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Sight Fishing 101

by Jeff Bosshardt

 

Sight fishing is one of the most exciting ways to catch bass. The definition of sight fishing varies from angler to angler. One misconception is that this method is used only in the spring for bedding fish. Not true! Spring may be the ideal time for this, but some bass will always be shallow, always be catchable, and seeable. I have found this highly rewarding technique can be employed year around. Here are a few tips that should help you put more bass in the boat.

Generally, sight fishing is done in calm areas out of the wind in water that is 8 feet or less. Sunny or cloudy doesnít seem to matter much for me, just as long as it isnít peaks of sun coming out every once in a while because this type of weather makes it hard for eyes to adjust to the changing light conditions. Of course, water clarity is a huge part of finding bass. With murky water and visibility of a foot or less this technique becomes much more difficult. Areas to concentrate on would be clean, sandy bottoms with cover

nearby. A distinctive inside weed line is ideal, but rocks, wood, docks, and lily pads are also good. Another misconception is that these areas have to be near the shoreline. Again, not true! I have seen bass spawning and cruising in 8 feet or more on main lake humps and flats on several occasions.

When sight fishing stealth and patience is a must. Keep your trolling motor (I prefer a Minn Kota Maxxum 74 or 101) on a low constant speed, wear drab clothing avoiding colors like red or yellow, turn your electronics off, pumps off, avoid sudden abrupt movements, and donít bang anything around.

To aid in the actual sighting of fish wear a pair of quality polarized sunglasses. Donít skimp here. I wear Solar Bats with an amber lens to cover the majority of varying light conditions. Now scan in front of the boat looking out as far as possible for any movements in the water. When you spot a fish make a long quiet cast. A skip cast also works great. If you are fairly certain the fish hasnít seen you, sometimes backing off and making a long cast works too. If the bass has seen you and it starts to swim off, try or determine where itís headed and lead the fish with a long cast.

When trying to coax a bedding fish into biting you can try putting an object between you and the fish to help prevent the fish from seeing you. Crouching down low also works. I like Shimano spinning reels with the lightest pound test I can get away with. Remember stealth and patience. Anglers often wonder how long is too long to try and catch a bedding fish. The answer is a tricky one. You really have to rely on experience and try to read the mood of the fish. If it isnít even looking at your bait, itís probably best to move on or come back later. If it does show an interest, it may take 2 minutes or it may take two hours. There really is no secret formula.

For the most effective baits keep in mind you are not targeting schooling fish, but quality individual bass. Therefore, keep on your trolling motor and cover lots of water while watching for roaming fish. Horizontal presentations will cover the most water and will put the most fish in the boat. Effective baits are senko-type baits like the Pachinko by MG Lures or the stickbait by All-Terrain Tackle. Tubes and small jigs also work well. Choose colors you will be able to see. White, hot pink, and chartreuse are always good choices.

To summarize, sight fishing is like hunting. It involves stealth, patience, and targeting individual fish that will make a difference at the weigh-in. It is an effective technique anytime of year, not just spring. To me there is nothing more exciting than watching a 4lb+ bass take your bait in its mouth. Sight fishing has paid off for me by an average of one quality fish per tournament. Keep this method in mind as a key pattern even though it is not often the main pattern of the day. Weíre confident that if you keep your eyes open and alert you can use some of these tips to put more fish in the boat.