Part 1 saw Grant travel to Central America to fish for snook. After the disappointment of being unable to hire a 4×4 vehicle and being limited to more accessible territory, Grant managed to land two snook and lose three after fishing hard for the first few days. He takes up the story again here.
The following day saw the swells increase and the bait fish move out to deeper water. I fished hard in a number of locations for eight hours with no reward. With the Carnival finishing and the swell remaining strong, I decided to head back to the city to see if I could trade in the car for something more suitable. Understanding my predicament of not wanting to damage the car, the company agreed to take the vehicle back. After approaching a few other companies, I was very fortunate to pick up a fully insured Hilux 4×4 pickup which I managed to bargain down to almost the price of the car itself! Now I was set and it was well worth losing a day’s fishing, as I would now be able to access more spots and not worry about trashing my original hire car which had only been able to make it up some of the steep dry mud tracks at high speed.
Early next morning, I headed out further along the coast to a spot I had called ‘The Fingers’ on my previous trip. This time, however, I had a proper 4×4 which had no problem handling the long sandy beach, saving me a 20 minute walk. With a big swell and high tide I started at first light, fishing the channel between the beach and the rocks thinking that some big fish could be feeding closer to shore. I waded out to a rock, dragging my feet to scare off any stingrays that may be lurking in the shallows
For the time being, I was limited to fishing the point between the beach and the fingers. The sets of waves seemed endless but during the intervals, It was possible to cast over the deep rocky ledges. I always find these conditions can be deceptive and dangerous but my patience was rewarded when a hard fighting jack crevalle smashed my Enticer Minnow. After a precarious landing, I took a quick photo and sent it back on its way. Although the swell had picked up, the conditions were not optimal for the snook.
The next morning saw the swell beginning to drop slightly and I decided to head out further along the coast to check out some new locations. It had been a good call changing the vehicle, allowing me some more flexibility to get to some otherwise unreachable marks. The further I drove, the harder the trail got and after crossing beaches, negotiating steep tracks and passing through deep rivers beds, I made it to a beautiful beach with a steep drop off. I spent the first hour casting from the shore, hoping to pick up a snook close to the shallow river mouth. While I fished, I noticed some birds diving further around the headland so, after a while, I decided to climb around and explore. I arrived at a set of rocks I had been dropped off on by boat on my previous trip. Although the conditions looked very promising I only managed to hook up with a single hawkfish.
With the Carnival now over, I was keen to get back and fish a shallow rivermouth mark that for the last few days had been heavily netted. I hoped that things had returned to normal and, on arrival, I was pleased to see that all nets had gone. The conditions looked similar to the first time I had fished this spot on the previous trip and I started to get the feeling you get when everything feels right and that sense of anticipation builds inside.
Although the first 30 minutes were quiet, I persisted knowing that I was in with a chance. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a stronger desire for that lure to be hit than when targeting snook, there’s something addictive about this species that just keeps you wanting more. Whether it’s the way they sneakily ambush their prey or how they leap into the air head shaking and gills flaring, all I know is there are good reasons why people love this fish so much. So when, all of a sudden, a nice snook hit the mullet Tweak, the adrenaline was pumping again and I got to enjoy the spectacle of the fish leaping all around me doing its best to shake the hook. This time the snook won and flicked off the lure right in close just as I was about to land it. Although I was majorly disappointed, I knew that it’s all part of the game with this species. 4-2 to the snook!
Continuing on, I felt confident there could be more fish around. Casting across the shallow rivermouth, my lure was suddenly inhaled by a big snook. As you’re playing these fish, you have no idea how well they’re hooked and you feel sheer relief each time one leaps and lands and you’re still connected. As I brought this one over the shallow boulder bottom, I was especially happy as it was certainly my personal best snook. The score still favoured the snook but I’d pulled one back to 4-3.
With the tide dropping it was time to move on to a different mark. As I started fishing, again I had the same sense of anticipation and it wasn’t long before another big snook took the lure and began leaping around the shallow ledges. I managed to fight the fish around the front of the rock I was standing on when it suddenly took a turn and headed for the other side of the rock. Scrambling around, I just managed to keep the line clear. As the fish tired and I watched it just metres below, I noticed that the tail hooks had come free and the fish was now attached precariously by the belly hook in the nose. Feeling certain I would lose this one, I made a quick effort to land it on some reef with a wave and jumped down to get it. As I lifted the snook up, the lure literally dropped out. In fact, there wasn’t one occasion during the trip where I needed the pliers to unhook a snook. With two big snook landed, this was turning out to be the session of the trip!
With the score now square, I was keen to get ahead and I continued to fish on. As the tide continued to drain over the reef, it began to look like the chance of another fish would soon be gone when suddenly a snook shot out from the rocks and smashed into my Tweak bait!
Smaller in comparison to the other two but still a lovely fish, this one made a series of head shaking jumps and nearly managed to break my line by making a powerful run for some rocks. Steady pressure prevailed, however, and I landed the fish over the reef, absolutely delighted with what ended up being the best session of the trip. Grant 5, snook 4!
With only a few days left, I headed back up to The Fingers, this time at a lower tide. I was excited to try a spot that I had fished the year before and I hoped to do battle with some jacks. I chose to fish the Enticer Minnow, splashing it over the deep reefs hoping to bring something up. On only the second cast, I got hit and I was into a solid bluefin trevally, needing to lean on the strong rod to keep him from heading towards a bombie rock that sat just feet under the surface. These fish really go hard and are so much fun to catch but with snook being the target species for this trip, I had a few more casts and then headed back to the rivermouth to see if anything was about.
Cubera snapper were another species I had hoped to hook during this trip, so when I landed one at virtually the same spot as the previous year, I was feeling confident that conditions were good. It’s always nice to catch a new species, so although I didn’t see any snook that day, I was happy to land my first corvina! A couple more nice snappers also took the lure, along with the obligatory hawkfish. Nothing big but fun all the same.
With the fishing going quiet on the snook front, I couldn’t resist a last session up at The Fingers, where I was keen to test out the new airbrushed 120g Tweak baits and make a short video on how to use them. With a quiet start, I didn’t expect much action from the ledges but it’s always worth varying your retrieve when spinning and covering as much ground as possible. In general, I like to retrieve medium to fast and erratic in deep open water, slowing down around the backwash and tweaking the lure just in case anything’s in close.
Bringing the lure between a section of rocks, my lure was hit by a jack that unfortunately didn’t connect with the hooks. After a few more casts and no hits, I changed to the mullet coloured Tweak and was rewarded with a nice jack crevalle smashing into the lure. Although white has proved to be good all round colour, it can sometimes help to switch colours, especially if the fish have seen the same lure passing by a few times and already had a go at it. I’ve noticed that when there are a few fish around, a lure can be effective for a while but if bites slow down it’s time to change colour.
With the tide rising, it made sense to stay longer and see if there was anything else moving. I didn’t have to cast many more times before the biggest jack crevalle I have ever seen hit my Tweak bait, going completely airborne and immediately ripping out drag at a rate of knots heading straight for the rocks. As the point was the wrong side of me and the fish, the only option was to grab my spool and try to stop it before my line was broken on the rocks. Fortunately, with the high pressure the hook pulled and I was able to save the lure from a near certain bust off.
Although my adrenaline was pumping hard but apart from another hawkfish on the Tweak, that was it for my last full day. Hawkfish are an extremely aggressive species found hanging around close to the rocks and would be a dream for any light tackle fisherman. I was really tempted to go out one morning with my lightest setup and a 15g Tweak, but with the pull of the snooks, bigger jacks and my limited time, it remained just an idea.
I arrived before first light on my last morning to find the swell had dropped off just enough in the night. With the conditions giving me one last good shot at a snook, I headed across the reef leading out to a mark I liked to fish. I would have to keep my eye on the incoming tide – as soon as these rocks were covered, the brown water inside made it impossible to see where you were standing. As it was necessary to jump from rock to rock, it was essential you could see where you were going. I found this out the hard way on my last trip, leaving it too long and ended up getting slammed off the reef by a set of waves and washed up the boulder beach.
As the sun came up, the birds were diving again and I noticed small baitfish feeding out in the rip. I decided to put on my Enticer Minnow Topwater to get maximum distance, although I had been using the Enticer Sub Tweak for the majority of the trip as it suited the conditions, allowing for a slower retrieve over the ledges. Firing my lure out as far as possible I waited in anticipation of a hit. Ten minutes later a snook slashed at it, missing the hooks and leaving my heart in my mouth!
I changed to the Tweak and concentrated on casting to a rock where I saw some baitfish close in to the side – another slash and I knew the snook were about. I didn’t have long left to fish as the tide was rising fast and I would need to head back soon, so when my rod bent over for the last time of the trip, I knew it would probably be the last chance to finish on a high. The fish fought hard around the rocks diving and leaping in the air unsuccessfully trying to shake the hook. Keeping the line tight as always, I landed the fish cleanly for an almost perfect finish to a most enjoyable trip. Final score: Grant 6, snook 4!
As I started my drive back, I thought back over the trip and what I had learnt and what I would have done differently (as you always do) and came up with a few strange statistics that really left me thinking. When I arrived, I knew how important getting to the spot early was and made it to each mark every day before sun up. I also made sure to be out fishing as the sun went down.
Surprisingly, I didn’t hook one snook in the afternoon, just a few other species. I also didn’t catch any snook around first light, which really surprised me, as all were caught under bright sunny weather. There’s certainly no hard and fast rules in fishing! I concluded that tide state and swell size were the most important factors here and, as I started my long journey back home, I was already dreaming of my next trip back in pursuit of these amazing fish.