[Editor: this article first appeared on www.ronsfishingblog and may only be used by permission of Ron Speed Jr.]
SAY GOODBYE TO VACCINE MANDATES (BRAZIL)…WELCOME NEW FLIGHTS TO MANAUS!!!
Great news, peacock bass enthusiasts….it is no longer mandatory to show proof of Covid Vaccine for American citizens to enter Brazil!!! I know many of our customers that fished with us this past season already had the vaccine but there were also many that had been booked over the past couple of years that cancelled their trips due to the mandatory vaccine being enforced. Well, that’s no longer a requirement…as of now. We’re hoping it remains that way.
More great news…several airlines have started flying to Manaus from the U.S. again. There are TWO airlines with direct flights to Manaus now. One is AZUL AIRLINES and they depart from Ft. Lauderdale on Fridays. The other is GOL AIRLINES and they depart from Miami on Wednesdays…which doesn’t quite fit our fishing schedule but the Azul schedule does work better. Now, all this being said, I personally prefer a different airline and schedule and it’s NOT non-stop direct. It is United Airlines from Houston, TX to Panama…then change to Copa Airlines from Panama direct to Manaus. The United flight departing Houston on Thursdays. Copa is partnered with United Airlines and therefore you can get a “through” ticket all the way from Houston. Also you can fly United from Dallas, TX. Then change to United in Houston and on to Panama. Again, all the way a “through” ticket. The reason I prefer the United/Copa through Panama is because the two airlines have a very high rating where I don’t know much about Azul or Gol. I spoke at great length with our partner in Brazil who operates nearly year round for Eco/Nature Tours in the Amazon. He told me he has nature tour customers that have used all three airlines and routes with ZERO problems. That is great news! However, I still prefer the Houston-Panama-Manaus on United/Copa since their schedule fits better with our fishing schedule. The best news of all is now our customers do not have to travel all the way to Sao Paulo and backtrack north to Manaus anymore. Hallelujah!!!
PEACOCK BASS FISHING IN BRAZIL’S AMAZON RAINFOREST…THE BEST FISHING ADVENTURE IN THE OUTDOORS!!!
Ron Jr’s early years with Peacock Bass Fishing on Lake Guri, Venezuela (1989 – 1992)…
My first experience and battles with the mighty peacock happened in June of 1989. My father had made a deal with Steve Shoulders who was manager of the beautiful “Puedpa” fishing lodge on Lake Guri, Venezuela. My father had gone there a month before my trip to check it out. He returned with some video footage of the lodge and the fishing. I was amazed at the loud topwater explosions and watching my father and Steve try and get these beasts in the boat. They didn’t catch many “big”peacocks during the week. The largest was 16 lbs caught by my father but most ranged from 8 lbs – 12 lbs…but lots of them. Still, I was amazed and could not wait to get down there to sample some of this explosive topwater action! I asked the outdoor writer (at the time), Buddy Gough, from the San Antonio Express newspaper, to join me on the trip. Buddy and I just thought we were prepared for these bass on steroids. Boy were we WRONG! We were fishing with baitcast rods/reels but using 20 and 30 lbs Big Game Trilene monofilament line. We were also using a small wood topwater lure with a propeller called “Bass Agitator” created by renowned bass angler and manufacturer of wood lures, Sam Griffin. While the “Bass Agitator” did it’s part in attracting massive topwater explosions from the peacocks, the rest of our equipment did NOT do it’s part. We were constantly getting our monofilament lines snapped…so much we started hesitating to throw the Agitator anywhere near brush or rocks. Still, we were able to put almost half of our fish in the boat. HALF.
During that very first peacock bass experience on Lake Guri, Venezuela, Buddy and I landed approximately 10 peacock bass per day, lost approximately 10 per day…and most ranged from 8 – 12 lbs. We did manage one giant of 18 lbs caught by Buddy. My largest was 16 lbs. All the rest were 12 lbs or less. Still, we thought we had died and gone to Heaven! The peacock lived up to expectations and we could not wait to return. It was truly the trip of a lifetime!
My father and I became the exclusive outfitter and booking agent for Puedpa Lodge on Lake Guri. We promoted/sold many trips for 3 years. Then the fishing started to decline and I decided to venture further south to Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
Ron Jr’s trips to Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest (1992 – Present)…
In 1992, I found an operator for peacock bass who had a houseboat operating on the Trombetas River in the far eastern regions of the Amazon. I put together a group of 10 anglers for a checkout trip that my father would accompany. About the same time (August of 1992), I received a call from a man that was referred to me by Dallas Morning News outdoors editor/writer, Ray Sasser. This man was living in the DFW Metroplex but had spent many of his adolescent years in the Amazon as his father did missionary work there. This man told me he was quitting his job in DFW area and moving back to the Amazon to start a peacock bass fishing operation using a houseboat for accommodations. So I met with him to learn more about him personally and his experiences in the Amazon. After approximately 2 hours of meeting, I decided to set up a second “checkout trip”…one I already had set up for my father and this second one would be with the son of a former missionary. Surely these two checkout trips would result in success and a new location to promote our peacock bass fishing in South America? Weeeeell… it did not quite work out that way. Let’s just say that the fishing with the second checkout showed me enough to explore further into the Amazon but neither operations were….well, let’s just say I was hesitant to make a business relationship with either of the two men. I’ll leave it at that.
I was not ready to give up on the Amazon as it’s potential to provide good peacock bass fishing was there….but I loved the Houseboat concept as it added HIGH ADVENTURE for everyone and especially for those who may not be diehard anglers or not want to rip big topwater lures all day long. Therefore I continued to scour the earth in hopes of finding another operator for peacock bass in Brazil…but there simply wasn’t anyone else. Well, so I thought. One day in March of 1993, I was visiting my friends at Fishin’ World in Dallas, Texas…then owner Key Puckett. In Key’s store he had a brochure/magazine rack with tons of brochures. I was just talking with Key while thumbing through a few brochures and I came across this one that had a picture of a houseboat on it…and said, “Join us for our couples Nature and Fishing in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest”….wow, BINGO! As soon as I returned to my office, I called the number on the brochure….a number in California. The man heading up this trip was Harry Gualco…who later became a great friend and booking agent for us in Mexico. Anyway, I told Harry what I was looking to accomplish and finding a new place to fish for peacock bass…and focus was on Brazil. Harry informed me that he and some couples do this trip to the Amazon once a year…but it was more for eco/nature purposes and that the operator in Brazil doesn’t really offer a full time “fishing” operation. Harry was kind enough to give me the Brazilian owner’s name and contact information so I could deal with him directly. I didn’t waste any time calling. That Brazilian operator is named Carlos Probst. We immediately set up a checkout trip….actually TWO checkout trips for September 1993. Again, one group of 10 for my father to lead, one group of 10 for me to lead. This time I would be the one leading the first group.
To fast forward on this…BOTH trips were beyond anything we could have expected or hoped for with the fishing. We landed several peacocks over 20 lbs and MANY in the 15 – 19 class! It was incredible. We also learned that we needed to get away from any type of monofilament line as these monsters would snap even the strongest mono line with ease. We were using the 7 inch wood topwater lures with props made by Luhr Jensen. These were giant lures with huge propellers…that could really create a lot of water movement and attract those giant peacock bass…not just attract them but really make them FURIOUS!
We had found our new home and partner! Since the Amazon Clipper Houseboat operation was more of an eco/nature tour operation, we had to transform it into a fishing operation. The boats we fished from were long 25′ wooden pongas…big enough to carry up to 30 bird watchers. LOL….nope, those won’t sit well with our anglers! So we purchased a fleet of 10 AlumaWeld boats made in Arkansas…now known as Xpress Boats. We purchased them fully equipped with trolling motors and all the bells and whistles. Now it was time to start promoting. That next fall of 1994, we filled every trip to maximum capacity for Sept/Oct Season. We also filled every trip to maximum capacity for January through March Season. Fishing was incredible and we knew we were going to be there for a very long time barring any unforeseen “hiccups” with the country/government. Well, little did we know that 30 years after those first two exploratory trips, we would still be there…but here we are. We also have the same partner, Carlos Probst. His son Gustavo runs the day to day stuff and is an absolute pleasure to work with in this business. Also, of all the current operations in the Amazon for Peacock Bass fishing, nobody has been there longer than Ron Speed, Jr’s Adventures!
THE AMAZON OTTER HOUSEBOAT FISHING OPERATION….THE BEST IN THE AMAZON!!!
The Otter houseboat or mothership is a 5-star floating hotel and offers 8 luxurious cabins (double occupancy) with each cabin offering it’s own private bath and air conditioning. These rooms are spacious with NO BUNK BEDS!!! These are TWIN size beds. The rooms also offer closet space to hang clothes. The Otter also offers a HUGE dining room and the food is awesome. Nobody leaves the dining room hungry! Most tell us they can’t believe how good our food is considering we’re in some of the most remote regions of the Amazon! The Otter also offers a lounge area on top deck with two more lounge decks front and back of the 3rd deck…and with a bar as well. Last but not least, the Otter now offers Starlink Satellite Internet service on the boat! Now our customers don’t have to rely on our satellite phone to call home. Now with very good internet, one can download communication Apps such as WhatsApp to call or text back home. Just need to make sure the family or people you want to contact also have WhatsApp downloaded on their phones. WhatsApp is much clearer than a cell phone call as I communicate with all of our staff in both Brazil and Mexico via WhatsApp! It’s WONDERFUL!!!
The fishing boats and guides…again, we use all welded 100 gauge aluminum boats by Xpress. This is the best aluminum boat on the market…the same we use in Mexico! The guides? Well, I personally do not think any operation offers better guides with more experience. Most of our guides have been guiding our customers for 20 years or more and several for 25. One guide (Amaral) has been with us since that very first checkout trip in 1993. These guides know about boating/driving safety and of course where to find those BIG peacock bass! Our manager (Franz) is second to none. Franz has been with us for 20 years and is an expert in everything he does…and that goes for managing a fishing/houseboat operation to managing Eco/Nature tours. He is by far the best manager I’ve had in South America…and it’s not even close! Franz will be happy to take you and your friends on a jungle hike through the forest to meet and trade with the natives. Trade for bows, arrows, spears, paddles…whatever you desire. Everyone loves Franz!!!
Our staff in Manaus is also THE BEST! Gus or Franz are usually the ones that meet our customers upon arrival at the Manaus Airport. From the time they meet you in the airport on Arrival Day till the time you leave Manaus on Departure Day, you are in very good hands! There are many years of experience in our overall staff. They are the reason we’ve been there so long and have the most years of experience operating in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest. The peacock bass is pound for pound the strongest and most explosive fish that swims…in fresh or saltwater. However, this TRIP…offers so much adventure and that is why I say it’s THE BEST FISHING ADVENTURE IN THE WORLD! No other fishing trip I’ve been a part of can stack up to the high adventure this trip offers! Whether it’s a “Bucket List” trip or wanting to find a new fishing adventure, you can’t go wrong with this one. Call us today and find out for yourself!
MARTIN TRAVEL SERVICES…CALL THEM TODAY TO RESERVE YOUR AIR TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS!!!
GOOD FISHIN’ AND GOD BLESS
Ron Speed, Jr.