The Amazon: Peacock Bass Fishing's Mecca

Brazil's Amazon basin remains one the world's least-explored fishing destinations, where epic peacock bass lurk.

 The Amazon: Peacock Bass Fishing's Mecca

A guide on Brazil’s Rio Negro in the Amazon Basin releases a hefty peacock bass into a tannin-stained lagoon. Most tour operators practice catch-and-release. (Photo by Larry Larsen)

It’s onalmost every angler’s bucket list, a trip to the world’s largest freshwater “fishing hole,” the Amazon River Basin, to catch the world’s most awesome gamefish, the peacock bass. While there are peacocks closer—South Florida, Puerto Rico and even Hawaii—the grandest of the 15 species of peacock bass are native to this basin. That’s where the three-bar speckled peacock (Cichla temensis), which grow to about 30 pounds in small blackwater lagoons, hang out.

The Basin spreads across five South American countries, contains one-third of the world’s remaining rainforest and drains an area two-thirds the size of the United States. In Brazil alone, the 4,000-mile river with more than 7,000 tributaries encompasses 75 percent of the country geographically. Brazil has eleven major tributaries that are all larger than the Mississippi River, so knowing which ones have the best peacock bass fishing is vital for a successful trip.

BrazilBass
Huge topwater baits fished along sandbars, points and islands, and even in open water, entice giant peacocks to explode on the surface. (Photo by Larry Larsen).

The Dry Season

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Amazon Basin more than 60 times, and the Rio Negro and its tributaries stand out as the most productive for giant peacock bass. I’ve caught most of my 33 peacock bass weighing more than 20 pounds from this “blackwater” river system. Its tributaries and lagoons get their tannin-stained colors from acids leeched from rainforest litter. In normal conditions, larger peacock bass haunt the relatively remote lagoons, lakes and coves off the river channels during the prime dry season.

Fishing is markedly better in the dry, low-water “season,” which extends from about September through February in the central Amazon Basin. On my most recent trip in February, six other anglers and I had another memorable trip chasing the monster peacocks. While my largest that week was “only” 18 pounds, two of our group’s fishermen caught beautiful 20-pounders on the very last day.


We fished all around the Rio Negro’s Anavilhanas Archipelago, an area of about 400 islands that at low water reveals white sand beaches and canals intersecting the region like a mesh. Our mothership, the Anglers Inn Amazon I, is a 113-foot, four-story luxury yacht that provided comfort, great dining and service when we were not out fighting giant fish. Each day, we jumped in bass boats and threw a variety of baits, including big topwater lures that draw such memorable explosions from the giants.


Understand the Peacock

I have always focused on catching monster peacocks, and the 5½- to 7-inch-long tail-spinner plugs, like Poe’s Timber Turbine, are consistently more effective on them. Sure, the giants will slam a jig, a fly, a minnowbait, a spoon and a Sebile Magic Swimmer soft bait, but the 18-pounder on my recent trip and several of my 20s over the years were fooled by the 6½-inch green perch Timber Turbine.

A peacock bass exploding on a topwater plug, jumping skyward multiple times, then powering away and pulling drag you thought was overly tight is unlike any other fish. They are truly addictive, even to hard-core freshwater and saltwater anglers. This fish takes delight in destroying tackle and doing crazy stuff like no other. The giant peacocks are not ambush predators; they are a very territorial species. They roam an area of perhaps 100 to 200 yards in each direction and will attack anything disturbing their peace and quiet, whether they are feeding or not.

The peacock is a thug with a killer instinct, but it is also very social. They school with others similar in size throughout their life. In their early years, they often feed with dozens of buddies; I’ve seen schools of 2- to 5-pounders as large as 200 fish. As they grow, their schools become smaller, but even a giant that might be 12to 14 years old will still have company. The largest “double” that I’ve seen caught had a combined weight of 44½ pounds. My fish weighed 25 pounds and my partner’s 19½ pounder was hooked in the same small lagoon pocket about 15 seconds later. Our guide netted them both at the same time!

BrazilBass
The Amazon watershed encompasses seven states in Brazil and parts of Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, catching more than 40 percent of South America’s rainfall. Ten of the world’s 20 largest rivers are located here.

Welcome to the Mecca

This peacock bass mecca is an exotic locale with plenty to see. Jaguars, anaconda and other menacing demons of the dark creep across the jungle floor in search of their nightly meal. I have seen them in the daytime though, plus sloth, tapir, ocelot, anteaters and deer. More commonly seen on many trips are manatees, capybara, otters, caiman and alligators, and tribes of monkeys, including the noisy howlers. The flight pattern above often consists of macaws, ducks, green parrots, hawks, herons, kingfishers and toucans.


BrazilBass
A massive black piranha annihilated a rattling bait. (Photo by Larry Larsen).

In the waters with peacock bass and frequently seen from the boat are freshwater stingrays, which can be dangerous to waders. Gray and the larger pink (called boto) freshwater porpoises are frequent visitors along most rivers and open lagoon areas. There are 3,000 species of fish, about one-third of the world’s total, in the Amazon. Most have either offensive weapons such as needle-sharp teeth, poison or pointed spines, or they possess superior maneuverability and/or speed.

You can find a big variety of fish in the rivers and lagoons including aruana (arawana), pescada, pacu, matrincha, corvina, lure-striking catfish and piranha. There are 35 species of piranha including the silver and the black, the two most common types caught in the Rio Negro.

The gateway to this amazing fishery is Manaus, Brazil, a city of almost 2 million people that lies on the shores of the Rio Negro. Direct flights from Miami will get you to the action, but sportfishing in the Amazon cannot be a spontaneous pursuit.


There are no marinas or boat rental places in the better fishing areas. You must book through a fishing tour organization, like Billy Chapman’s Anglers Inn International. Billy has vast experience in the Amazon and can be contacted at anglersinn.com. Another great source of peacock bass fishing information is peacockbassassociation.com.

BrazilBass
Spectacular sunrises and sunsets splash across the Amazon rainforest horizon, painted with a broad brush in blazing hues of red and orange. (Photo by Larry Larsen).

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

13 Fishing Inception SZ

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

Berkley

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

Trending Articles

 A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest.

Although the art Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest. Although...

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish time after time. Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish...

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing

Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the country is found in these well-known fisheries. Bass

Top Smallie Spots: Lakes Champlain & Erie

Jeff Knapp

Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the country is found in these well-known fisheries.

Looking for a double-digit largemouth bass? Chase Lone Star giants. Bass

Recent Catches Prove Texas Bass Waters on Fire for Spring

Lynn Burkhead - March 10, 2020

Looking for a double-digit largemouth bass? Chase Lone Star giants.

Want to catch the biggest freshwater fish of your life? Target blue catfish in winter. Catfish

Winter Blues: Top Destinations for Trophy Catfish

Terry Madewell - January 06, 2020

Want to catch the biggest freshwater fish of your life? Target blue catfish in winter.

The stuff of dreams and late-night stories around the campfire. Fishing

What's on Your Hunting & Fishing Bucket List?

Adam Heggenstaller - January 30, 2020

The stuff of dreams and late-night stories around the campfire.

See More Fishing

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.