Sight Fishing: Seeing Pressured Bass

To all of you that live in parts of the country where the water is too murky to sight fish in Spring, I’m sorry. Its a fun and exciting way to fish for a brief part of the year and should be experienced by everyone at least once. However, it can be humbling, will test your patience and make you more frustrated than you knew you could be while having “fun”. For those who do get to sight fish you know that as the spawn really begins the pressure from anglers becomes an ever-increasing problem. In many clear water impoundments the pressure is so bad you can’t even approach the fish before they are gone.

Jeff wrangled this bass out of deep cover on Day 1 of the FLW

Over the last couple weeks I spent a great deal of time on the California Delta, unfortunately so did many of the West’s greatest pros. The FLW tournament series had come to town and there were wrapped boats every which way you turned. Not wanting to be rude I did my best to stay out of the way while still having a shot at trophy bass. Even so, you could feel the bite shutting down more and more as the days ticked by. The timing was right but there was too much boat traffic.

Instead of getting frustrated we put our heads together, selected a couple patterns that consistently produced, and went to catching fish. The primary pattern was sight fishing with a secondary pattern throwing swimbaits in shallow water. The swimbait bite was self-explanatory (we covered a lot of likely water) but the sight fishing took some work. As I mentioned we were constantly surrounded by boats but I was amazed day after day to see that most of them weren’t sight fishing. There were beds all around but many anglers managed to overlook them.

What I believe set us apart was our ability and willingness to look deeper. As the FLW approached the bass started spawning deeper than usual. The week before there were beds in 1-2 feet of water. During the event most beds were in 4-6 feet and as deep as 9-11 feet. Remember, the delta is not a clear-water fishery so finding these beds in 10+ feet of water was a real challenge. What was happening was the pressure was pushing these fish down and away from the boat traffic and many anglers failed to make that switch, those that did cashed big pay checks from a variety of techniques.

I’m not usually one to push products through the website. I want anglers to have freedom of choice and I want this website to be a place to learn rather than a place to be fed a cheap line and a bunch of gimmick products. Understand that when I do mention products by name it is because they have made a major impact on my fishing and I believe they can do the same for you.

If you’re trying to fish without polarized glasses you’re on the losing end of the game. There is no way you can compete without them. You need to invest in quality polarized lenses but you don’t need to break the bank. The particular pair I choose to wear during the spawn is the Amber lense made by Eye Surrender Eyewear. Why am I telling you this? Because I finally found a pair of glasses that don’t cost a fortune. I’m not big into the hype and gimmicks about glasses, all I really know about these is that I can see deeper than the people around me, they were inexpensive ($39.99), have a lifetime warranty, and are widely available in shops and direct from the manufacturer.
I hope these insights help you prepare for the rest of this season or the beginning of the next. When the bass are feeling the presence of boat traffic don’t give up, back off, look deeper, and you may just catch a giant (or two