It seems like every year an outfitter comes out and claims to be able to offer the chance to battle a fish that is “pound for pound” the world’s toughest fighting fish. It’s interesting that of all these claims, the species of fish is never the same and rarely are they even comparable in size. We’ll have to save the debate over the “world’s toughest fighting fish” for a different day, but I do want to share about one such offer that I bit had on. Like many fishermen, I was lured by the possibilities of an adventure paired with huge fish.

The offer that intrigued me enough to take action was a trip down to the Brazil in search of the Tucunare (pronounced too-con-a-ray with a Portuguese accent) or to all non-native Brazilians, the peacock bass. The location of the trip… The Amazon River, in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

The Amazon has been open to foreign peacock bass fishing for about 18 years; however, it has especially grown in popularity over the past 8 years. There are a handful of outfitters that offer a variety of trip packages specifically aimed at catching peacock bass. You could choose from a floating barge of tents; a standard lodge style fixed destination; or a large river boat with 17’ bass boats pulled behind it. For my trip, I choose the later of the three. I took a traveling base camp, river boat over 300 miles up the Amazon (Rio Negro) from the city of Manaus.

Our travel time from Minnesota to the lodge, where we boarded the river/house boat, was around two days. After several months of planning and a couple days of travel I was ready to relax. I thought I had finally arrived at a place where I could take it easy, throw out a line, and catch some huge fish. Boy was I wrong. The hard part was just about to begin. Peacock bass fishing is a lot like musky fishing, bass fishing, and two-a-day football practices all rolled into one.

The main tactic used for peacock bass is throwing a “woodchopper”, a Suick like lure, on a 6’ 6” heavy action rod. The rods were paired with extremely tough casting reels, with a high gear ratios to increase the line pick-up speed. Simply casting out and casually reeling back was not an option…that is unless you don’t mind the guide yelling at you “whoosh, whoosh, faster, faster”. The strategy was to pull the line tight and move the rod with a downward motion to get the lure to pull through the water instead of on top of it. When done correctly there was a deep “whoosh” sound that is produced. It is impossible to explain how tiring and wearing this style of fishing is. All I can say is that your forearms will burn and your fingers will bleed, but it is undoubtedly worth it.

Producing the proper “whoosh” noise is the most important part of fishing for peacock bass. Without this noise the fish is much less likely to hit the lure and your fishing productivity will be greatly diminished. The noise is what “calls” the fish’s attention and what causes them to strike. My guide, Evandro, told me that “the noise calls the fish out of the jungle.” This makes sense, as the river can fluctuate up to 30 meters during the wet season and floods well into the jungle. I was extremely skeptical of this until I began fishing and it certainly proved to be true.

When I would get tired and lazy, I would catch less fish than when I was focused and getting the proper noise to occur. I was made a complete believer in this theory when we came to a point that Evandro was excited about. It was early on the fourth day (6:30 am) and I was casting and cranking quite poorly due to a lack of sleep, and three days of destroying my hands. After my fourth cast over the point he told me “whoosh, faster in the same spot.” In my head I thought “I have been whooshing for 3 days now, leave me alone.” My thoughts brought out the fiery of fatigue and frustration, so I chucked the lure as far as I could and whooshed it in as fast and loud as I possibly could. About half back to the boat all of a sudden the water around my woodchopper exploded, the line went limp for a second, then my reel began to scream as line was being ripped from it. Evandro stood up shouting “big fish, big fish”, and after about a solid 20 minute fight I was also shouting “big fish”. It was a memory I will never forget. I was now convinced that the “whoosh” was the main success factor in fishing for Tucunare.

The Amazon is still a very undeveloped and unexplored destination that provides great beauty and adventure for anyone seeking an exotic fishing experience. It certainly is not a trip for the faint of heart, but I would recommend this to anyone who is up for a challenge and interested in catching one of the fiercest freshwater fish this world has to offer.