Fall Fishing Gear for Nighttime Trips

Night fishing essentials to keep you safe, warm and catching fish after dark.

When Halloween decorations creep into neighborhood yards and children run the streets dressed as little monsters, I get excited for fall fishing. During the fall migration, fish feed day and night, so I’m on the water day and night. I admit, fishing in the dark can be terrifying. Navigating, casting, fighting fish and rigging tackle is twice as difficult. Every bump and clunk sounds twice as loud. Don’t be afraid to fish after sundown. Keep those haunting thoughts from creeping into your after-hours fishing trip with gear and tackle essentials that make night fishing less scary.

SiOnyx Nightwave

SiOnyx Nightwave camera
SiOnyx Nightwave Courtesy SiOnyx

Night vision isn’t just for zombie hunters. When the sun goes down, boaters turn on the SiOnyx Nightwave Ultra Low Light Marine Camera. The Nightwave digital camera enhances nighttime images to see a man-sized object up to 150 yards away. On a moonless night, the Black Silicon BSI CMOS sensor is capable of producing clear images on a standard multi-function display. To provide the widest image, the camera has a 44-degree field of view. With the SiOnyx Nightwave mounted to the boat’s hard top and connected to the GPS and fishfinder display, you can watch for navigation aids and hazards without taking your eyes off the water. Price: $1,995

Penn Prevail III

Penn Prevail III rods
Penn Prevail III rods are available for surf, inshore, and general boating applications Courtesy PENN

Night fishing is tough on gear. Rods and reels bang around in the dark and I don’t notice the damage until the next day. To keep up with the abuse, Penn beefed up the latest generation Prevail III fishing rods. Line guides are the first thing to break. The new Prevail III uses Dura Guides, one-piece stainless steel line guides without a guide ring that can crack or pop out. While a night fishing rod has to be tough, it also must be sensitive for casting, working the lure and detecting a light bite in the dark. That’s where I appreciate the 100-percent, 24-ton graphite blank. The material is strong enough to withstand abuse and still transmit every bump and bite. Somehow, Penn put together a graphite rod with cork grips for $99.95 for the medium action and $109.95 for the medium-heavy model.

Berkley Powerbait The Champ Swimmer

Berkley Powerbait The Champ Swimmer
Berkley Powerbait The Champ Swimmer Courtesy Berkley

The end of daylight savings time doesn’t cut short the time I spend fishing after work. Instead, losing an hour of daylight increases the time I spend fishing in the dark. One of my favorite pursuits is chasing striped bass, redfish and speckled trout in the dock lights of my neighborhood tidal creek. When I’m targeting fish in the lights, I look for a wide-body soft plastic that sinks and swims slowly. Berkley’s Powerbait Saltwater The Champ Swimmer is perfect for casting into the lights. Even when the wind is blowing, I can cast The Champ accurately beneath the boat dock or the edge of the shadow. A wide profile gives The Champ a larger silhouette in the lights. When I land a perfect cast, I want the lure to stay in the strike zone. The heavy tail and large shoulders allow the bait to swim or sink slowly. Best of all, Berkley has added PowerBait attractant to saltwater soft plastics. The Champ is one of seven new soft plastic models with a special scent and taste package for saltwater fish. Available in 13 colors and two sizes (3 inches and 3.8 inches) for $8.99.

Astral E-Ronny

Astral E-Ronny life vest PFD
Astral E-Ronny Courtesy Astral

For a little extra confidence when I’m kayak fishing after dark, I zip up and tighten down my life vest. I’m looking for a comfortable vest I don’t mind wearing. Astral’s E-Ronny life vest uses the highest quality, environmentally friendly components and materials with smart features for fishing. To provide storage without taking up space, the E-Ronny has a large pocket for a smartphone or VHF radio, plus a smaller pocket for tackle or tools. I like the mesh pocket added to the front of each large pocket for a little extra storage. Instead of placing foam high on the back like other fishing PFDs, the E-Ronny uses a thin panel of foam in the back, which is more comfortable for canoes and for fishing kayaks with a frame seat. The E-Ronny comes in four cool colors and three sizes for $135.

Toadfish Cutting Board

Toadfish Cutting Board
Toadfish Cutting Board Courtesy Toadfish

In the fall, I’m always on the go. I need a fish cleaning board that can keep up. Toadfish’s Folding Cutting Board fits in my surf bag and my fish box. I use the smaller version for cleaning fish when I’m away from home. Then, I keep the larger model on the boat to make quick work of the catch when I return to the dock. I’ve even thrown the folding cutting board in my suitcase for road trips. The board features a two stage knife sharpener so my blade is ready for the toughest fish. The top of the board is covered with food-safe high density polyethylene and the bottom of the board uses rubber pads to prevent slipping. The standard size (12 X 16 inches) is $40 and the X-large (14 X 22 inches) board costs $45.


Shimano Arma Joint swimbait
Shimano ARMAJOINT Courtesy Shimano

Just like a kid in a Halloween costume, a fishing lure tricks a fish with a treat. Shimano’s new line of ARMAJOINT jointed swimbaits takes the imitation game to extremes. To capture the realistic flash of a bait fish, inside the ARMAJOINT a thin foil sheet with holographic scales suspends on tiny springs. Every time the lure moves, the sheet vibrates to throw off a disco ball flash. For the longest casting distance, the ARMAJOINT uses magnets to fold the lure into an aerodynamic package as it flies through the air. When the lure lands, the magnets release and the bait swims naturally. All of this technology would be worthless if it didn’t work. The engineers at Shimano poured all their experience into designing a reliable swimbait with technology that will amaze the fish. The new swimbait is available in five colors for $42.

RELiON InSight 12V Battery

RELiON InSight 12V Battery
RELiON InSight 12V Battery Courtesy RELiON

When the sun goes down, the navigation and deck lights come on. The added power draw requires a reliable battery for night fishing. RELiON InSight 12V Battery is up to the task with overbuilt design and advanced performance. For vibration resistance, the InSight is built with a steel backing plate and bolted connections. To improve rigidity, the cells are housed in aluminum casing. An IP67-rated case keeps out water and dirt while still letting heat escape. To protect the electronics, the InSight uses an advanced battery management system that controls charge and discharge and prevents overheating and overcharging. Lithium batteries cost significantly more than traditional lead batteries, but they last longer and weigh less. The RELiON InSight is built tough and smart to get the most out of LiON’s advantages. Price: $1,199.95

Daiwa Free Swimmer

Daiwa Free Swimmer spinning reel
Daiwa Free Swimmer 5000 Courtesy Daiwa

Fishing in the dark requires more finesse than daytime fishing. Predators seem more wary after sunset, so a free-swimming live bait is just the thing to convince a large snook, speckled trout or striped bass to bite. A spinning reel, like Daiwa’s Free Swimmer, allows the angler to cast a light live bait and then let it swim naturally. When the fish strikes, slam the free swimmer in gear and the circle hook comes tight. Then Daiwa’s best reel technology takes over. The new Free Swimmer uses larger and more robust gears along with a metal sideplate to produce greater pressure on the reel handle. The carbon fiber drag uses grease with a low start-up viscosity. This means the drag engages easily and then turns up the pressure as the fish turns up the heat. The Free Swimmer’s freshest models are in 3000 or 5000 sizes, your choice for $149.95.

Columbia PFG Bonefish Quarter Zip Pullover

Columbia PFG Bonefish Quarter Zip Pullover jacket
Columbia PFG Bonefish Quarter Zip Courtesy Columbia Sportswear

After the sun sets, fall nights cool fast. For an extra layer of warmth when the temperature drops, Columbia’s Bonefish Quarter Zip Pullover is suited as an outer layer or mid layer under a heavier shell. The versatile fleece allows me to control the heat whether I’m freezing while I wait for a bite or sweating while I fight the fish. To lower the heat, I open the quarter-zip collar. A soft chin guard on the high collar keeps the zipper from irritating my neck and face. To turn up the furnace, I cinch the bottom hem to block out cold air. Fall weather is unpredictable, the Bonefish Quarter Zip makes comfort more predictable. To fit any angler, the Bonefish Quarter Zip Pullover comes in five sizes from S to XXXL and three colors for $75.

Z-Man ZWG Weighted Swimbait Hook

Z-Man ZWG Weighted Swimbait Hook
Z-Man ZWG Weighted Swimbait Hook Courtesy Z-Man Fishing

Fish hunt at night by looking for bait silhouetted in the moonlight. A suspended or slow-sinking soft plastic on a weighted weedless hook makes an easy target. Z-Man’s ZWG Weighted Swimbait Hook addresses some of the challenges of using a weedless soft plastic. To secure the soft plastic to the hook, the ZWG uses a plastic bead at the hook bend and a plastic collar at the hook’s eye. The thin lead weight prevents snags by sliding through grass and over rocks and oyster shells. In the dark, I feel and hear the bite before I see the fish strike. The ZWG has a dual tapered hook point to set the hook before I realize I’ve had a bite. To match a variety of soft plastics and target species, the ZWG offers three hook sizes (3/0, 4/0, 5/0) and each hook sizes has three sinker sizes. A pack of Z-Man ZWG Weighted Swimbait Hooks runs $6.49.