Peacock Bass Angling Hints
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 back waters, lagoons and riverbank structure ... we love to fish for them here. This is our 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. You still 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. See our Peacock Bass Primer for detailed information on tactics and techniques.
Peacock bass are important ("keystone") predators in the waters they occupy, to the extent that they can change the ecological balance of an aquatic system. Like largemouth bass, peacocks often prefer 'structure' of some sort. Rocks, fallen logs, points and sand bars are where peacocks will usually be lurking. Larger peacocks, however, may often be found feeding or baby-sitting in open water, so it is wise to heed your guide's recommendations on where to cast. If there are dolphin or other large predators in the area, peacocks will tend to hold tightly to structure. Make sure to cover productive water as thoroughly as possible. Sometimes, the difference of a few inches in your cast can be the difference between an immediate strike or complete disinterest. During spawning periods, peacocks vacate 'structure' and nest on sandy bottoms in three to six feet of water.
Peacocks often roam about in small schools hunting baitfish, periodically bursting into a frothing feeding frenzy. When this situation is encountered, get your lure or fly in front of feeding fish as quickly as possible. This may sound easy, but peacocks tend to move fast as they tear through baitfish. The sooner you can cast to them after they've been spotted feeding, the better your chance of a hookup. Peacocks are greedy and highly competitive when in a group. Always cast a free lure or fly right next to any hooked fish (unless your partner is hooked up to a giant, when it's best to reel in and get out of the way). Another peacock will almost always be close by (often attracted by the commotion). If no strikes result, probe the surrounding area thoroughly before moving on.
During extended periods of very hot, dry weather, high water temperatures combined with low oxygen levels may force peacock bass out of the lagoons and into the main channel of the river. Here, they will tend to locate themselves around rock piles, bushes, sand bars, points, and log jams, which offer both protection and ready access to hunting grounds. The mouths of lagoons are often extremely productive also.
Set the hook - in the fish. First time peacock anglers, when fishing topwater lures, instinctively react to the startling strike of a peacock by triggering a hook set, even though the peacock may not actually have the lure. Often peacocks will swirl at or slap a lure and then come back around and firmly grab it on the second pass. It's hard to remember at first, but don't reflexively set the hook or jerk the lure away on the strike. Wait until you feel the fish's weight, then set the hook, hard. Big peacocks have tough mouths. Don't be fooled into thinking you are hooked up just because a fish is taking line. Even if not hooked, they'll often hold on to a lure or fly and run for quite some time before spitting it out.
If the fish doesn't actually take the lure on the first strike, keep it moving. Peacocks will almost always lose interest in a lure or fly that just sits on the surface. If you continue to patiently work it however, the fish will often follow and hit the lure a second or even a third time, sometimes following it right to the boat.. If they do lose interest, quickly cast a jig or subsurface lure or fly in the immediate area. This often elicits another strike.
Never try and 'horse' a big peacock; Don't underestimate their power. Even moderately-large peacock bass are powerful enough to break heavy line, pull screws out of plugs, straighten saltwater hooks, and mutilate split rings. If a big fish is headed for structure, apply side pressure to the rod trying to 'steer' the fish in another direction. If you crank your drag down too tight, they'll almost always snap the line, or pull off. If a fish does make it into cover, don't give up. Back off on the pressure, drift over the fish and wait for the boat to spook the fish out of its hiding place -- they'll often untangle themselves. If your drag is set too tight when they bolt, a break off is usually inevitable. Even when a fish comes to the boat, never assume it's ready to give up. Always keep a properly set drag to absorb a last minute run.
Like all fishing, lure and fly selection can be a complicated matter due to variable fishing conditions. Water clarity, weather, brightness, and time of day will all dictate what type of lure or fly you should choose. Some argue that lure size is essential. Usually you will catch more fish with jigs, smaller lures or flies, although a high percentage of trophy peacocks are caught on larger baits. Lure or fly color doesn't seem to be as important as lure shade. If it's bright out, use a light-colored lure or fly. Dark shades can be more productive in low light conditions. For more information see our Peacock Primer - Part II.