Peacock Bass Fishing Techniques
Peacock Bass, although not a member of the Bass family, will feed and act a lot like a Large Mouth Bass. Think like you were fishing for largemouth bass, super-size your equipment and terminal tackle, and you will be on the right path. The big difference between these two species of fish is that a Peacock Bass has a red eye that does not seem to be the least bit sensitive to the sun so they are active all day.
Also, Peacock Bass do not go off into deep water and sulk after they spawn; both male and females will protect their fry once the eggs hatch. Many times your guide will tell you to cast to a brushy point 8 or 10 times and you will think he is just killing time. Not true, your guide knows the type of cover big Peacock Bass like and if they are not actively feeding, they can be enticed into striking by casting to them a number of times and making them mad! Very often you will see a second Peacock trying to take the lure away from the one that has it. It can be very advantageous for the 2nd angler in the boat to cast right behind a hooked fish as it will quite often result in a double hookup.
If a fish swirls behind your lure and does not get hooked, do not stop the lure – keep it moving. Peacock Bass will very often make 2 or 3 runs at a lure before they get hooked. If you stop the lure they tend to lose interest in it. You want to move your lure quickly, be it a topwater noisemaker or a subsurface jerk bait or jig, as you are trying to instill the instinct to chase and catch the prey in the Peacock’s mind. If a noisy topwater lure like a woodchopper knockoff is not producing fish, switch to the more subtle action of a Zara Spook or a He-Dog.
The last 3 IGFA All Tackle World Record of 27, 28 (caught with Capt Peacock in Feb of 2010) and 29 lbs. have all been caught on noisy topwater lures in the main Rio Negro or within a couple of miles of the mouths of its tributaries. Fishing a ½ oz. jig will usually catch 2 to 3 times the number of fish a topwater lure will, but most often not the size.
hen you are tired from throwing that big 1 ½ oz. topwater lure after a couple of hours, you can troll awhile. Trolling jigs or big flies will produce bone-jarring hits and will produce some big fish. You will also cover a lot of different water trolling.
Our expert guide seems to know “secret” lagoons and lakes off the main river channels where they feel “the big ones” live. Our guides cut their way thru little creeks, pulling their boats half the time. Suddenly the dense rainforest opens up into a 50 – 200 acre backwater slew or Lago (lake) as they call them.
When the water gets really low and the creeks dry up, the guides will sometimes take you on a walk, often pushing their boats on small logs overland to reach these now landlocked lakes. You will experience some awesome days of fishing in these backwaters, and it was quite the unforgettable adventure getting to them!
Early in the mornings you seem to see a lot of activity in the shallow edges of these small lakes and lagoons as the bigger Peacock Bass are chasing baitfish and juvenile members of their species. As the day goes on and the water in the shallows heats up, the bigger Peacock Bass do tend to move into the deeper water in the middle of the lagoons where the water is a little cooler. Thus, generally you will fish the shallow edges in the mornings and the deeper waters during the heat of the day.
Peacock Bass actually seem to suspend during the night and do not feed. Peacock Bass are predatory fish and love to lie in ambush for an easy meal. Prime places to fish are around cover, not only on the banks of rivers and lakes, but also around islands, submerged trees and flooded timber, as well as sandbar points located away from the shore. Although Peacock Bass will school and push bait fish to the surface, the bigger fish will most often be found lying in the shadows of brush, banks or sand bars in ambush mode.
The places you will look for in pursuit of big Peacock Bass (10 lbs. +) are points with submerged brush on them that drop into 8 – 15 feet of water. Points that drop off into 3 – 8 feet of water will usually hold smaller fish, except in the mornings. The exception to this rule is when the Peacock Bass are spawning around the sand bars located in the backwaters. Remember, the biggest fish will hold the most advantageous ambush sights, i.e.; points, stumps, etc. This is the main reason that heavy fly rods in the 10 weight class are necessary when “playing” with Peacock Bass in the 14 – 25 lbs. class and the use of the 65 – 80 lbs. test braided Kevlar on the bait casting and spinning gear.
Once a big Peacock Bass is hooked, he will head straight for the cover he feels safe in, and will give you more fight per pound than any fresh water fish you have ever hooked before. Peacock Bass have an abnormally large tail for their body size, which generates tremendous power. Do not overlook a solitary stickup, no matter how small, in the middle of a lagoon. Very often a big Peacock Bass will be holed up in its shadow in ambush mode. Cast to it, work you lure past the stickup and be sure you have a good grip on your rod!
The old saying goes, “big waters mean big fish,” and this holds true for Peacock Bass in Brazil’s Amazon.
Some outfitters will tell you it is necessary to fly into remote stretches of the tributaries of the Rio Negro, “away from everyone and everything,” to catch a big Peacock Bass. But looking at the IGFA record books shows this is simply not true.
Peacock Bass are an extremely aggressive predatory species that will eat most anything they can get in their mouth. They will feed on a wide variety of bait fish, including juvenile members of their own species, small snakes, birds and mice that have found their way into the water as well as insects and terrestrials that are available to them.
The mitigating factor in having a successful Peacock Bass fishing trip in South America’s rain forest is the level of the water. Even though we fish during the dry season, from late August to late March, they do not call it the “Rainforest” for no good reason. The river systems in the Amazon are so vast that, even though it may not have rained in your local area for several weeks, the water can suddenly come up a foot or two because it has rained 100 – 200 miles upriver recently. This makes the ability to move to a river system that is experiencing ideal water conditions as the key feature in experiencing a successful Peacock Bass fishing trip.
During low water conditions the Peacocks concentrate around river points and structure near the banks and in backwater lagoons as well as around sandbars and submerged structure in the main river channels. These types of low water conditions concentrate the Peacocks as the number of prime ambush areas is greatly reduced. If the water gets too low, it dries up the little outlets of the backwater lagoons and denies the angler accessibility to these areas. When the water levels go up and the rivers get out of the banks the Peacock Bass are presented with a new food source and will quickly move from their current habitat in the main rivers into the flooded land to feed on insects, lizards and the small baitfish that stay in shallow water for protection from their predators.
Fixed base operations can produce good fishing…when the water conditions are ideal in that particular region. Mobility is the key to success of this type of fishing as fishing a given area hard day after day, week after week, educates the fish and reduces the quality of fishing over a 6 (six) months fishing season.
Our yacht, which acts as the mother ship, tows twelve 18 foot American Tracker Bass Boats, equipped with 60HP - 4 stroke outboard motors, trolling motors, VHF long range radios ensuring safety, comfort, and a short run to the best fishing areas daily.
Looking at the IGFA record book, you will see that most of the existing World Record Peacock Bass have come from Brazil’s black water Rio Negro River systems and there is where Captain Peacock will hook you up with trophies.
Mobility is the key to success in the varying water conditions prevailing in Brazil's Amazon and our shallow draft yacht allows anglers to fish different waters virtually every day. Exclusively with Capt Peacock fishing is done from 18 feet American Tracker Bass Boats with 2 anglers and a Brazilian guide per boat.
Although Peacock Bass fishing is conducted during the dry season in the rain forest, they don’t call it the “Rain Forest” for no good reason. It is not unusual for the water levels in Brazil’s Amazon River Basin, where the majority of the Peacock Bass fishing takes place, to raise 1 – 3 feet virtually overnight. The rivers fished in this area of the world are extensive enough that a heavy rain 100 – 200 miles upriver can cause a big jump in water levels a couple of days later down river where you are fishing.
If the water gets high enough to get out of the river banks and into the trees of the rain forest, the Peacock Bass go into the flooded timber to feed on snakes and creatures the new cover provides, making fishing tough. When the water gets too low, you cannot get back into the secluded backwater lakes and sloughs off the main river. Fishing is best when the water levels are steady or slowly falling from normal dry season levels.
The rivers of the Amazon and its tributaries are full of sandbars, which offer the Peacock Bass excellent feeding areas as the baitfish are concentrated in the shallow water during low water conditions. Much like fishing the shoreline, the points and depressions in the contour of the sandbars offer great areas to fish. Most of these sandbars will have shadows on one side of the bars and a sunny side, depending upon the time of the day.
Usually, the Peacock Bass will be right up against the bank in the shadows unless they are on their spawning beds. It is best to drop your lure on the sand bar and slide it into the water letting it sit there a second before starting to retrieve it. If you can put your lure on the extreme edge of the water you will have five times as many strikes as if you drop the lure 18 inches from the edge of the sandbar!
Low water conditions mean clearer than normal water, which means the Peacock Bass will be more selective than normal. In these situations utilize a less colorful lure with less flash than you would normally use. Sandbars in open water give the fisherman the best chance of catching a big Peacock Bass on light tackle as the fish can be played with a lesser chance the fish can break you off on submerged structure.
Stay as far away from the sand bars as your casting ability will allow you to, remembering the lower the water, the more skittish the fish are going to be. Low water conditions are also the time to look for schooling Peacock Bass. Watch for baitfish suddenly breaking the surface as well as birds working the water in the distance.
As the water rises, it floods new cover and structure, spreading out the Peacock Bass as well as providing a virtually unlimited source of new food. When the water level rises over night, as it often will in the Rain Forest, the Peacock Bass seemingly cease feeding until water levels stabilize. These are not the conditions you desire after traveling several thousand miles for Peacock Bass, but one that will occasionally occur. If the water levels get out of the banks and flood the rain forest, things are even tougher as fishing in the flooded trees is really not an option.
In this instance, you are pretty much relegated to fishing the edge of the flooded cover. You will find that the one place you can normally find Peacock Bass where they are fishable in high water is in areas of constricted fast water.
The high water will cause the current of the river to be faster in some areas around banks, possibly creating new channels. These are the areas to look for during high water conditions…areas where the high water current is deflected off the shore or a narrow new channel created by the high water overflowing a low bank.
The current seems to direct baitfish and other food into these fast water areas and the Peacock Bass will sometimes stack up in these areas due to the abundance of food, like salmon entering a river from the ocean to spawn.
During high water conditions you will fish for 4 or 5 hours without a strike and then in a period of half an hour you will have caught two dozen fish in one little fast water area. Fish the structure and submerged brush, but there will be tons of it to pick from and the question is which one the Peacock is hiding near.
As the Amazon River Basin is a little bigger than huge, these seasons occur at different months depending on if you are near the Andes or the Atlantic Ocean. In the areas fished in Brazil’s Amazon, usually within a 400 miles radius of Manaus, Amazonas Brazil, the dry season runs from late July thru March. It normally starts raining in late March or early April and by June the rivers will be flooded well out of their banks and are basically unfishable in areas west (upriver) of Manaus.
In the areas east (downriver) of Manaus, the water levels are usually the best from July – September and are too high to fish the rest of the year. The majority of the Peacock Bass spawn from late September thru early December in the upper Rio Negro watershed Captain Peacock fishes, building beds on the sandbars with their tails much like a Black Bass.
As the water levels drop from August on, the number of visible beds on the sand bars is amazing. From the air it looks like World War I was fought on them! Peacock Bass seem to like to build their beds on sandbars that are 5 – 15 feet deep in secluded lagoons and oxbows as well as the main river channels.
Unlike a Black Bass, a Peacock does not leave the bed and sulk in deep water for a couple of weeks after they spawn. Peacock Bass, both male and female, will stay on the beds and protect their eggs from predators until they hatch.
Once the Peacock fry have hatched the Peacock Bass stay with them and will defend their fry for 60 – 90 days, sometimes by taking all their fry in their mouth when danger arrives. When you add these traits to the fact that if a Peacock is not actively feeding, you can make them mad enough to strike a lure by simply running the lure past them a dozen times, you will understand why the Peacock is always ready to do battle!
The black water rivers, such as Brazil’s Rio Negro, which are the most productive for big Peacock Bass, have the clarity of dark tea. Thus the angler will have a hard time spotting beds and spawning Peacock Bass in water more than just a few feet deep.
It is important to listen to the guides when they tell you to cast to seemingly open water off the banks of the rivers over and over again. The guides know where the submerged sand bars are that the fish are likely to spawn on.
The majority of the Peacock Bass will have spawned by mid-December, though scattered spawning activity will be seen thru late March.
Fishing for Peacock Bass after their fry have hatched from the eggs is an experience all onto itself. Unlike Black Bass females that tend to go into deep water and “sulk” after they spawn, both males and female Peacock Bass, which can weigh 25 lbs. +, will both defend their fry.
Fishing post spawn you want to look for ripples or tiny bubbles on the surface in fairly shallow lagoons and sandbars. These indicate fry feeding on the surface and believe me, mom and dad will not be far away.
When you do see this situation drop your lure just beyond the surface disturbance and retrieve it in quick jerks to make it dart into the fry and hold on, there is absolutely nothing subtle about a Peacock Bass strike!