In sport fishing, nothing is more exciting than sneaking up on a fish, making the cast and watching the predator chase its prey. In many ways, a kayak adds an advantage to sight fishing. The angler stands low, out of the fish’s line of sight. And nothing is quieter than a paddle and 12 feet of plastic.
Sight fishing is particularly popular for anglers targeting redfish in salty marshes and shallow bays. Kayak Angler contributor Evan Howard chases redfish in the Louisiana backwaters looking for the telltale spot tail flagging just above the surface. “I make zero blind casts,” he laughs.
Howard rides the tides and wind following the fish into the shallows. “I either beat productive areas waiting for fish to move through, or I go on the hunt looking for reds moving into the shallows,” he says.
To better spot fish, anglers stand in the kayak, even perch on top of a seat or cooler. A higher perspective allows the angler to see through glare on the water to fish and structure below.
Search the area sweeping your eyes 180 degrees around the boat. Look for fish just under the surface or any indication of activity. “A slight ripple or wake could indicate a fish swimming below.”
Sight fishermen have to use their ears, too. While looking ahead, listen for bait popping or the swirl of a fish tail just out of sight.
Once a fish is spotted, don’t miss. “Casting accuracy is the number one skill for sight fishing,” Howard insists. Each scenario can require a different lead and retrieve. Howard recommends practicing on the lawn. “I target carp in freshwater to practice my accuracy,” he admits. Shooting an easy target in small water can pay off when stalking big fish in big water.
Controlling the kayak is a challenge while standing and paddling. Howard stresses the importance of using the tide and wind to your advantage. It’s easier to ride the elements and make slight adjustments than try to fight Mother Nature. Plan the fishitacttng day so the elements push across the most productive water.
Recently, Howard has switched over to using a push pole when standup fishing. “I can maintain silent contact with the bottom and control my drift,” he explains. When he wants to throw on the brakes, Howard can stick the pole in the mud. “Learning to use the push pole has improved my fly fishing exponentially,” he says.
When making a long, accurate cast, it is essential knots pass easily through the rod guides. Howard chooses a low-profile blood knot to attach leader to mainline.
Wind affects Howard’s lure choice, too. On a windy day, he’ll choose a heavier lure he can land more accurately. When conditions are calm, a lighter offering makes less noise to spook the fish.
For Howard, the most important skill for sight fishing is developing his hunter’s instinct, learning to identify the subtle and not-so-subtle cues giving away the fish. He chuckles, “On the way I cast to a lot of mullet schools and ran over a lot of redfish schools.”
Sight fishing brings out the hunting instinct. | Photo: Josh Tidwell