Peacock Bass Fishing Primer
Learn to Catch Amazon Peacock Bass - A How-to Guide of Tactics, Tips & Techniques
Learn where, when and how to get that trophy on your wall.
Selecting and booking the right peacock bass trip is the first step toward catching a trophy fish. But, even though we can bring you to the perfect spot at the perfect time, and even though your guide may put you right onto the fish, you still have to get out there and hook the sometimes elusive quarry and then land the always uncooperative critters yourself. Therefore, we offer you a compendium of tackle, tactics and techniques designed to get them to bite and to help you win the fight once they're on. Hopefully, having selected one of our productive trips, aided by one of our professional guides and armed with the fine tuned arsenal of tackle we provide, this peacock primer is all you'll need to bring that 15 or 20 or even 25 pounder to the boat.
Acute Angling is your one-stop provider for the best in peacock bass and Amazon exotic species fishing. We own, operate, outfit and organize a full range of comfortable accommodations and fine-tuned access mechanisms to get you to the Amazon’s best fishing - whether you're interested in a highly productive mothership trip on our beautiful Blackwater Explorer yacht, a trophy hunting headwaters trip with our floating bungalows, an exclusive Amazon fishery aboard our luxurious new Blackwater Adventurer floating hotel or a one-of-a-kind multi-species adventure in our rustic Picapau lodge. We know the fish, the seasons and the locations better than anyone in the business and we provide the precisely correct tackle,… Read our "Peacock Bass Primer" to learn when, where and how to catch trophy peacock bass.
A Fisherman's Disease
Anglers are victims of an addiction described decades ago by the famed psychologist, B.F. Skinner. We cannot live without our doses of "gamblers reinforcement". We are turned on by the strange process of repeating unrewarded efforts for the sole purpose of eliciting an occasional, random flash of success. Very few people would consider such a strategy for other aspects of their lives. Scientists or chefs, engineers or businessmen, truck drivers or mechanics, certainly wouldn't do their jobs this way. Even fishermen don't go to work, raise their children or plan their lives in this manner. But somehow, with a stretch of water in front of them, these otherwise perfectly normal people will wave a fishing rod over and over and over, casting into a relatively opaque medium, in the hope that a primitive creature will be fooled into trying to eat a bunch of feathers or a chunk of wood attached to a string on the end of their rod. And they'll do it for days on end, every chance they get.
The scary thing is that I not only recognize the strange and futile nature of this disease, but I have happily let myself become further and further immersed in it. If you are a victim, like me, you probably recognize some of these symptoms and side effects; a hidden stash of colorful, flashy, hooked objects made of plastic, metal and wood or feathers, flash and hair; a strange attraction to water full of tree stumps and fallen timber or rocks, rapids and convoluted shorelines; a kind of mesmerization when reeling, casting and waving fishing paraphernalia in the air; an adrenaline rush when even the slightest variation is imparted to the steady, regular feel of a rod tip or a stretched line in your fingers; The only cure is a fishing fix, more of the same disease. Thankfully, nature has provided us with a world full of beautiful places and fantastic fishes with which to treat our condition. And the most powerful medicine, the strongest drug, the ultimate fishing fix I have ever found is the incredible peacock bass.
They hit more explosively than they have any reason to, they run harder than any angler would expect, they fight more fiercely than their size and weight would seem to allow and they have more stamina than seems possible given their violent attacking style. Although all of these things are strong medicine for the fisherman's disease, it seems that the more of this drug we get, the more we need. Every day you spend fishing seems to make you just want more days and every fish you catch seems to make you just want to catch more fish. The disease is probably incurable and everyone's case seems to be just a little bit different. Some like to pursue their addiction in air conditioned comfort, some prefer moving right into the fish's lair. So the best we can offer you is a fix, not a cure, just a temporary treatment and an exciting way to get at it that best fits your variation of the disease. We operate a full range of trip types to suit all forms of the disease. Read on to see how…
"Suddenly, a massive geyser of water exploded not 10 meters from my rod-tip, startling me just in time to avoid having my rod ripped from my hands! The plaintive whine of my overwhelmed drag and the rapidly moving wake heading toward the nearby flooded jungle made it clear that a big peacock bass had decided to go one-on-one with me – and he was winning!"… This is pretty much how all stories about peacock bass begin – and none of it is hyperbole. Anyone who has been privileged to experience the attack and fight of a giant peacock knows that the description is uncannily accurate. This fish has properly earned its reputation.
If you’re a truly addicted fisherman, then this beast is already on your "must catch" list, so we won’t try to extol its sporting virtues further. Rather, we’d like to present a compendium of key pieces of basic information that will start you off on the path to learning "everything you need to know to go peacock bass fishing in the Amazon". Nothing about the Amazon is as simple as it appears at first glance, but with a little explanation, the pieces fall into place. In fishing, knowledge is power. Lets start gaining power by examining "what exactly is a peacock bass?"
First off, it’s not a bass, it’s a Cichlid; a family of highly evolved and specialized fishes particularly prominent in Africa and South America. They have radiated to fill all manner of ecological niches, including the role of one of the world’s fiercest and largest freshwater predators, the giant peacock bass. There are currently 16 different recognized species of peacock bass (Genus: Cichla), but there has been a tremendous amount of misinformation and misidentification regarding the taxonomy of these fishes within the genus. Be careful, only one species is the target of trophy anglers! Although all are relatively large, diurnal predators and all are commonly known as peacock bass, only Cichla temensis, achieves the enormous size and delivers the spine-tingling power that so much has been written about. This is the first piece of critical information for prospective anglers; Know precisely what fish you’re after.
Reaching up to 30 pounds, Cichla temensis is the largest of the peacock bass species, attaining nearly double the maximum size of any of the other species. Their violent surface attacks and almost psychotically aggressive behavior make them the most exciting as well. Their natural environment of blackwater flood-pulse rivers exists primarily in the Rio Negro, lower Madeira, Rio Branco and Orinoco drainages. The vast bulk of this range lies in Brazil’s enormous state of Amazonas.
Feeding almost entirely on other fish, peacock bass have evolved into one of the most efficient predators in the world. Their speed, strength, size and ferocity enable them to make a meal of almost every other smaller species of fish in the Amazon. Like the largemouth bass, their huge, bucket-mouth can engulf surprisingly large prey, making almost anything smaller than them a good candidate for dinner. Sixteen recognized species are found in the Amazon and elsewhere in South America.
Cichla temensis is called ‘tucunaré açú’ (upper photo) or ‘paca’ (lower) in Brazil. The species is sensitive to water temperature and its range is thus essentially restricted to the equatorial tropics of Amazonia. Specimens as large as 29 pounds have been caught by anglers. Unconfirmed reports of commercially caught fish of over 30 pounds have come from the market in Manaus as well. Whether those market reports are accurate or not, there are surely plenty of new records still swimming in the vast, relatively unexplored waters of the Amazon.
Cichla temensis’ coloring and appearance varies throughout its range, but because of its cyclical color and pattern variation, even specimens from the same waters can often appear to be members of different species. All specimens have the trademark tail spot for which they are named, but body color can vary from a dark brown through deep yellow to almost silver. When in full spawning mode, three black, vertical bars mark their sides and blood red coloration runs along their bellies and lower fins. When not in spawning condition, Cichla temensis individuals’ color and pattern is strikingly different, turning dark brown and displaying rows of dotted, horizontal white lines overlaying the pattern on their sides. Individuals in this form are called "paca" (anglers swear that the paca color variants fight even harder and are more tenacious than their açú counterpart). A freshly caught spawning peacock's dorsal fins are often colored with an unearthly electric blue. It's hard to believe that a predatory fish as fierce as a peacock can also be so beautiful. For more on Cichla temensis color and pattern variation see; What is a Peacock Bass?
Cichla Orinocensis, the Amazon butterfly peacock, is found in much of the same waters as it's larger cousin with the exception of the southern extent of C. temensis range . These peacocks (called borboleto in Brazil) are differentiated by three black rosettes marking their sides instead of the black bars of C. temensis. Although rarely exceeding 7 or 8 pounds, they are terrific fighters, readily strike many of the same baits and at times can be every bit as aggressive as their larger cousins. (Note - these are not the same transplanted fish found in Florida waters and, confusingly, also called butterfly peacocks - those are yet another species within the genus, from Guyana, Cichla ocellaris).
Meanwhile, a third commonly encountered Amazon species, Cichla Monoculus, (or papoca) is also found in much of the waters occupied by C. temensis but rarely exceeding 4 or 5 pounds.
Where to Catch Them
Choosing the Right Destination
Fishing TV shows, fishing advertising and fishing product sales techniques are full of hype and hyperbole. This may not be too far removed from fishermen's own perceptions of the exaggeration jokingly associated with their sport, so hype is often accepted with the proverbial grain of salt. It’s probably OK for selling magazines and promoting Saturday morning TV shows. A little bit of flimflam is probably harmless for such casual entertainment decisions, but when it comes to making decisions about trips costing thousands of dollars, we believe that it's a far more appropriate service to our anglers for us to tell it like it is. So, we are pleased to provide this unexaggerated guide to where we fish for peacock bass, when and why.
The giant peacock bass, Cichla temensis, is the largest species of the genus Cichla and is the most important sportfish in lowlands Amazonia. Its natural range consists primarily of flood pulse regulated lowland rivers with extremely variable seasonal water levels and often widely spaced fish populations. These giants are found in Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia from the Rio Negro and Rio Orinoco drainages as well as blackwater tributaries of the Rio Madeira and Branco along with a few effluents of the Rio Solimoes and Amazonas. Unlike several other, smaller species that have been transplanted elsewhere, C. temensis has proven resistant to human manipulation. Efforts to introduce these huge predators into other regions have mostly failed, probably because of their sensitivity to cold and abrupt temperature changes. As a result, and in spite of its relatively widespread range, sportfishermen tend to concentrate their efforts in certain regions and specifically in certain river basins within those regions. Here's a look at where and when.
Some limitations are quickly evident. We operate only in politically stable, safe and tourist-friendly Brazil. A combination of political, security and access issues make both Columbia and Venezuela less attractive destinations. Within the Brazilian Amazon basin, three types of peacock bass fisheries provide attractive and productive angling opportunities and each of them has its own characteristics and variables. In every case, performance is determined by the single most important factor in successful peacock bass fishing: water level. The variables are complex, but we can get a good idea of each region's differences by considering the main characteristics of the fisheries.
Rio Madeira Basin: The Madeira, like the Solimoes is a whitewater system, carrying suspended particulate matter from the Andes and is not itself a peacock bass fishery. However, many of its tributaries exclusively drain lowlands flooded forest (igapó). During high water, submerged vascular plant material from the forest is steeped by the flood, like a vast tea bag, emitting tannic, fulvic and humic acids. These tannins make these rivers acidic and turn the water the color of crystal clear tea. In large volumes theses waters appear black, hence the term; blackwater. Lower Madeira tributaries such as the Igapó Açu and Matupiri provide perfect habitat for Cichla temensis, the giant peacock bass. These rivers are equally excellent for fly and conventional anglers. They are known for quantity, typically producing large numbers of peacock bass. There are good numbers of trophy sized fish in the mid to upper teens, and very occasionally a big hulking 20 pounder. This is the place to go if your goal is lots of action, no matter the fishing style. We concentrate on this region from late August through mid-October, when water levels are perfect. The Rio Madeira basin is a great place to start a serious peacock bass habit.
Rio Negro Basin: The most famous of all trophy peacock fisheries and the heart of the giant peacock bass’ territory, this huge basin is not only the largest and most complex of all peacock bass fisheries, it’s also home to the world's largest peacock bass. With endless islands, archipelagoes, channels, paranas and productive tributaries, such as the Araca, Cuini, Alegria, Caures and Paduari, we fish throughout this region from mid-October through March.
The deeply tannin-stained waters here are unique in their austere characteristics. Consequently quantity tends to be lower here than in more lightly stained systems, but size is the key. The Rio Negro basin contains the world’s largest peacock bass; with plenty of fish in double digits, fish well into the teens common, and monsters ranging from 20 pounds up to world record size lurking here. If a shot at a world record is your goal, then this is your fishery.
Rio Branco Basin: Like the Madeira, the Rio Branco itself is not a peacock sportfishery. However, some of its lightly stained blackwater tributaries, can produce great numbers of peacock bass. Although peacocks over 20 lbs. are rarely found here, the area is known for a good proportion of midsize fish.
The key to successfully fishing any of these regions is to be in the right place at the right time. Peacock fishing is simply at its best in dropping water conditions. Everything we do is geared to enable us to effectively access peacock bass waters as they drop. Thankfully, the Amazon has a reasonably consistent seasonal progression of water levels that allows us to predict fairly well, where we'll be fishing and when. But, even though we can make complicated schedules, Nature still has the power to trump any human plans. So we stay mobile. Why? In the face of falling and rising waters, weather unpredictability and the demands of a mighty, untamed river system, our best strategy will always be to stay flexible and be prepared to move even faster than the changing waters.
For more information on where to fish for peacock bass, see our peacock bass fishing maps.
The Amazon flood-pulse lowlands are located mostly in Northwestern Brazil, with small fragments in Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. In its central regions, the river’s gradient rises roughly one centimeter per kilometer, keeping it within a few hundred feet of sea level as far as 2000 miles from the ocean. This low-lying basin forms a bowl-shaped space, almost completely surrounded by higher ground; to the south the Brazil Shield, the mighty Andes to the west and the mountainous Guyana Shield to the north. Water flows into the basin from all three highlands directions, and then east, to the Atlantic ocean. The surrounding primary forest canopy returns vast volumes of water to the air through transpiration (release of water vapor through plant pores), helping to retain and circulate water through the basin and driving its internal weather systems.
Amazon Seasons - The majority of the basin sits just below the equator. Coriolis forces (prevailing wind directions caused by the earth’s rotation) are reversed on opposite sides of the equator. This means that prevailing weather (and the corresponding dry and rainy seasons) tends to rotate counterclockwise through the basin. In the equatorial tropics, temperatures don't vary greatly and seasons are more clearly differentiated by rainfall amounts. Because of the seasonal rotating movement of these weather patterns, parts of the Amazon may be in the midst of their rainy season, while other areas are in the dry, low-water part of their cycle. The result is a pulsative ecosystem where water levels in lowlands rivers can rise and fall as much as forty feet during the course of a normal year's rainy/dry cycle. The good news is that the progression of dropping and dry parts of this cycle allow anglers to pursue trophy peacock bass in the Amazon for almost eight months of the year.
Every aspect of the Amazon’s trophy peacock bass fishery is governed by this cycle of moisture. At the start of the rainy season, the rivers rise and begin to overflow their banks, letting the waters spread into low-lying regions of jungle. These cyclically flooded areas, called varzea and igapó (in blackwater systems), form a vast floodplain, with a moving littoral, surrounding the river channel. As the waters rise, baitfish head off into the jungle for optimal cover, to feed on the forage available there and to reproduce. The peacocks follow right behind them. Even if anglers didn‘t mind the torrential rains and the discomforts associated with them, finding the fish in the middle of the flooded jungle is next to impossible. Furthermore, if you managed to hook-up, picture the difficulty of threading a fishing line (with a big, extremely uncooperative fish on the end) through a thicket of trunks and leaves and branches. The rainy season is not the time to go peacock bass fishing.
When to Fish - As the rains come to an end in a specific area and the river that drains it drops, the waters recede from the flooded forests, drop below bankfull and once again become confined in the lagoons and river channels. The newly replenished baitfish population, and of course their consumers, the peacock bass, return as well. During the early part of the dry season, peacock bass feed voraciously on the plentiful and concentrated baitfish. This is prime time for peacock anglers. During this bout of heavy feeding, they store fat, change their color and pattern and begin to spawn (see articles on color and pattern variation and shape change). The optimal time to fish for peacocks is the period between when water drops below the riverbank level (bankfull) and descends to its lowest level.
Luckily for fishermen, different rivers reach low water levels at different times. Even within a single river, dropping water levels may work their way downstream over several weeks (or sometimes upstream, depending on the damming effects of trunk rivers). Anglers can enjoy Amazon fishing from August through November in the Rio Madeira basin and October through March in the Rio Negro basin. With our extreme mobility, we can access great fishing throughout the periods when water levels are optimal in the peacock bass’ vast range.
Black Water — Fed by tributaries draining the austere soils of northwestern Amazonia, the Rio Negro is the center of the Amazon's trophy peacock bass fishery. The region’s waters are extremely acidic and generally low in biomass. The water literally appears black because of staining by dissolved tannins. Tannin is the same pigmented chemical that gives tea its color. In fact, if you look at a cupful of Rio Negro water, it would look very much like a cup of weak tea. When viewed in the gigantic quantities present in this massive river, it simply appears black. Surprisingly, however, clarity and visibility is good in these waters. That means that fish are strongly visually stimulated. The appearance and presentation of lures becomes important in these conditions.
The Rio Negro and its tributaries provide access to the world's biggest peacock bass. Although seasonal temperatures hardly change in these equatorial Blackwater fisheries, they typically experience their dry seasons during the Northern hemisphere's fall and winter. These rivers are strikingly beautiful with their austere surroundings and white sand beaches, set off by richly colored, tannin stained water. The low biomass in these rivers means lower numbers of microscopic animals, lower numbers of baitfish, and consequently lower numbers of peacock bass. But they're big! The world record 29+ pound peacock bass came from the Rio Negro basin’s blackwater as does the great preponderance of 20-pound plus fish. Anglers fishing in these rivers have a very good chance for a huge trophy fish.
Blackwater peacocks are readily caught on the highly effective peacock bass jigs. Other subsurface lures such as Redfins and Rapalas produce well and of course, topwater lures are the most exciting display of fish violence that can be imagined. Fish are found and caught in both lagoons (and other floodplain remnants) and riverine structure. Lagoons may be miles long or just an acre or so in size and still hold your trophy. With a variety of structure, depths and configurations, floodplain remnants offer a wide range of productive possibilities for fishermen.
When to Catch Them
The key to successfully fishing for peacock bass is to be in the right place at the right time. Peacock fishing is simply at its best in dropping water conditions. Everything we do is designed to enable us to effectively access peacock bass waters as they drop. Thankfully, the Amazon has a reasonably consistent seasonal progression of water levels that allows us to predict fairly well, where we'll be fishing and when. But, even though we can make complicated schedules, Nature still has the power to trump any human plans. So we stay mobile. Why? In the face of falling and rising waters, weather unpredictability and the demands of a mighty, untamed river system, our best strategy will always be to stay flexible and be prepared to move even faster than the changing waters.
Rio Madeira Basin: Draining from the south into Amazon main stem, the Rio Madeira basin experiences dropping water earlier than the northern regions. Our Igapó Açu fishery comes into its own from August through October. Acute Angling operates in this highly productive fishery using the Blackwater Explorer yacht and our Floating Bungalow operation. See our Rio Madeira basin schedules here; Fall Igapo Acu yacht trips. and here: Fall Floating Bungalow Trips.
Rio Negro Basin: The Rio Negro basin is so vast and is fed by tributaries draining from so many directions that there is good fishing somewhere in the system from late September through March. For this reason, we stay highly mobile throughout this period, ensuring that we can access these optimal fishing conditions at all times. See our available Rio Negro basin yacht schedule here; Blackwater Explorer yacht trips. See our available Rio Negro basin floating bungalow schedule here; Floating Bungalow trips. See our available Rio Negro basin Blackwater Adventurer schedule here; Blackwater Adventurer trips.
Rio Branco Basin: This highly productive fishery generally comes into its own later in the season and can be productive through March before the rains come in May. Our mobility allows us to take advantage of this region with any of our mobile operations when weather and water level conditions call for it.
Peacock Bass Fishing Strategy
Diehard fishermen have all heard the expression that "five percent of the fishermen catch ninety-five percent of the fish", and for the most part, it's valid. Why? This is a two-part answer. The first part of the answer lies in knowledge. Fishermen have experimented and evolved specialized fishing techniques for as long as humans have known how to use a bent bone and a length of sinew. Each target species has its own characteristics, ways of feeding and places it frequents. Trout techniques usually don't work for largemouth bass and bass techniques will probably never catch carp. It's important that anglers learn as much as they can about the specific fish they are pursuing and the ways other fishermen have developed to catch them. Don't hesitate to improve on tried and true methods and don't hesitate to try new things, but save yourself the unproductive chore of trying to start from scratch. Use what people have already learned. In fishing, "knowledge is power"!
The second part of the answer is based on numbers. Fishing success depends on the interaction of a variety of different probabilities and numerical factors. The more time your lure is in the water and in front of fish, the more likely you are to catch them. The more productive a lure used for a specific circumstance, the greater the probability of a hookup. The greater the number of effective techniques you use, the more likely you are to entice a strike. All of these factors interact with each other multiplying (or dividing) your chances for success. Optimizing the numerical factors lets you win at the "numbers game".
The information and guidelines offered here are designed to give you the resources to be part of the five percent catching the fish. They are the result of over two decades of peacock bass fishing experience, nearly 10,000 happy and successful anglers and endless experimentation and tweaking. They are by no means the only ways to succeed nor are they meant to negate methods others have used to find success. But they do work and they will give you the knowledge base to begin succeeding with peacock bass in Amazonia.
Peacock Bass Tackle
Acute Angling’s “all-inclusive” trip packages provide all necessary fishing tackle for our anglers, on-site and at no charge. The information below is for anglers who choose to bring their own.
Fishing Rods and Reels - A good rule of thumb is that if someone who’s never been to the Amazon recommends it for peacock bass, it’s probably too heavy. Because of this fish’s legitimately well-deserved reputation, the knee-jerk reaction is that it must be fought with extra heavy gear. Not a good idea! Anglers will quickly discover that peacock bass fishing means a long day of casting lures, making fast, aggressive retrieves and fighting numerous pugnacious fish. After cast number 200, or retrieve number 350, heavy gear will begin to take its toll on anyone.
Peacock bass gear should be tailored to the size of the lure thrown, not the reputation of the fish pursued. Ranging from ½ to over 2 ounces, the principle lure types demand a broad range of tackle capability. Anglers often ask, "Which is better for peacocks, spinners or baitcasters?" The answer is both. Each type can perform satisfactorily alone, but a mix is even better. Casting accuracy is important for successfully catching peacock bass in the structure they frequent. If you're comfortable and skillful with both types, you can truly tailor your tackle to your pattern and presentation. Our clients are provided (at no charge) with the precisely appropriate rods and reels necessary to be successful in all of our operations. We recognize that anglers are often more comfortable or skillful with equipment that they are used to, so you are always welcome to bring your own gear, weight limits permitting.
If you bring your own, bring quality 3 piece pack rods such as those from manufacturers such as Temple Forks Oufitters, G. Loomis or St. Croix. One piece rods are a pain to transport on international and charter flights. Two rods will serve the purpose. Three will fill just about any likely applications. With reels, quality is important. Bring something that will hold up under a week’s worth of abusive use. Stay as small and light as possible and select for fast retrieves.
Most necessary – Chopper Rig – A Medium-Heavy 6 and 3/4 foot (or shorter), fast action baitcasting rod coupled with a quality casting reel (such as Shimano Curado 200 or 300 size) with the fastest possible retrieve (7.0:1 or better). This outfit is designed to sling big surface prop baits with ease and accuracy. Use a rod with a line rating of 10 to 30 pounds and a lure capacity of ½ to 2 ounce. Load this rig with 65 pound test braided line and you're ready to probe tight cover, brush and logs with big woodchoppers or riprollers.
Most necessary – Jig Rig - A Medium-Light, seven foot (or shorter), fast action spinning rod with a line rating of 6-12 pound test and a lure capacity of 1/8-3/4 ounce. Pair it with a lightweight, fast retrieve (6.4:1 or better) spinning reel (such as a Shimano Stradic 2500 size) loaded with 30 pound test braided line (mono just won't work well here - we use Power Pro). You can cast 1/2 oz. jigs a mile. Yes, we're exceeding the rod’s line rating, but hopefully, you're setting your drag carefully. If in doubt, let your guide set it.
Optional addition - A stiff, seven foot (or shorter) medium baitcasting rod with a supple, fast action tip, a line rating of 8-17 pounds and a lure capacity of ¼ to 1 ounce is a nice adjunct. Mount a lightweight, fast retrieve (7.0:1 or better) casting reel with 50 pound test braided line. This gives you a light but tough rig, perfect for fishing smaller stick baits and swimming plugs. It can also be a good back-up for either of the other two rigs — and nothing works a stickbait better.
Practice and Test your Gear - If this tackle is new for you and you haven't had experience casting some of the huge baits used for peacock bass, then take some time to make sure that your gear is well balanced and feels right for you. Take the hooks off a few lures and get used to handling big, 2- oz. baits. (A word of caution here for spin fishermen; Spinning tackle can tumble lures and tangle line in the hooks of big baits. If you haven't the necessary experience or skill with this gear to overcome this characteristic, stick with the baitcaster for big lures.) Practice in a local pond with the rods, reels, line and lures you plan to use for peacocks. Developing accuracy and a sense of range with your gear while you're still at home, improves your ability to quickly become effective in the rivers and lagoons of Amazonia.
Braided or Mono? - Fishermen love a spirited argument with each other almost as much as they enjoy fighting fish. A longstanding bone of contention has been over the relative benefits of braided line versus monofilament. Once again, each side has its advantages. Mono has enough stretch to make it very forgiving and able to absorb sudden shocks. It can be easily tied into an entire repertoire of knots. It doesn't tangle or backlash as easily and it costs a fraction as much as braided. It won't part as readily when touched against rocks or structure.
Braided lines are much thinner and more flexible for their relative strength. They don't take spool sets. The lack of stretch gives you a "no doubt about it" hookset. If you can tie a "palomar", you can get almost 100% knot strength. The thinner line lets you get a lot more onto a spool and it lets you cast significantly further without more effort.
If you're going peacock fishing, there really isn't any room for discussion. Leave the mono home - it just isn't right for this job. Spool up with braid. It holds up to the rigors of jungle fishing, gives improved casting ease and greater overall sensitivity. The line type argument is just another case of an unresolvable fisherman's debate over an unresolvable issue. Have fun arguing with your fishing buddies at home, but use only braid in the Amazon.
An effective selection of peacock bass lures includes a wide variety of top-water and subsurface lures. Although many have a long history of successful use for black bass, striper and musky, they are often used in a very different manner when used for peacock bass. Many also require an upgrade to the hooks and split rings to ensure their survival during a peacock bass' onslaught.
Topwater Lures- The violent, explosive topwater strikes of peacock bass have made them the subject of books, magazine articles and television shows. Their well deserved reputation as exciting, powerful fighters is enhanced even further by their awesome topwater prowess. Although peacocks are caught in greater numbers on jigs and subsurface lures, anglers love to select the topwater option when the fish are inclined to cooperate. A good selection of topwater lures is a must for anglers seeking to experience the peacock's legendary strike. The most effective topwater lures for peacock bass can be divided into two categories based on their type and the way they're used.
Propeller Types - Probably the most famous peacock bass lure is the now defunct Luhr Jensen "Woodchopper". Although no longer being manufactured, it and its numerous second-generation offspring, such as Rip-Rollers and Poe's prop baits bear a well deserved reputation. Guides depend on them, fisherman love them and peacocks absolutely smash them. Propeller lures create a roostertail behind them as the angler rips them rhythmically through the water. Typically, these lures perform best when ripped rapidly ahead for a foot or two by a downward sweep of the rod tip and then promptly ripped again when the angler cranks up the resultant slack. These lures have two modes of effectiveness. The surface disturbance created is reminiscent of fleeing baitfish for feeding peacocks. For one of the most competitive creatures in the water, this must sound like a dinner bell. It certainly attracts peacocks and stimulates violent strikes. This same lure is an irritant to displaying and nest building fish and a threat to fry guarding peacocks, eliciting the most violent of all strikes. The "Woodchopper" type lures work beautifully with a medium-heavy baitcaster.
The lures described above range from 5-1/2 to 7-1/2 inches, and weigh up to 2 ounces. If you're fishing for big peacocks in Brazil, the bigger sizes (6-½ or 7-½ inches) are the preferred sizes. Cichla temensis are caught well into the twenty pound class. These huge fish are most effectively landed on the larger size lures. Smaller versions of these lures are effective for the smaller species (Cichla orinocencis or butterfly peacocks and Cichla monoculus or papoca). Although either size can attract and catch any size fish, be careful not to stock up on smaller versions if your target is really trophy size Cichla temensis. Smaller lures come with smaller hooks in proportion to their smaller size and don't lend themselves readily to a hook upgrade. They are generally perfectly balanced from the factory and larger hooks tend to cause them to ride lower in the water and diminish their performance. Although the factory hooks are reasonably strong, their smaller gap makes a solid hookset more difficult in the peacock's bony mouth and the finer wire enables the hooks to rip out more readily when caught in the fleshier parts of the mouth. Use a lighter drag setting to offset this difficulty but be prepared to lose some of the big fish that this lure attracts. Although small lures can often attract big fish, statistically, the old adage "big lures catch big fish" holds true much more often for this type of surface lure.
Because they rely on sound and physical disturbance of the water to attract strikes, these baits are all very sensitive to proper "tuning". Anglers should make sure that each lure moves properly and creates the proper surface disturbance. Adjusting the props and the alignment of hooks will help to make your lures work as effectively as possible. Take a few moments with each lure before putting it to work, after each strike, and after hanging it up on structure, to make sure it's working properly. Or just hand it to your guide. He’ll make it sing perfectly!
Walking Sticks - You can have tremendous fun with the Heddon "Zara Spook" and its cousin the "Super Spook". It's an absolutely great topwater lure for peacock bass. Anglers especially enjoy using it in the early mornings and late afternoons. Not necessarily because the fish like it better at that time, but because it seems to fit the mood of the angler and the feel of the surroundings. Just after sunup, when the water is perfectly still and the birds haven't started screaming yet, the quiet snick, snick, snick of a "Zara Spook" walking its way across the surface seems to belong in the languid lagoons. It makes the sight of a huge "vee" accelerating towards your bait doubly exciting. You can palpably anticipate the instant of the strike. Even if the lure had no hooks on it, you couldn't help but relish this kind of moment.
Walking stick type lures add another dimension to topwater fishing for peacocks. Unlike most other lures used for these speed triggered assassins, these baits are most effective when fished slow, in the "walk the dog" motion. They will often get reactions from peacocks when other surface presentations are being ignored. A medium baitcaster is the perfect rig for this lure although a medium/light spinner can work very well in the hands of an experienced spincaster. Using this lighter, more sensitive tackle, the walking motion is easily imparted by a combination of rhythmic crankings of the reel and oscillations of the rod tip. Because of their small size and casting ease, these lures lend themselves to use in tight structure. Note - these lures require hook upgrades and in the case of the "Super Spook" the center hook should be removed.
Strikes often occur immediately when the lure lands close to fallen wood, logs, sticks, bushes or trees. After landing, draw the line tight and begin walking the lure back to the boat. Watch for swirls and disturbances behind the lure. When peacocks are turned on they'll violently strike lures, including these topwaters, with reckless abandon. But when they're less aggressive and reluctant to strike, a walking stick lure will often get their interest without triggering a strike. They will swirl behind the lure, slap at it with their body or even mouth it tentatively. This is the anglers cue to make the presentation more interesting to the fish. Speed it up a bit without losing the walking motion. Make it appear frightened and fleeing, increasing the peacock's interest. You'll usually get another, stronger reaction, perhaps even a tentative strike. If you don't hook up, raise the lure's action up another notch, creating an even faster, more erratic motion. Still nothing? Try slowing it down again. Sometimes this cat and mouse game will go on for three or four rounds before a peacock decides to just totally crush the lure, or, loses interest and swims away. This level of anticipation is guaranteed to raise the angler's blood pressure, pulse rate and the hackles on the back of his or her neck.
Topwater Lure Colors - Peacock bass are funny about colors, especially in regard to topwaters. Often, peacocks seem to react more to the noise and motion of a surface lure than any other factor. A properly presented and tuned lure is generally the most important factor in consistently eliciting strikes. Sometimes, however, selecting the right color can make important differences. If it's bright out, use a light-colored lure. Dark shades are generally more productive in low light conditions. Peacocks have no qualms about striking wildly colored topwaters. They seem to be perfectly happy to attack the silliest and most outrageously patterned lures you can imagine. When using the big propeller lures on tannin-stained (black water) rivers, a Black and Orange combination is very productive. In clearer waters, try a perch pattern and on clouded waters, a bright green or clown pattern. If there seems to be a single favorite color, it would be red or orange below and greenish above. It looks a little bit like a peacock bass to us, maybe to them also.
For walking stick lures, a bullfrog pattern is very effective early in the day, while an Orange/Green Natural works well the rest of the time. The Florida bass pattern works very well with the "Super Spook". Rattling versions add effectiveness. Take a range of colors and types with you to optimize your chances under any conditions.
Subsurface Lures - As much as anglers love the topwater action provided by peacock bass, one should not hesitate to change to subsurface lures when conditions warrant. The tremendous physical power with which peacocks strike subsurface lures makes up for the topwater angler's loss of visual and auditory excitement. Underwater strikes can be intense enough to make you feel like your arm is being ripped off and initial runs can be startling in their intensity.
Minnow and Jerk Baits - Redfins, Bombers, Rapalas and their ilk are the utility lures of peacock bass fishing. They can be productive just about anywhere and under any conditions. The Cotton Cordell "Redfin", in silver or gold is a productive floating minnow imitation. Fished fairly slowly around structure so that it remains near the surface, it is an effective attractor for fish relating to cover. Once it reaches open water, it can be fished more rapidly and jerked deeper with the retrieve. "Bombers" and "Rapalas" provide variations in size and depth for flexibility and variety. Probably the most popular of these baits is the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow. It can be extremely productive and is probably the simplest of all lures to use. Just cast and retrieve; it generates all the right motions, all by itself.
Crank Baits and Deep Divers - Magnum and regular size "Rattletraps, deep running Rapalas and crankbaits are not always effective, but can be useful when fishing the scalloped crevices of sandy beaches in the crooks of river bends and the base of rocky river structures. Deep, bluff banks and ridged points in lagoons lend themselves to effective probing with these deeper running subsurface lures. Keep a few in your tackle bag to utilize in the right circumstances. They don’t work well in shallow conditions and will generate a lot of hang-ups on underwater snags.
Jigs - Probably the single most effective subsurface lure (and unequivocally the most productive) is an ultimate darter style, half ounce jig tied with contrasting colored bucktail streamers. This jig, however, is not simply jigged. Because it is fished so rapidly, it not only never hits the bottom, it rarely drops more than several feet below the surface. The conventional tackle angler uses this jig as though it were a streamer fly, stripping it through the water in rapidly accelerating jerks, a foot or two at a time. The relatively light, half ounce weight, allows the fisherman to keep the jig moving and off the bottom while the stripping motion causes the bucktail to pulsate with each rip. This lure works best with a light spinning rig and braided line. The light rig will allow you to cast it very accurately in cover and very far in open water. Use it to probe among fallen timber in lagoons, casting parallel to trunks and branches and retrieving it quickly, right through where the fish find cover. Cast it over sand banks and saddles at lagoon mouths and inlets, ripping it rapidly from deep water to shallow and back again. Probe fast water, rocks and eddies in the river itself. In all of these applications, peacocks will readily pound these baits. Remember, it’s the repeated acceleration between rips rather that the overall speed of the retrieve that triggers the strike. The faster you accelerate them, the harder they hit them. To maximize the jig’s effectiveness in darker water, use a rattle jig. If the fish don't know they're there, they just won't hit them.
We prefer a "Sidewinder's Peacock Bass Rattle jig"; tied on a half ounce ultimate darter style jig head. It's equipped with a big, extra strong, wide gap 6/0 hook for solid hooksets in the peacock's bony mouth. The long, tabbed shank allows anglers to easily tie their own bucktail patterns on behind the head. The jig, in motion, runs with the hook point up so the most effective configurations will have the darker of two contrasting colors (usually red) tied around the hook (on top when in motion) while the lighter color (usually yellow or white) is opposite (below). This effectively mimics the natural patterns of baitfish. Peacock rattle jigs include a red, extended tail and a noisy rattle. Similar patterns using black and white, green and white or chartreuse and yellow can also be very effective. Click here for complete tying instructions.
Spoons - provide an effective tool for a variety of fishing situations. Unlike the jig, the Johnson's "Silver Minnow" can be very effective when fished slowly in thick structure. Its weedless configuration helps to minimize hang-ups on logs and branches, while its natural action and flash attracts strikes even when falling or bouncing from stick to stick. Spoons are useful for probing deep crevices between sand rills on beaches in the rivers and for attracting cruising fish on shallow flats in the rear and in the mouths of lagoons. Sizes from 1/4 to 1-1/8 ounce can be used with any tackle combination. Other effective types include "Daredevles", "Krocodile's", large "Tony Aceta" spoons and "Pixies" in various colors and patterns (although silver always works well).
Fun but Mostly Ineffective - The moment we suggest that a lure might be ineffective in a certain situation, we can be assured of hearing about dozens of exceptions. Every lure will have its army of proponents who will swear by its efficacy in any or all circumstances and who would readily gamble their survival on its ability to catch fish. We realize that an angler who is confident and comfortable with a lure and uses it effectively and often, will generally be successful. I grew up with the Arbogast "Hula Popper" filling just that role for me in a lifetime of bass fishing. I just plain love that lure. I fished the heck out of it for most of my life. In spite of that, I have yet to catch a single peacock on it. And believe me, I've tried!
We've tried big spinnerbaits, bottom bouncing jigs, creepy crawlers, jitterbugs and flatfish with no luck. Soft plastic baits don't survive the piranhas long enough to find out if they work. Needlefish, J-Plugs, Pop-R's and Mepp's all fail to produce with any regularity. Peacock bass fishing, like most types of fishing, is ultimately a function of numbers and these fish react mostly to noise, speed and certain types of motion. The more time a productive lure spends in productive water, the greater the probability of generating a strike. Everybody has a favorite lure and should definitely give it a try. But don't get carried away. Each angler can quickly determine how much time he or she wants to commit to a particular lure by the response it gets from its audience, the fish.
Peacock Bass Tactics
How do I catch peacock bass? — Well, first, you have to get at them. To the peacock bass novice, every inch of the Amazon looks like it holds fish. But, ever-changing conditions, such as water level, temperature, oxygen, food availability and spawning cycles all impact where peacocks can actually be caught. Too much water ... baitfish (and the peacocks right behind them) will simply go into the jungle ... we just can't catch peacocks there. Too little water ... they'll head for the river channel ... it's pretty tough to catch them here also. But, as water levels drop just below the river's banks, peacocks become concentrated in flood-pulse remnants, back waters, lagoons and riverbank structure ... we love to fish for them here. This is the trip operator's single most important function; to know where peacocks can be found in water where they can be caught; and to take anglers there.
That being said, let's assume you've made it to the holy grail of peacock bass fishing ... optimal water levels. And you’ve got a box full of killer baits to load onto your ready-to-cast rods. Now, you just have to get them on a hook. Peacocks make it interesting because there are two ways to do that ... get them to eat your bait ... or get them to kill your bait.
Presenting an edible bait
In Lagoons - The majority of peacocks are caught in and around lagoons. The interiors of lagoons provide sheltered feeding and spawning areas for both peacocks and the forage fish that make up their diet. Like largemouth bass, peacocks usually relate to 'structure' near shorelines.
Woody Structure - As a result of the constant cycle of rising and falling waters, lagoon banks are lined with fallen, dead trees, forming dense heavy structure along the shorelines. Fallen logs, points and sand bars are where many peacocks lurk. Therefore, much of an angler's time is spent fishing this type of structure. Both propeller type surface lures and walking sticks are very effective here when cast in toward shore between trees, logs and extending deadfall. When placed close against structure they often elicit immediate strikes. Fish will also follow them out from cover and strike them in open water. Similarly, jigs and spoons are very effective when cast into the base of standing timber or near fallen trees and retrieved parallel to trunks and branches. Peacocks will often trail these lures right up to the boat, sometimes striking as the angler begins to lift the lure out of the water.
Points - Peacocks love points. Points create an underwater ridge, with deeper water on either side. Have a rod with a surface lure and another loaded with a subsurface bait ready as you approach. Wait until you're close enough to cast ten feet or so past and perpendicular to the ridge, into the deeper water, and then work the surface lure over the top of the ridge. Be ready. Most points of this type will hold fish. If the surface lure doesn't produce, use a subsurface bait and probe the deeper water on both sides, casting toward shore and parallel to the ridge.
Feeding peacocks - During the course of a fishing day, anglers may encounter feeding peacocks moving into open lagoon water in small schools behind baitfish, sometimes bursting into feeding frenzies. These are great opportunities, especially for big fish. Baitfish fleeing, skipping across the surface, or over large disturbances in open water are good indicators. Don't pass up the opportunity to cast a lure into the fray. Drop it right in front of the baitfish, in the peacock's path. If you place it well, it will usually be taken immediately. Set the hook and hang on. Feeding peacocks are greedy and highly competitive when schooling. Another peacock will almost always be close by, attracted by the commotion. Take advantage of this behavior and cast behind a hooked fish (unless your partner is onto a giant; then politely reel in and get out of the way).
Peacocks will sometimes use lagoon banks and beaches to drive baitfish onto the shore and then pick them off as they flop back into the water. If you see this, throw anything at the bank and drag it into the water. Peacocks will usually grab the closest object in the melee.
When foraging fish are visible in water of less than a meter or so, they can be somewhat skittish, but a well placed lure can produce. Cast just beyond the fish and perpendicular to their line of travel, retrieving quickly enough to pass their line of sight a bit ahead of them. When it's spotted, the hair-raising sight of several big, hungry peacocks racing for your lure will thrill even the most jaded angler. Hang on, wait for the winner to get there and when the line goes tight, lean back and set the hook.
In the River - During periods of hot, dry weather and low water, conditions may encourage peacocks to move into the cooler and more oxygenated water of the river. In these conditions, anglers can pursue peacock bass in and around lagoon mouths, rock piles, bushes, sand bars, points, and log jams. This can add another dimension to the angling experience.
Logs, deadfall, and cuts will often hold peacocks, especially in backflows or still sections. Fish this structure just as though it were in a lagoon, making compensation for the effects of any discernible current. The outer points at the mouths of lagoons are often particularly attractive to fish because of their transitional nature, interfacing the flowing water of the river with the still waters of the lagoon.
Although not common in Amazon lowland rivers, rocks, compressed clay or dirt slide piles are peacock bass magnets. When available, peacocks will consistently congregate tight to this structure. Surface lures can be retrieved parallel to the structure or maneuvered through openings and between rocks. Subsurface lures can be run deep around the base of rocks. But jigs are the bait of choice. Bounce them off a rock and let them drop in, then start ripping them back. Work them along an edge and probe crevices and overhangs. The speed of acceleration is the key to this lure's effectiveness. In lightly stained water, peacocks can be seen flashing out of crevices, stopping dead behind a jig slowing down between rips, and then slamming it as the angler rips it again. If the jig doesn't move away quickly enough, anglers can watch the same peacock flash back into the rocks, rejecting the lure.
Fast Water - The first time I encountered peacocks in open, fast water, I was truly surprised. It didn't seem like the sort of place where I would find a fish that I strongly associated with still water lagoons and structure. I was fishing a narrow tributary. The boat was tied onto a fallen tree extending into the water just below a stretch of fast water that for lowlands Amazonia could almost be called rapids. The river narrowed here and formed a deep, fast chute just upstream of my location. After some experimenting and positioning, I settled into a groove that allowed me to cast upstream into the chute and rapidly retrieve my lure downstream through the fast water. The bucktail jig proved to be the most effective tool here, although a spoon produced also. To my amazement, I caught a fish on almost every single cast. Over twenty-five fish came out of this one little chute, before the action even began to slow down. Most of the fish ranged between 2 and 4 pounds, with several just under ten pounds. This was a blast! Since that experience, I make it a point to probe any fast water I encounter.
Beaches — Sandy beaches occur on the outside bank of curves and along the edges of shallow stretches of river. The rainy season's high waters cut scalloped forms into the expanses of white sand. Fisherman can exploit the steep edges between these ribs of sand. Subsurface lures produce well here. You can even cast a "Woodchopper" perpendicular to the ribs and sometimes get a violent but pleasant surprise.
Creek mouths - Always keep an eye open for water sources entering the river, no matter how insignificant. Casting well up into the mouths of entering streams will often produce strikes from fish holding right at the point where inflowing water blends with the river. Smaller creeks and streamlets may often hold fish right at the river shoreline.
Presenting a killable bait
There is just nothing more exciting in the realm of freshwater fishing than to catch Cichla temensis by “pissing them off” and that is best done just before and just after they spawn. Peacocks are very difficult to catch while they have eggs or non-swimming fry on the nest. They're just too busy doing their parenting jobs to pay you much attention. Luckily that period only lasts 4 or 5 days and pairs don't all spawn at the same time. Just before this period, however, is when an angler's wildest fishing fantasies can come true. Peacocks are violently protective of their nesting site before they spawn. They are staking out their turf and attracting and courting mates and will brook no interference from a presumptuous plug. Rip a big propeller lure past them and they will simply attempt to dismember it with a single explosive strike.
What could be more exciting than pre-spawn fish?… Baby-sitting fish! Once the fry have become free swimming, their parents will leave the nesting area and guard them as they feed on microscopic organisms in open, sunlit water. The parents cease hunting for food during this period, but ceaselessly and diligently guard their babies against predators. Place a lure into a school of peacock fry and papa will immediately and violently teach it a lesson that it (and you) won't soon forget. This a strike born of vehement aggression that no other fish can duplicate.
Fighting Peacock Bass
OK, You've prepared well, you've got the right tackle and lures, you're fishing in the right spots and using the proper tactics and techniques. You've done everything to be a winner at the "numbers game" of fishing. What do you do when the ferocious monsters actually show up to fight?
The Strike - It isn't possible to say enough about the peacock bass' powerful strikes. Surface strikes can sound like a pig doing a belly-whopper into the water, while subsurface strikes can feel as though your arm may be torn off. Most of the time strikes result in a hookup. But, what do you do when they just plain miss or blast the lure six feet into the air? What do you when they get shy and strike short or just swirl at a lure? You give them another chance! When they miss, don't panic. Keep the lure moving properly all the way to the boat. Cast it back and try again. Often switching to a subsurface lure will generate a solid strike immediately after a fish misses a topwater. When a peacock blasts a lure up into the air, be ready, they will often grab it and take off running when it hits the water. When peacocks don't make committed strikes, work harder to entice them. Speed up the lure, move it more erratically. Convince the scaled bully on the other end that his quarry is frightened or wounded and he will likely strike again, harder. Anglers will increase their percentage of hookups by keeping their eyes on their lure and keeping their heads about them during the strike.
The Hookset - Peacocks have powerful jaws and bony mouths, lined with rows of small raspy teeth. It takes a hard, solid effort to drive a hook into their mouth. Peacocks will close their jaws around a lure, grabbing it and swimming away. Let the line go tight and then put your back into the hookset. Single hooks with wide gaps such as jigs or Johnson's spoons penetrate more easily than trebles, and usually set solidly with the first effort. Lures with treble hooks are harder to set securely and will often benefit from a second effort when the line is good and tight. A good way to assure a good hookset is to constantly sharpen your hooks. Carry a small file or hook sharpener and use it often.
The First Run - The key to surviving the first run is to have a properly set drag. A ten pound peacock will easily break 30 pound test if the drag is set too tight. Anglers should be able to strip line off their reels by hand, with less than 1/3 the force necessary to break the line. If the fish is near cover, put your rod tip in the water and try to sweep the fish toward open water by using your body, your arms, your wrists and the arc of the rod to give the fish a direction toward which it can move more easily. (It doesn't always work and peacocks often reach cover in spite of the anglers best efforts.) Once you have a solid hook-up and a fish in open water, let him run. Keep the line tight and use the rod to tire the fish. Keep the rod tip down — this helps to avoid gill-rattling jumps that can throw the hook, particularly when a heavy lure provides leverage. A well set drag and a calm response will get you through the pounding, head shaking histrionics that peacocks perform with their full power at their command.
The Rest of the Fight - Make it through the first run of a big peacock and you've got a great shot at landing a trophy. When they come to a halt, anglers can begin to reclaim line and bring the fish closer. Continue to guide the fish away from structure and toward open water and be prepared for the next run. As you reel in, peacocks will often assess their adversary while they recover their strength. They will almost always take off again with renewed strength once they get close to the boat. Don't get complacent. They still have enough strength to straighten hooks and snap the line. Don't "horse" them, let them get tired bending your rod and taking line against the drag. Keep the line tight. Be patient and work them back toward the boat.
Netting - If you're fishing with a guide, he will always do the netting for you. He knows that it's bad practice to let the fish see the net or to touch it with the rim before it's securely netted. Help him. Get a tired fish to lie on the surface and skate it toward the net using your rod. Leave enough line to move the fish close to the net, making it easier for the guide to dip the net below the fish, sweeping it up to assure its capture. It's your trophy after all.
Doubleheaders - Peacock bass are extremely competitive predators. Sometimes several may spot a lure at the same time and race for it. (The smaller, quicker peacocks will often win the race to a lure.) They will frequently try to grab a lure from each other, literally fighting over it. (The bigger fish usually win these battles.) When two anglers are fishing together and one hooks up, it's a good tactic for the second angler to cast a subsurface lure toward the hooked fish. There is very often a competitor following the first fish who may be perfectly happy to settle for the second angler's offering. Sometimes it may even be the big fish that lost the race. Doubleheaders are great fun.
An important caution here is to remember to use both common sense and courtesy. When your partner is playing a fish, he's busy and not thinking about you. It's your responsibility to be careful. Give him space. Don't cast over his line or otherwise interfere with his fish. If your partner hooks up to an obviously large fish, don't cast at all. The last thing anyone would want to do is cost his fishing partner a trophy. Get your line out of the water, put your rod down, stay out of your partner’s way and offer words of encouragement. You can both enjoy the thrill of a trophy peacock coming to the boat.
Catch and Release - Wow! It's huge and it's amazingly beautiful. Admire it, but please do it fast. Let the guide hold it for you or use a Bogagrip and hold it yourself. Get your pictures, weights and measurements and get the fish back into the water as soon as possible. A tired peacock has just been stressed to an extreme and it needs your help to survive the experience. Hold it firmly and safely while it's in the boat, avoiding contact with its skin and slime coat as much as possible. Even though it's tired, a big peacock can be surprisingly hard to hold and a quick jerk of its powerful body can send it crashing to the floor of the boat. The Bogagrip, a great tool to simultaneously weigh and hold a fish without damaging it, is the perfect way to prevent injury to the fish. Peacock's have very sharp, raspy teeth that will readily scrape the fingerprints off bare skin. They have sharp gill rakers and sensitive gills. Please keep your hands out of their mouths and gills. They won't relax and cannot be lipped like a largemouth. Let your guide show you how to hold them to minimize the stress and damage to these beautiful creatures.
When releasing peacocks, hold on for a moment until you can feel the fish in control of its body. If it's rolling belly up, you'll need to hold it while moving it forward in the water (try a figure 8 pattern) and letting the water work through its gills. Don’t push it back and forth — gills are one-way systems. You'll know when it's ready to leave by the strong, quick thrusts of its tail. Keep an eye out for nosy dolphins, they'll often try to grab a freshly released peacock before it has fully gathered its wits.
This fantastic fishery can thrill and excite anglers forever if we all cooperate to keep it healthy. As vast as the Amazon is, we must all remember that its resources are still finite. When you get home, take your pictures and measurements and head off to a taxidermist. Ask him to make you a replica. The price is the same as for a skin mount and the resulting trophy lasts longer and usually looks better. And you can feel good knowing that your trophy is still swimming, hunting and reproducing, maybe to thrill another angler in the future. Treat these fisheries like the fragile ecosystems that they are and perhaps we'll all get to take our grandchildren fishing here too.
Fly Fishing for Peacock Bass
There is no more exiting quarry for the fly fisherman than the wild and brutish peacock bass. This is where subtlety and finesse meet sheer physical power - a true test of tackle and techniques. Here are some general guidelines:
Patterns -Extra-large streamers fished on a sinking line are generally most productive (not only in terms of overall numbers of peacocks, but for larger-sized fish as well). We highly recommend Sidewinder's Peacock Rattle Fly. Other popular streamers include 6-inch (5/0) bicolored, heavily-dressed bucktails in red/yellow, olive/white and red/white. Big Deceivers, Bunnies, Saltwater Zonkers, Clousser Minnows and other flashy baitfish imitations all take fish. All patterns should have generous amounts of matching Flashabou or Crystal Flash. Big saltwater poppers are exciting to fish, but can be extremely exhausting to cast and retrieve for a prolonged period. Also, fish over 10-pounds are difficult to coax to the surface with fly rod poppers. Only extremely-large (6-inches or larger) sliders and poppers will bring up trophy fish. Gaines saltwater poppers in red/yellow and pearl/olive hold up well and are hard to beat in terms of their 'action' in the water. 'Sliders' are productive in clear water situations. Popovic's 'Siliclone Mullet' in olive and white is effective. Fly shade is just as important as color, depending upon light conditions. For this reason have an adequate selection of light and dark patterns. We recommend that you bring at least two dozen streamers (half light, half dark) and several poppers. Hooks should be razor sharp -- dull hooks significantly reduce hookup rate.
Fly rods should be fast action models, because they load sinking lines more efficiently and generally have more 'backbone' than softer models. Bring at least two fly rods, because rods can break under the 'jungle stress.' Reels don't need to hold a lot of backing because peacocks don't make long runs, but a smooth, strong drag is essential. Recommended 'heavy' fly rod & reel combinations: A 9-weight rod is first choice but you can be OK with any stiff/fast action, 9-foot, eight, nine or ten - weight rod (Sage 990-3RPLX or G. Loomis FR1088-4) with Scientific Anglers 'System 2 -89' or G. Loomis reel. Recommended 'medium' fly rod & reel combination (for floating lines): A stiff/fast action, 9-foot, seven or eight-weight rod (G. Loomis GL3 or GLX) + matched reel.
Sinking lines are much more effective for streamers than floating lines. Don't bring just any old sink tip line. A Teeny '250 T-Series/Sinking line or a Rio Jungle Series Density Compensated line (30-foot, 300-grain, 6 inch per second sink rate) are our top choices. These lines can be fished on anything from an 8 to 10 weight rod - although a 9 weight is just right. If you like, bring a floating line for poppers and sliders but be aware that big fish are more readily caught on sinking lines. A line with a drastic weight-forward taper (like Scientific Anglers' 'Mastery Saltwater Tarpon') matched to your rod weight will help handle wind-resistant poppers.
Leaders: Peacocks are not the least bit leader shy. If you are not pursuing line class records, most fly anglers use a straight shot (approximately 6 — 8 feet) of 40-pound (or stronger — but not over 60 — they’ll break your fly line) monofilament leader material. Anything lighter can be snapped off like sewing thread if that fifteen 'pounder' runs you into a tree or rock pile. You will go through a lot of leader material, because of the peacock's extremely abrasive teeth. We recommend buying a spool of soft monofilament leader material. We like Jinkai 50 lb. soft monofilament. If you're trying for an IGFA record, you'll have to follow their leader specifications, of course.
A Suggestion - Fly fishing for peacocks is extremely productive, but can be tiring if you're not used to blind casting (and then rapidly stripping) a heavy-weight fly rod all day long. If you don't think you have this type of endurance, we strongly recommend that you be prepared to switch off and use casting or spinning tackle to give yourself a break between fly fishing sessions.
Well, all that remains now is to go out and do it. Go fishing and catch fish. Acute Angling’s “Turn-key” service will walk you through the process of preparing for your trip of a lifetime. We'll help you plan, get you organized, even tell you how best to pack. Our “All-inclusive” package will make sure you have everything you need to succeed and the insurance coverage to let you travel with total peace of mind. All you have to worry about is how to subdue that wild thing on the end of your fishing rod.
Your guide knows everything that's important about lure selection and structure and water clarity and all the bits and pieces of the numbers game we call fishing. He'll put you in the right place, suggest the best spots and sometimes even tell you where to cast. The fish will be there. But, while you're thinking about taking aim, loading the rod and bracing for the big fight, take a look around you.
The Amazon is one of the most beautiful places in the world with its labrynthine river systems, endless forest and amazing biodiversity. Relax and enjoy it. The sheer numbers of birds and exotic plants can keep you occupied and cataloging for a lifetime. Over 3000 species of fish are found in these rivers. Monkeys and jaguars, parrots and toucans and macaws, tapirs and capybaras, cayman and dolphin, all live here. Probably uncountable numbers of insect species. And people whose lifestyles are so different from ours that it might take a lifetime of study to fully understand it.
Fishing for peacock bass is a fantastic experience - bring your camera, but remember to also take a deep breath, look around you, and let the world's most amazing wilderness soak into your psyche and your memory. This is truly the trip of a lifetime!