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!
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.