Kermit Adams, founder of K Lures out of Fresno, CA sent me some of his BIG K-lures in several different conformations to try on my next trip to Brazil's Amazon for Peacock Bass. I have used Kermit's lures in the past, catching some pretty good Peacocks on them.
Several things I will say about Kermit's Lures, they are big (Magnum size!) and tough! Kermit's lures are equipped with 5/0 & 6/0 4x strong VMU premium hooks and heavy split rings as well as extra long screws and tuned propellers. You don't have to worry about modifying these lures before using them! These monsters, weighing upwards of 2 ozs, remind me of Phil Jensen's big original Wood Choppers of the 1990's.
Some of Kermit's paint jobs are impressive as well! You can throw these well balanced logs into the next area code, so you want to be sure your reels are fully loaded with line before you wind up and chunk one of these big boys. Kermit, I'm looking forward to using these beauties within the next month and see if we can excite a BIG Peacock Bass into doing battle with one of your gems. I'll share some pictures with you and my Facebook friends when I get back from what will be my 35th trip to Brazil's Amazon since 1997! I'm sure our guides on our Safari Camps with River Plate Outfitters will be impressed with these "choppers!"
FISH WITH THE BEST AWAY FROM THE REST
I'm often asked which fly patterns are best for catching trophy Peacock Bass. In truth, a fly that is the right size and has lifelike movement in the water will get eaten by a few fish. Most of us, however, aren’t content to settle for ‘a few fish’ – especially when we’ve spent good money and traveled a considerable distance to pursue them; we want to show up with the fly patterns that give us the best chance at catching the fish of a lifetime. The guidelines below will help you put together a selection of flies that will greatly increase your fishing success.
CHOOSE FLIES THAT ACT LIFELIKE IN THE WATER - AND WILL NOT FOUL EASILY
Like many predators, Peacock Bass love flies that look and act natural in the water. Flies that breathe and have a realistic silhouette will attract the most attention. Larger profile flies are great for big Peacock Bass, but can foul easily. A fouled fly will not swim properly and will be refused by larger fish. Nothing is more frustrating than making the perfect cast to a fish only to discover that the fly’s tail is wrapped around the hook. Consider tying or selecting flies with mono guards or materials that shield the hook to prevent them from fouling.
FLIES MUST TRACK STRAIGHT – ESPECIALLY AT SPEED
Although Peacock Bass will ambush a fly swimming through thick cover, they love to chase flies darting rapidly away from them. They use their wide, powerful tails for explosive bursts of speed to overtake their prey. Often, a single hand retrieve is just not fast enough to get the fish’s attention. Many experienced anglers rely on a two-handed retrieve to generate the speed necessary to elicit a strike from a big peacock.
USE FLIES MADE FROM DURABLE MATERIALS
The Amazon River is a savage and unforgiving environment filled with a myriad of predators – many of whom have razor-sharp teeth. Piranha, Bicuda, Traira, and Payara are attracted to the same flies as Peacock Bass and will cut your 6-inch fly in half with a single bite! While natural materials like feathers and bucktail look great in the water, they just don’t hold up to toothy predators. Patterns that incorporate synthetic material like DNA, Flashabou and Steve Farrar’s Flash Blend impart plenty of action while providing increased durability. Heads finished with epoxy or UV cure adhesives will also increase the life of your fly.
EYES ARE A NECESSITY
Make sure your fly patterns have large, visible eyes. Peacock Bass and other predators key in on the eyes of their prey to subdue them more quickly. As a result of this behavior, many prey species in the Amazon have developed ocelli or ‘eye spots’ on their tails to confuse predators and direct attention toward less vital parts of their anatomy.
Whether you tie your own flies or pick them up at your local fly shop, following these guidelines will enable you to select the fly patterns which will offer you the best chance at making your next Peacock Bass trip a great success.
by Jim Kern
Many people ask me what my favorite lures are for Peacock Bass fishing, be it hard tackle or flies. A few operators furnish tackle for their clients and most will give their clients a list of their preferred lures they have found work best for Peacock Bass. Now there are a few operators that offer to “rent” you the use of lures during your trip. Beware of the operators that offer trips for $5,000.00 to $7,500.00 and offer to “rent” the use of maybe $250.00 worth the lures for $350.00 - $400.00/ week, THIS IS FLAT OUT GOUGING and will tell you a lot about the modis operandi of the operator! It’s kind of like paying $150.00 for a steak dinner and then being told they will “rent” you a steak knife and fork for another $25.00!
After 35 trips to Brazil’s Amazon Peacock Bass fishing as an angler, outfitter, guide and putting together tackle kits for Peacock Bass clients since 1997, here are my favorites lures for fishing in Brazil’s Amazon. You don’t need to bring a lot of lures; you just need to bring the right type of lures! When you travel all the way to the Amazon, open your tackle box and all the guide does is shake his head, you know you’re in for a long week. Mind you, manufacturers other than the ones I have mentioned make lures in the style I mention below and they work too. The ones I mention below have proven to be tough enough for the hard fighting Peacock Bass, with hooks that will withstand the awesome fight a Peacock will give you. People always ask me, “What do you catch most of your Peacock Bass on?” I use the old adage in reply, “you will catch 90% of your fish on the lures you use 90% of the time!” If you want to catch the most fish in a day’s fishing, use the lures the guides ask you to use and not the ones you want to catch fish on! Always remember to use the “Tina Turner” method when fishing a lure for Peacock Bass, “…we do nothing slow and easy…we like it fast and rough!” Fast and erratic is the name of the game for Peacocks. You want to induce that instinct to chase and give them very little time to decide it’s a lure and not a struggling animal or a wounded bait fish!
The adrenalin rush when a big Peacock Bass slams a big noisy top water bait is unlike any you have ever experienced!! I tell people when a big Peacock hits a top water bait it is like someone dropped a 10 lb cement block into the water! This is what we all travel to Brazil’s Amazon for. Once you have seen it in person or even just on a television show, you will know what I mean. The one thing to remember is that a Peacock Bass does less than 5% of its feeding on top and you will not catch as many fish per hour with top water baits as you will with a subsurface bait, but the top water baits tend to appeal to the bigger Peacocks and often calls them in from far away in the low visibility tannin stained waters you will be fishing. Soooo, if you are after a monster….wearing yourself out with the big top water baits can be well worth it…some of the time!
HIGH ROLLER’S 6 ½” RIP ROLLER
High Roller’s Rip Roller was the first “knock off “ of Luhr Jensen’s famous Woodchopper noisy propeller type top water lure and in my estimation, the best. Originally designed as a Musky lure by the Ozark Mountain Lures, the Woodchopper became a favorite as a Peacock Bass lure in the mid 1990’s. Rapala discontinued the Woodchopper series around 2009 leaving High Roller’s River Roller to fill this niche in the Peacock Bass fishermen’s tackle box. The Rip Roller is available in a 5 ½ inch model with 2 treble hooks, plus 6 ½” and 7 ½” models, both sporting three treble hooks. I prefer the 6 ½ model over my second choice the 5 ½” model only because the 6 1/2"” model has three hooks.” My favorite colors are Perch, Halloween & Clown. Guides still love to have you throw the “Chopper” but unless you are a gorilla, the chopper will wear you out! When I told my guide one day I would give him $100 if I landed a 20 lb Peacock, his eyes got as big as silver dollars. The problem was he would not allow me to throw anything but a chopper all day and it killed me! No he did not get his hundred dollars and I sure as hell didn’t make the statement the following day as my arms were to sore to throw the damn chopper for a couple of days!
YO ZURI’S 5” HYDRO PENCIL
There are days when Peacock Bass will roll behind a noisy top water propeller lure but simply will not hit it. This happens a lot in areas that have been heavily fished as the Peacocks seem to know that noisy damn thing is going to hurt them, or at least it did last time they hit it! This is the time you want to change to a more subtle top water lure and the classic is a the age old Spook type bait. You need a big durable bait and the problem I have found with the Salt Water Zara Spook is you have to change the hooks out with 3X strong hooks and the Spook just doesn’t seem to run right with the heavier treble hooks. I have been using Yo Zuri’s 5” Hydro Pencil with good luck. This lure comes with strong salt-water hooks and is made of a much heavier design than the Spook, runs exactly like a Spook and has an internal rattle. My favorite color is the red headed, silver bodied model.
REBEL’S 4 ½” JUMPING MINNOW
It seems every few years a new bait comes along that is very effective for Peacock Bass. The latest top water lure to make a big impression on the Peacock Bass fishing scene is Rebel’s Jumping Minnow. Not a new lure mind you, but fairly new to the Peacock Bass fishing scene. This slim, barely floating top water lure combines a “walking the dog” type action with a bobbing head that allows the angler to impart a number of different actions to it including making the head of lure literally “jump” out of the water. You can keep it on the surface and “walk the dog” or work it just under the surface in a more erratic “walking the dog” action. I always have a rod rigged up with a Jumping Minnow on it when fishing for Peacock Bass in Brazil’s Amazon. The Jumping Minnow comes in a 3 ½” and 4 ½ model but I prefer the 4 ½” model as it not only should appeal to bigger fish, but because it weighs ½ oz instead of 3.8 oz as the 3 1/2 “ model does allowing you to cast it further. The one downside to the 4 ½” Jumping Minnow is that you have to change out the #2 treble hooks with 3x strong trebles which is a little work but worth it and the lure will run correctly with the heavier hooks.
95% of the feeding a Peacock Bass will do is beneath the surface and thus you will catch more fish per hour spent fishing with subsurface lures and you will catch some big boys as well. Due to the low visibility of the tannin stained waters you will be fishing, a rattle & bright colors are a plus. Most all the subsurface lures you will use will need to be shallow running as Peacock Bass are structure oriented ambush fish and you will be hung up donating lots of lures to the fish gods with deep running jerk baits.
YO ZURI’S 4 ½” CRYSTAL MINNOW
Yo Zuri’s Crystal Minnow which has been on the Peacock Bass Fishing scene for about 15 years now is my all time favorite jerk bait. Yes, Yo Zuri does make a 5 ½” and a 7 ½” Crystal Minnow, but I have found nothing works as well as the 4 ½” model. This is a very versatile lure as you can make it “walk the dog” subsurface, jerk it very erratic side to side action and have the floating version act like a wounded minnow on the surface. The Crystal Minnow is available in floating, sinking and suspended models. I prefer the 3-D graphics models in silver with a black or blue back or the white with a green back model. The nice thing about the Crystal Minnow is that it comes from Yo Zuri with rugged 3x strong #2 treble hooks on it. I have never had a Yo Zuri hook straighten out on a fish! Crystal Minnows can be trolled effectively at the accelerated speeds used for Peacock Bass fishing without the lure planing out to the surface.
BORBOLETA 4” PERVASA
Isca Borboleta’s Perversa twitch bait, manufactured in in Brazil is the newest subsurface bait to make a big impact in the Brazilian Peacock Bass fishing scene. This 4” lure has more action than you could believe from looking at the lure. Short quick jerks of the rod tip make this lure dart erratically from side to side imitating a wounded bait fish. The quicker you can retrieve the Pervasa the more erratic it runs and the more appealing to the Peacock Bass it is. I took some under water, slow motion Go Pro footage of the retrieve of the Pervasa and its action was far greater than what we were seeing from above the water. Jerked short and quick, the lure not only moved erratically from side to side, but it also rolled, truly amazing action! It surprised me that a Peacock was actually able to get ahold of the Perversa! These lures can produce big numbers of Peacock Bass and some really big ones as well. It has become one of the top producing lures in the guides arsenal as of late. I like the bone color and the white with a red head combination. The Perversa is equipped with strong hooks that you do not have to worry about changing out.
6” EXTENDED TAIL JIGS
Over the years the lowly jig has morphed into a very specialized weapon in the Peacock Bass fisherman’s arsenal. Buck tail still works the best for the body material but the problem is that you cannot get buck tail long enough to make a jig longer than say 3 inches. The fishermen and tiers have solved this problem by adding a 3” piece of say 150 lb test mono tail to the jig and then tying a seconds clump of buck tail to the end of the mono, producing a 5 – 6” long jig. These have become very popular on the Peacock Bass fishing scene over the last 20 years. I prefer the half ounce version with at least a 5/0 strong hook . My favorite colors are the old Mickey Finn pattern of red and white with just a touch of Marabou tied in with the buck tail. Red and white plus green and white are my alternate choices. You can throw these ½ oz jigs into the next area code and with the hook pointing up with a little finesse you can work it over logs and thru less than dense brush. These jigs are very effective for trolling as well. I really believe that these ½ oz jigs will out fish any other type of lure for Peacock Bass, the only problem being that it’s rather boring fishing. Do not fish these jigs slow and easy like you would for Black Bass, use fast and short jerks to induce the instinct to chase in the Peacocks. Be sure to bring say a dozen jigs with you each day, as if the Piranha take a liking to them they will not last long!
Soft plastics are not used much for Peacock Bass & when they are you need to use continuous short quick jerks to make them dance. They can be effective as with the protected hook you can throw them into logs and brushy cover, but again Piranha, Wolf fish, Bicuda and the host of other toothy fish inhabiting the waters of Brazil’s Amazon will make short work of these soft plastics. In my 35 trips to the Amazon, I have only seen one client use soft plastics and he did use them effectively catching Peacock Bass up to 18 lbs. He had brought a pretty good supply with him but he was out by day 3 of his trip.
Live bait will catch Peacocks better than anything else, but the fish tend to swallow the live bait before you set the hook, which results in the Peacock Bass being hooked deep in its throat or in its gills, which most often means a dead fish. The sport fishing industry practices catch & release fishing on Peacock Bass and gill hooked fish do not release well! Therefore fishing with live bait is frowned upon by the sport fishing guides & enthusiast!
After making 32 trips to Brazil’s Amazon Peacock Bass fishing utilizing fly & conventional tackle I have outlined below what tackle I recommend for an angler to take with them on a trip to Brazil. Many outfitters offer the use of rods, reels and a few of the upscale operations will even offer lures for your trip. The information below will give you my idea of what a first time angler should take should he want to do combat with the mighty Peacock Bass utilizing bait casting, spinning or fly fishing equipment.
Bait Casting Equipment
Rods: Two 6 ½’ - 7 ‘ medium heavy bait casting rods . I prefer the 3 piece travel rods such as Temple Fork Outfitters TRC 705–3 7’0” MH
Reels: Two high speed retrieve bait casting reels that will hold 100+ yds of 65 – 80lb Kevlar braided line. My preference are a small Shimano Curado 200HG loaded with 65 lb test Kevlar line or the larger Shimano 300 Curado E loaded with 80 lb test Kevlar line.
I strongly suggest you use bait casting equipment rather than spinning gear for Peacock Bass as the heavy braided Kevlar line necessary for this game does not cast terribly well off a spinning reel and drags are not as smooth when set tight on spinning reels as they are on bait casting reels. But if you are not user friendly with a bait casting reel use the spinning equipment.
Rods: Two 6 ½’ - 7 ‘medium heavy spinning rods. I prefer the 3 piece travel rods such as Temple Fork Outfitters TRS 705–3 7’0” MH
Reels: Two medium heavy spinning reels that will hold 100 yds+ of 65 – 80 lb test braided Kevlar line. My preference is a Shimano 4000 class spinning reel.
A braided Kevlar line is a must as even though Peacock Bass have no more teeth than a Black Bass about like 60 grit sandpaper. They are structure oriented fish and as soon as they feel the hook the war is on as you try to keep them out of the logs and brush. I prefer 80 lb Power Pro brand Kevlar line, but on some of the smaller reels like the Shimano Curado 200, I drop to 65 lb Power Pro as the reel will only hold about 80 yds of 80 lb
You don’t need steel leaders for Peacock Bass & stay away from swivels and snap swivels, they will cost you a big fish one day! If you plan on fishing for Piranha, bring some stout steel leaders!
Top Water: You will need two types, noisy propeller type lures and subtle “walking the dog” action type lures and you will need 2 or 3 of each type.
For Noisy Propeller type top water lures I suggest the 6.5” Rip Roller manufactured by High Roller. I like the 6.5” model as it has three 3/0 treble hooks on it where the 5.5” has only 2 treble hooks and the 7.5” is just to heavy and long to cast all day. I would suggest Clown, Fire Tiger or Halloween colors.
There are several other manufactures of these prop type top water baits like Pavon Prop, Temptress and Peacock Passion.
For subtle “walking the dog” type top water lures you will need a couple of 4-5” lures, with stout 2/0 or 3/0 hooks, like a Salt Water Zara Spook, Rebel Jumping Minnow, or a He Dog. Bone white, in white with a red head or chrome colors.
Subsurface: You will need a couple of subsurface jerk baits 4 – 5” long with stout 1/0 – 2/0 hooks. My favorite is the Yo Zuri Crystal Minnow in silver, blue & black or red & white.
Rapala makes an X-Rap that is good and there is a Brazilian lure called Pervesa that works good.
Jigs: I would suggest you take 12 – 18 one half oz jigs with you. They make these jigs with an extended tail on them especially for Peacock Bass. You can usually buy these at the Safari Camp for around $5.00/each. Red & White and Red & Yellow seem to work the best.
Rods: I would suggest you take two 9’ 9 wt fly rods. I use a Temple Fork 9’ 9wt 4 piece Mangrove fly rod. An 8 wt will get the job done unless you hook into a fish in the high teens or low 20 lb class. 10 wt works good but it is a bitch to throw all day.
Reels: Small salt water fly reels work well. You will need to have a reel that will hold 100 – 150 yds of 30+ lb backing as well as the fly line. I recommend Temple Fork Outfitters new Atoll 1 fly reel, it is a large arbor & has an excellent 15 lb drag on it.
Lines: I do most of my fly fishing with streamers and subsurface flies, therefore I use an intermediate sinking line the most. It is always good to take a floating line as well if you are going to use poppers and/or Dahlberg Divers. The Salt Water style fly lines work better than lines designed for fresh waters as they are harder and are easier to cast with big streamers in the heat of the Amazon. I use weight forward lines.
Leaders: I use 6 ft of straight 30 – 50 lb monofilament for leaders. Peacock Bass are not leader shy and the heavy leaders are necessary if the fish get back into the brush. Tapered leaders are not necessary as the heavy streamers you will be using will lay the line out nicely.
Flies: I would take a couple of dozen flies. I tie my Peacock flies on stout 4/0 hooks in a Lefty’s Deceiver style. Clouser type weighted flies work well too. I tie my flies about 4 inches long with some Flashabou in them, eyes are very important on these flies as well. Green & White, Red & White, Pink & White and Sardine colors are good.
Extras: A good stripping glove or sock to put over the index finger of your stripping hand is a must as pulling the fly line over it all day will burn the skin off. Good set of split ring pliers and a knife are handy. I always carry about a pint of powdered Gator Aid with me & add it to my bottled water to help with cramps in your hand, a day of casting and jerking top water and subsurface baits in the heat will lead to hand cramps like you have never experienced before. Be sure to bring a good pair of polarized sun glasses and lots of SPF 30+ sunscreen too!
The camp will have some extra bait casting rods and reels if you break or have trouble with yours. They also usually have jigs for sale a $5.00/. I tie and sell flies at $12.00 each or $120.00/dozen. I have been to the Amazon 32 times since 1997 and tie what works and stays together. I also sell lure kits for conventional fishing with what you will need at $300.00 for the kit that includes jigs, top water and subsurface lures. If you are interested in any of these let me know.
Jim Kern has a long history in the Peacock Bass world. Jim has fished in Brazil 32 times since 1997 with both fly and conventional tackle. Jim developed and ran the American office for Captain Peacock from 2010 thru 2013 was the Vice President and General Manager of Amazon Tours from 1998 thru 2003. Through Emu Outfitting, his outfitting company of 30 years, he managed Alaska’s Rainbow Bay Resort from 2007-2009 & Alaska’s Angry Eagle Lodge 2013 & 2014. Jim holds a Coast Guard Captains license, has been a registered fishing guide in Alaska, Montana and Idaho and has been a fly tier for 40 years. Jim also was a 3 time American League All Star baseball pitcher in 1977, 78, and 79 & the American League Relief Pitcher of the year in 1979.