When fishing at night or in the gloaming — as dark and light mingle — savvy anglers turn to glowing attractants. In fact, luminous terminal tackle mirrors actual biological triggers that encourage fish to bite.
“Light-mimicking bioluminescence [could] be a key reason for the fish attraction,” says NOAA fisheries biologist Erik Lang. “Of course the more senses you attack in the fish, the better the results in getting them to bite.”
Many predatory fish, for instance, eat squid — a bait that commonly shimmers and changes color because of bioluminescence. Anglers have capitalized on that trait by using light sticks to target a known squid predator: the swordfish. Most of those colorful sticks illuminate in blues, greens and whites, or a coupling of more than one, to attract the deepwater billfish.
Attraction comes down to optimal foraging theory, says Lang. “Fish are constantly looking for the highest reward and the lowest risk when it comes to prey items,” he says. “If a light is stuck in front of their face, they are going to, at the very least, check it out because of the potential that prey is there.”
The Main Course
Manufacturers of hooks, jig heads and soft baits all produce variations that glow. That’s not surprising considering anglers want the business end — the part eaten by the fish — to attract their quarry.
Companies like Gamakatsu produce octopus hooks that glow in low light with the help of a proprietary finish. Syd Rives, national sales manager at Gamakatsu, recommends using the glow hooks as a fish attractor when fishing at night for stripers with live eels.
“We sell lots of our Octopus Glow Hooks to fishermen using [natural] bait or live-lining live bait,” says Rives. “We purposely do not cover the hook point with the finish to keep the point sharp.”
Besides hooks, a number of manufacturers make jig heads that glow. Almost Alive Lures makes jig heads, vertical jigs, lead heads on trolling skirts, and even squid imitations that light up.
“Our products get the unique ‘glow’ from a special type of phosphorescent paint,” says John Pender, fishing tackle manager at Almost Alive Lures. “The paint is ‘charged up’ with natural light or LED-type lights, but the effect will fade over the course of fishing.”
Pender is quick to tie on a glow jig head when dusk turns to dark. The glow heads work great paired with a grub when fishing in and around marshes at sundown and into night, he says.
“One successful tactic, here in coastal North Carolina, is fishing the outgoing tide near a creek that flows into a bigger body of water,” he says. “Fishing over some structure in 10 to 15 feet of water catches trout, reds and possibly flounder too.”
And don’t forget about the offshore waters.
“The glow types of squids have been successful when fishermen hit the offshore canyons before daybreak. They’re catching bigeye and yellowfin tuna that way on our Full Body Squid,” he says.
Light Up Your Stinky Baits
The addition of scent to soft baits is a sure fish-attractor that many inshore fishermen already employ. So I wasn’t surprised to hear from Bob Hoose, a field marketing manager at Berkley, that some anglers were utilizing scent and glow attraction.
“The glow is a better visual presentation while fishing at night or in great depths where there is very little light penetration,” Hoose says. “Berkley’s glow formulas are not paint, so the coloration runs through the entire bait. It makes for a very effective bait in several specific fisheries.”
On the Pacific Coast, the 8-inch PowerBait Grub for giant Alaskan halibut and lingcod, and the 6-inch Gulp! Grub for smaller halibut and rockfish are popular glow baits with scent. Southern California anglers target deepwater rockfish with a 4-inch Gulp! Swimming Mullet rigged on a double-dropper loop rig, Hoose says.
In the Atlantic and Gulf, anglers use 6-inch swimbaits in the glow color when deep-dropping for tilefish.
Inshore, some redfishermen experimented with the glow baits during the daytime.
“We figured out how to produce our 3-inch Gulp! Shrimp with a glow tail,” says Hoose, “and anglers have been hammering the inshore species with it, even in broad daylight.”
Nuts and Bolts
Even the “less-glamorous” terminal tackle sometimes gets the glimmer treatment. Beads, rattles and thimbles receive the luminous touch from manufacturers like Hi-Seas.
“Glow tackle is very beneficial in bottomfishing for all types of species,” says Shawn Carpenter, a sales executive at Hi-Seas. “The presentation acts as a visual stimulant for fish when light is absent.”
The company produces luminous glow beads, shark rattles and plastic thimbles. The glow beads come in two sizes (2.4 and 2.8 mm), while the U-shaped plastic thimbles handle line up to 2.2 mm.
“Top species include just about everything that can be targeted at night, that suspends on the bottom, or holds on wrecks offshore,” says Carpenter. “I’ve used the glow beads for flounder, sea bass, grouper, tilefish and black drum. When the sun sets, or you are fishing in deep water, the glow only adds to the rig.”
Whether it’s hook, line or jig head, terminal tackle lights up the bite, so go with the glow.