Peacock Bass, Tactics and Strategy

I took this dream trip to fish for peacock bass in Venezuela several years ago. Considering the state of affairs in that nation I’m not sure I’d make that trip again, but the fish can be found in other locations, such as the many canals that make up the Florida Everglades.

Some day they’ll get their act together and we’ll be able to fish this amazing lake, but in the meantime consider applying the techniques here and dreaming about this “some day” possibility.

When my guide for the week, Raphael Valenzuela, looked at the Luhr-Jensen “Wood Chopper” that I proudly removed from my tackle bag, he shook his head and pointing to my lure he declared, “This is a problem”. After my thorough research, I was not mentally prepared to be rebuffed, upon pulling out what I was sure was the best lure to use. Baffled, I watched as he produced a Leatherman and promptly removed the front propeller. After reassembling it, he tied it onto my waiting Ripcord, and handed it back with words of approval and encouragement, “no problem now”. I wasn’t too happy about having my fine, new lure altered, however, after a few retrievals under his tutelage, I realized why the front propeller was a problem – with this particular technique. When fishing for peacocks, the more noise you make the better it works. Violent jerks of the lure produce tremendous amounts of splashing, which in turn produce explosive surface strikes in short order. When you pull the Wood Chopper hard, it sometimes overruns the line, which becomes entangled in the front hook. With the standard front propeller in place, it would have taken excessive amounts of time to keep it untangled. As it was, on the average of one-in-ten casts, the lure had to be adjusted for hooks that became ensnarled with each other, or the line. The trade-off for the extra work, was some very exciting surface action. My guide Raphael Valenzuela displays one of my better fish. The downside, after a couple of long days of casting and jerking, was knots between my shoulder blades and a tender wrist. With some modification to the way I was holding the rod, and jerking the bait, that problem went away. These baits can also be worked with a “walk the dog” action similar to that used with a Zara Spook, which is much easier on the back muscles. A combination of the two is a good compromise. You’ve got to give it a pretty good rip to get their attention, then a little “walking” varies the muscle strain. Just remember, mas action, mas strikes! The has double rear propellers, instead of singles on each end, like the chopper. It has excellent action, and produces good results as well. You’ll be fishing the edges of grass-lines, that collar the many islands punctuating the landscape. The most productive spots are points of the islands, where the banks fall off in ridges leading to deeper water. Don’t get into a tunnel vision situation, and focus totally on the grass-lines, especially if the action is slow. Standing and submerged timber, away from the islands, is also an excellent option. Don’t leave these caches unexplored. I caught as many bass around timber as I did along the grass-lines. Using two rods, rigged with diverse baits, you can alternate between grass casts and timber doodling. Peacocks telegraph their presence with plenty of surface action, when they are feeding or running off trespassers. When fish strike on the surface, you need to be on it like a moth on a porch light. Wind up quickly and move to within casting distance, while their aggressive mood is primed. The percentage of strikes in the area of an active fish is 95% or better. These fish don’t hesitate or half step. Rod and reel selections are critical elements of your success. Lake Guri produces large numbers of fish in excess of 10 pounds, and 10 pounds of peacock is rougher than a tandem hook-up of equally sized largemouth. If you are also going to go after the payara, don’t even consider taking a light-weight reel. You’ll come back with a sack full of parts. I took two stout rods with a lot of backbone. Keep in mind these fish punch out of their weight class and gear up accordingly.
Cabela’s carries a number of excellent baitcasting reels perfect for the class of fish in Lake Guri-. Next you’ll want to find a rod with enough backbone to throw heavy lures all day and subdue fish in routine weights upward to the high teens. My guide Raphael Valenzuela  displays a male with the large hump they get on their head during mating season. Which line to use is always a subject that divides the camp. Mono is a great line, but there are a number of factors that make a high quality braided line the best choice for this trip. The number one reason is stretch. It stretches only about 5%, compared to the average 25% stretch of monofilament. That is a major factor, which pushes braided line to the top of the list. When you jerk one of the heavy choppers or rippers using mono it will wear you out. There are also a lot of trees and stumps to deal with, and when you get a big fish on it will try and wrap you around the closest tree. Braided line’s slick surface slides off rocks, trees and other underwater obstructions, keeping abrasion to a minimum. The advantages of high abrasion resistance, coupled with the horsepower to pull your quarry from its lair, put the odds in your favor with every hook-up. Braided lines combines strength and flexibility with a diameter less than half that of conventional monofilament. Should any of the braided strands get nicked, there are plenty more that retain 100% of their strength. Forty pound test has a diameter of only 10 pound test mono, and this size should be plenty for anything you will encounter on Guri. Feeling brave? Drop down a few sizes. I am confident braided line will handle the load. Braided line may cost a little more, but it is well worth the investment. If you are only interested in lunkers, throw the Wood Chopper and Amazon Ripper exclusively. You will go through periods of casting and not catching, but when it pays off, the result is worth the wait and work. That much casting is good practice, however, I prefer to catch something, even if it’s a little smaller. Surface strikes are generated from anger. The Peacock Bass is very upset that your lure has violated his announced “no trespassing zone”. Although larger surface lure presentation will produce the bulk of action from the big boys, everything has to eat. Peacock feed on primarily on “Sardinas” (a member of the Sardine species common in the US) and small Piranha. They also will eat their own young, once they have matured and left the care of the nest. Diving baits that imitate their forage will quickly provoke “feeding strikes” when “territorial protection” action on the surface has cooled. The Bomber Long A did well but wasn’t up to the massive strikes these fish produce.. Spoons were also productive, as were jigs tipped with Berkley PowerBait plastics. Cabela’s Flat-head 1/2 and 3/4 oz. Jigs tipped with Kalins Big ‘N Grubs also produced, and a fact worth noting; the local fishermen that we talked with were all using jigs. Their techniques were rudimentary but effective. You take a small dugout, a spool of 100 pound test mono, and release it after whirling it around the head a few times. These native anglers’ hands showed signs of the effects caused by mono heated from fast runs. It put fish on the table, but I’d recommend sticking with modern tackle, and let a solid multi-disc drag take the heat.