Without a doubt some of the toughest, wildest & biggest bass I ever had the pleasure of landing have come from this large impoundment only 50km from Selebi Pikwe in Botswana.
Letsibogo is a relatively new dam which opened in the year 2000, it has a 18 square kilometer surface area and 100,000,000 m³ capacity. The dam was built to supply water to nearby Selebi Pikwe and now also supplies water to Gabarone 400 kilometres away.
Due to time constraints we got to fish for a day only, but on a dam like Letsi it makes up for 3 days on our local waters. We managed to land just over 30 fish for the day with the biggest topping the scale at well over 4kg and 18 bass in the 3kg range. With so little time we decided to fish the dominant structure in the dam in two sessions. The morning session would be spent fishing the many islands and rock formations in front and to the left of the rip rap, and the afternoon session the abundant flooded timber on the right hand side of the launch.
Both these environments can be tough for anglers in any dam but in Letsibogo even more so. The fish are strong and are more than willing to wrap you or snap you at the first opportunity. With that in mind we needed the right tools for the job. Heavy rods in the 7ft range with a strong backbone and a fast, stiff tip is the way to go. I personally fish the sensation magma heavys and find them light enough to fish the whole day and strong enough to haul fish out from heavy cover. Your second consideration is a good reel with strong gears and fast ratios, the Doyo Lubina i was using really outperformed itself, it casted like a dream and never slipped on a tight drag. Line of at least 20lbs breaking strength is the minimal you should opt for. The Berkley Big Game range did the trick for me. The mono lines have some stretch in them so are a bit more forgiving than flourocarbon.
The first thing you will hear from any angler who’s fished Letsi is that the bigger the bait the bigger the fish, the lures that performed exceptionally well for us were Damikis 6.5inch Slam Lunker in junebug, black,green pumpkin and of course Zoom 7 inch mag fluke in the same colours. Because of the dirty water the darker colours are more visible. Coupled with this we were armed with Lazer Trokar wide gap hooks in sizes 6/0 and 7/0. These hooks are ultra sharp and very strong.
Every fishing trip is a learning curve for me and this trip was no different, in the next few paragraphs I would like to share some of my observations with you.
Tips for fishing big Senko type baits
• Firstly you have to fish them slow, I’ve noticed anglers pulling that plastic in so fast you would think they are scared a bass is going to steal it from them. Slow, slow, slowww.
• When rigging ,add a drop of super glue to the eye of the hook and pull the worms head up over it so that the worm stays straight and does not slip down on the cast.
• You can fish this type of bait almost anywhere, try it on all the basic structure like trees, grass & rocks. On that day we were fishing there were at least 20 boats on the water, with all of them cruising the trees. We felt the fish would be pressured in those trees so we opted for the rocks, it was the best decision we made that day, the rocks not only produced all the big fish but quantity too, and all those fish fell to the Senko.
• Give that lure some action: after you’ve casted and not had any strikes don’t just reel in, try shaking your rod tip, it causes the bait to jump a foot or so ,when you stop shaking it just glides back down again,this is more of what I call an irritation technique, it gets any bass angry enough to want to kill it.
• Many strikes occur on the fall after you cast so watch your line, keep it loose but stay in contact with it all the time while it sinks. Just like an earthworm when dunked in water a Senko will wiggle and glide and try to hold its equilibrium and this twitching action seems to attract fish which hit it on the drop. This is Senko fishing – the drop, concentrate on that and you right on the money.
• Make sure your cast is spot on. If fish are sitting tight to cover and if you a meter out don’t waste your time ,reel in and cast again. A tired post spawn bass doesn’t want to chase down a noise a couple of meters away.
• In heavy cover don’t lower your rod at the first indication of a bite ,rather take in the slack fast using the reel, feel the tension on the line then strike with a snap back motion, use the rod to hold the fish away from the structure. Reason being the moment you lower the rod theres at least a half meter to a meter line now lying loose and mister bass uses that slight advantage to wrap you .
• When fishing weightless the fish tend too engulf the whole lure, 90% of the fish we caught, the lure was way back in the gullet, keep a long hook remover or long nose pliers in your tackle box to aid in hook removal.
• Establish a pattern. A pattern is evidence of repeat bass behavior over a period of time. When fishing a new water you often have to rely on your own powers of observation and understanding, which will save you a tremendous amount of energy, time and frustration in figuring out which spots to fish and which to avoid. Learning what depth the fish are sitting on or after how many twitches of your lure the fish are reacting too all help in confining your search.
Letsibogo was a unique experience and one I hopefully will do again. The dam was a pleasure to visit, very well maintained and with no dirt littering the banks. Although the dirt road to the dam needs some serious work. In 2012 the government of Botswana announced plans to build a five star lodge and resort facility on the dam, what impact this will have on this unspoilt dam only time will tell.