Sight Fishing Techniques
I never sighted fish on the flats, just cobia, until this past year. I didn’t even know you could sight fish the flats until last year. We showed up to the first tournament last year, and about 20 boats had what looked to be custom-made cobia towers off the bow. The towers struck my curiosity, so I asked. That is when I found out about sight fishing reds.
What I didn’t find out was the technique. After that tournament, I researched by reading, watching videos and talking to people. It looked simple: Set up a ladder of some sort, creep the flats, and cast at reds. Little did I know, that is not even close. I became confused and frustrated, and it looked a lot easier on the YouTube videos and articles I read. Since that first time trying, when we have fun weekends (not tournaments), I have tried sight fishing reds until now I can catch them 50 to 60 percent of the time. Sight fishing comes down to height, presentation, conditions and optics.
The first time we tried it, we set up a 2-foot platform stool on the bow. We crept the flats looking for reds, and cast at the ones we saw. We didn’t see very many (if any, they might have been mullet), and when we cast, they spooked. We spent the whole day moving around the flats, casting and catching nothing. I thought the 2-foot platform was good until I used my friend’s 6-foot tower. Every foot higher allows 20 more feet of visibility. With a 6-foot tower, I can stay 120 feet offshore and still see to the water line with good conditions. You can still see from a 2-foot tower (I have a 3-foot tower on my boat), just not as far as a 6-foot tower.
In the skinnies with clear water, the fish are very spooky and presentation is important. If it doesn’t look natural or lands too close, they scare off. Throw past them, not on their head, and bring the bait at a 45 in front of their faces and wait for the thump. It is like a pinfish thump on steroids. Be prepared, sometimes that spooks them. Other times you throw about 10 feet from them, slightly move it until you get the fishes’ attention, then let it sit. Fish will usually pick it up. The best piece of information I have ever been given or heard from other tournament anglers: “You have to make it the fish’s idea to eat your bait.”
Conditions are probably the second most important part of sight fishing. You want calm, clear, sunny days; obviously you don’t want rainy, overcast or choppy. When you go sight fishing, the wind and your shadow are the biggest things to keep in mind. You always want your back to the wind. If you go against the wind and the mild chop, you will cause hull slap and vibrations. You will never get close enough to see the fish with slap and vibrations. Sometimes to have the wind to your back, you will cast a shadow. Be aware where your shadow is at all times, and avoid casting the shadow where you’re looking if possible.
The most important part of sight fishing is optics. You can’t catch what you can’t see. What you do see probably isn’t what you think it is. I had worn Costas since 2010; everyone swore by them, so I wore them. When we started tournament fishing and sight fishing, I realized there must be better on the market. I researched and narrowed it down to Redtail Republic and another company that had similar products created in Idaho for skiing. If I was snow skiing, I would have bought them.
I went with Redtail Republic, a made-in-the-USA sunglass company created by a fishing guide from Texas, with inputs from other guides. They are lightweight, eight-layer base glass lenses with sightline polarization. People don’t believe the difference great glasses make until I let them try my amber base/green lens Redtails. The last guy fishing with me offered to buy the ones off my face and I could have his Costas after he tried them and could see what I was seeing from the same elevation. Withn the clarity, eye protection and the way it cuts the glare off the water and allows me to find the right fish, I will probably never wear another brand. Remember, you get what you pay for.
I reached out to RedtailRepublic.com, and they gave me a 20-percent discount code, liquiddreamfishingteam, to use with News Herald readers. It’s not just glasses, it’s a lifestyle.