As the name suggests, peacock bass are beautiful fish, endowed extraordinary fighting qualities which makes them prized fish by sports fishermen. Very often travel agencies organize fishing trips to Florida, Hawaii or Brazil, having as main goal the fishing of peacock bass.
There are quite a few species of peacock bass, but when it comes to their fishing methods, tackle and baits, they’re pretty much the same for all of them. Many anglers actually use the same tackle as they would use for smallmouth bass, but there are a few slight variations when it comes to fishing for peacock bass as opposed to smallmouths.
Peacock Bass – Habitat and Habits
First of all, peacock bass are tropical fresh water fish, originary from the Amazon and Orinoco basins. They can be caught basically within the tropical area of the Americas. In other words, within the United States, peacock bass can be caught within the tropical regions such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Florida. Brazil, Panama and the Dominican Republic are also countries where these fish can be caught.
Maybe one of the most important aspects to know about peacock bass is that they have a specific water termperature tolerance level. Studies have shown that at least a few species of peacock bass actually die in waters lower than 60°F (15°C). Their preferred optimal water temperature is between 74°F (23°C) – 84°F (28°C). In general, as the water temperature decreases, getting closer to the lower value of this interval, or even lower, peacock bass tend to become less active, sluggish also feeding less. On the opposite, if water temperature is higher, they feed more intensely, also their aggressiveness is increased.
When it comes to the composition of the habitat preferred by peacock bass, they typically keep close to structure and vegetation. They prefer slow-moving waters, such as canals, ponds and lakes, with plenty of shady areas and vegetation cover. They’re naturally born ambushers, ferociously attacking their prey from the shadows. It’s best to look for them in shady spots, near canal edges, around culverts, also canal bends being good places to look for these fish.
Although they can be caught yearlong, the best time to fish for peacock bass is between February and May.
Fishing Techniques for Peacock Bass
Fishing with top water lures and medium to medium-heavy tackle is maybe the most productive and enjoyable fishing method for peacock bass. Trolling is also a method widely used by anglers, but most anglers who practice trolling for peacock bass should have a rod ready for sight casting. Peacock bass often hit the surface of the water hard, in order to daze their prey. If your lure is not in the water in that particular spot, at that moment, that’s a wasted opportunity.
When fishing for peacock bass, it’s always a good idea to fish with a group, or at least one buddy. That’s because these fish have a very aggressive and nosey behavior, and if one of the anglers in a group hooks one, other bass will come and check out what’s up, resulting in double or triple hookup opportunities.
Fly fishing is also a peacock bass fishing technique preferred by many anglers. But in this case, big flies with heavy duty hooks must be used, as these fish tend to gulp up their prey, making them difficult to unhook and release, if you fish with smaller flies.
Evidently, these fish can be caught via traditional fishing methods, with a bobber and various rigs, using big baits and hooks, or still fishing.
Bait and Lures for Peacock Bass
Topwater lures are, hands down, some of the most productive lures for peacock bass. You normally can’t go wrong with lipless crankbaits, topwater plugs and of course, 4-8″ jerkbaits. Bucktail jigs are also an excellent choice, and spoons or spinner lures can also be productive. On the other hand, plastic worms, which are widely used for smallmouth bass, aren’t very effective for peacock bass. Some of the lures to try out for peacock fishing, are Yozuri or Rapala minnows, Wobble Pops, Rat-L-Traps, Excalibur Spooks, Rebel Jumpin’ Minnows, Cordell Hot Spots, Temptress Shiver Shads, casting spoons like 1/2 – 1oz. Tony Aceta or Daredevile are also very productive.
As a general idea bigger lures have a good chance of producing trophy catches, but they’re less productive than smaller lures. Smaller and medium size lures lead to many hookups, however it’s usually the smaller peacock bass interested in them.
Although live bait is not always and every place permitted, if it is, it’s never a bad idea to bring along some. Peacock bass feed mostly on Midas cichlid and tilapia, their diet focusing on other fish, mostly. But the best and most used live bait for peacock bass is the shiner.
Tackle for Peacock Bass
Rods. If you’re targeting smaller peacock bass, you’ll have a lot of fun with lighter tackle and light or medium-light rods such as a Fenwick ML Elite. But since these fish are powerful fighters, in case a bigger one strikes, you just might end up with a broken stick.
The most appropriate choice to go with would be a medium-heavy rod, 6’6″ – 7′ such as a G. Loomis TFG TRC 705-3, or a Falcon Rod HD MH. Avoid rods with longer handles, as they give you less control, making the lure more difficult to work.
Reels. Evidently, your reel should fit to the rod you’re using. The best reels to pair with medium-heavy rods, such as the ones mentioned above would be about any Shimano spinning reel within the 4000 range, such as Shimano Sedona 4000 FD or Shimano Symetre 4000 FL.
For a medium light outfit, it’s best to downsize the reel a bit, so Shimanos within the 2500 range, like a Sienna 2500, should do.
Line. To catch peacock bass, braided line is a must. Not only that that it’s sturdier, it’s also less stretchy, allowing a better control and feel of the lure. 50 – 65lb. test is the range to opt for, if using heavier gear. As for lighter gear, at least 30lb. test is indicated. Very important though for using braided line for peacock bass, it’s that you should never try to muscle the fish, at least not right after hooking it. Since the line is less forgiving, it might snap, as these fish put up a strong fight.
Hooks. If you opt for lighter tackle, and aim for smaller fish, 1/0 – 2/0 size hooks are a good choice. But you can go up to 5/0 – 7/0 for trophy peacock bass. The most effective hooks to use are the Owner Jig Hooks 5317 and 5319, very sturdy, ideal for fighting big bass.
Photo courtesy to randychiu /source: flickr.com