Some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Others can’t give up the Beanie Baby habit. A select group feel compelled to eat dirt or paste. My addiction is fish replicas.
Over the past dozen years my writing has opened doors that enabled me to experience all sorts of incredible fishing trips. I’ve fished for peacock bass in the Amazon (twice, with a third trip on the schedule), tigerfish on Africa’s Lower Zambezi River, redfish in Venice and cutthroat trout in Montana. I’ve spent three days practicing with KVD on the California Delta and multiple days on St. Clair with a two-time PMTT Champion. I’ve taken off my shoes to fish in AMart’s boat on a private lake in Georgia, and I was there to see Rick Clunn’s most recent victory at the St. Johns. Last year I made a trip to East Texas where I got to fish with four different Classic qualifiers (Keith Combs, Clark Reehm, Albert Collins and Lonnie Stanley) on three exceptional lakes – when two great days on Rayburn are the least productive days of the five, you can call it a trip of a lifetime.
We’ve been home from Africa for 11 months, but we just got a new reminder of the trip – a replica mount of Hanna’s 14 lb. tigerfish from the Lower Zambezi River. In just five years, we’ve gone from no taxidermy to five specimens – my 12 lb. largemouth, each of our personal best peacock bass, a very special Montana cutthroat, and now this toothy African beast.
Despite taking up angling only a decade or so ago, my wife consistently seems to outfish more experienced anglers, including but not limited to yours truly. When we go to El Salto, she consistently catches fish as big or bigger than those caught by anyone else in our group. When we went to Escanaba a few summers ago, she landed the two biggest smallmouths of anyone in our group of six that week, a group that included two Elite Series pros, one of them a past Classic winner.
While fishing wasn’t the exclusive reason that we just spent three weeks in Africa, it was a big enticement to make the trip across both the big pond and the equator. Tigerfish look like a cross between a bonefish and a striped bass, with vampire-like teeth, and I wanted to see how they’d compare to peacock bass, redfish and the other species that I’ve chased in recent years.
In preparing for our latest trip of a lifetime, I’ve scoured just about every YouTube video of tigerfishing on the Zambezi, looking for any little nugget of information that I can get that might help me land an extra fish or two. I’ve been able to locate and purchase most of the lures that have been mentioned, but one that has eluded me so far is the “Express Double Blade Spoon.”
Another lure that comes highly recommended for tigerfish is a Mepps spinner in size 5 or 6. While every bass angler knows about Mepps, the inline spinner has kind of fallen out of favor among “serious” bass anglers. I know that Steve Kennedy fishes a Snagless Sally on occasion, but beyond that I don’t recall any Elite Series pros going inline.
So we’re headed to Africa to (hopefully) land a few toothy tigerfish and the tackle prep situation is proving difficult. Not only are we limited to 33 pounds of gear and clothing per person for the entire three weeks, but the information on which tackle to bring is quite limited. Making it even more challenging, most if not all of the fisheries we’re visiting limit you to single barbless hooks on your lures.