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Sight Fishing 101 – Tips and Tricks

Sight fishing can be one of the most adrenaline-pumping forms of angling in the world. 

You catch a glimpse of the large game fish you’re after and move in, working your lure around the area in a delicate manner so as not to spook the fish.

If you’re lucky—and skillful—you’ll get a bite. 

For most anglers, fishing is more of a guessing game than anything.

Many sportsmen rely on electronics to find and target fish, or they base their angling decisions on proven knowledge of fish behavior depending on the time and place. 

Sight Fishing

Sight fishing, however, utilizes an angler’s ability to first spot the fish they’re after and then target them with their lure of choice. This can be especially frustrating when the fish you’re after doesn’t bite, or worse, leaves the area. 

The sight fishing method is highly productive for a variety of game fish species around the world. Professional bass anglers prowl the waters of the Deep South, looking for giant bedding bass during the early months of the year when largemouth are spawning and can be found at or near their beds. 

Trout fishermen often stalk through miles of trails to a chosen location where they survey the rolling water, using their gaze to pinpoint the slightest movement by a fish against the current.

Saltwater anglers typically cruise around the inlets and flats in search of bait balls or whatever their fish of choice is before developing their plan of attack in order to land the fish they’re after. 

No matter what kind of fish you choose to target using this fishing method, there are some tried and true sight fishing tips and tricks that will undoubtedly help you up your game and land more fish.

1. Improve Your Vision

Sight anglers rely on one thing to locate the fish they plan to catch: their vision. Anything you can do to improve your ability to see into the water is a plus.

Thankfully, recent technological advancements have given rise to eyewear that allows anglers to see into water with more clarity than ever before.

Many of the most popular name-brand eyewear companies have polarized fishing sunglasses that are ideal for anglers to wear while sight fishing.

Remember that you mostly get what you pay for when you’re purchasing a good pair of fishing sunglasses. 

Regardless of what you think the best color lens for fishing is always choose a pair of sunglasses with polarized lens.

2. Move Slowly

One of the most common mistakes anglers make then fishing by sight is getting in a hurry. Some of the best sight fishing tips you can get from experienced anglers involve slowing down to truly survey the water you are in and take time to look for those fish that are lurking in hard-to-find places.

Many times, anglers make the mistake of expecting to get a clear visual of a fish and they pass over a spot where a trophy game fish might be hiding out.

If you take the knowledge you already have about the particular species of game fish you’re targeting, use that information along with your instinct to meticulously search the water. Sometimes you might only see a tail flicker or catch sight of a fish that’s sticking close to some underwater cover, out of sight from most anglers.

3. Get High

Getting high is a great strategy for fishing by sight. And no, we’re not talking about impairing your senses with drugs or alcohol. Many of the most experienced sight fishermen know that in order to get a good visual on your target, getting to an elevated position always helps.

Sight fishing anglers usually have boats that are specially fitted with tall platforms that provide an elevated view of an angler’s surroundings. This lets you spot fish from farther out and also get a good visual from a better angle.

Redfish are one of the most popular game fish on Earth—and for good reason. They grow to be very large and are tenacious fighters when hooked. Anglers routinely use platform-fitted boats to search for redfish and many other saltwater species.

For trout anglers, it can sometimes be helpful to climb large boulders or get to a higher elevation above the water and take a few minutes to look for fish. 

Doing this before you start fishing can prove to be a massive and taking the time to carefully make a mental map of the river bed and structures is just as important as to what lures or bait you might be using.

4. Study Your Prey

Another painful mistake that many sight fishermen make is eagerly throwing a lure right in on top of a fish as soon as they see one. This is a great way to spook a fish and ruin your chances at catching a trophy.

Be sure to take your time and study the fish you’re after once you’ve sighted them. Pay attention to whether the fish is on bed, or cruising around in search of baitfish or another meal.

Studying the fish’s behavior will give you an idea of how you need to approach it in order to get a bite. 

5. Don’t Get Too Close

Sight fishing is a great way of finding and catching trophy fish, but if you get too close to a mature game fish, odds are that it will be gone for good. Getting just within range of a large fish without scaring it away is a very delicate process that takes practice and skill to achieve.

This is another reason why it’s important to take your time and move slowly as moving in at a hurried pace will make it more likely that the fish will be spooked. The key here is to make sure that you see the fish before the fish sees you. 

6. Use Camouflage

Being very good at sight angling means you have to sometimes think outside the box and get creative. If you’re sight fishing from the shoreline, it’s a good idea to try to blend in with your surroundings as best you can.

Nothing will scare a fish away faster than the outline of a looming figure on the water’s edge that is clearly not natural.

Many skilled sight fishermen who target saltwater game fish will wear light blue, white or grey clothing in an effort to better blend in with the sky above the water. If you’re fishing around a wooded area, it’s not a bad idea to dress in some camouflage clothing in order to stay undetected. 

7. Stay Quiet

You might be surprised to learn that fish can actually hear you if you make too much noise. No, they don’t have ears, but game fish are well-tuned to their environment and will quickly pick up on any sudden or unnatural vibrations.

When sight fishing, you’ll be working to get close enough to make a cast toward your target and remaining as quiet as possible will go a long way in helping you catch the one you’re after.