Peacock Bass Tackle Preparation


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Selecting the Right Lures


Lures for trophy peacock bassPeacock bass anglers in the 1980's and early 90's had only a limited selection of lures to chose from that could hold up to the havoc that large peacocks wreaked on tackle. Very few gamefish can expose a weakness in a lure as do the peacock bass, as they routinely open split rings, straighten hooks and rip hook hangers from the bodies of lures that appear to be well-constructed.

However, from the mid-'90's on, tackle manufacturers realized the potential of the peacock bass tackle purchasing market and began making lures that were up to the challenge of being abused by peacock bass. As soon as you handle and observe these baits, you will note such modifications as triple-wrapped split rings, stronger hooks and long screw eyes/hook hangers anchored deeply in the body of the baits.

Topwater Lures


If you were to ask 100 veteran peacock bass anglers what it is about fishing for peacock bass that they enjoy the most, a good majority would reply with something along the lines of "It's the way they hit a topwater plug!"

First time anglers are so startled by this vicious topwater assault that they usually miss the first several fish. Unlike other aggressive gamefish species, peacock bass will readily take a topwater lure all day, even in bright sunlight. Of course, overcast conditions will still yield the most action, but don't ever believe that the topwater bite is over as soon as the sun comes up.

Effective topwater lures for peacock bass can be divided into several categories, including: surface walking stickbaits; large baits whose large propellers in the tail section can be ripped across the surface, and popping plugs.

Walking Baits


Walking baits for peacock bassI believe that walking baits are the most underutilized baits in the arsenal of the peacock bass angler. These baits typically require the most work (not strength) in terms of getting the best action and anglers, typically novice ones, shy away from them because of this.

One bait has emerged that is far and away the most productive walking bait for peacock bass - the Excalibur Super Spook. This bait is extremely effective when you impart the famous "walk the dog" retrieve, basically a coordinated series of wrist snaps that cause the bait to zigzag across the water.

The "Spook" traditionally comes with three smaller, super sharp Excalibur hooks and three small attached splint rings. Remove all split rings and hooks and only replace the fore and aft ones with large split rings and 2/0 Gamakatsu or VMC or hooks.

Another deadly walking bait is the Rebel Jumpin' Minnow. For some reason, this walking bait is most productive when it is erratically walked, popped and twitched across the surface, similar to the action of what you would see with a jumping minnow or other baitfish.

The entire key to these lures is that they emit a lot of action, but stay in the strike zone for long periods of time. Consider these lures when peacock bass are not aggressively attacking the propeller baits.

Propeller Ripping Baits


Propeller ripping baits for peacock bassThe first tackle manufacture to produce peacock-proof prop baits was Luhr-Jensen out of Hood River, Oregon. In fact, Phil Jensen is an avid peacock bass angler who is constantly trying to come up with new lure designs and colors. Luhr-Jensen's propeller lure arsenal includes: the 3/4-ounce Big Game Wood Chopper; Peacock Bass Special; Jerkin' Sam; Magnum Jerkin' Sam; Big Game Ripper and Amazon Ripper.

Propellor baits for peacock bassIn recent years, however, other tackle manufacturers began to produce what they referred to as their "fresh water big fish" series of lures, ones that would be excellent choices for fish like musky, pike, tigerfish, and, of course, peacock bass. Must propeller lures to add to your tackle arsenal for the Amazon include: Peacock Passion Topwater Spin; High Roller's RipRoller; Eatem-Up's Monster Prop; Temptress' Detonator and Sam Griffin's Super Zip.

Propeller baits that I would refer to as "power" type baits, including the Big Game Woodchopper; Rippers; Monster Props; Jerkin's Sams, Detonators, and RipRollers should be worked with a medium to rapid paced, aggressive rip of the rod, to impart an action and sound that emits a loud rip! This can be accomplished by either using your wrists (don't try this all day unless you fish 300 days per year or hit the weights four days a week) or, alternatively, by wedging the handle of your casting rod between your forearm and against the side of your body to gain leverage and assist in pulling the bait through the water.

The faster and more aggressive you work these baits, the more the peacocks are apt to attack them. Each sweep of the rod should move the baits from 6 inches to 2 feet (dependent on the lure used, current conditions and mood of the fish). Propellers might need to be tweaked to insure that they bite the water and create optimum audible and visible commotion. Typically, the guides are most adept at tuning the baits for best action and sound, so don't hesitate to allow them to adjust them. In many instances, they'll be the ones looking to grab your lures to make the necessary subtle changes.

More subtle topwater propeller baits, including the 3/4-Woodchopper; Peacock Bass Special; Super Zip and Hedden Baby Torpedo, can typically be worked with the wrists, using either casting or spinning tackle and require a less aggressive rip of the rod.

Poppers

Poppers for trophy peacock bassI am still waiting for a tackle manufacture to design the perfect popping plug for peacock bass. The ones that pop really well are small, with undersized hooks and hardware. Larger poppers offering heavy duty hooks and hardware fail to pop and stay on the surface to my liking. When fishing at peacock destinations yielding fish in the four to 12 pound size range, scale down your arsenal and include lures such as the Trader Bay Lefty's Popper, Rebel Pop-R and Yo-Zuri Popper.

Subsurface Lures


Far too many anglers get hung up on the excitement of topwater fishing and neglect the subsurface approach. I learned this lesson all to well during a December 1999 trip with WGN fishing show host
Babe Winkelman
.

Babe and I were desperately trying to entice big fish to take our large topwater lures. We were fishing with one of the best big fish guides in the Amazon, one that believes there is only one lure to land a trophy on - a giant topwater prop bait.

After 2-1/2 days of 8-10 hours a day of slinging nothing but topwater baits, we decided to switch to a jerkbait and began landing trophy fish up to 18 lbs. It wasn't that we were fishing the prop baits incorrectly, it was simply a matter of recognizing that the big peacocks were not in the mood to assault topwater lures. It is my contention that if one is interested in is catching numbers of fish, they should fish a jerkbait all day, and not even bother with topwater lures. However, if a trophy is what you've traveled to South America to catch, you've got to cast them at least 1/2 of the fishing day.

Jerkbaits


Jerkbaits for trophy peacock bassFor trophy peacock bass fisheries, must baits to have include: Cordell Red Fins; Bomber Long-A Minnows; Temptress Peacock Minnows and, my personal favorite jerkbait, the Yo Zuri Sinking Crystal Minnow. These lures should be in the five to seven inch size range.

For smaller peacock fisheries, make sure you have an ample supply of Yo-Zuri Sinking Crystal Minnows; Rapala Husky Jerks; Smithwick Suspending Rattlin' Rogues and Cordell Fed Fins, in the five inch range they weight between 1/2 and 1 ounce. Although the steady retrieve of a jerkbait has and will produce strikes, these baits are most effective when worked with rapid, erratic wrist twitches with occasional pauses.

Don't be afraid to experiment with different retrieval techniques. In some instances changing retrieval speed or cadence is more important than changing lures. Spinning gear is a very good choice when working lighter jerkbaits.

Rattling Baits


Rattling baits for trophy peacock bassRattling baits are typically one piece solidly built crankbaits with a hollow rattle chamber and BBs inside. When retrieved rapidly, they emit a loud rattling sound. Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps, Cordell Hot Spots and Temptress Shiver Shads are deadly on peacock bass.

While most anglers simply cast these baits out and utilize a steady retrieve back to the boat, these baits can also be worked in a yo-yo (rise-and-fall) manner.

The Rat-L-Traps come in sizes up to 1-1/4 ounces, the larger size very effective on trophy fish. These baits are hard and heavy, so be careful that you don't knock your fishing partner out of the boat on your backcast.

Casting Spoons

Casting spoons for trophy peacock bassCasting spoons work exceptionally well when you are fishing in areas that offers weedy cover and the fish are holding within this cover. Consider weedless spoons when working fish within weedy or grassy cover. Cast as far into the cover as possible and use a slow, steady retrieve back to the boat. If the cover is what it referred to as "slop" weed, than absolutely no lure will be able to be retrieved through it. Larger spoons have been trolled with very good success as well. Productive spoons include: Tony Aceta, Johnson Silver Minnow and Daredevile, in the 1/2 to 1-ounce size range.

Bucktail Jigs


Bucktail jigs for trophy peacock bassA very good follow-up bait to use when a peacock bass aggressively misses a topwater lure (and you've casted back to it on several occasions) is a 1/2-ounce white Blakemore Roadrunner bucktail jig or standard white bucktail jig. They are most productive when casted into the remnant of the strike (the place where the fish swirled or struck your topwater lure) and then aggressively jigged up and down.

These baits are dynamite on schooling fish, especially butterfly and royal peacock bass around rocks or shoals within a river or lake. The strikes usually occur on the fall. For best results, fish these on a 6 - 7 foot long medium/heavy action spinning rod and between 12 - 20 pound test line, depending on the location you are fishing. Spinning gear offers the advantage of a rapid vertical fall of the jig, an important factor when fishing current and a precise presentation is needed to get the lure to fish holding in eddies.

Snaps & Terminal Tackle


Terminal tackle for trophy peacock bassConsider using some type of strong wire Inter or Double-Lok snap (size 6 - 120-lb break strength) to allow for rapid lure change. These stronger snaps will not pull apart. Remove the split ring at the line tie on the head of the lure and add the snap instead. Always bring extra split rings and treble hooks, as peacock bass will typically put a few baits out of commission during the course of a trip.