Amazon Peacock Bass Adventure

Amazon Peacock Bass Adventure

Anticipation was running high, expectations were hard to manage, the only thing that kept us in check was the daunting headwind of our itinerary. Thanks to lingering COVID travel restrictions we were facing a complicated schedule of flights through five international airports, but short layovers kept us motivated toward fulfilling our quest for a world-record peacock bass. Worthy of note to anyone hoping to make this trip; travel restrictions have been eased and itineraries are currently more traveler-friendly than when we booked our flights. 

We arrived at the airport in Manaus, Brazil and were greeted by Eddie, who had a van ready to transport us to the TRYP hotel. We arrived at 3:30am. The lobby and bar were barren except for the bartender asleep on a chair in the corner of the room. Bobby Walker and I could not help ourselves and had to awaken him for our usual celebratory drink. Our bartender, sleepy-eyed but eager, mashed a pile of lime slices in a glass, added some sugar and then a healthy dose of Cachaca, a popular Brazilian rum. A few minutes later we had caipirinhas in hand, the national cocktail of Brazil. A quick toast and the best tasting drink I’d had in months filled my mouth with confirmation that we were where we needed to be. The celebration was short, simply because we had a floatplane waiting for us in four hours. We decided it was time to catch a nap.

We met the floatplane on the tarmac after a short five-minute drive from the hotel. My Simms waterproof bag containing just 25 pounds of essentials and a small backpack was all I needed for my three weeks stay in the Amazon. As we positioned for takeoff, I couldn’t help but notice a spattering of old, damaged airplanes along the airstrip. Off we went, and as we flew high over the Amazon the clear conditions were ripe for the quest for trophy peacock bass. We could see white sandbars all along the Rio Curicuriari, which meant the water level was low. Just under four hours later we made a smooth water landing where our houseboat, staff and guides, would greet us. The accommodations were exceptional, that being a small room with a comfortable single bed, air conditioning, and a small bathroom. We had a nice clean dining area and covered upstairs deck on top of the houseboat overlooking the dark red water with forever views of the rainforest. 

Within the hour Bobby and I were chunking the most popular peacock bass bait, woodchoppers, in backwater creeks deep in the Amazon. You just knew it would be moments before one of us would hook up. A short time later a 16-pounder came to hand on another traditional big fish bait – a brightly colored red and yellow jig. Once back at the camp we had an excellent meal and was briefed by our host Harold about what we were to expect in the coming days. I can clearly recall him saying, “You won’t catch a lot of fish, but the ones you catch will be big.”

The next morning we were greeted with coffee thick and rich enough to pass for motor oil. No complaints though, so long as you like your coffee strong. We had eggs, bacon, pastries, fruit and everything in between to choose from. We packed a lunch, met up with our guide, Eder, and off we went in our nicely equipped aluminum boat with comfortable bass boat seats.

Cruising the river banks provided the most incredible scenery. The rainforest is thick and lush and every so often we would spook a flock of macaws from atop tall palm trees. Most of the time you heard them before you saw them. They don’t seem to like being disturbed, and they sure let you know it. Not much wildlife other than a few otters and an occasional caiman alligator, but the beauty of the landscape was mesmerizingly deep and rich.

Every spot we fished looked fishy, and every cast looked like it could and should yield the next world record peacock. Ninety-plus-percent of our casts came back empty but the remainder more than made up for it in a clear and obvious way. The explosions from peacock bass are real and vicious; words alone just cannot do it justice. Our Shimano Curado reels were spooled with 65-pound braid, with the drags cranked as tight as they could go, to stop the peacocks from tangling in the brush along the banks. Still, it was no match for big peacocks that easily stripped 40 feet or more line with ease. When you hookup you know you’ve got something that means business on the other end.  

Bobby and I landed an average of about three fish per day, but many more misses and mess-ups. Some were clean misses and some left hefty treble hooks completely straightened. Nothing under 10 pounds came to hand while the biggest of the trip was a 24-pounder that taped 93 centimeters, landed by yours truly. This monster slammed a pearl colored KWigglers Long Tall Sally rigged on a 3/8-ounce jig head as I reeled it over a clear ledge and let it fade into the dark red water. All I can say is what a fish!

Being within miles of the equator we experienced extreme heat and a couple of intense storms, but nothing dampened our spirits or interfered with our quest. We pressed on every day despite bruised ribs and sore arms from lobbing woodchoppers and huge swimbaits at every opportunity. You never pause a bait; you always work it to its and your own fullest potential; peacock bass do not like anything slow.

One day we met with the chief from a local tribe who happened to be the President of the Federation of Tribes who manage and control who comes in and out of the river. This is a federally-protected area and Acute Angling International has the sole outfitter relationship on the river, which lends to the extreme remote feeling it deserves. I was fortunate to have the chief and a couple of his men cook a jungle meal for me; whole piranha with banana for desert. The culture from this tribe is rich and their tradition is real. This was a true treat, and quite frankly the piranha was excellent, despite me wondering how long it might have lain in the sun before going on the makeshift grill. The organic hot spice made from peppers and other native rainforest vegetables had a kick, but the flavor was to die for.

We repeated days like this for just short of a week with similar experiences and results. There is not enough space here for me to provide details of all that I experienced and learned. But if you can imagine being deep in one of the remotest parts of the world, fishing for world-class peacock bass with absolutely no other people in sight, eating some of the best food you ever put into your mouth, then you are thinking about it accurately.

Our journey ended with Bobby and I taking the same floatplane out of the Amazon and back to Manaus, where we met up with some of our good friends, only to join on another Amazon adventure up the Rio Negro, on another houseboat with a different outfitter. This trip was also exceptional but I’ll leave that story for Pam Johnson to present in another issue.

My peacock bass adventures will continue in October of 2023 and 2024. Currently the 2023 trip is full, but we are looking for a few trophy peacock bass hunters for 2024. This is not a trip for just anyone, but if you are interested, and more importantly up for the challenge, reach out to me for more information.