I keep in touch with a fair few switched-on fishermen all over the world, and I have a particular soft spot for all things Africa related - John Crabb is a frighteningly talented and accomplished angler based down in South Africa, indeed he was the youngest ever rock and surf fisherman to qualify for their national team. That's how good he is, and he just happens to be one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. I first came across John out in the remote Seychelles when he was guiding for FlyCastaway, and we then hooked up last year for some saltwater and freshwater fishing back in South Africa. Above is John with a "regular" sized 100kg plus (220lb) ragged tooth shark he landed in under 15 minutes off the beach at Kosi Bay when I was there. Straight-sticking is a fighting term that we simply are not familiar with here in the UK. And I thought I could put the gears on a fish - not even close Henry !!
A couple of days I got an email from John that kind of fried my brain a bit. Here is an excerpt (and thanks to John for letting me use it) :
"I must also mention myself and Timmo went down to Mazeppa bay in the Eastern Cape a while ago. We decided to try and swim some big baits (when John says big baits, you don't want to know how big !!) for a monster (shark), we came off so second best! I got stripped 3 times in a row to the drum, 1000m of line gone! It is such an odd place, every live shark you put back in the water gets eaten by a bigger shark, Some clever guy there put a hook in a 70kilo (150lb) bronzie, swam it in 50m off the front of the rock where a real monster shark jumped on it and proceded to devour the entire thing an then take all the guys line into the ocean... That place really is a case of "the bigger the bait, the bigger the bite!"."
"The trouble is that there needs to be a limit somewhere, what is the biggest shark we can land? The rig I am using now is insane! In Namibia I would put an 80 kilo (170lbs) bronzie on the beach in around 4-7 minutes! It literally becomes a tug-of war, awesome! The thing is when you get over 300kilos (650lbs plus !!) the fight lasts so long there are so many things that can break."
Lots of us talk about extreme fishing, but that first paragraph is about the most extreme, far out shore fishing that I have ever heard of. They do some mad stuff down in South Africa, but now John is having to question just how or even if they can hope to land the biggest sharks out there. The "small" stuff they are doing with consumate ease, but getting spooled over 1000 metres of line by a fish is no joke, indeed I think I would have passed out with adrenaline overload well before my spool had emptied. The idea of sticking hooks into smaller sharks and "swimming" them out as bait is something we might never contemplate having to do in Europe, but that is what they do to hook the really big ones. Livebaiting is livebaiting, whatever way you look at it.
John has also been in Namibia recently, a place that will forever provide me with some of the finest fishing memories of my entire life. I will never forget hooking my first ever shark off the beach out there. Check this out :
"I was in Namibia a few weeks back where we got some nice fish (anything that is not a shark - kob, steenbras etc.) and a few good size bronzies. I have found the most awesome spot where I am going to get a monster bronzie on the fly, the water is flat calm and they (100kilo+ sharks (220lbs plus)) come and swim around right at your feet and get well angry when you put some smell in the water! Just need to get back there!!!!! Also got a nice 10kilo+ kob where I swam out to a bank and put in a 250m (not quite, but almost!) cast to a gully at the back."
Some of you might know that the fish in the photo above is a kabeljou, or "kob" for short - this one was taken on bait a few years back off a beach in Namibia by a good friend of mine, Steve McGuire. The first time I saw one of these fish and I was hooked for life - they remind me a bit of our own bass in the way that they bite and fight, and the kob aboive is a nice sized fish for Namibia. There are various species of kob, but the absolute biggest ones tend to get caught in southern Angola and also in South Africa - both places have thrown up kob of well over 100lbs, indeed I have seen good photos of one approaching 200lbs that was taken off a beach in Angola a few years back. Kob will take bait, lures, flies, you name it, it's like our bass fishing (only plenty bigger) - get the bait or lure in the right place and at the right time and you are in with a shout. They are stunning fish.
Now check this out from John Crabb -
"I actually forgot to mention that we have finally worked out how to catch them (kob) on plastics in Namibia! I went down a few times fishing in between the rocks (pretty similar to your bass fishing over there) and nailed quite a few. Some mates of Warren's were there the day after me and they got 37 fish on plastics in one session!!!! We got a few bigger fish a bit further up the coast on plastics as well, you should have seen Warren (FlyCastaway guide and also shore guides in Namibia when he is there, awesome bloke) when he got his first one! The guy was jumping around like a maniac! He actually took all my spinning tackle off me when I left so he could keep fishing! Its only a matter of time and I think we are going to really get it right and start taking the bigger (10kg+ (22lb+)) fish more consistently. Some other guys I know over there had a day when they got 16 fish between 8 and 17 kilos (16-36lbs) on plastics! These guys are amateurs and were casting about 20-30m. How far do you guys cast on average when fishing for bass, or how far can you cast with those fancy red rods you use? I am seriously contamplating investing in one. I have a rig which can throw a plastic bait around 100m and I know if I spend a bit of time learning it I am going to smash a monster kob!"
Book me a ticket, I'm heading down there as soon as possible !! Plans are afoot and have been for a while in all honesty - there are a few places in South Africa where the big kob can run pretty consistently at the right time of year, and you can take them on baits and lures, plus loads of other mad species like big rays, sharks, garrick etc. And when the shoals of kob run up in Namibia, they run big time - ok, so they are not quite as large as in South Africa or Angola, but there can be so many fish that at times it is like casting into an aquarium. Numbers of fish gives one the chance to really experiment, and perhaps it is time I thought about a return trip to this wonderful country. Sounds to me like smashing kob on plastics could well be done in Namibia with the heavier bass fishing gear we use - Tenryu Red Dragon Express, 5000 size spinning reel and 30lb braid would do it I reckon. I get itchy feet being away from Africa, it really gets to you, and we hear so little about all the different kinds of fishing out there.