Monday, December 27, 2010

Bullied in Bali

Blessed Christmas & Happy New Year everyone! Updates to the blog have been slow of late due to year end work backlog clearance and, the much needed holiday travels.

On a recent short getaway to Bali, my dear wife and I sneaked in a few hours of fishing to sample out the much talked-about waters of Nusa Penida that have produced huge amberjacks, GTs & dogtooth tunas. We had been warned - fast currents also meant using jigs up to 500g in weight.

We enlisted the services of Xplore-Charters, a professionally-run charter service in Bali famous for connecting their clients to some nice fish. I must say that it's really one of the most professional services I've been on so far. Our twin 200hp powered catamaran, Jig-A-Boo, was exceptionally stable in the midst of the big swells on our way out to the fishing grounds.

Our helpful and jovial deckie Risal setting up the gear

Weather was perfect. Currents favourable. Fishing season was at its peak. We also received news that GTs up to 30+kgs had been landed on the last trip out. It felt real good and I was all too eager to pop my heart out and land some nice GTs.

And pop my heart out I did... quite literally

Somehow the fish were unresponsive. No surface explosions behind chugged poppers, no ripping lines and whizzing spools. Silent.

Both Captain & Deckie were scratching their heads wondering what could be the reason for the uncooperative fish. Both were very hardworking in positioning the boat, shifting positions around spots and trying all sort of lures but still - nothing. After 2+ hours of non-stop popping, Capt Gade suggested we try some jigging.

"Depth 80m, fish at 50m!" sounded Capt Gade.

Down went the pearl Williamson Benthos 400g jig. Halfway through the first drift, the rod buckled over and the 65lb Sufix 832 whizzed out uncontrollably. After what seemed like a good 12 seconds and much less line on the spool, I humbly admit I panicked and tightened the drag a little. Wrong move. CRACK!! The main line burst and so did my hope for what might have been a beautiful dogtooth according to Capt Gade.

With not much time left for our short trip, we did a few more drifts got us more bite-offs, unsuccessful hookups and misses - sadly, without even landing one! We headed back to the docks, adding to the statistic of only 4 fishless trips in 2010 for the charter. (Sorry guys!)

It goes to show that there will be some days where fishing will be darn good while others, you may end up just sucking thumbs with zero fish. All in all, it's still better than a day in the office ey?

Special thanks to Capt Gade, Risal, Natalie & Fay from Xplore Charters that provided us with a wonderful professional charter experience for both my wife and I. Kudos goes to the Captain Gade & Risal who have put in all their best efforts to get us connected to fish. Do check out their website for Bali popping & jigging options.

Bali... we'll be back!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Final Installment at Borneo

River conditions had not improved and water was still as murky. Noting that the fish would probably be holding deep, YH put on a Taildancer CLF (Clown Flash) during the evening trolling session. He didn't venture far before a really huge Lutjanid pounced on the bright, flashy lure dredging the bottom. It was to be the biggest Black Bass of our trip!

On our final day, we decided not to waste time and shoot directly to the rivermouth again as the water clarity would be better and likewise our chances of casting out the Black Bass. However, like all estuary fishing, the bites come within the change of tides and this tiny window of opportunity was extremely short for our last day.

KH had a mighty miss! He had cast his Clackin' Minnow between some nipah palms and mangrove roots when a huge dark shadow came chasing after his lure only to U-turn with a huge splash when it sighted the boat. We estimated it would have probably been in excess of 10kgs given the big bulk of its body!

Taildancer bleeding copper flash (BCF) looked fairly enticing in the water given its dark silhouette yet flashy sides. And not long after the bites came amidst the MJs, Archerfish & groupers, a nice Black Bass pounced on the Taildancer. It was ironically during this time I had equally the same frenzy bites on my feet from the merciless and relentless sandflies (agas)! ARGGH!!

Rapalero 6-12lb does it again

This lure survived the bite

At the end of our Borneo trip, KH, FG, YH & I exchanged notes and we all agreed how interestingly Black Bass responded during the initial strike. They seemed oblivious that they had been hooked, from the way they moved sluggishly upon hookup but only to power away when they felt resistance on the other end. Could it be possible that their lips and mouths had become so accustomed to crushing shellfish, crabs & other crustaceans that the piercing of 3X VMC trebles was nothing at all? All the fish we landed (and released!) exhibited extreme crushing power in their jaws as they repeatedly chomped down on the lures or boga grip in their mouths as an instinctive attempt to remove the foreign object. It was easy to see why the shells of crabs & mussels were not a problem for these guys.

We also noted how they seemed to be easier to control where water clarity was murky compared to clearer water where they fought harder. Perhaps the sight of nearby snags gave them more inspiration to dash for the freedom break.

Whatever it is, Borneo is truly one place the Rapaleros will be back to explore again in the not too distant future.

Gear Used on the Trip:
Rods: Rapalero 6-12lb, 8-14lb, 10-17lb, 15-30lb
Reels: Okuma Citrix 273V, Okuma Andros 5, Shimano Curado 200E, Shimano Torium 14, Speedmaster 200, Daiwa Zillion Hyper, Daiwa Z2020
Line: Sufix Gore 832 39lb, 50lb, Sufix Performance Fuse 18lb, 20lb, 23lb
Leader: Sufix Superior Leader 40lb, 50lb & Sufix Invisiline Fluorocarbon 30lb, 40lb, 50lb

Most of our lures had trebles replaced with VMC's new 7556 Spark Point 3X trebles. Happy to mention they were strong enough and held up to the mean Black Bass.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Black Bass.. (Part 3)

Almost immediately after releasing the Black Bass, KH sighted a slight swirl in the shallows and immediately cast towards the location. Solid hookup on the new Clackin' Minnow!

Nice bend on the 8-14lb'er!

The Clackin' Minnow that fooled this Black Bass

Rockin' my baby!

As soon as we released the fish, all was quiet again. No more MJs or even Bass. After a few hours of inactivity from casting, we decided to troll among the nipah palms again. The water level by then had risen significantly and water clarity again turned murky.

The mangrove waters were surprisingly deep, perhaps close to 12-15m even between tight spots of nipah palms. In order to get the fish holding down deep, we resorted to the X-Rap Magnum 20s.

The result...

Happy angler with not-so-happy Black Bass on the X-Rap Mag 20

Check out those teeth!

Friday, November 12, 2010

In Pursuit of Borneo Black Bass (Part 2)

photos by YH & D1

Did I mention we almost got eaten alive by sandflies? Perhaps not everyone got 'eaten' but I certainly had a sickening ability to attract mozzies & sandflies (agas) that they attacked anywhere (and I mean ANYWHERE!) there were places they could squeeze in to grab a bite off my skin. Can you imagine they even managed to squeeze into the little crevices of my shoe and began their buffet spree on my feet! Not funny if you're standing and casting from a Coleman Scanoe.

Enough bickering like a grumpy old man... on with the story!

Looking up in the sky, I pointed out to KH a black estuary eagle soaring above. It kind of gave us hope that it would be a good day for us.

We headed downstream towards the rivermouth and worked our way casting back towards upstream. The water clarity here was much better with the rising tide pushing the saltwater into the river system. All around us were Nipah palms every crook and bend. Everywhere looked like a fishy spot - cast and cast we did but we managed only a handful of Mangrove Jacks

It was one of those routine casts, no different from any other after a quadruple dozen casts that I happened to place the Tail Dancer in front of the jaws of what we travelled all the way here for:

BERRACK BASSU!! (you gotta say it with a Japanese accent for effect)

It was a firm hookup from the take but the fish didn't bulldoze its way to the nearest snag. In fact, it took out only a little line without much urgency. Obviously it didn't even realize it was hooked until I gave it a few more yanks of the Rapalero 6-12lb. Only then it must have realized the morsel it had on its gob wasn't exactly food and began to show some resistance.

And show resistance it did - like a Toman, with short, powerful bursts of speed and stubbornly not coming next to the boat to be lip gripped.

It went to the right... (Rapalero Rod 6-12lb protesting)

Then to the left....

Deep down inside I was hoping that the 30lb Sufix Superior mono leader, hooks and clip would hold up after a series of dogged, sudden bursts. It was crazy! Simply refused to give in. Good thing there weren't any snags around the area and I wasn't too concerned about it getting snagged.

After a few more rod bending moments, it finally broke water and quietly came boatside to be Boga lipped. Once gripped, the jaws slammed down several times, as if to crush the foreign object that had entered its mouth. It is no wonder when it first got hooked it seemed oblivious to danger. Those jaws have crushed the hard shells of crustaceans and crabs with ease that a little piercing of trebles didn't feel at all foreign to the fish until it felt resistance. This was one mean fish!

Check out what it did to the Taildancer!

More to come...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In Pursuit of Borneo Black Bass

Photos by YH & D1

Early morning sunrise. We heard the village cocks crowing signalling time for us to rise and shine. Today, we would be in pursuit of one of the meanest, toughest and most brutal species to roam the estuaries of Borneo.

Black Bass (Lutjanus goldiei), also known as Papuan Black Snapper seemed to get a lot of world attention in Papua New Guinea but in recent years, Borneo has also began to share some of the limelight as a popular location to target the species.

The rain seemed to have followed us to Borneo and water clarity was still murky with all the silt washed down from the mountains. Today, we would head out to the rivermouth, hoping that the rising tide would bring better water clarity to the otherwise milk-coffee stained water.

Our arsenal - Rapalero Reds ready for battle

We would primarily be casting but would also troll when shifting between spots. Hence, a good spread of lures was vital to cover all options. We picked mostly Taildancers, X-Raps, Deep Shad Raps, Minnow Raps for casting on 6-12lb / 8-14lb outfits. Pretty confident that the tough built Rapalero rods would tame the fish if not easily. For trolling, deep diving X-Rap Magnums & Storm Deep Thunders were dragged along by 15-30lb outfits - no sweat against the resistance put up by the deep bibs.

We didn't move too far off from the village when KH got a nice bump on the Deep Thunder. Surprisingly, the fish didn't offer too much resistance and swam calmly against the pull of the 15-30lb outfit. Only when it sighted the boat, it took off with short powerful bursts of dogged tugs. Shortly after, it came in willingly to be lip gripped by a happy KH - his first ever Black Bass!

Over on the other boat, FG & YH were also trolling their way out towards the rivermouth when a nice fish struck FG's setup. We noticed some commotion on our end and motored over to have a closer look. By the time we approached, FG had triumphantly boga'ed the fish for pics and shouts of "YES!!!" were echoing to the air. You should have seen the look on his face!

Honestly, my first thoughts as we approached their boat was that FG had landed a huge barramundi, since it had a white body with yellow fins & tail. As we got closer to their boat, we realised it was actually a Black Bass. Nevertheless, FG was mighty pleased with his capture!

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rapala Clackin' Crank

What do you get when you cross a Clackin' Rap with a bib? Correcto! Put your hands together ladies & gentlemen for the 2011 "Rapala Clackin' Crank!"


(D1: somehow I have this feeling the folks at Rapala have run out of creative names for their lures :P)

Jokes aside, this is one of the new 2011 lures hitting our Asian shores sometime towards the end of the year, and from the lucky field testers, the first hand reports coming in indicate these are great for the groupers and estuary dwellers.

You find the first thing that stands out is the metal disc right in the middle of the lure - a similar feature found in the Clackin' Rap. A single stainless steel ball bearing inside the metal chamber gives it a 'clacking' sound as it wiggles through the water when cranked in (hence its name).

If you are a seasoned grouper lure angler, you would know that they love round and fat lures.

MJ loved it too

This bugga swallowed it whole!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

MJ vs Taildancer

MJ love Taildancers.

No I'm not referring to the King of Pop who does his cool moonwalk but I'm talking about Mangrove Jacks - those dirty fighters that love to dash to the nearest snag when their dracula-like teeth sink into your lures.

My beloved Zillion Coastal high speed 7.3:1 ratio baby coupled to the Rapalero 6-12lb was the most used combo of the trip. Worked the lures into a panick-stricken wiggle all the way back to the boat. I was confident the Rapalero red was definitely more than beefy enough to handle any mean fish running into any snag. And of course, with the bright fluoro orange Sufix Performance Fuse. Oh la la!

All hail the Rapalero Zillionaire combo!

No association to the fishing whatsoever - but my camera lens found it interesting nevertheless

Small GT were the first to hit the trolled lures

When trolling yielded nothing more, casting Taildancers reproduced the goods. All of a sudden, it was MJ fiesta. Clown redheads worked well.

This little MJ found the FLP irresistible

Even catfish (otek) found Taildancers

MJ love Taildancers - dont believe me? Ask little Jack here..

KH beams in delight

Oh.. and GT too!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mangrove Adventures (cont')

Let's hop on over to the other boat where FG & YH are...

They were on the same estuary but covered a different side so that both boats could cover a wider expanse of area while casting. They too lamented the colour of the water. That's when lure colours come into play.

I don't want to get sucked into the debate if fish can see colours or not or if bright colours are for stained colours & natural colours for clear waters. Each angler will swear by either extremes and in such instances I'd say to each his own. What matters most is that it catches fish for you! :) That's what matters!

In our case & instance, most of the fish caught seemed to favour the brighter, high contrast colours. We also had fair number of catches on natural colours but particularly on the days when the waters were murky (and I mean really milk-tea with extra milk colour!) we managed to catch some fish on the chartreuse & 'orange'y colours.

F-Gee: This lil' bugga went for a lure almost 3/4 of his size

... and this lil' bugga was aggresive! Crikey mate! BTW, where are the biggies?

Oh no! Not another lil' bugga?! Now where's yer daddy??

Ahhh.... that's a lil' more like it! Rapala Taildancer worked!

Taildancer produced another MJ (Mangrove Jack, not Michael Jackson)

Beautiful colouration on this MJ. On 'Bleeding' Copper pattern Taildancer

Now that's a fish! Silver Barramundi on new 2011 lure - Rapala Clackin' Minnow! Woohoo! Hats off to YH!

After a tiring day, we headed back to our cosy village house by the riverside looking forward for a nice cool bath. But hang on...where's the bathroom?

Village Man: *points to the river*

Rapaleros: Then where's the toilet?

Village Man: *points to the river*


Village Man: *points to the river*

Rapaleros: !?!?!!

Relax... its not that bad... the water's treated and filtered before consumption. Phew!
It may seem quite disturbing to bathe from the same source where your neighbour's poop just dropped in with a 'plop' up-river. One way is to trick your mind to think nothing of it. If the fish didn't mind, it shouldn't affect you. Furthermore, the village maidens had silky smooth hair and skin. No need for SK-II or L'Oreal here.

Oh yeah... it also helped that you couldnt see the colour of the water or what you scooped out of the water when darkness falls.

That's the 'poop box' in the middle there. And yup, that's Mr Macho having his evening bath

Giving thanks for the food. Our prayer was quite literally... Dear God, thank you for the food. Please protect our tummies! (and btw, our tummies were good throughout the trip! )