A Traveler's Top Five (for now)

I’ve been to many but not most of the top tournament bass fisheries in the United States – from Okeechobee to Guntersville to Rayburn/Fork/Toledo/Falcon to the Cal Delta to Table Rock and on and on and on. Nevertheless, there are several that I’ve inexplicably missed. For at least a decade I’ve wanted to fish both Clear Lake and Champlain, and nothing has really prevented me from going except too many other options. Champlain has been on the list so long that its spot at the top of the eastern “want list” has been usurped by the Thousand Islands.

My domestic travels have occasionally given way to foreign fishing jaunts – Mexico, of course, plus Brazil, Zambia, and even Alaska, which I know is not a foreign country, but is further away from my Virginia home than many of them. Some of them I’ve liked so much that I went back, which is an amazing opportunity but takes away resources (time and money) from my ability to go somewhere new.

Nevertheless, I spend hours daydreaming about far-flung fishing trips. The list changes by the day, or even by the hour, but here are my current top five.

Seychelles Giant Trevally

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If you like to fish, and you’ve seen the BBC video of Giant Trevally eating birds off the surface and near-surface of the waters around the Seychelle Islands, you can understand why this is pretty consistently in the top spot. They’re big, they’re stronger and meaner than Mike Tyson in his prime, and they love to stone cold munch some topwaters. They also live in ridiculously beautiful environments, which is nice, because it takes about 842 hours by plane, train, boat and buggy to get there. My only fear is that I won’t accumulate enough disposable cash to take this trip before rising sea levels wipe out the islands altogether. It might not destroy the fishery, but it would make accommodations scarcer.

Kamchatka Rainbows

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The highlight of my recent Alaska trip was the handful of rainbow trout that I landed. They weren’t the biggest, but they stripped drag and used the current to their advantage. I even have Keith Combs on video saying that one was stronger than any bass he’s ever caught. Plus they’re beautiful. I was a teenager during the height of Cold War tensions, so the idea of going to Russia inevitably stirs up irrational emotions in my gut, but this isn’t the heart of the Kremlin – it’s their version of Alaska, only wilder. Plus they eat big mouse-looking flies. On the adventure scale, this one probably rates a 10.

Tree River Arctic Char

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Two salmonids in one Top Five list might be a career-ender for this Bassmaster writer, but I’m going to risk it. Ever since seeing Plummer’s Arctic Lodge’s Tree River outpost on TV and YouTube, I became obsessed with going there. I may not ever fish for char again as my primary target, so if I’m going to do it, might as well chase the biggest ones around. Plus, when you catch a big’un, you jump in the Arctic Ocean to celebrate (no extra charge for the shrinkage factor). The current rips and the fish are fire-engine red, and even though there’s ice on the water much of the year, during their limited window to feed they can still be spooky.

Havasu Redear Sunfish

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Those first three choices were exotic, but now I’m kicking it back to a fish that you can catch in just about every sewer pipe and drainage ditch from Walla Walla to West Virginia – sunfish. Not just those little 6-inch squeakers, though – I want the 3- to 5-pounders that inhabit the desert lake of Havasu, just to see how they pull. I’ve previously stated that if sunfish grew to 10 pounds they’d rule the world. Let’s be glad they don’t get near that big. Or do they?

Golden Dorado – Somewhere in South America

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Lots of my fellow fishing travel addicts have been to the wonderland called “La Zona” on the Argentina/Uruguay border. That’s apparently where some of the biggest Golden Dorado in the world reside. Skeet Reese has fished there, and also fished some of the same peacock bass waters I fished in Brazil, and he told me that a 10 pound dorado would kick the crap out of a 20 pound peacock. They destroy conventional lures, picking on the weakest link of your hooks, hook hangers and split rings to make their escape. But from what I can gather La Zona is just a big dam, not a particularly “wild” setting. It looks like there are more scenic and natural places elsewhere in Argentina, and up into other countries like Bolivia. If that is indeed true, and you think you’ll only go once in your life, do you trade out the quality of the experience for the size of the fish? It’s a first world problem that I hope I’m lucky enough to encounter.