate to shallower areas to build nests for laying eggs and to protect their young.

Dusk Is Especially Advantageous

Warmer conditions and increased sunlight keep mudflats and shallow areas warm even after sunset, making dusk your best bet. Fishing at dusk is especially advantageous for targeting spawning bass, as the reduced visibility of your shadows minimizes the risk of spooking the fish.

While targeting bedded fish can be an exciting way to shake off the dust from winter, these fish are the brood stock for the next generation. Make sure to practice catch and release and to return bass to their beds, to reduce nest predation.

A bass guarding its nest

Summer Bass Fishing

Summer is the peak season for bass fishing, and the most enjoyable time to be outside. However, the optimal bass fishing times during this season don’t always align with when most anglers hit the lake.

As the summer progresses and water temperatures climb higher, bass will begin to retreat into deeper, cooler water. Fishing during periods of light and temperature shifts will improve your chances of hooking a bass. Get out there around dawn or dusk, as doing so will allow access to fish that are transitioning between feeding and resting depths in the lake.

Your summer night fishing adventures may even include fireworks in July…

Fall Bass Fishing

Bass fishing during fall will mirror the springtime but in reverse. Yes, that seems like a no-brainer, but bass will really kick into gear as the temperature starts to drop and try to calorie load for the upcoming winter.

During the fall, shallow water cools more rapidly, while deeper sections maintain a steady temperature for longer. When the contrast between these depths becomes too extreme for small fish to navigate, bass capitalize on this thermal boundary to corral and feast on baitfish such as shad.

Early mornings are prime time for fall bass fishing, as the cool shallow water near the shoreline acts as a boundary, prevents baitfish from retreating into it.

Differences in Bass Species

This is the fun part of the discussion where the “what about” phrase comes into play. While “When is the best time to fish for bass?” is a fantastic general question, it’s important to consider that different bass species have different traits that can alter their behavior throughout the day.

Largemouth Bass

Undoubtedly, when discussing bass fishing, largemouth bass take center stage. Their flexibility and adaptability have allowed them to populate waters from Maine to Mexico and Orlando to Oakland. The largemouth’s ability to tolerate drastic changes in water temperature makes them a fish that can be targeted throughout the day.

Yet, the behavior of their prey and their own preferences make the morning and dusk hours of late spring, summer, and early fall especially productive.

Smallmouth Bass

The scrappy smallmouth bass is less widespread than their largemouth brothers. They traditionally inhabit cooler waters with hard lake and river bottoms.

Their preference for cooler, steadier water temperatures makes dusk one of the prime bass fishing times, especially during the fall season. During this period, smallmouth bass are highly active, often venturing into shallow waters in search of food as the sun sets.

A fantastic looking largemouth bass

Striped Bass

Striped bass are significantly more sensitive to water temperatures than their “mouthed” cousins. While some hybridized and salt-adapted strains can tolerate the waters of Florida and Texas, most landlocked “stripers” live in deep lakes where water temperatures remain steady between 55 and 68 degrees. While these schooling fish may occasionally venture into warmer waters to feed, they generally remain within their preferred temperature range.

Mornings are preferred by striped bass anglers. The low light and cooler water temperatures at dawn can trigger feeding frenzies among schools of striped bass, particularly in the fall when baitfish populations are at their peak density.

For an in-depth exploration of these bass species and more, dive into our complete bass species guide!

A stunning nighttime caught striped bass


Bass fishing isn’t a once-a-day activity. The beauty of bass fishing lies in the fact that there are continuous opportunities to catch fish at any time during the day. It falls on you to seize these chances.