For those anglers looking to pit their vision and stalking skills to the ultimate of tests, sight fishing is just for you.
In this shallow water game of cat and mouse, a reliance on optics, equipment and technique refinements will help put the odds in your favor and more fish in the boat.
What is Sight Fishing?
The tactic of sight fishing relies on the vision of an angler to first spot a fish, then cast toward it in order to entice a strike. Sight fishing is more of a search and find strategic challenge that is both rewarding and fun.
But You'll Need to Look for the Right Fish...
Not all game fish are suitable for targeting with sight. Those that primarily reside in shallow water get the nod. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass, long nose gar, northern pike, crappie and bluegill fit the bill.
Water Should Be Clear, But Not Too Clear
The ability to see into the water is a must for sight fishing. Clear water brings with it the best views, but this goes for both angler and fish. Spotting fish can come easy but angler movement, errant casts and unnatural presentations can alert your target and cause them to flee.
Lightly stained water is my personal preference. This limits the likelihood of mistakes being noticed — as well as you or your boat — while still allowing the needed clarity to locate fish.
Weather Will Make a Difference
Weather conditions play an important role in your ability to spot fish. Sunny days are preferred for obvious reasons, with morning or evening slots getting the nod. Midday light can be harsh and produce excessive glare, limiting your line of sight.
Don't discount overcast days. Glare will be reduced, and on those clear water lakes, vision can still be excellent when fish are up in the skinny water.
Polarized Glasses are Key
It goes without saying that a quality pair of polarized fishing glasses are a necessity. Polarized glasses cut down surface glare on the water, allowing an angler to increase the area and depth that can be seen with the human eye.
Bow Mount Motor for Stealth Mode
A foot-controlled electric bow mount motor is advantageous for sight fishing. These units allow you to quietly and efficiently explore shallow water areas, enabling you to actively scan standing up from the front of the boat.
Tactics and Technique
You've spotted a fish. So what to do now? A big mistake is tossing your lure directly at it, as this can often result in a spooked fish. Cast behind or to the side and bring your lure toward it. If the fish is on the move, cast in the direction it is swimming, some 5 to 10 feet ahead. A gentle underhand pitch or side arm cast is the preferred technique in order to minimize splash.
If faced with extremely clear water and finicky fish, light tackle and line is the preferred choice. Spool up with fluorocarbon. Clear water allows fish to inspect lures more closely so keep your selection natural.
Downsized baits and plastics, such as those belonging to the finesse family, often get the nod when targeting bass. Their willingness to favor these small snack-sized offerings is well documented. If chasing pike or long nose gar, dropping a lure size is often beneficial.