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Record Hunters blog, Day 4

10/26/2006

Editor's note: Please check in for occasional updates to the blog for "Record Hunters" on ESPN2 TV, and click here for more details and photo galleries on the showpage. And should you decide you'd like to experience the trip of a lifetime fishing for peacock bass in Brazil, here are some recommendations.

Day 4, posted Oct. 26, 2006

One of the most exciting elements of peacock bass fishing is that moment when a behemoth fish explodes on a topwater bait.

It sounds like a bomb going off and the ensuing fight is not for the faint of heart.

Peacocks are extremely aggressive and a noisy prop bait walking on the surface of the water just seems to them go berserk.

That is not to say that submerged lures don't bring their share of fish to the boat, but a topwater, propeller bait, especially one that has a prop at the tail is the image that will forever remain with me of fishing on the Unini River in Brazil.

We were fishing with a variety of lures made by Highroller Fishing Lure Company in Florida.

These are very high quality wooden baits that are hand painted and gel coated for durability. They also have high quality hooks, which are necessary since a big peacock can straighten a lesser made hook in a flash.

If there is a down side to fishing these topwater baits it would be the exertion required to chug them across the surface repeatedly.

At the beginning of the trip, I counted the number of casts that Rob and Joe made in a day and came up with 950. That's a lot of forearm action.

Early on the fourth day of our adventure in the Amazon, Joe was casting one of his Highrollers that was about 6 inches long. As usual, I was in the camera boat following not too far behind them — close enough to hear but just barely.

Rob had already caught a fifteen pound fish and everyone was feeling good when suddenly I heard Gonzega begin to howl. He was literally howling with pain.

We soon realized that Joe had accidentally hit Gonzega in the head with his lure, burying a hook in his scalp. It broke the big lure in half, which means he took a heck of a lick to the noggin.

Both Joe and Rob are saltwater fishing guides in south Florida, so removing hooks from clients, and themselves, is a fairly commonplace occurrence for them, although Gonzega seemed a bit nervous when it became clear that Rob was going to get the hook out with a length of fishing line.

I was holding my breath thinking Rob's only got one chance at this, because if he doesn't get the hook out with the first attempt there's no way Gonzega's going to let him try again.

The hook came out fine, but Gonzega is very cautious for the rest of the day and ducks down with almost every cast. He later conveyed to us that he had been hooked many times and showed us scars on his cheek, leg and both hands.

At about 8 a.m. we head into a small creek. It had rained the day before and the guides were confident that some of the creeks would be higher and we could get the boats into some hard to reach areas.

When you go up one of these creeks you find yourself surrounded by spider webs, wasps, sharp sticks jutting from the jungle and the ever present spines of the palm fronds hiding under water.

The water level was only a few inches when we had the boats about 100 yards up the creek. We were under strict orders form our host to not leave the boats.

Don Cutter, the proprietor of Peacock Bass Trips, did not want to risk any of his clients being injured in any way. But none of us could sit back and watch the guides attempt to drag these boats and engines through the water with us riding inside like some kind of royalty.

We all got out and helped pull the boats upstream. Actually it wasn't a stream but more of a trickle.

Rob tied the bow rope around him and pulled his boat like a big ox. The water would widen slightly and then squeeze back down to a trickle.

It was extremely hot and sweat poured from every brow. Even the Brazilian guides, who never seem to sweat, had rivulets running from their temples.

Later in the day we get out of the boat to push again, and this time Joe is bitten by a spider. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you are hundreds of miles from medical facilities, everything comes into a different focus.

When we wade in these creeks, the guides are worried and nervous about freshwater rays that can deliver their own blows. The guides get out of the boats and skim the bottom with their feet before they will let me out of the boat.

Actually they allow me out of the boat very reluctantly. Probably because they know it is against the wishes of Mr. Don Cutter, but I also get the sense that they don't think a woman should be helping to push the boat.

The machete is an important tool in the jungle. The locals use the machete deftly. They quickly slice through vines like butter but can also hack a log into halves in moments with it. Every boat in the operation has a machete in it.

Another strict rule of the camp is that each boat must return to the houseboat by 6 p.m. The jungle is extremely dangerous at night.

We have been told many stories of jaguars attacking under cover of darkness. In fact, one of our guides has three big scars in his scalp from a jaguar jumping on him from a tree.

The reptiles in the Amazon prefer to hunt at night as well since they are more camouflaged then.

I had already seen the eye shine of many caiman gleaming around our houseboat, so I knew they were prolific in the surrounding area.

Earlier I had asked the camp manager what would happen if a boat didn't return to the dock on time.

I know the guides have machete's in their boats but I wonder if they this is the only weapon they have to defend themselves if they were stranded in the jungle.

Jerry's reply made me smile: "It would be no problem because the guides all have flashlights."

Today, the Unini River once again rewards our hard work when Rob catches and eighteen pound peacock bass. Everyone is grateful to head back home.

We push the boats back down the creek and when we get to the main river Rob and Joe remove their shirts and swim in the black water.

Another day, another adventure.

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