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Nighttime anglers get out the black light for funkadelic bass fishing

George Thwaites • Jun 28, 2014 at 2:20 AM

The emergence of ultraviolet "black light" illumination in the 1970s gave American pop culture some of the tackiest, most garish and tasteless graphic art ever produced.

This is excepting, of course, the beloved posters that readers of a certain age may have tacked to their bedroom walls.

Far outlasting the black light poster fad was the night angling technology that developed at about the same time.

Side-mounted black lights are standard fishing equipment on most bass boats that spend a lot of time plying Northeast Tennessee reservoirs after dark. Ultraviolet lights impart a spectral glow to fluorescent fishing lines, enabling night anglers to accurately control casts and monitor retrieves in extremely low light conditions.

DuPont Stren monofilament is probably the "daddy rabbit" of all fluorescent fishing lines. Many anglers still swear by it. In addition, a wide variety of high-tech mono and braided lines have since been developed that also lend themselves to black light fishing.

Local angling author Keith Bartlett is spending most of his spare time night fishing for smallmouth bass on South Holston Lake. To get the most out of that, Bartlett exploits the UV end of the light spectrum.

"I'm using a flame green braided FireLine that's the same diameter as 4 pound test monofilament," Bartlett said. "Under the (black) light it looks like a well rope. You can see every every movement, every twitch."

The great thing about the braid, he added, is that the low stretch also allows for exceptional contact with the bait — in this instance, the good old pig and jig.

Bartlett's favorite smallmouth jig is an R&S Bait Company fly that combines natural hair and a rubber skirt. The natural hair slows the drop rate, he said, while the rubber skirt imparts subtle action even when the jig is at rest on the bottom. He sweetens the deal with a Zoom Tiny Salt Chunk, which complete the crawfish profile.

"If you can really get dialed in on the feel of that jig, you can actually feel the bottom transitions. You can tell the difference between the mucky, sandy bottom and gravel. You can read the contours by feel," he said.

His favorite summer jig color is ever-popular rootbeer, which ( if you're late to the party) isn't the same hue you'd see in your mug back when we had the A&W on Stone Drive in Kingsport. It's more of a translucent amber with metallic flecks of black and green.

While the walleye bite on South Holston Lake hasn't been reliable enough to suit hardcore walleye anglers, Bartlett has encountered them frequently enough to keep a rod at the ready rigged with a walleye plug.

"Any time you encounter baitfish on top up against the shoreline, it's time to grab that walleye rod," said Bartlett.

Bobby Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton hasn't heard a lot of angling chatter this week. He has noticed that the store continues to sell a lot of Zoom soft plastic worms.

On the fly fishing beat, Ben Walters at Eastern Fly Outfitters in Piney Flats reports that the TVA has been increasing water releases from South Holston Dam lately to pulses of three to four hours.

While this has done much to refresh the trout fishery — particularly at the upper end — the fishing conditions on the lower end are still less than optimal.

"I try not to send anyone to the lower end. If you do hook a decent trout, if you try to release it the fish will probably die because of the stress," said Walters.

At the upper end, the standard mix of sulphur mayflies, midges and nymphs seem to be working their usual magic.

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