Why Papua New Guinea’s Black Bass should be top of every anglers’ bucket list

The modern-day angler will travel far and wide to conquer their sports fishing goals. Andas one of those people, I consider myself lucky to now do this for a living with Outside Edge Adventures. For four years now, I’ve been hosting first time and experienced people to fish in destinations all over Australia – and across the world. And still to this day, one of my favourite places to take clients is to Papua New Guinea (PNG). But let me get to why shortly.

 

Catching the fishing travelling bug – before it became ‘cool’

I’ve always loved fishing. Even during my professional cricketing days, I used any opportunity I could to escape to a remote destination and venture into the unknown. The opportunity to bring that same experience to others became my passionate. Growing up in Gladstone, one of the best all-round fishing destinations in Queensland, it was only natural to fall in love with the sport. Gladstone gives anglers a wide variety of species, with always something to chase. There’s estuary-fish like the all-mighty Barramundi found in places like Lake Awoonga – Queensland’s best stocked impoundment. There’s also reef and sport fishing, with Gladstone at the base of the Great Barrier Reef. Giant Trevally (GTs), Spanish Mackerel, and beautiful table fish like Coral Trout and Red Emperor are all on offer. But the thrill and challenge of catching the next fish in an unfamiliar destination always had me looking further abroad. And I’m not alone in this, with people wanting to visit untapped or new destinations to test and expand their skills. Fishing is now widely seen as a thrilling sport, and social media had helped enormously with this. Every angler is hankering for their next adventure and bucket list fish.

 

Why PNG needs to be top of every anglers’ bucket list

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some incredible destinations and catch some ‘prized’ fish. But for me, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the fish its home to like the Black Bass, went straight to the top of my list after first seeing it on a fishing program almost 15 years ago. Now, having now visited PNG three times, each time is a mind-blowing experience. And as cliched as it may sound, catching fish there is often just a bonus. It’s a destination every fisherman should visit. Admittedly I had hesitations visiting the country having only ever been warned about how dangerous it was. But rest assured, if you travel with the right precautions and local knowledge, it’s as safe as they come. The people are kind and generous, and I have never felt more welcomed than I have anywhere else in the world.

 

Our first trip to PNG – the hunt for the elusive Black Bass

Our first trip with two guests started with a two-hour flight from Brisbane to Port Moresby, and a connecting flight onto the Island of West New Britain to a place called Kimbe. From Kimbe, we had a four-hour trip in a long boat to eventually arrive at our lodge – so as you may have gathered – it’s quite remote. The boat ride was an adventure, cruising past ocean front villages with crystal clear water and reefs only about 500m from their front door step. Their huts are right on the water’s edge and it’s hard to believe such a place has not been developed like most other beautiful places around the world with ocean views. We arrived at our lodge and met up with another team of anglers and sat back to enjoy a few ice-cold SP Larger Green cans while we talked over our plan for the next four days fishing for the mighty black bass. The night before any fishing adventure is always filled with huge anticipation and this was no different. Six anglers from all around the world comparing stories and all excited about landing one of these sport fishing brutes.

 

Equipment for catching the Black Bass

Black Bass are often referred to as one of the best pound-for-pound fighting fish around, so we came well equipped: Shimano Stella 6000’s spin reels matched with 8-12kg rods, 60-80lb leader and lures all with upgraded trebles and split rings. Personally, I prefer to fish with bait casters, so I was using a Shimano Tranx matched with an 8-10kg Shimano Zodias rod. What tackle to opt for is always a decent debate, but my theory is if you have a set up capable of catching the species and you a comfortable with it, then there is your answer. ‘Pinch yourself moments’ – fishing amongst volcanoes, jungles and wild river beasts. With a mixture of surface lures and deep divers packed, we were off for day one. The rivers in PNG are incredible – surrounded by jungle, active volcanoes in the hills, wild pigs on the waters’ edge and thousands of fallen palm trees providing ample hiding spots for the river beasts. What I liked most about the area was with each river system, five in total were completely different and offered different challenges for anglers. The morning bite was steady – a few strikes without a hook up, and it only after lunch where we were on the board, with a small Spot Tail Bass which fights just as hard. When you gear yourself up for the trophy fish, ‘only’ catching the bi-catch may seem less than ideal, but if you go too light and miss that big fish, you’d be kicking yourself, I am sure you all know the drill. A bit of a catch 22. Most of the morning and afternoon sessions saw us using surface lures including ‘walk the dog’ lures, small stick baits and medium-size timber poppers. The slower retrieves seemed to work best and often fish were striking on the pause. And when my fellow anglers landed their prized catch, the eruption the Black Bass fish make when hitting a surface lure is unbelievable. And when it’s happening in the pitch black of early morning or late evening, it can really make your blood pump.

 

My long wait for the trophy fish

The first two days we landed some cracking fish. But by night two, I was sitting around the lodge thinking I must have upset the fishing gods as I was yet to boat a Black Bass. When five anglers sit around a table with a buzz talking about all the Bass they’d caught and how hard they fight, I was feeling like the kid at school picked last for school yard games. Lucky I had thick skin eh? Our day three morning started slow, until around mid-morning – the guide marked two fish on his sounder, sitting under a fallen log. But the fish weren’t alone – a five-metre crocodile was sunning himself on the same log. I’ve seen plenty of crocs in the wild and they deserve to be left alone. But the fish on the sounder were too hard to resist, so we snuck in for a few casts. I was fishing with a 120mm walk-the-dog lure and I put seven casts pretty much exactly where I wanted them, with no result. The eighth cast obviously upset the croc and he decided to leave his log and follow my lure. When he was about two meters from the boat, BANG – a Black Bass decided he was going to beat the crocodile to the lure and smashed it right in front of me. Now that got my heart pounding. He was back at his log before I knew it, so I had to put some serious pressure on the fish to stop him. Lucky the pressure worked, and I managed to turn him and get him out into the deeper water for most of the fight. When that fish landed, it was an unexplainable feeling. Relief, excitement and adrenaline rolled in one, which other anglers know and understand all too well. I had been setting my sights on catching a Back Bass for almost 15 years, and to finally land one was beyond satisfying.

 

Experiencing the beauty of PNG

Other than my first Black Bass, the rest of the fishing adventure was slow after rain drenching the river dirty. While it can feel deflating having to pull in the reel, you’re quickly perked up with opportunities to explore the beautiful surroundings of PNG. Freshwater streams, waterfalls, active volcanoes in the creeks, and some of the best reefs for diving and snorkelling – only about 500m from the shore is Mother Nature at her best. During our stay in Papua New Guinea, we were well looked after. You are lodged in very comfortable accommodation and get to enjoy amazing fresh food cooked by local chefs in your choice of either western or Chinese style. And when you’re surrounded by a group of people from around the world with the same goal and outlook on fishing, it’s hard to have a bad time – and obviously catching your bucket list fish just adds to the excitement.

 

Visit PNG before the secrets out

I encourage every new or experienced angler to try PNG. The waters are an untouched secret and it’s only a matter of time before people catch on and realise the true beauty of this country.

 

About Outside Edge Adventures’ PNG tour

Outside Edge Adventures runs fishing tours in Papua New Guinea for Black Bass and blue water species every year between March and November – outside the wet seasons. Run by former Queensland and Australian professional cricketers, Nathan Reardon turned his love of fishing into a leading Australian-based fishing tour company, Outside Edge Adventures, linking clients with epic fishing adventures. To find out about our next exciting PNG fishing adventure, please contact us.