Yo Ish! Talks Major League Sight Fishing
by Lynn Burkhead
Spring has sprung around the U.S. and that means that the annual largemouth bass spawn is happening, ranging from just beginning in some places to being all but done in others.
Which opens the door - where the spawning season is still in session and where the practice is legal - for bass anglers to aim their boats towards the bank.
That's where they hope to find a target rich environment on the shallow water spawning flats, an area that will provide the year's best opportunities to catch a really BIG bass.
How? By sight fishing for the bite of a lifetime.
Since the technique of sight fishing is something of a specialty - not to mention the limited window of time in which this technique can be practiced and perfected - it pays to turn to one of sport's top pros for a little advice.
Specifically, when the subject is sight fishing, there are few pros better to listen to than Major League Fishing angler Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif. (www.ishmonroe.com).
Like many pros, Monroe developed his sight fishing expertise by necessity.
"Spending a lot of time out in California, that's something that you have to do in the springtime to win events," said Monroe. "Who doesn't love money? I do, so I had to learn to sight fish to win tournaments."
Like he did so often on his home waters of the California Delta, Monroe likes to put himself in prime spawning areas, put his Motor Guide 109 trolling motor down, let the lithium batteries eat, and go cover as much shallow water haunts as he possibly can during the course of a day.
That's when "Yo Ish!" turns to his most important sight fishing weapon - his sunglasses.
"One thing that you need to make sure is that they are 100-percent polarized," said Monroe, who wears the Cocoons brand of shades. "Most sunglasses are 100-percent UV protective (but not necessarily polarized). Polarization reduces all of the glare out there on the water."
Why is that important?
"It will allow you to see into the water a whole lot better and see those fish on the beds," he said.
What are the optimum conditions to see shallow fish?
"Obviously, you want sun and flat calm when you are out there sight fishing because it's easier to see," said Monroe. "But if the wind picks up, it's just knowing and seeing the bed that is there, making that pitch into the bed, and waiting for that fish to bite."
After gaining your "sight fishing eyes," Monroe - who has now won four career B.A.S.S. events and nearly $1 million in career tournament earnings on that circuit - says to be a versatile angler who doesn't get zoned in to one bait or one style of fishing when seeking bedded fish.
"The Ish Tube is one of my favorites, people saw me win (a B.A.S.S. event) on Amistad with that bait," said Monroe. "I'm also particular to the D-Bomb and then at the Classic (earlier this year) I used the Missile Baits Drop Craw to sight-catch some of the fish that I saw out there (on the Red River)."
Once you locate a bass in or around a bed, observe to see if it is a male "buck" bass guarding the bed or a bigger female sitting on the bed or just off of it.
Then read the fish before making your presentation.
"Read the fish (means being) able to tell what kind of mood that it is in," said Monroe, who also has four career wins and more than a half-million in earnings in FLW events.
"There are certain fish that are not necessarily locked into the bed but they are (still) catchable off the bed," he added. "Being able to know what it is going to take, where that bed is, or (where) that key spot is in the middle of the bed to (trigger) those fish (is key)."
A prime example of properly reading a big sow is a fish that Monroe caught on Lake Amistad during his "Battle on the Border" Bassmaster Elite Series tournament win in March 2006.
"I actually caught a nine-pounder that was actually sitting 20-feet off the bed," he said. "The male was about 3 1/2 pounds on the bed but the female was like sitting way out."
How did Monroe handle that situation?
"What I did, when I pitched a little bait in there, I never saw her move but he bit right away. Instead of catching him, all I did was go to a bigger bait. I actually went to the Ish Tube, which is a seven-inch tube."
That change-of-pace bait tossed near the bed was more than the big girl could handle.
"I pitched it into the bed and saw her start swimming towards the bed," said Monroe.
"He's biting on it but I watched her creep up into the bed. When he spit it out, she inhaled it and I caught her. And then I caught him right after that."
That fish, along with a lot of other big Amistad largemouths, helped Monroe win the Elite Series title that week and the $100,000 payday that went with it.
Over the years, Monroe has seen plenty of mistakes that he and others have made during the spring's spawning madness.
"Not being patient enough on the fish (is one mistake)," said Monroe, adding that another is getting too close to a bedded fish and spooking it.
How do you avoid the latter?
"I really like to drive by the fish first and see what it does," said Monroe. "If it swims off and then comes back, then I know that I need to make some long casts (into it). But if I ride right by it and it doesn't move, then I can get right on top of it and catch 'em."
And that's obviously something that the Major League Fishing pro does quite well - catch 'em, especially in the spring.
Follow his sight-fishing advice this season and you might be the one finding yourself striking big bass gold.