Sight-Fishing Tips for Redfish

By Jeff Samsel

“Come on up when you’re ready,” Barnie White said from atop the tower on the front of his boat.

So I grabbed a rod, climbed the ladder and took my position beside White, a tournament redfish angler who specializes in sight-fishing and has won two tournaments this summer primarily using “looking” strategies.

“You’ll get your sea legs and get used to being up here in a little bit,” White said, seemingly recognizing that I felt somewhat awkward standing 8 feet up from the water and fishing.

He was right about the mental adjustment, but it didn’t take long for me to feel quite comfortable and to give little thought to my position. Little thought, that is, other than being seriously impressed by the vantage down into the water. Even with more stain in the water than White prefers, we could see astoundingly well.

We didn’t cast until we saw specific fish or at least saw a wake that White believed was created by a redfish. We watched every fish take the lure that day. Such an approach provides huge benefit in redfish tournaments, where anglers weigh the two heaviest fish that are less than 27 inches long, because it keeps them from wasting time fighting fish that are too small to be useful or too big to weigh.

Beyond being a great tournament strategy, this visual approach to redfishing is just plain fun and is very effective. It also helps you pattern fish and learn about their behavior because you can see things like how they relate to the weeds and other cover, the kinds of forage the fish are near and how they react to lures and presentations

Just as I became more comfortable fishing from the tower as I spent more time atop it, my eyes became better trained and I saw more and more fish as the day progressed. When redfish chase bait on top and stay near the surface, it’s simple to spot them and make a good cast in front of them. Often, though, only bit of movement or a flash or color beneath the surface betrays the fish. When redfish push up wakes, they create big, rounded bulges.

“Mullet make a sharper ‘V’ on the surface. Over time you learn which ones are redfish” White said.

White looks for redfish and for baitfish (especially pogies) in the water. The amount of both that he sees help him determine how long to remain in an area.

“You can tell when an area just looks alive,” he said

White also looks for fresh, green submerged vegetation, which is easy to examine from an elevated vantage. He peers extra closely into the water along the edges of the vegetation, where redfish tend to hold in ambush position.

White also pays careful attention to water color and looks for pockets of clearer water when some areas are muddy. Wind direction, river influences, rainfall, bottom make-up and more cause big changes in water color in many tidal waters, sometimes within small areas, and a pocket of fairly clean water that borders muddy water is apt to hold a big concentration of redfish.

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