Setting off on a fishing adventure to a tropical location targeting hard fighting fish is enough to get any angler dreaming about screaming reels, exotic fish and personal best catches.
After two years of heavy travel restrictions and cancelled trips, the feelings of anticipation had only intensified for me.
Even a week before traveling I couldn’t shake the feeling that something would change and the trip would somehow get cancelled.
So when I heard restrictions in Switzerland were said to be loosening, I wasted no time and started packing for the trip which had been a long time in coming.
I certainly can’t complain as during the lockdowns I had managed to keep my fishing spirits high with some fun trips over to Portugal when restrictions allowed.
Catching bass has always been one of my favourite fish to target, but there’s something about getting away to exotic locations with different species that makes these trips so exciting.
Snook have been a fish I’ve really enjoyed targeting over recent years. I found there are many similarities to my bass fishing, and just love the way these predatory fish use structure to ambush unsuspecting baitfish. Like bass, you can often find snook nestled in close to a rock, sitting in a gutter beneath breaking waves or hunting through gullies.
The area I had chosen to return to had given me a mixture of amazing fishing memories of fish caught and lost over the exciting terrain with its rocky points and small river mouths.
Snooks are notorious for jumping and shaking the hook, or cutting your leader with their extremely sharp gill rakers.
I had experienced both these disappointments on many occasions, but this only made me more determined to return and try and land that big one.
The last time I was in Central America I had literally got out a couple of days before the lockdowns started.
On that trip I had managed to catch some lovely big snook, but had set myself the goal of trying to land a bigger one. I knew this place held some beasts, but also realised that they were very canny and certainly not about to jump on your lure.
For me fishing is not always about landing the biggest fish, but having a goal or a challenge to focus on which always keeps things interesting. But on this occasion I had set my goals on a personal best fish.
Knowing that this place gets a lot of local fishing pressure, it made the task more challenging and I was uncertain how it would be after the two year break.
With a good flight over, a long bus ride and a night in a hotel, I had picked up my vehicle which would get me around for the first week of the trip. A very solid looking 4WD pickup, which would be necessary for negotiating the steep rough mud tracks, beaches and river beds I needed to pass to reach some of the more remote spots.
As usual I travelled over with a large variety of Samson lures. It’s very hard when it comes to packing lures for a trip, and I always end up with way too many. Squeezing as many as possible into my bazooka rod case I was quite certain I had something to fit any situation.
The sub surface Tweak Bait would certainly be the lures I would use for targeting snook, only this time I also had a slow sink version to try.
Local fishermen spoke about bright orange being an effective colour, yet on past trips I had found real confidence in the natural mullet design which I also used for bass.
This time I would be taking the new Samson Fishing Long Cast fishing rod. I had the extra heavy version for the rock ledges which would be ideal for landing pelagics and the standard version for the job of landing a snook.
For me, a 12 ft rod is essential for reaching rocky outcrops and a big help in fighting fish or guiding lures around rocks.
Both rods are rated at 30-100g and I was comfortable casting anything from 15g up to 130g.
The only real difference between the rods is that the XH is designed to lift heavier weights necessary when fishing and landing fish off the rocks.
After a week of chasing snook, I planned to drop the pickup and head along the coast to fish an Island I had been four years previously where I had managed to get into some lovely snapper and roosterfish but, for now, my full concentration and focus would be on landing one of the wily old snook that I knew frequented this area.
The first days I was lucky enough to have what looked to be excellent conditions! With a coastline that is often pounded by strong swells, I had found on previous trips that the calmer seas proved the most productive, allowing large fish to move in close up the shallow river mouth and rocky points.
But as is often the way, things don’t always go to plan and the fishing was disappointingly quiet.
Apart from a few by-catches I didn’t have much to show for the first two days fishing.
I was just happy to be out again fishing the wild spots on offer and felt confident that if I put in the hours I should at least get some chances.
The first big hit that sent the reel screaming came on an afternoon session at the small river mouth. I’ve no idea if it was a Snook or a Snapper as unfortunately this one came unhooked late on in the fight. Due to the fact it didn’t jump I imagined it was quite possibly a snapper.
Whilst fishing the Tweak Bait over a very shallow point at low tide I finally got the hit I was waiting for. A powerful hit followed by some hard short runs on a tightly set clutch.
With rocks scattered out in front of me forming little channels that held bait fish, I knew immediately I had hooked into something big cruising through in search of lunch.
With the fish diving down hard behind a rock I used the full length of the 12ft rod to angle the line away from the rocks. Feeling the leader scrape against the rock I held on hard to the spool knowing that if I lost any more line this fish would instantly break the 30lb braid the moment the line touched the rock.
For a long minute I kept the pressure on until the fish finally moved and I could feel I was in direct contact with the fish again!
This time it kited sharp to my left heading for a point that would surely catch my line. Again, I held onto the spool reaching out as far as I could expecting the line to ping at any moment. I know I was just centimetre’s away from losing it praying that the snook would stay on. I guessed it had to be big snook but was surprised that it still hadn’t jumped?
It was at that moment as I teased the fish away from the rocks that I caught a glimpse and realised that it wasn’t a snook after all but a big jack crevalle that was determined to break me up in the shallow rocks.
For a moment I felt disappointment as I had my heart set on a big snook, but you can’t stay disappointed long when fighting such an awesome fish in these conditions.
No sooner had I had stopped it going to the left it decided to give it one last go and swam hard below me swimming under the ledge I was standing on, again giving me a few minutes of worry before I could finally get it under control and land it up on the rocks with a wave.
Jacks always give a good account of themselves, and this had to be the hardest terrain I had ever landed one of this size, and I knew I was lucky to have got away with it.
I had fortunately been using a strong leader for the shallow rocks and sharp gill rakers I expected to encounter with a snook but, in all honesty, if you catch the razor like plates of a snook in the wrong place, no strength of line will avoid it getting sliced clean through.
It wasn’t a snook but my motivation was running high and I continued to hit it hard and fish each day until I was exhausted.
The next few days passed until I finally managed to find a snook.
It was somewhat ironic as I had decided to put on a long casting Enticer Minnow to reach the breaking waves rolling along the shallow rocky river mouth bed, when just as I was bringing the lure out I got the hit. It wasn’t huge, but it was a snook and I felt pleased to hook one.
It was a good reminder to work that lure right up to the edge!
The next morning with not so much as a touch, I set off further up the coast to fish and try my luck at a more remote spot I had fished in the past.
After driving across beaches rocky river mouths and steep tracks It was late morning, and I had arrived at a nice rocky ledge I had planned to spin off.
Although the sun was high, I decided to put on the bright slow sink Mahi Tweak Bait and work it erratically just under the surface with a few splashes.
I was working it lazily in the clear water checking the action when suddenly a big bluefin trevally sprang out of nowhere to smash the lure.
As it immediately dived deep for the huge bomby rock just out in front I expected the line to ping.
Once again a strong long leader together with the length of the rod gave me the chance to fight and land one of these big hard fighting jacks.
With my luck riding high, I decided to stop off at the river mouth and see if I could tempt a snook whilst fishing the upcoming tide.
I kept at it spinning long into the afternoon still searching for that elusive big snook.
Conditions looked good with the rocky boulder bottom. I was standing on the shallow edge with the water dropping down to deeper channels that I was sure could be holding some fish.
It’s always amazing how everything can go from a peaceful calmness to full on adrenaline when you get a big take.
The reel was once again screaming, and It was obviously a big fish. I was in no rush, and with not too many obstacles in front I stayed calm waiting for the fish to tire.
As the runs become smaller I edged the fish closer to the shore. Sometimes big snook don’t jump and this fish was indeed acting like a snook. Unfortunately again I will never know, because as quick as I was on, it was off.
After a few profanities I continued on, moving to the final spot where I had yet another big hit, only this time I remained connected for just a few seconds before the fish shook the hook.
I had been using a treble belly hook together with a single tail hook hoping that once a fish was hooked with the single it would have more chance of staying on.
Snooks do have a bony mouth and keeping a hook in can be difficult but I understood it was all part of the challenge.
Time was fast running out and it was looking increasingly like I wouldn’t get the fish I came for.
I had had enough hits to know it was possible and as the last days arrived I headed to my favourite rock still with a positive feeling of expectation.
I worked the mullet Tweak Bait over the shallow rocks trying to tempt any snook that may be cruising through amongst the rocks or lying in wait ready to ambush a baitfish.
Over the week I had witnessed pelicans dive bombing the baitfish, but on this day the birds definitely seemed less active.
I had wondered if the problem was too much baitfish around, and the fish were simply full. But predator fish being opportunistic I hoped that a lure presented in the right situation and moment would get a hit.
Finally I got my chance as I felt a hard hit and saw a big splash indicating it was a fish of substantial size. After a few powerful runs I watched as a huge snook leaped from the water confirming what I was hooked up to.
All I can remember is praying it would stay on each time I watched it jump shaking its head attempting to throw the lure.
A part of me just wanted to get the fish in quick, but I knew if I rushed it I would more than likely lose the fish.
In the same way I would fight a bass, I made sure that the tension was kept on and never any slack. Hooks easily make holes in the membrane of the fishes mouth allowing for a hook to drop out if tension is lost.
I must have counted four to five jumps, noticing each time the fish tiring. I moved down from my vantage point hoping to overcome the final hurdle and land the fish up on the reef using the swell. It’s important to choose the right moment, and fortunately everything came together as I used a good wave to bring the fish up on to the flat reef and safety of the rocks.
After a precarious eight minute battle, I held the fish to my chest finally relaxing taking it back to the rock I was on for a photo, imagining how easily it could of ended so differently.
It was when I held the fish for a photo the Tweak Bait literally dropped from its mouth highlighting again how lucky I had been.
After a wonderful weeks fishing I had got what I came for, a personal best Snook!
But it wasn’t over yet. I was already thinking about the second leg, and my planned trip up the coast for 4 days of rock fishing from an island where I would be targeting roosterfish, jacks and snappers.