Last Updated on Monday, 05 December 2011 08:17
December 5, 2011
I’ve fished the tidal portion of the Potomac River since 1995 and one thing I’ve learned along the way is that Potomac River catfish will smack the snot out of a spinnerbait, crankbait or plastic worm. While I’ve caught more than my fair share of whiskered fish while chasing bass, I’ve never caught any of the really big ones – the type that when you pump their stomachs you end up with license plates, rodents and old Timberland boots.
That changed yesterday, thanks to Capt. Josh Fitchett (www.rivercatn.com). My friend TJ Maglio set up a trip with the good Captain Catfish and invited me and the redheaded wife to tag along in his quest to get slimed.
If the first fish in the boat, my wife’s 42 pounder, had been the only thing we caught, I would have left convinced that Josh knows what he’s doing. But the fact that it was the fifth biggest fish on the day (dwarfed by Hanna’s 59, TJ’s 51, my 48 and TJ’s 45) just scares me. How many more of those freaks swim down there and how big can they possibly get?
Do the math again – our five biggest fish totaled 245 lbs., an average of 49 pounds per cat.
This multi-species quest could get kind of fun. If you go (and I highly recommend that you go), don’t wear your Gucci suit or your Prada shoes. After our arms, shoulders and backs got a workout fighting big fish, our washing machine got a workout cleaning off their residue.
November 30, 2011
While the jungle of Brazil may be outside of the area code of this humble bass fisherman, I was able to stay in my comfort zone because, after all, we were still fishing for BASS.
Well, no, not really.
Peacocks aren’t closely related to our American largemouths and smallmouths. Sure, they have the same gills and fins and other fish bits, but that’s where the similarity ends. Accordingly, I spent the trip broadening my fishy horizons.
The same could be said for our fellow traveler Ray Kawabata of Seattle, who was on his first peacock journey. Still, Ray’s a much more diverse angler than your trusty blogger. He’s got the bass thing down – in fact, he’s even fished my home waters of the Potomac – but a lot more beyond that. As I tried to impress with stories of Guntersville and Falcon and the Cal Delta, he effortlessly topped my efforts by talking about steelheading near home or setting up a topshot rig for big tuna off the coast of California. I’d felt the same way a few days earlier in Manaus, when our driver Enilson (“Eni” for short – “call me eni time, eni where,” he said), boasted that in addition to English and Portuguese, he spoke Spanish, German, Japanese and perhaps a bit of Mandarin Chinese. Armed with only a modest grasp of English and Spanglish, I felt wholly inadequate. Brazil proved me to be both linguistically and pescatorially monochromatic.
I left with the distinct feeling that I have been living in the bass bubble too long.
Are peacock bass just a gateway drug? I don’t envision myself going all troutalicious on you all any time soon, but the one bug I took home from Brazil was a fever to chase redfish and tarpon and tigerfish.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2011 12:05
November 28, 2011
I was away at a tournament at Buggs Island in April of 2000 when my then-girlfriend delivered the message: “I’ve picked out a puppy,” she said. This came as a surprise to me for a variety of reasons – the relationship was already on weak legs, I didn’t know where she was going to get the money to buy a dog, and, perhaps most significantly of all, she had never mentioned any intention of adding a dog to our time-deprived household.
I was focused on the tournament and didn’t have the effort to engage in yet another fight.
“Fine,” I answered. “But if you think I’m going to miss any fishing trips to stay home and care for him, you’re sadly mistaken.”
A few weeks later we made the 30 minute drive to the breeder’s house and left with about two pounds of wrinkle-faced pug. She slept in my arms the whole ride home. I started to melt. That night she cried and whined and since I’d never had a dog before and didn’t know what to do, I pulled her out of the crate, placed her on my chest and we slept peacefully until morning. I melted a touch more.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 08:39
November 22, 2011
One day in 2004, I was living in a house furnished by the following four items: a sofa, a TV, a bed and a kitchen table. Then my soon-to-be wife showed up with a 52 foot moving truck and half the Crate & Barrel catalog and life was never the same again. I mean, in all those years of living by myself I hadn’t actually purchased the pool table, but there was still room for it in the dining room…until she showed up.
Now, the house is a showcase, filled with all sorts of art, knick-knacks and other decorative items, except for one thing: we don’t have any fish mounts on the wall.
While I have the requisite “I love me” wall in the home office, I’ve never caught a fish that I wanted replicated. The framed picture had always been enough. Heading to Brazil, though, the redhead and I made a pact that if we caught a peacock of 14 pounds or more we’d get a replica made. Ideally we’d each get one to commemorate the trip. Peacocks, with their vibrant colors, were a natural choice to deflower our taxidermy virginity in a way that, for example, a trophy channel cat might not be.
At least that was the deal heading into our adventure.
When I finally caught the 14 pictured here on our fourth day of fishing, we both were pretty certain that we’d have to go back on that plan. It wasn’t just because the fish doesn’t have the distinct bars of many other trophies, although that may have played a role. Rather our decision was borne of the fact that if you decide that a 14 pounder is a trophy, it doesn’t give you much to shoot for going forward. You can’t get another replica every time you break the personal record and our intention is to keep going back as often as our rapidly deteriorating bank accounts will allow. So if we set the bar at 16 or 17 or 18 and then reach it, that provides a measure of closure that we don’t want to attain at this point in time.
Next time, I don’t think we’ll set a baseline for a replica mount. If the right fish comes along, and subsequently makes it into the boat, we’ll know it. Otherwise, the chase continues.
November 21, 2011
No lengthy discussion here, just a couple of before and after pics of a red and white jig dragged through piranha country.
If you go, be sure to bring an ample supply.
We did not swim for obvious reasons.
November 21, 2011
Part of the thrill of taking this particular trip to Brazil was the chance to spend some time with Dennis “Cal” Shew, one-third of the brain trust that runs TackleTour.com. Dennis himself is reasonably entertaining, but his tackle collection is just about unparalleled. I feel a little bad for him though – he can’t even comprehend a simple term like “bargain bin.” On this trip alone he brought sticks from Megabass, Kistler, Daiwa, Phenix, St. Croix and G.Loomis and gave us a chance to fish with all of them. He scoffed at my conventional line choices, instead preferring to employ a braid that is made of eight stands of sasquatch belly hair. It retails for $19.95 a foot.
While Cal’s level of tackle snobbery is high, I have to admit that my own addiction isn’t far behind. I shudder to think of how much I spent for this trip alone – big topwater prop baits, dozens of specialized jigs, a few other baits that looked promising, none of which I’ll ever use anywhere except the Amazon. Hell, some (most) of them didn’t even get wet on this trip.
That’s why the following anecdote is so embarrassing.
On our third day on the water we had some success in the morning, but apparently it didn’t live up to our guide Marzo’s expectations. At midday, he pulled the boat up to the shore, got out and headed into the woods. I figured he was going to take his talents to South Beach, but it turned out he was going tackle shopping. A minute later he returned with a strip of tree bark, which he fashioned into a lure that his father had taught him to make.
An hour later, the wife caught a 13-pounder on his home-brewed bait. The next morning, using a “new” one, I caught my first teen-class peacock. It also produced greater numbers of fish than anything else we used the entire week.
Marzo was adamant that we not show his bait to any of the other guides (with that kind of secrecy, he has a future as an Elite Series pro), and given his excellent skills with a machete, we had no choice but to comply. I kind of doubt any of them read Pete Weighs In (or have consistent internet access), but in deference to his trust in us I’ll refrain from posting a picture of the lure here. However, if you send me a $400 rod, the type Dennis uses, I might have a jpeg to share.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 November 2011 08:17
November 18, 2011
I figured that our recent trip to Brazil would be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. To be quite honest, it made me nervous -- figuring I'd never be back, I didn't want to miss a single moment or a single opportunity, and I probably pressed a little bit at times. On a boat full of laid-back West Coasters, I was the classic hepped up northeasterner, itching to keep going, rather than realizing that it's a V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N.
A caparinha or two will loosen you up a bit, but my dial's pretty much pegged at 11 all the time. The good news is that on Day Two of our adventure the Redheaded wife, perhaps a bit sun-baked but otherwise lucid, said "We have to come back and do this again." Apparently putting the patch in your mouth is like eating the worm from a bottle of tequila or licking a hallucenogenic toad. Either way, a week later she's still committed to the idea and we're planning to go back in September or October of 2012.
I knew I married her for a reason.
If you'd like to join us, or at least look into the possibility, drop me an email at
. I don't guarantee big fish, but sign up for the trip and I'll send you a pseudo-medicinal patch for your troubles.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2011 09:09
November 17, 2011
On the five hour flight from Miami to Manaus, my mind was spinning with thoughts about peacock
bass strategy. It was seemingly as good a use of the time as any, but probably slightly futile since I really didn’t have a meaningful idea of how we’d be fishing, how hard the fish would actually pull or whether we’d even be around any.
“Do you know about drag?” I asked the redheaded wife, seated beside me, poring over Oprah’s Better Homes and Cosmopolitan Housekeeping, or some other rag that doesn’t feature Skeet and KVD on every other page. I forget whether the headline was “Twenty Centerpieces That Will Make Your Kitchen Shine!” or “Twenty Things to Do With Velvet That Will Drive Your Man Wild!” but either way it probably had little to do with our upcoming vacation.
She put down the glossy mag, looked up at me dismissively, and out of the side of her mouth the word came back at me: “Drag?”
Then it dawned on me -- She probably thought I was channeling Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or RuPaul. Those two were pretty far off my radar, though, and she knows that I only think about two things: (1) fish; and (2) how to catch them. “Tell me,” she said, her voice laced with premature regret, “What is drag?”
I explained to her about how you could tire a fish out by pre-setting the amount of resistance the spool will offer when engaged, while still allowing a powerful fish to strip line. While I started her on spinning tackle a few years back, since picking up baitcasters she’s become something of a power fishing snob, and the whopping 14 ounce largemouths that we tend to catch don’t really tax the baitcasting reels filled with 17 lb. fluoro or wellrope-caliber braid, so drag is not something that is foremost on her mind.
The next day in the jungle, I dog-walked my Super Spook by a tree and the river parted under the
strain of an enormous peacock who quickly backtracked into a different stand of trees and snapped my 50 lb. braid with little effort. “Your drag too tight,” said our guide, who until then had demonstrated little command of the English language. He had underplayed his hand and I had overplayed mine. My credibility as a teacher of fishing basics was shot.
For a longtime tournament fisherman like myself, the whole experience of landing the fish took some getting used to. My inclination is to get the fish to the boat and into the boat as quickly as possible, so when the guides didn’t rush for their Boga Grips upon hookup I was shocked. But it turned out they wanted us to tire the fish out before bringing a mean-spirited oversized tropical fish into the boat with a mouth full of trebles. That process involved the proper use of drag, and the rest of the week we had our reels set flawlessly. It turns out my message had been spot-on, even if my first on-the-water workshop had been a flop.
November 16, 2011
"Big enough to take my bait, big enough to reach my plate.”
Based on warnings and movie-of-the-week type fearmongering, I had figured that piranhas would be everywhere in the Amazon, jumping out of the water to grab dangling fingers, snatching babies out of cradles, the whole nine yards. The truth, as it usually is, was less dramatic. Yes, we saw lots of piranhas milling about in groups in the swift-moving portions of the river, but the little bastards pretty much kept to themselves. If we’d had a cow carcass to throw into the water, perhaps we’d have been treated to a show, but with a 44 pound per person limit on luggage (including carry-on bags), there was no room for excess flesh for any such experiments.
While no one in our group was attacked by one of these dentally proficient fish, we experienced a bit of their wrath in the form of neatly trimmed jigs. Occasionally we managed to catch one or two as well. In true Prime Time spirit, they resulted in a delectable meal.
November 15, 2011
In November of 1999 I caught what was at that time my biggest five-fish tournament limit, a quintet of largemouths that totaled 19 pounds and 15 ounces.
At about 2 o’clock that afternoon, my co-angler, whose weight was much smaller but in actuality was the one who had keyed me into the topwater bite, sat down Indian-style on the back deck of the boat and ate a banana.
I went ballistic.
Anyone who’s been around fishing for even the slightest amount of time knows that bananas in the boat are harbingers of extreme bad luck. There are various theories as to why this is so, but even among those of us who are not particularly superstitious, it’s well-established. I pointed this out to my co-angler in no uncertain terms (and at a high volume).
He looked shocked. “But you’ve caught nearly 20 pounds,” he replied. To most people, that retort would have been a game-ender. I am not most people.
“If you didn’t have that (expletive deleted) banana in the boat, I might’ve had 25 pounds,” I said.
This semi-rational fear of bananas is not my only dietary restriction when it comes to fishing. I will not eat Mexican food the night before a fishing tournament, unless I am in Texas or Mexico. That rule is based more on a fear of having to go to the bank with the green apple quickstep than anything else, but it goes to show that rules can and do have exceptions. The night after eating a big-ass plate of fajitas in Zapata in 2008, I caught 22-15 out of the back of Marty Stone’s boat on Day Three of an Elite Series event on Falcon. Not only did that break my previous personal-best five-fish tournament limit, but it included my biggest largemouth to date as well.
The banana rule is particularly vexing for me because it’s a fruit that I absolutely love to eat. Banana pudding is my favorite dessert. Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey (banana ice cream with chocolate chunks and walnuts is a close second). Banana cream pie is almost as good as coconut cream pie (if I had been Gilligan, Mary Ann’s cooking would’ve had me looking more like the Skipper). So heading to Brazil presented a problem. I KNEW we were going to be confronted with tasty bananas on their home soil. Should I avoid them completely or was there a little-known codicil to the general superstition that would allow me to partake?
On our one day in Manaus before flying into the jungle, our tour guide Enilson took us to the opera house, the fish market and then to the banana market, where bananas filled the backs of large trucks and were stacked high. I had an existential dilemma – could I even enter the place? I decided to go in, but not to touch or ingest. Seemed like a good way to split hairs at the time, but after a tough first couple of days of fishing once we arrived on the river, I knew I needed to change something to get my mojo back. Bananas were the change I needed, I decided, throwing caution to the wind. That night I had one after dinner and the next morning sliced one up over my waffle. I proceeded to have my two best days of the trip, including multiple double-digit fish.
Sometimes it pays to bend the rules a bit, find a loophole, cast your fruit fears to the side. I’m not going to say definitively that the bananas were catalyst for my better luck – hell, I might’ve caught a 25 pounder if I’d stuck to my guns on the no-plantains rule – but I’m a little less superstitious than I was last month.