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Trolling For Peacock Bass

By Steve Delgado

Here’s a surefire approach for locating those feisty South Florida peacocks.
Bow-mount electric trolling motor provided the quiet thrust that enabled this angler to connect with a peacock bass.

In the freshwater canals and lakes of Dade, Broward and southern Palm Beach counties, there are numerous ways to catch peacock bass. You can blind cast a topwater plug. You can sight-fish for them with a jerkbait. You can even harass a defensive one until it goes into beast mode. But what happens when they aren’t showing themselves, and the usual spots don’t produce? In these situations, I set my trolling motor to cruise control and cover as much water as I can. Trolling for peacock bass is an excellent way to break the monotony of an unproductive day, and finally get on some fish.

Trolling is versatile and productive in almost any condition—from winter cold fronts to hot summer days. It’s also a great way to establish certain patterns like how deep the fish are, whether they prefer one color to another, and how fast you should run your bait.

Most of your favorite hard-plastic lures can be trolled, as long as they dive or sink. Soft plastics that have to be worked by the angler can be used too, but I prefer a lure that produces its own action. My lures of choice are the Rapala Slash Bait and the Rapala Flash Rap. I’ll also use a Clackin’ Rap, or a Rat L Trap, when I want to add a little more noise to my presentation. The smaller ones, 4 inches or less, seem to do a better job than the larger ones. It’s typical peacock bully behavior to pick on the little guy!

Now, if you compete on the pro bass tour you’ll probably consider this cheating, but if your main objective is to catch a few peacocks, I’ve got a tip for you. Peacocks love live shiners! Slow-trolling them silently along the winding waterway will produce multiple catches. That’s why the first thing you should do, before even launching your boat, is to stop by the bait shop. Look, I’m a purist at heart. I love to test my skills on artificial, but it’s always nice to have a little back up in case the fishing gets slow.

You want to carefully hook your shiner through the lips. Use a hook that allows it to swim freely and upright. Once your shiner is on, cast it along the bank. Cruise down the canal and let out as much line as you can. Close your bail when your bait is far enough behind the boat, but you can still see it. These canals are full of twists and turns and you don’t want to get snagged while going around a tight corner. I’ll usually keep my rod in my hand, as opposed to sticking it in a rod holder. This way, I can reel line in, and let line out when I need to.

Slow trolling live shiners or diving crankbaits is an excellent approach in the canals.

Artificial lures and livies can be trolled more or less the same way. You should target bridges, intersections, and any underwater structure you find. Submerged tree limbs, or even old shopping carts, usually hold hungry peacocks. Troll between .5 and 1.5 mph, depending on weather and the current. If there is a current, troll with it, or the peacocks might just look at you funny.

Using this presentation, I’ve caught plenty of peacocks, largemouths, and even a few snook. It’s because of this potential to catch big fish that I won’t rig my gear with anything less than 15-pound test. I also don’t use anything stronger than 20-pound, just to give smaller fish a fighting chance. A larger sized peacock bass will push any tackle to the limit, but I enjoy feeling the power of an average 2- to 3-pound one as well. I always use a fluorocarbon leader of the same strength, tied to the main braided line by a uni-to-uni knot. All of this on a light spinning outfit does just fine. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman September 2013

  • schnbait

    Peacock Bass are so much fun. It’s one of the things I miss about living in south Florida.