2018 Presidents Test Lake Mteri, Zimbabwe vs. South Africa vs. Namibia
The Zimbabwe management team went out on a limb and decided to host the 2018 test at Mteri with the idea that the test was about the fishing, not about a guaranteed win. – Clint Skinner
The Zimbabwe management team went out on a limb and decided to host the 2018 test at Mteri with the idea that the test was about the fishing, not about a guaranteed win. As it turned out South Africa were the side that found the bigger fish, thus ensuring they retained the trophy they had won at Inanda in 2017. The average bass over the scales over the three days was 1.91kg which is a hefty 4lbs 3oz and might give some indication as to why Mteri is still regarded as the top venue in Zimbabwe.
Namibia Bass Angling Association sent a three boat team to compete and they were a welcome addition to the tournament. Hopefully from 2019 they are able to send a full twelve man team to partake. They undertook a massive three day journey to arrive at the venue, sore and tired they may have been but ready to compete they were and those buggered bodies soon forgot the pain when, within minutes of the start on the first practise day, good fish were already coming to the boat or being shaken off so as not to hurt them before the tournament really got underway.
teams that all travelled home heavier than they arrived. Great food, comfortable lodges and incredible service. To the teams of South Africa and Namibia, well fished and thank you for a great week where fishing truly was the winner. So how does one prepare for a day’s fishing at a big fish venue?
Ensure your equipment is in the best possible condition, serviced reels and line that is not only of the right strength but also free of nicks. Good strong freshly tied knots… none of this “it was fine 2 months ago when I last went fishing” take the time to cut and retie. I personally like using 15lb Tatsu but it is expensive and not everyone is able to justify this cost especially if you are not a tournament angler, so ask your local shop for a line that has the pulling power as well as the ability to withstand punishment of rocks and trees. Ensure your hooks are strong and sharp Ensure your rods are in good condition, reel seats are tight and rod guides are free of chips. We spend money to travel but then skimp on a R50 replacement eye that could cost you the big fish you are targeting.
Sunglasses, wear the best polarized sun glasses that you can afford. They not only protect your eyes but if sight fishing is an option will be worth their weight in gold.
Do some research and take along the baits that work but ensure you take baits you are confident throwing. No point in throwing a jig because the dam is a jig dam if you
have no confidence in it. It can happen that the jig may be kind to you but your confidence bait will likely still have done better.
Ensure everything else you are using is in good condition, the boat, the net, the bass motor etc. So assuming the above is now done and you are ready to hit the water what now? Since we are at Mteri here is how I would go about a day on this dam.
The dam wall is a long 2km of rip rap and has to be fished at some stage. Depending on the time of the year the bite here varies but good fish can be caught on twitch baits, surface baits and both hard and soft sub surface baits.
Trees, there are trees throughout the dam, less on the dam wall side and these get thicker and thicker as one progresses towards the river. First lesson here, if you do not know the line to take keep the boat off the plane! These are hardwood Mopani trees and nothing would spoil your day more than taking the leg off your boat and believe me, its more likely than you think. Target the trees with your favoured soft plastic, jig or hard bait.
Rock, the dam is littered with rock piles. While Google earth can help, finding those that are not on the Google map can be key so good side imaging equipment comes into its own. If you don’t own any then keep an eye out for rocks that do stick out the water and then check in the area around these. There are often more rocks you won’t be aware of and casting a Carolina rig can often help you find these. Deep diving crank baits and twitch baits also have their own place most of the year.
Weed; depending on the water levels weed lines and submerged grass are key areas. Toss that spook or surface frog and get ready to hold on.
Early August is a favourite time for me at Mteri. I would start the day on a point with some vegetation around and hopefully a few rocks and trees as well. A large surface bait of some sort would be my favoured lure and seldom does the early morning go past without at least one giant blowing up on the bait, having the skill to boat these hard fighting fish might be the issue but getting the bite is half the fun. I will keep this bait on the deck all day and it will get thrown regardless of weather conditions for a few minutes every hour.
My go-to soft plastic would be a seven inch Senko although a large fluke or a big tailed bait also have their space here and can be thrown at all the above mentioned structure be, it shallow or deep. Weightless or weighted, they all work at Mteri. So, likely at least three rods rigged with plastic.
Hard baits, a medium to deep diving crank would always be tied on as well as a spinnerbait. Six rods on deck and a few under the deck ready to go. After the early morning start move through the trees from 2ft to the channel in 25ft or so and try find what the fish are doing. At times the surface is on fire and by 10:00 you have already worked through a few packets of frogs without even picking another rod up. In this very test one of the boats was having so much fun they found it hard to leave the jerk bait bite alone but the fish were all 3lbs and one does not win at Mteri with a 3lb average but in social fishing what more can one ask for?
Right now as I write this it is late July, full moon beckons and love is in the water. The females are moving up and without a doubt someone is about to break their personal best on a Mteri giant. Expect every cast to be that fish because if you are not prepared you will lose out when she does bite, these fish are strong. A 4lb feels like an 8lb and a 6lb like a ten. Just remember once caught, treat her right. Release as quickly as you can. Sure, get a photo but allow those females the ability to spawn and keep Mteri producing the fish it is famous for!
This dam is alive with life, various bream species with some very good specimens amongst them making up more bait fish than you have likely ever seen in a dam. Add that to the craw fish and you understand why the bass grow as they do.
The border crossing is easy, the police polite and the fish waiting, what are you waiting for?
Until next time – On Dad
Charl Engelbrecht netting for his partner Stephan Britz
Dilesh and Mark; Zimbabwe’s top boat fishing the trees
Grant Amm (Zim-captain) and Bruce Cooke sharing a joke