Trips to the Okavango delta and the Zambezi river are always exciting. There is the chance to catch Africa’s premier fresh water predator, the hard fighting tiger fish, which is always a great adrenalin rush and there are a variety of other fish species that can also be caught on artificial lures. For me, as an artificial lure angler, I am always fired up at the chance to catch different species and add to my tally of different fish caught on lure. Some of the bream species in these systems are quite aggressive and will readily eat a lure, while others are more difficult to entice. The challenge of catching bream on lure is thrilling and I always make sure that I spend some time trying to entice some of these beautiful fish onto the end of my line on a trip.
I pack a variety of lures specifically for bream fishing and when we get to a likely looking spot, I pick up my lighter rod with an appropriate lure and get busy prospecting. Some of the larger mouthed bream species such as the nembwe, thinface largemouth and humpback largemouth will take bigger lures, so you can target them on lures such as Rapala DT series such as the DT6 and DT10.
The name refers to how deep the lure dives, so if the water is less than ten foot deep then I would use the DT6 and if it is more than ten foot deep then I would use the DT10. The colours that seem to work well for these bream species in the Rapala DT series are Red Crawdad, Hot Mustard and then of course the Live series, specially imitating African freshwater baitfish, particularly the redbreast kurper and vlei kurper.
On the Zambezi the best spots to fish for these large mouth bream species is along clay banks, which form underwater ledges. The lures dive deep very quickly, getting to the required depth while still close to the bank and get hit when they get down to the depths where the fish are holding. I also use bass jigs, usually in black or dark brown, or soft plastic minnows rigged on a leadhead. These can be bounced down the underwater clay ledges and also draw aggressive strikes from these bream.
The other good large mouth bream areas on the Zambezi are wherever you find rocks in the water. The nembwe and humpback largemouth in particular, like the eddies created in the current by the rocks, and also like to hide amongst the ledges and overhangs. While fishing the clay banks, rocky areas and structure in the water such as stumps or patches of reeds you also get the occasional pink happy, another bream species of the upper Zambezi that will eat lures from time to time, and of course the occasional three spot bream will also attack lures in the upper Zambezi, though not as regularly as in the Okavango for some reason. In The Okavango many nembwe are caught on the edges of the floating hippo grass, where they can hide beneath the floating layer of grass. Also anywhere where there is a nice backwater or eddy near the bank, particularly if there is structure such as fallen trees in the water.
I like to use a lighter rod and reel set up for targeting bream in the Zambezi than the one I use for tigers.
The softer rod works better with the crankbaits in particular. The ideal bream set up in my opinion is a Shimano Crucial 6’6” rod in the two piece version, with a lovely soft tip and enough backbone and lifting power to handle these powerful fighters. I would match that with a light but strong reel like the Shimano Sedona 2500FD and load it with a good quality line. I like braid for its sensitivity, as well as the very thin diameter to strength. Ideally I would use 10lb Sufix 832, it is very thin and light, yet has excellent abrasion resistant qualities, making it ideal for the job. I would add a leader of around a metre, using 10lb fluorocarbon, to take any abrasion up front and to have minimum leader visibility for finicky fish. Top that off with a good quality snap on the end to facilitate easy changing of lures and you are ready to go!
In The Okavango many nembwe are caught on the edges of the floating hippo grass, where they can hide beneath the floating layer of grass.
Also anywhere where there is a nice backwater or eddy near the bank, particularly if there is structure such as fallen trees in the water, or around a patch of reeds that breaks the current.
Threespot bream are often caught at channel junctions, where the currents meet and create a swirling eddy. They really like spinners and will strike them aggressively. Ideally you want your spinner to sink right to the bottom and then use the slowest retrieve that gets the blade to kick in. As soon as you feel the extra resistance of the spinning blade, then you maintain that speed, keeping the spinner deep and slow, which is ideal for targeting bream.
One of the nice things about fishing the Okavango for bream is the fact that there are many quiet backwaters and lagoons. Sometimes you have to find ways through thick beds of papyrus to get to remote lagoons, which often have lilies and other aquatic plants growing in them. These still waters are excellent areas to target bream and of course the occasional pike as well. Spinners work very well in the lagoons, and a few of my favourites are the Mepps Black Fury in size two or three, particularly the black one with the white dot, or the gold one with the yellow dot. Blue Fox spinners are also excellent for bream and are reasonably priced.
The Hot Pepper in size 2 and 3 are also some of my favourites.
Another technique that has been productive for me in the Okavango lagoons is fishing with small jigs of 1/8 oz, rigged with small curly tail grubs. I like the white or the yellow, but have also had success with purple , brown and grey colours. I let these sink right down and retrieve them with a gentle flick and then take up the slack as I dip the rod tip, readying it for the next flick. The bream hit these very aggressively and I have caught species such as threespot bream, redbreast tilapia, thinface largemouth and of course pike on these little lures.
So whenever you do a trip to either the Okavango or the Zambezi for some tiger fishing, it is worth kitting yourself out for something a little different as well. Enticing bream on artificial lures is great fun and can be challenging. It is nice to take a break from catching those extremely aggressive tigers and just settle down with some finesse angling for a while!