Deep Water, Urban Peacock Bass Fishing
By Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D. | November 6, 2015
Peacock bass fishing in Malaysia
The butterfly peacock bass is an extremely popular gamefish introduced to Malaysia’s Kinta River-connected ex-mining lakes in the 1990s. There’re several species of peacock bass but the one introduced is the Cichla ocellaris or butterfly peacock bass, a native of the Branco River in Brazil and Marowijne and Essequibo drainages in Guiana. It is widely believed transplanted butterfly peacock bass in Malaysia are of similar species to that introduced to South Florida by the FWC in the 1980s.
The introduction of peacock bass in Malaysia was a privately funded initiative. The project has been successful in providing additional angling opportunities and was the unofficial launch platform of a new angling chapter in Malaysia. Importantly, it presented the notion of bass fishing which in the 1990s was still a fairly new thing to anglers in the country.
Butterfly peacock bass thrives in the Amazonian-like conditions in Malaysia. At the Kinta river system and most parts of the country, the average daily temperature is in the upper 70s to mid-90s F throughout the year. Remarkably, no additional fingerlings have been stocked since the mid-1990s.
Urban peacock bass fishing
Today, the butterfly peacock bass has firmly established itself as one of the dominant gamefish species in rivers and lakes on the west coast, including urban lakes in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. One urban lake in particular, Prima Lake in the Puchong suburbs, has been getting a lot of public attention on social media. Over the past few years, the lake has produced quality peacock bass in excess of 20” (or approximately 5lbs). For a relatively small lake of about a mile in length by half a mile wide, those are pretty impressive figures.
Unlike other lakes in the vicinity, Prima Lake is a deep water fishery with maximum lake depth of about 200’. In my opinion, 200’ is pretty deep. The lake is also one of the most highly pressured peacock bass fisheries in the country. Fishing there is tough all year long, even during the prespawn periods.
Deep water, power-finesse fishing
In my opinion, Prima Lake fishes very differently to other lakes in Malaysia. The primarily deep water conditions warrant an entirely different approach. Just like largemouth, peacocks can be finicky in pressured lakes but they can be beaten with the right, deep water finesse fishing approach. Interestingly, a lot of the finesse techniques that I use for butterfly peacocks and largemouth are pretty similar. For peacock bass especially, power-finesse fishing is my go-to approach. From what I’ve read and though they’re unrelated, butterfly peacocks behave like spotted bass. They move a lot and my response to that is to fish fast and cover water.
Here’re 5 useful tips to help you improve your catches and get started with what I describe as ‘power-finesse’ fishing for peacock bass on deep water, urban fisheries in Malaysia.
Downsize your gear
Power-finesse fishing is primarily about presentation. In some urban lakes in Malaysia, that is about the only way to get bitten. However, many anglers think power-finesse is primarily about downsizing their lures, but a lot about it involves more than just lure size.
When I rig for power-finesse fishing, I basically downsize my lure, reel, rod and line or the whole system. If the lake is known for big peacock bass, I use slightly heavier line and that may affect my choice of rods, reels and so forth. So, downsize accordingly. As you can see, power-finesse fishing embraces lots of variables that many anglers don’t always recognize.
Work the right depth
We don’t have lake contour maps in Malaysia. Therefore, as anglers, it’s imperative that we understand the depth variations and bottom composition. I look for deep areas with hard bottom and vegetation, especially those near ledges, primary and secondary lake points with some form of access to deeper water. The strike zone of peacocks in Prima Lake is usually in depths of 10’ to 45’. However, there’re no hard rules as to what I describe as ‘right depth’. High-percentage areas usually have at least 3’ of visibility, but that can change according to weather and earth moving works currently ongoing on the north and west shorelines.
Look for hard structure and cover
Structure and cover are important aspects in peacock bass fishing, just as they are in bass fishing. On Prima Lake they range from tules and hydrilla to manmade structures such as docks and discarded household and industrial appliances. Unfortunately, due to poor enforcement, unwanted appliances are often dumped in the lake illegally. On the bright side however, they provide cover for peacock bass and baitfish. Unlike largemouth, butterfly peacocks don’t always move into the thickest cover, instead they stick around it, especially hard cover. My personal best on Prima Lake was caught near a metal barrel on a sloping bank.
Use power-finesse tackle
Finesse fishing for bass generally means using spinning tackle. In my opinion, that isn’t always the best approach for peacocks. I prefer baitcasting tackle for conditions which demand power-finesse fishing approach, not just regular baitcasting tackle with light line, but power-finesse-specific baitcasting tackle, such micro guide rods and shallow spool reels.
I use straight fluorocarbon line whenever I’m fishing on pressured lakes because braid is fairly visible. In such situations, I’ll usually downsize to 8lb test 100% fluorocarbon line. If I were to tie that to braid, the shock of the hookset would cause the fluorocarbon line to break. Also, if you use a long fluorocarbon leader with braided line, micro guide rods aren’t ideal when it comes to passing knots.
Keep your bait selection simple
Compact spinnerbaits and small paddle tail swimbaits are my go-to baits. I can get it to the right depth I believe the fish are holding by fine-tuning the rate of fall, either by reducing or increasing line size. I can bomb long casts, work it quickly and cover a ton of water along the entire water column. I prefer compact spinnerbaits such as O.S.P High Pitcher. As for paddle tails, I prefer Keitech Easy Shiner 4” and Swing Impact 4”. I keep color selection simple. Silver or white colors work well in clear, stained or even muddy water. I cast it out, let the bait fall all the way to the bottom and then work it back to the boat with a slow to moderate retrieve, keeping it off the bottom. The bait does all the work once you begin retrieving. It’s simple to use, doesn’t require fancy presentation and catches quality fish in pressured waters.
Be sure to check out Prima Lake on your next vacation to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Thank you for reading and here’s hoping you find this article interesting. Stay tuned for more news and exiting articles on theBBZ. Fish hard, fish well and god bless.