Sight fishing exhilarating but can end up frustrating

PALATKA, Fla. -- Sight fishing is one of the most exciting -- and most frustrating -- aspects of bass fishing.

You're staring down your quarry, reading it to determine whether or not you've got a chance at fooling it into biting. The pitfall of this tactic is staying too long on a fish that likely won't cooperate.

Several pros have been knocked out of competition due to this sort of stubbornness.

It's been noted several times before that the bass currently spawning on the St. John's River are late-comers. Late-spawning bass don't typically stay on their nests too long, and the St. John's bass are some of the most pressured fish in Florida.

They endure weeks of anglers trolling, push-poling and casting into and over their beds and are understandably weary of all of the above. The best sight fishermen can usually tell if -- and when -- a bass is going to bite, a skill that is crucial when bass are as pressured as the St. John's fish.

Greg Vinson believes that sight fishing will carry the Power-Pole Citrus Slam. He also says that the winner will also need a good dose of luck; nothing new for fishing derbies.

"There are boats stacked on each other, so it's a matter of being at the right place at the right time," he said. "There are guys who know when they'll pull up where, so they'll do pretty good. But, you can get caught up looking at one for too long. It's the ultimate 'do I stay or go' question."

More often than not, the answer to this question is "it depends." If the fish will help your bag considerably, you need to stay until you either catch it or you're sure it won't bite. If it's not going to help at all or very much, you're better off finding a more willing fish.

Stephen Browning fell out of the cut this week for just this reason; he got stuck looking for too long.

"Man, that's the thing that's buffaloed me this whole week," he said. "I have no idea when I should leave. These fish are just so darn spooky it's hard to get a good read on them."

When a fish isn't cooperating, Dean Alexander has got a trick that will instantly tell him if a fish is going to play or not.

"You need to bump the fish with the bait," he said. "If after you hit her with the bait she swims off quickly and doesn't come back within five minutes, you need to move on down the line. If she swirls right back around, that fish is catchable."


Alexander will repeatedly knock the fish with his bait until the fish strikes at it. But, when nothing's working, it may be time to just go fishing.


Terry Scroggins, who's in second place, tried sight fishing the first day, but a strong wind and boat traffic kept him off of his two sight fishing areas.

Alton Jones is making a case for the sight fishermen, but Scroggins has been running old honey holes and has brought solid bags of fish to the scales for the first two days.

Whether Jones and his bite will hold up will be settled on Sunday. But, with the way things are going, it looks like Jones will be doing more staying than going, while Scroggins carries out his milk run.