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Jumpin' Jufari's Peacock Bass

High-flying peacocks keep things interesting in Brazil's Rio Jufari

By Larry Larsen

We motored upriver about an hour from the floating barge tent camp, past numerous likely lagoons, past the Rio Preta and on up the shallow runs of the Rio Jufari. We moved through the twisting, clear waterway over numerous bottom-bumping shoals, past fallen forest timber and beyond a very interesting looking, medium-size lagoon. In front of it near its mouth, we noticed 8 or 10 large peacock bass moving along the river sandbar. The outboard engine never hesitated or slowed.

  George Sammut peacockOur guide, Palato, was on a mission that morning: Find my fishing partner, George Sammut and I some giant fish! He was in a hurry to accomplish that, and it was our last fishing day. Our time was running out fast!

 Palato pulled into a long narrow lagoon that deepened past its entrance and shut off the outboard. George and I grabbed our Woodchoppers and started tossing into the quiet of the black water. A 10-pounder exploded on George's fourth cast. After boating the feisty peacock, my partner had another fish even larger blow up on his following topwater lobe. That fish got off, and my casts around the action only churned water at that time.

I joined in on the fun about 15 minutes later when a monster exploded on my bait as it "shooped" along right in the middle of that lagoon. I carefully played the giant out of nearby edge entanglements and our guide netted it . We took a couple of pictures of the 18 1/2 pound monster and then watched it swim back into the depths. It was still early for giant fish, only 8:15 am.

Then just 30 minutes later, an even larger monster crashed my Big Game Woodchopper. The fish hit right in the middle of the lagoon again over about 8 to 10 feet of black stained water. It pulled drag several times as it tried in vain to escape. My gear held, and after a five minute battle, the 20-pounder was mine. That fish, our last to be taken from that small lagoon, made my day, but it was not over.

Palato motored George and I to the other lagoon that we had passed earlier about 15 minutes downstream. This round lagoon with numerous large beds built into the sand some 30 feet offshore appeared promising. The water was a green-tinted clear and its depth varied from about 3 foot to 10 or 12 feet.

At 9:30 am, George made his fourth cast into the lagoon and had a huge explosion that knocked his topwater plug 20 feet back toward the boat. Then as he frantically cranked to regain the loose line, the fish again slammed the bait engulfing it. The 17 pounder with big Woodchopper down its throat put up a valiant fight. Our guide landed it and went to work reviving it after removal of the hooks in its throat. Finally the fish swam slowly off into the shallows.

We then moved along the edge of the round lagoon and cast to the middle and off the edges in front of the boat. Our action was just beginning. I then caught a beautiful 16 1/2 pounder and George added two 14 pounders and a 12 pounder before we left the circular lagoon. One of the 14's hit George's plug right at the boat and provided some great thrills. Many smaller fish caught later on in the day made it an even more memorable day. George and I ended the day with 39 peacock bass which included 9 fish over 10 pounds!

Jufari peacockI saw two giants on a large bed in 6 to 8 feet in that lagoon, but they moved off quickly. Many of the others that were active probably were either pre- or post-spawn, as there were beds scattered all around the edges. I saw 4 or 5 other peacocks on beds earlier in the week, the most that I have seen in any one week in over 40 trips to Brazil. That's something I'll remember for a long time.

Another memorable event for George occurred a couple of days earlier. He threw his topwater plug over a log at the shore and the hooks sunk into the far side about 18 inches above the water at the edge. Then, as he was jiggling it to try to free the plug, a 4-foot long caiman swam up to the edge of the water, crawled out on shore and grabbed the lure. When the reptile realized the object was a hard piece of wood, it flipped the plug up and over the log and back into the water. George then twitched the lure and the caiman came off the bank and grabbed it again. The helpful reptile finally let go of the Woodchopper and swam off.

 During our week on Brazil's Rio Jufari George and his friends, all associates from Black Bear Diners, caught plenty of fish including some big ones. The avid peacock angler's largest was 18 pounds; Bob Manley, his sons Tyler and Kris all had teeners, as did "Reno" Tony. Roger, on his first trip to the Amazon, caught a 21 pounder. That was our group's largest of 523 peacocks caught during the week. We had a respectable total of 23 peacock bass over 12 pounds.

 The week started off slow as we missed a day of fishing due to float plane availability. I was able to catch and release 74 peacocks in the five days including 11 over 10 pounds. Five were teeners and my largest was the 20 pounder described above. I didn't have a teener until day four when a 14 pounder literally fooled me.

I had been catching quite a few small fish up to 11 or 12 pounds but seemed "snake bit" on the giants. I was frankly tired of catching small peacock, so when the 14-pounder sucked in my Fire Tiger Woodchopper, I set the hook and started to horse in the fish as I had been doing with the 5 and 6 pounders taken earlier. The 14 pounder soon turned and set me straight; it would not be horsed.

Jumpin' Jufari PeacockThe following day, fishing with guide Palato for the first time that week, I caught 19 peacock bass. The guide, with 10 years experience, put me on some nice fish including two teeners of 13 and 14 pounds that I landed. I had 3 other giants on for one or two seconds before they got off, so my luck was not all good.

In the river currents opposite a large inside bend sandbar and just outside of one of the best lagoons, I had a paca (speckled peacock) that weighed perhaps 20 pounds blow up on my Woodchopper and miss it. I made a follow -up cast back to the timbered-bank and started working it on out quickly. The big fish again struck the plug. It took the surface bait down as I set the hook, but it seemingly opened its mouth to disengage the hooks.

We then fished the point and just inside the lagoon which seemed to be loaded with big fish. Near the mouth of the lagoon, I had two large peacock bass on for about one second each when they exploded on the bait and then shook the plug. About 200 feet on into the lagoon on a large feeding/spawning flat, I had another giant 3-bar peacock jump completely out of the water and land on my Woodchopper. Unfortunately, it was on about 2 seconds.

 Fortunately, my luck changed the following day (described earlier) with Palato, whose memory at age 28 was much better than mine. Although I had not fished with him on previous trips, he had been in the camp on two of my previous trips a couple of years before to River Plate camps. He remembered that I had taken my 25 pounder on a Unini River experience and a 22 pounder on a previous Jufari trip. I had to look up the latter one in my most recent book to verify his statement about my biggest fish of that week. He was right!

  The water levels on the Jufari were ideal on that January trip, but a few lagoons were very shallow. In general, when fishing a lagoon that was primarily 2 to 3 feet deep and grassy, it was best to cast to the middle. In one lagoon, for example, I found only one section in a cove at the back where the water was 6 to 8 feet deep, and that was right in the middle. A cast to the middle of it with a Perch-colored Woodchopper resulted in my largest fish of that day, an 11 pounder.

 The only other prime spot that could be patterned was sandbar drops which are almost always productive. Fishing a Woodchopper, I caught a 12 pounder that was chasing bait adjacent one of the sandbar drops. Several sightings of toucans, otters and the usual jungle animal and bird life added to our great jungle experience on the remote reaches of the Rio Jufari.

Jufari Camp
The very comfortable barge tent cabins were towed upstream almost daily to relocate the "home base" to help spread out the fishing pressure. All are pulled up on a serene sandbar each evening and staked out to prevent their drifting away. The floating cabins with private showers, toilets and beds are equipped with a 12 -volt battery to power lights, fans and shower pumps. A generator powers the battery chargers, the cooking barge and the dining tent barge.

Each afternoon, our group of anglers would sit back in lounge chairs on the sandbar and swap stories about the giant fish taken or lost that day. Laying in the comfortable bed at night, listening to the sounds of nocturnal creatures such as frogs in the jungle and the fish feeding on small minnows along the shoreline beside your cabin barge is an interesting experience. Such sounds lull you to sleep. A generator far off in the forest offered a rhythmic hum.

To find out more about the Amazon Peacock Bass Safari, contact J.W. Smith of Rod & Gun Resources, 206 Ranch House Rd., Kerrville, TX 78028; Phone (800) 211-4753; FAX (830) 792-6807; e-mail: venture@rodgunresources.com or visit their website at www.rodgunresources.com. For more  information on  peacock bass, check out www .peacockbassassociation.com or visit our book store for special savings on four peacock bass books!


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