Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

If you turn a headlamp on when you are night fishing, does it really spook the hell out of bass?

I can’t ever remember worrying for one second about using headlamps when I spent all my time bait fishing, but now that bass fishing on lures consumes me so completely, I tend to do all I can to keep any light source off the water when I am night fishing, and when I change lures or do something that requires a bit of light I will use the (pretty dim) red LED on my headlamp if at all possible.

I do all this for two main reasons - firstly my head tells me that keeping light off the water at night has to be a good thing with regards to not spooking bass which are coming in so close under cover of darkness, and secondly because so many anglers who fish for bass at night say that it’s a good thing to do as well. But is it? I was asking some questions on Facebook the other day and a number of people said that in their experience it didn’t make a blind bit of difference whether you turned a headlamp and used the white light settings and so on……….


So what’s the truth here? I bought a new flashgun for my Fuji X-T2 camera last year and I wanted to give it a quick test in the middle of the night and see if it could properly illuminate my mate Mark when we were fishing. Now it’s obviously not a very exciting photograph, but I would suggest that chucking a lot of bright light from a flashgun in order to illuminate a subject like an angler is what it is - artistically lacking!

It serves a basic purpose though, but the point here is that we had decided to head home because things had been very quiet for a while. I asked Mark if he would mind carrying on fishing for a little bit while I tested the new flashgun out and I remember saying that me chucking a load of very bright and intense flash out across the water and into the night sky would sure as hell scare the hell out of any bass that might still be hanging around. I shot a few photos and then the very next minute and after all that flashgun light had been pumped out there, Mark got hit hard by a bass when things had been so dead for a while. Go figure?

Do any of you here have any thoughts or experiences of all this night time light on the water stuff for bass fishing? I can’t get away from the logic attached to night fishing and not suddenly shining light on the water, but does it really make any difference? Like ninjas we creep around the coastline at night, doing our utmost to keep any headlamp use to an absolute minimum, building up as much night vision as possible, trying not to trip the hell over and rent the night sky asunder when you smash your shin into a sodding boulder, but could we just make life a lot easier and in fact use our headlamps more?


And what do you know about how red and white lights might affect fish or not? A part of me thinks that using a dim red light to change lures or whatever has to be a good thing because perhaps it isn’t spooking the fish, but perhaps more importantly it’s not messing up my night vision. So as impressive as so many of these modern LED headlamps are these days (and this rather amazing little Fenix HL60R that I have here to test has got five different white light brightness settings for example, from pretty dim but easy to move around up to so incredibly bright that I reckon I could be seen from space), would an LED headlamp that has a bunch of different red LED brightness settings as well as the traditional white LED settings be pretty damn useful for our night fishing and not messing up our night vision? Would it be possible to do all you need to do at night purely on a red coloured LED and different brightness levels?

Or am I barking up the wrong tree because a bit of white light suddenly shining across an inky black sea in the middle of the night doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to the bass anyway? I can’t help but think it does, but then I can’t get away from some saying that it doesn’t, or that them shining torches around on night dives doesn’t scare bass away at all and so on. Not only do we consume ourselves with trying to think like fish and convincing those demons in our heads that a new rod or reel or lure purchase is purely because the bass would prefer it (what, me?), but wow wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see what fish do actually see? Surely science can tell us so much but in fact we can never completely know because try as we might we will still never be fish?