Open-water Cover Finesse Fishing Techniques for Peacock Bass
Air Kuning (Perak, Malaysia)
By Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D. | May, 2016
Over the past few months, I have covered a number of topics about finesse fishing. You might wonder why I write about it so much? My answer to that is pretty simple. I spend a majority of my time on pressured lakes where fishing pressure, often a consequence of unregulated netting and live harvesting, is a surefire contributor to a myriad of finesse fishing situations. That is why finesse techniques are a necessity for me, especially in Malaysia.
Cover is an essential component in peacock bass fishing. In this installment, I am going to share with you my perspective and approach to finesse fishing around two of the most common types of cover in offshore situations in Air Kuning, static and moving vegetation.
It is a well-known fact that peacock bass anglers in Malaysia have developed a reputation for gravitating towards shoreline cover. I say that because in my experience, most peacock bass anglers in Malaysia are essentially bank-beaters who will take full advantage of any shoreline cover. Malaysia is located within the equatorial region where tropical rainforest climate is apparent all year round. That means shoreline vegetation is always lavish and they provide peacock bass ample cover that is uninterrupted by seasonal changes.
Because of that, most anglers have actually developed a comfort zone fishing shoreline cover, completely discounting other options. On pressured lakes however, that may be a flawed approach. When a lake gets a great deal of pressure, you will have to make fundamental changes to where you look for the right types of cover. Though I do not and will not completely discount shoreline cover, wherever I find cover offshore, I see fresh opportunities.
Static and moving cover
Here is my unscientific take on open-water cover. There are perceivable differences between static and moving cover, so to speak. The most abundant form of static cover I often come across is isolated clumps of hydrilla or milfoil-like cabomba in the 10’ depth zones. I call those static cover because they are usually rooted to the bottom of the lake. During the late seasons, hydrilla is prone to form scattered colonies and that is where quality fish are found.
Water hyacinth is a type of moving cover which once dominated most lakes in Air Kuning. However, that is no longer the case in the present. Recently, I spent a week on a southern lake which primarily consists of islands of susum (Hanguana malayana). Island forming susum are not necessarily rooted to the bottom and have the ability to move, separate and reconfigure according to current, literally creating an illusion that you are on a lake with changing landscapes, especially on windy conditions. Susum cover in open-water is challenging but incredibly fun to fish and possibly one of the most consistent fish producing cover. Part of the fun is figuring out where the fish are holding in the often expansive cover.
How to fish moving cover
In order to maximize your finesse fishing success on lakes with moving susum islands, it is important to learn how to detect the most productive areas on the lake. My general rule of thumb is to head for deep areas with the best concentrations of susum islands. It is imperative to fish at the right depth directly beneath the susum islands.
On days with stable weather conditions, susum cover is pretty simple to pattern and it only takes a handful of bites to eliminate dead water. The first thing I look for are features such as contour changes, irregularities, creek channels, tapering points and temporary pocket with clear, sandy bottom. During my weeklong stint in Air Kuning, I basically fished the 10’ to 40’ depth zones and found those to be the most productive areas.
Unlike water hyacinth, it is impossible to punch through susum with punching gear. The best approach, in my opinion, is to fish as tight as possible along the edges.
Baitfish and lure selection
Lakes in Air Kuning have a Devario baitfish-dominant forage base. Devario is pretty similar to common bleak. When targeting peacock bass around open-water cover, I go for paddle tail swimbaits which imitates a wide array of local baitfish. I generally keep the bait size down to 4”. I make long cast, let the bait fall all the way to the desired depth on controlled slack line and work it back to the boat with a slow retrieve. Position your boat in deeper water, out from a point and stay out of the way of the moving cover, especially during windy conditions.
Bait and tackle aside, the most valuable tool is my portable depth finder. When fishing around susum in deep water, I look for areas with clean, hard bottom. Although the bottom may seem predominantly flat and featureless, the presence of susum attracts baitfish. When those factors combine, it can turn into a remarkable moment.
Whether you are a seasoned pro or weekend warrior, the finesse technique is an effective approach for peacock bass in open-water cover. Moving cover is incredibly fun to fish and it adds a different dimension to seemingly ordinary pieces of floating cover.
Be sure to check out Air Kuning on your next angling vacation to Perak, Malaysia. Thank you for reading and I hope you find this article interesting. Stay tuned for more news and exiting articles to come on theBBZ. Fish hard, fish well and god bless.
Disclosure: Due to poor enforcement of fisheries regulations, unregulated live harvests, gill nets and traps have become extremely common in most lakes in Malaysia. Nets and fish traps are destroying the very bedrock of the sport fishing industry. According to opinion of the angling community, unregulated live harvests have intensified during the recent years and it is set to increase. The sport fishing industry of Malaysia is currently living on borrowed time, we can only hope the authorities take the matter seriously and act accordingly.
Until next time -Bertrand Ngim-