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HAWAII PEACOCK BASS

Justin Willmer

When my wife and I sat down to plan our first overseas holiday together there was no doubt that fishing of some sort would be involved. We were heading to the Hawaiian island of Oahu and after some research we discovered that Lake Wilson (Wahiawa) had a population of peacock bass! On top of this there was also the chance of encountering largemouth bass, red devil, bluegill and a few other species that we hadn't targeted previously. This aligned perfectly with my new year's resolution of catching three new species this year.

To keep things simple and make the most of our short stay and one off opportunity to fish, we booked a day on the water with Hawaii Bass Fishing who offer guided fishing at a reasonable price in both the fresh and saltwater. All that was left to do was to sort a few travel rods and a selection of lures that we thought would do the job. The guys from Hawaii Bass Fishing emailed us through driving directions to the lake, the names of a couple of local tackle stores and a phone contact, to give them a call once at our hotel to address any last minute questions.

We met our guide for the day Frank at the ramp and he soon had the Bass Tracker in the water. Sheri and I were both pumped to make a cast into some new water. We were fishing Shimano three piece travel rods that fit nicely in a homemade rod tube inside our suitcase, with 1000 and 2500 Stradic reels, loaded with 4-6lb braid and a rod length of 8lb fluorocarbon leader. Gear used to target bream in Australia.

Frank said they had been catching fish recently on small, white, soft plastic worms, rigged weedless on a small worm hook and walked fast across the surface. I opted for a small paddle tail, in the form of a ZMan 2.5" Slim SwimZ in Blue Glimmer colour, rigged on TT Lures HeadlockZ Finesse jigheads in 1/12oz 1/0. Frank was happy to let us give this a go first, but reinforced that we were making the common mistake that most people make when fishing for peacock bass - too heavy and too slow. The lure needed to be buzzed across the surface in a similar fashion to froggin' the surface for barramundi. Secretly I was hoping to hedge my bets and have a chance at a mixed bag of species.

Sheri was first to hook up, fishing her ZMan down a drop off and after a short fight Frank slid the net under a largemouth bass. I think I was even more stoked than her. Big smiles, a few photos, a quick inspection of that massive mouth and the fish was released. I noticed a few red devils milling around the edge of a bank and flicked my lure in just to their right. Frank mentioned that they are not renowned as a lure taker, so I allowed the lure to sink a little, moved it slowly toward them and then paused it again. This attracted the attention of all three fish and I guess their competitive nature took over because they moved in on the lure, I saw the take and set the hook. Fish on!

The red devil gave a good account of itself and there was a fist pump when it was in the net as I had seen pictures of this species and wanted to hold one in my hands. It was also one down on my three new species for the year.

Sheri switched to the unweighted rig in an attempt to stir up a peacock bass, while I went with a 1/8oz TT HeadlockZ Finesse jighead and ZMan 2.5" GrubZ in Gudgeon colour as I still had her largemouth bass on my mind. Boof! A peacock bass blew up on her lure and soon after another... I was getting tempted to change when a subtle take resulted in a hook set and I soon had my largemouth in the net. After watching the US bass tournaments, visiting ICAST in Vegas for work and dreaming about getting back over there one day to try my luck on this species, I was stoked. I spent a few seconds admiring the fish, grabbed a couple of photos and then immediately changed over to the surface rig and started buzzing the little ZMan 2.5" Slim SwimZ across the surface.

We attracted a few more boofs and witnessed peacock bass tearing out from under logs and against the bank to smash the lure. I don't know enough about the species and it may have been the time of year, with fish in pre-spawn mode, as the hits were aggressive 'get out of my territory' hits that didn't seem to be about eating the lure. I finally managed to hook a small peacock and I had knocked off my three new species for the year in one morning!

We had a break for lunch and then refocussed on the job at hand. I really wanted Sheri to land her first peacock bass and she deserved it after casting hard and casting well all morning. After a few more blow ups I hooked up again and wrestled a slightly larger peacock bass away from structure. I took a little more time to check out the colours and anatomy of the fish this time before getting it safely back in the water and on its way back into the snags. We were treated to a few more blow ups before another peacock bass ate my Slim SwimZ and I was soon releasing my third.

The clock was ticking and Sheri kept casting... it was just a matter of time. Her cast landed perfectly between two sections of lay down timber and Frank and I both commented that it was a nice cast and deserved a fish. As if it was scripted, a peacock bass rose behind the lure and began tracking the lure across the surface. It's amazing how far a peacock bass will follow the lure before striking and this one was pushing a bow wave ahead of it. This seemed to go on for ages, as all three of us held our breath and waited in anticipation. I think I may have whispered 'eat it' a few times and then BOOF!

A hole appeared in the water where the lure was tracking across the surface and there was a split second before the rod buckled over and Sheri was on! This was a larger fish and Sheri handled the rod well, worked the fish back away from the structure and was all smiles once it was in the net. What a way to wrap up a fantastic day on the water. Three new species for me and a couple for Sheri, a day on the water for our wedding anniversary and Frank was good company, sharing loads of information about Hawaii, locations worth checking out and ensuring we had an enjoyable day on the water.

If you are planning a trip away, in Australia or overseas, why not check out the fishing options available locally and check out the local charters so that you can make the most of the window of time you have available. If you find yourself in Hawaii and want to wet a line in the fresh or salt, check out www.hawaiibassfishing.com.

See you on the water...
Justin Willmer

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017