How to maximize the sunrise bite

Why do bigger bass bite best at sunrise and how to make the most of it

Why do bass anglers get up early? Is it to beat the morning rush hour? To avoid the boat ramp chaos? To make sure we get a good parking space? Sure, all of this matters, but the bottom line objective is to capitalize on the “magic hour” that follows the sun’s emergence.

Indeed, barring atmospheric calamity, the sunrise bite is often the period of highest opportunity the day will see. Even if tidal waters find the day dawning with a lackluster stage, the likelihood of encountering a flurry of activity are best at sunrise. Here’s why.

Concentrated forage

Baitfish huddled tightly near their overnight spots are easy targets for sunrise bass. Once the day gets going and predators fracture these bait schools, the fish have to work harder for their meals.

Opportunists at work

Bass do their best work in low light. That includes cloudy days and nighttime, but that transition from dark to light gives them a best-of-both worlds scenario, as sunrise tends to stimulate forage. This new activity coupled with the waning minutes of low-visibility puts the bass in full-throttle feeding mode.

Covering water is the name of the game because fish are often out roaming at sunrise.
Covering water is the name of the game because fish are often out roaming at sunrise.

What you’ll find is a heightened aggression level that makes the fish more willing to run after an enticing lure. The strike zone increases, so casting accuracy becomes less strict.

Fresh faces

Let’s face it, the bass see a lot of baits during daylight hours and, even if they have long memories, nights allow them sufficient time to shake off the annoyances and refocus their feeding interests. In other words, sunrise finds bass rested and ready to go.

Baitfish boogaloo

Following the bass spawn, nature provides hungry postspawners a handy feeding option via the shad spawns that occur along docks, sea walls, grass edges and any solid surface. These reproductive flurries happen mostly at night, with the activity spilling into the first hour of daylight. With thousands of baitfish distracted by their seasonal priority, they become easy targets for lurking bass. Targeting shad spawns at sunrise holds slam dunk potential.

To maximize your sunrise potential, keep a few key points in mind.

Go big or go home

Capitalizing on the sunrise aggression means throwing baits that appeal to a big fish with a big appetite. Topwaters, sizable jerkbaits, big profile spinnerbaits and hefty squarebills like the Strike King 8.0 fit the bill; but keep a pitch bait handy, just in case a fish misses a bite attempt. Often a quick shot with a more subtle follow-up bait can close the deal.

Topwaters like the Strike King Mega Dawg create a tempting image for big fish looking to grab a big meal at sunrise.
Topwaters like the Strike King Mega Dawg create a tempting image for big fish looking to grab a big meal at sunrise.

Keep it moving

No one’s saying you won’t catch ‘em flipping a Texas-rigged creature bait, dragging a Carolina rig or jiggling a dropshot, but if you’ve ever watched a bunch of puppies during play time, they focus their attention on the one toy you’re throwing, not those piled in the corner. Same with bass; when you know they’re likely to chase, make ‘em chase — you’ll quickly dial in to the biggest, most aggressive fish that know they need to grab breakfast quickly before the rising sun closes the door.

Make it last

Fish don’t wear watches, so no matter what time you’re reading on yours, the fish will respond to the actual light conditions. You can’t stop the sun’s ascension, but you delay its impact by “chasing shade.” That means avoiding west banks where a rising sun first reaches. Rather, fish the east sides where you can work the shadow angles of tree lines, docks, etc. to stay in shaded areas the longest.

With fish feeding aggressively in the low light conditions, topwaters can be incredibly effective at sunrise.
With fish feeding aggressively in the low light conditions, topwaters can be incredibly effective at sunrise.

Hit the Ground (Water) Running: Given your short window of daybreak activity, you’ll want to carefully plan your starting lineup and have several back-up baits rigged and ready. Moreover, keep a spare rod rigged with what you believe will be your top producer in case any of fishing’s mishaps claims your first one.

The sunrise bait can be the most amazing period of fishing you’ll ever experience, so make the most of it.

David A. Brown
About David A. Brown 318 Articles
A full-time freelance writer specializing in sport fishing, David A. Brown splits his time between journalism and marketing communications www.tightwords.com).