Papuan Coast Expedition
15-21, September 2019
Black Bass Addiction
The lodge at Terapo is a little known gem in the PNG Black Bass world. Whilst most prefer the luxuries offered by our mothership the MV:K2O, air conditioning, full galley and luxury suites, the lodge is targeted at anglers who aren’t scared of roughing it a little. The repurposed missionary lodge has basic amenities like simple single beds with mosquito netting, running water and power in the evenings. We are now into our sixteenth season running expeditions to the Papuan Coast, the location is one of the toughest destinations in the Gulf but the thing that keeps people returning is the quality of fish coupled with the alluring fact that very few are privileged enough to access the waterways, we only allow 6 trips each season to Terapo to keep the rivers primed and promote catch and release. If you can’t cast all day every day for 5 days straight, the lodge is not the destination for you!
After 10 months of prep, it was great to have our old friend Mud back in PNG, he first visited back in 2013 with mates to tick the Bass off their bucket list, with the by-catch metric Barra. Quick revisions on gear were necessary with the river levels being exceptionally low and the knowledge that the bass had the upper hand getting back to their snags. Heavy gear was the only option so no risks were taken, PNG Raskol, Bone, Venom, Synit and some custom built 50lb rods were the only weapons capable.
After the amazing sing sing and welcome from Chief Cletus, the boys were all keen to hit the water for the afternoon bite. Heading down the mouth meant new PB’s for Billy, Phil and Dave with a 110cm Barra being the highlight. Mist greeted us the following morning as we peeled away from the village, this is the most special time of day for me, just you and the coastal villagers starting the day in their piece of paradise. After years of working with the locals, there is a great rapport and general excitement when they see the boats cruising the rivers. The villagers understand the benefit of eco-tourism and the assistance provided by SFPNG and other sponsors to their aid post, education, sports and church.
Traditional Sing Sing to welcome the clients.
Donation to Aid outposts, schools and villages.
The decision was made to head upstream to see whether we could find some bass before the run in tide, it was very tough going early on, cast after cast going unmolested! A couple of boats headed down to the mouth to see if the Barra would play ball while Boxhead, Jim and myself persisted in the creeks, much respect for these fellas casting their asses off in 38 degree heat! Shortly after the tide change, the fish came on the chew, Boxhead connected to a beast that engulfed his Duo G87 and had the rod bent all the way through the grip! Massive headshakes and weight meant that this must be a big Barra and sure enough a fish that was every part of 120cm broke the surface near the boat and spat the lure straight back at him. While rubbing salt in the wound was fun, Boxhead had another opportunity soon after… The fish hit like a steam train, peeling line from a 10kg drag like it was nothing and threatening to snap the rod, we managed to tow the beast out to the main river before it decided it wanted freedom, easily busting the 130lb leader. Boxhead reckons the bass do summersaults around the snags to bust the line lol. With daylight running out we dejectedly headed back to the lodge, only to find that the boats that went down to the mouth had a blinder! 7 Barra over a metre and double digit monsters lost, this gave the boys a much needed spirit boost knowing that the fish were down the mouth
That night I got the guides together to come up with a strategy, with the dry season in full swing and the swamps being dry we had to think about what will give our clients the best chance at tussling with beasts. The spring tides had cleaned up the water the week prior but we just couldn’t get the fish upstream to bite. We made the call to head down to the estuary in force. Andre, Mud, Billy, Jim and Bushy did ok on the Barra but the bass were aloof with only a couple of strikes resulting in bust offs. Luckily the boys at the lodge work like a well-oiled machine to keep the anglers and boats fuelled ready to rock and roll each morning, makes for a much more comfortable day on the water! With the mouth being finicky we decided on a different strategy for day 4…
Cruising in to the first spot of the day and Dave wasted no time to put in the first lure in the water. Phil was still busily picking the bacon out of his teeth with a toothpick when Dave’s lure hit the water, before he got it to depth it was demolished with his ATC Combat reel spinning like it was in free spool. I kicked the boat into reverse and towed them out into the river proper to continue the battle. Dave carefully pumping and winding to edge the fish closer to the boat, there was a tense moment as we secured the Boga grips and the bass belting its head on the boat in disgust, the fish tipped the scales at 24lb which is a very respectable first bass! Dave’s legs were trembling for an age afterwards which kept Phil and I in stiches. Unfortunately the promising start was not followed up with any other bass so we went back to the lodge with thoughts on how we would figure the fish out. On returning to the lodge it became clear that in low water the fish seem to bite better around the mouth with tales of monstrous fish busting off 150lb line with ease and locked down drag not stopping anything. Many beers were sunk that night and there were a few sore heads in the morning.
All we needed was a touch of luck, the tackle was the best we could have and we just needed to get lucky pulling one of the beasts from their homes for a fair fight! Snapped rods, straightened hooks, mangled lures and multiple bust offs. It’s as if the fishing gods were laughing at us! Some of these hits were a sight to behold, Ian’s Bone Voyage rod bent through to the butt with a locked down conquest with thumb pressure and the bass didn’t even have to try. I am convinced that the elusive 60lb fish lives in these rivers. We got rain overnight which brought up the river levels so Billy and Boxhead took on the challenge of heading back upstream. We weren’t looking promising after a couple of hours of spot on casting producing naught. Hard work finally paid off for Billy though with a beautiful 14lb bass taken on his little Ryoga and another hook-up straight after. Some healthy stirring saying that Boxhead was the bad luck charm ensued, it didn’t help that Boxhead lost his favourite G87 soon after to a snag! The boys down at the estuary fared better with the fish of the trip going to Bushy with a 95cm beast of a bass >30lb. Phils boat scored 22 fish in their morning bite and everyone had stories of fish caught and lost.
95 cm Black Bass caught by Paul!
To sum up the trip, it took about 3 days to figure out where the fish were holding, massive kudos to the anglers putting in the hard yards in 10-12hour days in tropical heat is not for the faint of heart! Lots of new theories formed about the movements of bass and plenty of knowledge shared. The engagement of everyone and positive vibe really leads to a great trip regardless of the fish landed, the stories everyone takes away last a lifetime and it drives our team to work harder every trip. Thanks to all of the crew that made this trip a success!
The lodge will either make or break visiting anglers, the conditions can change overnight as the rivers are fed by the southern mountains which funnel vast amounts of water downstream. The real drawcard is the quality over quantity, there are many locations with numbers of smaller fish to offer but none that offer the challenge that the lodge does. If you are up to the challenge, make sure your gear is up to scratch, so many people are sent home with their tails between their legs because they wanted to be “sporting”.
The only question left is whether you are ready?
2020 trips have now opened for booking, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Jia An Ng