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Seeing a huge bass or barricuda snap in skinny water, kick up a plume of sand, and take a bite gives a much better buzz than one caught jigging or casting blind, and that’s why sight fishing is such an addiction. While training your eyes to see through the sun and watery shadows for any sign of sliding movement is key, it starts with getting yourself high enough, stable enough, stealthy enough, and shallow enough to where the big ones are hiding.
It starts with a stealthy, easily positioned, and super stable pro-level fishing kayak that can not only get to the shallow and weedy areas where fish hide, but also quickly out to the deeper waters of big lakes, oceans or bays. Two such kayaks are the Vibe Shearwater 125 with pedal drive or power motor, and the unique Vibe Cubera 120 hybrid stand up paddle board (SUP) fishing kayak.
Both of these kayaks will enable much better sight fishing options than other kayaks because they are both ocean and freshwater able, rock-steady stable, and both have as large an open deck as possible – which can give you multiple high vantage points and angles, and the higher the better when it comes to sight fishing.
A foot pedal drive fishing kayak with a fin drive (to get through underwater weeds without choking) like the Shearwater 125 also includes a gunwale perch, and an optional Vibe Summit Perch fishing platform on the back of the folding Summit seat which puts you a full 16 inches off the water, and that's before you even stand up. As a bonus, a Bixpy Jet motor drive can easily affix to the rudder system to fight weather, wind and currents.
With the truly unique Cubera 120, you have the most stable and largest open deck of any fishing kayak on the market, so you can walk and cast all the way from stem to stern to throw and line and hit any location on the water. No other kayak delivers total 360-degree sight fishing opportunities. And, as a SUP hybrid fishing kayak, you are able to slide over the shallowest of waters only a few inches deep, so you can get places no other fishing kayak or sparkle boat can get to.
Being able to spot a redfish edge around a shallow flat while being oblivious to you as a patient angler is an incredible feeling – with good sight fishing, the hunter becomes the hunted. Large fish in fresh or salt water will often come into very shallow water to warm themselves, making excellent sight-fishing targets. Fish of all species become easier targets if you can take advantage of sight fishing techniques, but most particularly the predatory ones.
While having the perfect sight fishing kayak like a Shearwater 125 or Cubera 120 definitely moves the odds in your favor of hooking up by being able to see more often what fish you’re targeting, there are a number of specific sight fishing skills and knowledge sets that play a big factor in sight fishing and can be the difference in catching or spooking bass, redfish, bonefish, or any other fish you’re after.
Bright sunlight is often a big help in spotting fish’s shadows and movements. But on cloudy days, blind casting on the up-current side of shoreline points or clumps of shore vegetation will get a fair share of hits. Fishing a low tide makes spotting redfish much easier across a flat or taking your fishing kayak and moving silently and smoothly into shallows areas near the banks where bass boats can’t get close to will get you to where the fish are holding.
Once you’ve made it to your spot, next comes locating the fish and that means either standing on your kayak’s deck to get a higher vantage view, or if you have a gunwale angler perch on your kayak like the Shearwater 125’s that can get you an additional half foot above the deck, that’s even better. An accessory like the Vibe Summit Perch that attaches to the back of the kayak seat is the ultimate in sight fishing height, because that’ll raise you 16 inches above the water so you can see across and down into the water for days.
Sometimes you can find a big fish swimming in 5 or 6 inches of water by spotting the shadow it casts on the bottom, or the flash off its side if the sun’s bright enough, but it’s not always that easy. Sometimes it’s just the tip of their tail or the top of their dorsal fin that’s visible. If you have a stable enough kayak like the Shearwater 125 or Cubera 120, standing up is very easy no matter what size or weight you are, and that gives the angler-hunter a great advantage. This higher vantage point really increases the odds of seeing hidden largemouth, smallmouth, bonefish, permit, snook, tarpon or even sharks by using good sight fishing techniques.
An absolutely critical piece of sight fishing gear is a good pair of polarized sunglasses! Polarized shades will cut through the water’s reflections at any time of year or location, and it will make finding camouflaged fish infinitely easier once you get high enough off the water. Another great sight fishing tip is to keep the sun at your back as much as possible. The back of a redfish will often glisten in the light and can giveaway its location.
Once you’ve spotted the fish, if you aren’t close enough to make an accurate cast, very slowly make your way towards him and be patient. Patience is key. Make too much noise banging around in your kayak and you will send pressure waves and wakes to spook the fish. Keeping a firm eye on your target, notice which way the fish is traveling or facing. Then position yourself or your kayak accordingly so that you can make an accurate cast to drag your lure right in front of his face.
Using the right presentation and lures is absolutely important in order to entice a fish to bite. Stay away from heavier lures or anything that will make a loud splash when it hits the water. You ideally want a lure that lands softly, sinks slowly and can be dragged through almost anything, such as weeds or structure. Sometimes you intend to drag through cover and other times you’ll overcast.
A very common angler mistake when sight fishing is casting directly at a fish, particularly one pushing a wake. The wake you see is not the fish’s nose, but instead the ridge of their back by the dorsal fin. You want to lead the target, reel in slowly, and then let the fish swim into your lure.
When you not only see the monster take your lure, but feel that jerk of tension, that’s the awesome drug of sight fishing! Watching your lure being inhaled by a largemouth bass or hungry red and then seeing him whip and thrash across the shallows as your drag screams is what will drive you to become better and better at sight fishing.
However, the joys of sight fishing extend way beyond just seeing hook ups, when you are able to see a school of flashing snook, or redfish with their tails out of the water, or a cluster of smallies so much is going on in the water that’s never seen when you’re sitting down and can’t see what’s below.
Sight fishing is the next awesome chapter of your own story as a kayak angler. Get higher off the water and get higher hook ups by using these valuable tips, and well as grabbing a Shearwater 125 or Cubera 120. Tight lines!