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...