In the world of professional bass fishing, there are sight-fishing specialists. And then there is Shaw Grigsby, Jr.
While many pro anglers utilize the technique for great success on circuits like Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour, the Bassmaster Elite Series, and the FLW Tour, few of them have achieved the career success with the tactic that Grigsby has.
Because, when it comes to sight-fishing prowess, the Gainesville, Fla., pro has ridden the technique – along with a few others, I might add – all the way to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame.
For Grigsby, the foundation of his sight-fishing success isn’t a certain bait, a particular rod, or a powerful reel. Instead, it’s a good pair of polarized sunglasses.
Editor’s note: This is part of a four-part series on shallow-water fishing for bass with expert Shaw Grigsby. Jr. Other stories in this series:
“Just to be able to go down the bank and see, (you want to) wear a great pair of sunglasses,” said Grigsby, the nine-time tournament winner and huge Florida Gators college football fan.
“I wear the Strike King S11 Optics and the first thing with that is that I’m wearing the new Cloud lens,” added the winner of more than $2 million in career earnings.
“The Cloud lens is like a yellow lens that shows up detail better, attracts (low ambient) light and (lets) you really pick out little things - you just see better. So, the Cloud lens, it’s been my favorite lens for sight fishing.”
Whatever brand of sunglasses that an angler chooses, and whether they prefer a yellow or amber type of lens, the key is having a good pair of polarized lenses that allow an angler to scan for movement, to see a fish sitting on a bed, or even just catch the flash of a tail or the glint of a fin.
Once an angler sees the fish that he or she wants to target, what kind of bait to throw is often the next question to be answered in sight fishing.
“There’s a million baits to use,” said Grigsby, one of Major League Fishing’s original anglers. “I’m going to say that No. 1, of course, is a jig, something like a white jig.”
Grigsby likes the Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig, especially in the spring.
“It’s the perfect little jig, it comes through cover real easy and yet you can flip it and pitch it really well,” he said. “I caught like a 30-pound sack out of Okeechobee on that in the Elite Series, so I like that jig (for sure) but I’ll use just about any other Strike King jig too.”
For the soft plastic on the back of a jig – or fished by itself as a flip-and-pitch bait – Grigsby likes the Strike King Rage Tail Craw or Rage Bug in white, although there will also be times when he will opt for darker colors like black and black/blue.
Why such color choices?
“The reason I use a white bait is that I can see it, so that I can see the fish react to it,” said Grigsby. “Sometimes, that bed is white and the best color to use is a black jig. Whatever the color, you want to be able to see it moving in the bed and see the fish react to it, getting nose down on it, shimmying a little bit, shaking, and getting them to bite it.
“Most of that (color choice) is for my (benefit), not for theirs. Do they eat it, different color baits? They eat any color now (in the spring spawn), it’s just protection (causing them to strike a lure).”
Another way that Grigsby has excelled at sight fishing over the years is using the tried and true Texas rig.
“I use Texas-rigged (baits) probably more than anything and that allows me to put a small bait on it or a big bait,” he said. “Sometimes, that bass doesn’t even look at a small bait, he’s like ‘Really?!? That’s not going to affect anything.’ And then you can take a 10-inch worm, drop it on that bed, and they light up.”
The bottom line in Grigsby’s mind is that sight fishermen need a variety of baits to effectively coax spawn time bass into biting.
“Don’t think that there’s one bait that’s going to get it done,” he said. “There’s nothing super-secret like ‘This is the bait that’s going to catch every one of them!’
“I’ll have everything from a drop-shot on 8-pound test to a big worm on 65-pound braid,” he added. “And I’m telling you, sometimes it’s that 65-pound braid and that big old worm and they’ve got to have it and you hammer them and drag them out. You have to rotate through them (the different baits to find what works).”
As for his tackle set-up, Grigsby always starts with some form of Seaguar fishing line spooled onto his rods-and-reels.
“I like using that 7-foot-2 Wright and McGill Skeet Reese Jig/Worm rod, it’s a wonderful rod,” said Grigsby. “It’s stiff and you can throw whatever size line you want on it from 17, 20, 25, 30 and even braid.
“It just makes a perfect rod for a Texas rig, so that’s what I use for that. And I also put my jig on that rod also, so I’ll actually have them ready to go from 17-pound test line all the way up to 65-pound braid.”
What kind of reel does Grigsby prefer for sight fishing?
“I use the Wright and McGill Skeet Reese reel and I use the 6.3 rather than the high speed,” he said. “It’s just because it’s got some power since I don’t need the speed here, I need the power.
“I’m looking right at them,” he added. “In sight fishing, I’m looking at that line right there, it’s pretty tight, she eats it, whack, I’ve got her. It’s not like I’m trying to catch up with them because it’s a blind strike.
Since a sight-fishing angler might catch the biggest bass of his or her life in a spring season of fishing, Grigsby stresses having at least one more piece of gear.
“I keep a tape measure in my boat,” he said. “It’s one of the fiberglass ones that my mom used to use as a seamstress, so it never wears out. It’s just a limp tape that you run down them in order to get a measurement, and then you can get a fiberglass replica that will last a lifetime rather than a skin mount, that looks ugly (years later).”