Black Bass V Predator
  |  First Published: October 2008

I recently had the opportunity to test the Old Town Predator SS150 under quite unusual conditions.

We were visiting Baia Sportfishing Lodge on the island of New Britain north west of Port Moresby, New Guinea. On our second day owner Riccard arrived from Kimbe in his 10.5m Steber with the Predator tied to the foredeck. As Pam and I enjoy canoeing in our home waters, I was quick to ask Riccard if we could make use of his newest vessel. Riccard agreed, and we assumed that we would go for a paddle in the creek behind the lodge.

A sleep-in and late breakfast the next morning saw us arrive at the boat dock after 8.00am. We were surprised to see the Predator tied across the bow of a 22’ longboat. Riccard had provided two local guides for us for the day, and had arranged a surprise location for our lunch. With our gear loaded on the longboat John took the helm and set off for our river.

Approximately 28km from Baia Lodge there is a land locked river called the Nesai. This river has not been fished by clients of Baia Lodge before, because there is no access for the longboats. John pulled the boat into the beach where he and William quickly unloaded the Predator and our equipment, much to the enjoyment of some of the local inhabitants. None of the locals had seen a “lik lik plastick kanu” before. They are more used to spending about 4 weeks cutting one out of a suitable log.

At 4.7m the Predator SS150 is smaller than most traditional New Guinea canoes although the 102cm beam is far wider. The locals use bamboo outriggers on their craft to compensate for the lack of stability in their narrow hulls, but these are not necessary on the Old Town Predator. The maximum load carrying capacity of the Predator is a substantial 793.8kg, while the largest load I saw on a local outrigger was two adults, three children, 2 dogs and a large bag of coconuts.

With the Old Town weighing in at only 51.2kg, John and William had no trouble carrying the Predator and our fishing, snorkelling and camera gear over the beach to the river. John and William carried everything and John paddled all day. While John was paddling, William slept under a tree, but they seemed to have their roles sorted out between themselves.

John paddled easily against the current as we headed upstream casting at likely looking places that a black bass may call home, he also commented that it was much easier to “pul long kanu” (paddle) the Predator than it was to paddle his own outrigger. After a few mangrove jack, I struck pay-dirt and hooked up on a black bass. John’s eyes were always following our lures and he called the strike as I felt it. We saw the fish and John’s comment was very succinct, “Bikpela Pis, (Pidgen for Big Fish) no net!”

He then paddled the canoe backwards across the river onto a mud bank so I could land the fish. We jumped out as the canoe ran aground and the bass came into the shallows where John promptly pounced on it and threw it into the canoe. At 13lb it was the best black bass of our trip and I was ecstatic. I’m not sure how John felt about being hugged by me, but he didn’t look happy.

With the fish released we went on to catch numerous mangrove jack and a lone tarpon before calling a halt to the morning’s proceedings. Our guides loaded the canoe back on the longboat and took us to another river for a picnic lunch and a swim in crystal clear, fresh water, only 100m from the ocean. I walked up-stream and fly fished for spot-tail bass in a likely looking hole with no luck. We then paddled another river that was so narrow it was almost impossible to fish.

The next morning Pam and I arose early and snuck down to the mooring area. With nobody watching we purloined the Predator and went looking for a waterfall we had been told existed at the end of the nearest creek and the jungle perch in the hole below it. Unfortunately we weren’t told which fork to take with Pam and I spending a lot of time jumping in and out dragging it over logs, and lying on the floor traversing under overhanging trees. We returned to the lodge in a very sorry state, with Pam having been immersed in mud up to her shoulders. We had time for a quick dip and snorkel on the reef right in front of the lodge before lunch. At lunch we were asked if we saw any of the crocodiles in creek!

The canoeing trip is an option that will be offered at Baia Sportfishing Lodge, and I can definitely recommend it to any prospective clients. Riccard intends to fit a 4hp outboard to the square stern of the Predator to make John’s life a little easier. I’m not sure about William’s. – Dale Sinclair

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