It was March and we were keen to go and target some big bass and had heard about this dam in Swaziland which was 5 hours drive from Gauteng. We heard that this dam has big bass but also tiger fish so we packed tackle for both species. We arranged accommodation through a friend of a friend, hooked the bass boat and headed east towards Swaziland (Eswatini).
Obviously when fishing for tiger fish you need extra heavy rods because tiger fish have bony mouths and you need to set the hook when you strike. You also need very strong and typically chemically sharpened hooks or you could use kendal round hooks but then you need a hook sharpener to make sure the hooks are super sharp. The sharp hooks paired with the stiff rod helps to improve your hook up ratio. Black steel wire with black swivels to protect your spinners from tigers teeth is also needed. You can use silver but then you get a lot of miss strikes when the tiger bites the wire or the swivel.
The trailer's wheel bearings seized between Fourways and Centurion and we had to do some quick curbside repairs. We only replaced the one that seized because we were keen to get to Swaziland and catch the border still open. We left Gauteng and crossed through Oshoek just as the sun was setting and when we filled up the boat and the car we saw that the other wheel bearing had seized.
Luckily we had bought extra wheel bearings in Gauteng but replacing wheel bearings in the dark when you are dead keen to get to your destination was no fun. At least this time round we did it properly and replaced both the wheel bearings.
We arrived at our destination at around 9 pm and settled down for the night, because we were going to have an early morning as we still had to launch the boat and explore the dam.
It is beautiful dam with lots of trees and structure. We immediately started pitching at the protruded trees for big bass. My friend Vaughan caught a 2kg bass (he would obviously argue that it was a 2.5kg...) early in the morning but thereafter we kept being bitten off.
We changed to tiger lures and started targeting them. We caught lots of tigers between 1kg and 2kg but it was hard work with the Meps size 4 spinners and FZ spoons. I like the double blade copper FZ spoons because I think it makes additional noise in the water and works especially good when you want to pitch under structure.
Vaughan had bought a dome type of net and when we arrived back at camp we put some bread inside this net and tied it to the fence in knee deep water hoping to catch some small tilapia for live bait.
The next morning we inspected the net and found one or two tilapia and some fresh water craws. We put the craws into a cooler box and the tilapia in the live well. We parked between two trees and fished the tilapia as live bait with a float and had almost instant hookups. The spinners and blades where less successful and more work.
That afternoon we went back to camp for lunch and incentivised some locals to catch small tilapia for us as bait. This strategy was very successful and we had lots of little tilapia as live bait every day. This technique worked best and we must have caught as many tigers as we had live bait everyday +/- 50 per day each.
Over the next three days we caught lots of tigers but nothing bigger than 2kg. We tried once or twice again for bass but the tigers were too aggressive. We changed the bait in the net from bread to dead tilapia which we didn't use the previous day and caught many freshwater craws which we prepared and braaied like crayfish and it was actually very good to eat.
On our way back to Gauteng we broke one of the leaf springs on the trailer and we had to go and selvage a leaf spring from a second hand trailer for an exorbitant fee, but luckily it lasted and we arrived home safely after a memorable adventure.
Special thanks to Vaughan and his trailer maintenance skills.