This may seem like an obvious statement, but your eyes are your best tool when it comes to catching fish.
Crestliner pro and four-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier John Cox is a leading expert in sight fishing, and he gets excited when talking about it: “The one technique I’m most passionate about, that I lose sleep over, that I look forward to every year, is sight fishing. I think the reason I love it so much is that it’s almost like hunting. Actually hiding from them and trying to sneak up and catch them. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, and it gets really personal.”
Pro sight fishing tips
John recommends a creature bait or soft jerk bait in natural colors like green pumpkin or baby bass. You may also choose to throw white, since it’s easy to see when the fish takes your bait. He notes that though the spring spawn is the best time to sight fish, you can also target fish year-round while cruising the shallows and shoreline. When you spot a fish moving, cast ahead of and past it, then move the bait slowly to intercept the fish. Pause when you have the fish’s attention, triggering the strike with small twitches if needed.
Everyday and pro anglers agree on a number of other considerations to take into account when targeting bass with your eyes:
KEY ELEMENTS OF SIGHT FISHING
• Polarized sunglasses are critical
• Pre-spawn and spawn are best times
• Use a wide-beamed, shallow-drafting boat
• Dress in lighter colors to blend in with the sky
• Be quiet and minimize movement
• Use creature baits, flukes and jerkbaits
• Be patient and vary your presentation
The right vessel
His boat—the Crestliner MX-21—is also key to his sight-fishing success. The wide-beamed, all-welded aluminum hull provides two critical things for sight anglers—it drafts shallow, allowing you to get back into coves where the fish are, and the width minimizes boat movement when moving around the deck, keeping fish from getting spooked.
Keep your eyes peeled
Sight fishing also involves looking for things other than the actual fish you want to catch. Keep ‘em peeled for jumping shad, birds circling schools of baitfish, wakes from feeding fish rushing prey—and some even say that turtles are a sign that fish are nearby. If you notice it, a fish notices it, and is likely taking the opportunity to search the area for food.
John also offers this advice to sight-fishing newbies: “If you’re new at it, don’t overthink it. You don’t need a ton of different baits—just keep it simple and use your instincts.”