This July I traveled to Southern Florida to visit some family. A life long goal of mine has always been to catch a peacock bass on the fly. After seeing so many images of the gorgeous fish and reading about their feeding habits I knew landing one was something I needed to experience.
Upon arrival I did some research and learned a lot from fishing and talking with locals about where to catch these beauties. Nice thing about Florida is there is water EVERYWHERE so I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to get some opportunities to catch a peacock bass.
I headed to the first spot around 10 am. A unique thing about peacock bass is that they prefer feeding all throughout the day rather than dusk and dawn like most trout. I found a nice spot under a bridge and somewhat shaded from the hot Florida sun. Sight fishing for peacock bass is completely necessary. This time of year the males and females stay together, usually with a couple babies trailing behind. Once you spot one. There’s always more. Look for their big yellow eyes and dark stripes on the back, and confirm you’re looking at a peacock when you see some yellow, orange, red, or green color mixed in along the gills and belly of the fish. Just like trout, once you spot one it’s all about getting your fly right in front of the fish. Peacock bass LOVE the ledges alongside the edges of canals. Just like largemouth you can find them in some serious weeds. As soon as I started spotting the peacock bass I next casted a lime green popper size 6 right in front of its face. Peacock bass are so aggressive, way more than largemouth in my opinion.
Cast your popper past the peacock bass and strip it right above him slowly. Peacock Bass are ambush predators and they don’t just tap or hit your fly, they attack it like you’ve never seen before. Pretty soon into my casts I got a huge hit from a female peacock. These things take your fly like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It is very important to keep a good hold of your line while your stripping in the popper so that you can keep that tension when the bass takes your fly and swims to the weeds.
These bass are so strong, I had a smaller one, maybe a 2.5 pounder, attack my fly and break my 20lb test Tippet on its get away swim. They fight harder and longer than largemouth which makes getting them a chore but a thrill at the same time. Unlike the high country lakes and streams that I am used to fly fishing in, these canals are far more dirty and dangerous to be in. Gator sightings while peacock bass fishing are not rare. So basically, you don’t need your waders, you’ll be shore fishing.
Fly Rod: I recommend a 7wt of higher fly rod, all though it is still completely possible to catch them on a 5 or 6 wit (I’ve done it before). The stronger the rod the easier it is when these bass run with your fly.. It also gives you more backbone to set your hook when they attack it.
Tippet: Although none of these Pea’s that I caught were huge for the species, I still recommend a flourocarbon Tippet no less than 15 pounds. These fish are not leader shy. I used 20-25lb test flourocarbon the majority of the time and never had a problem.
Flies: Peacock bass are attracted to bright colors.. So green, orange, red, or yellow poppers work great. The bigger the popper the more splash and attention you create to lure in the fish however it also makes it harder to cast. I recommend size 6 or 8 poppers personally, that’s what I have good luck with and the cast isn’t too awkward. Salt water minnow patterns also work great. Pea’s eat A LOT of shiners. Light colored clousers with some sparkle mixed in worked well for me. I also caught one on a white and silver snook fly.. Which resembled a common baitfish. DO NOT waste your time with bass worm patterns in the water.. Peacock Bass do not eat worms and have no interest unlike largemouth.
Tips: Anticipate a huge runaway once that bass takes your fly. I had so many swim way down into the weeds instantly, they are fast fish. They are also very picky compared to largemouth bass. You really have to tempt them with your fly in order to get a bite. Don’t give up, if you aren’t seeing peacock bass or getting any hits move up and down the edges of the canal and do not cast until you spot one. They can be easily spooked.
Finally, just go catch a peacock bass. Make the trip, do the research, and you won’t be disappointed. Seeing their colors in real life is unbelievable. Every fly fisherman should experience a peacock bass on the end of their line at some point in their life.