Trippin’ at Tiger 5
By Trevor Tau Fik
Offhand, I would say that there are probably five or six places that a Malaysian fisho absolutely has to fish at before being worthy of admission into the pantheon of “accomplished anglers”. For me, one of those places is the terrifying Tiger 5 Saltwater Game Fishing pond in Sitiawan. Why did I use that word to describe the place? Let me explain…
Even before this trip was planned, I had heard the fish are so big that two or three of ‘em combined would easily outweigh my scrawny 57kg butt. Scary isn’t it? Then I heard that if you are caught using barbed hooks, they make you buy the friggin’ fish at RM100 per kilo. That is RM2,000 to RM3,000 per fish! Like I said … it’s terrifying.
* click on pics to enlarge
My motley crew of seven, however, seem like the kind of guys who fear no fish. They may kneel before God or girls occasionally, but I doubt any of them have ever met a fish they couldn’t handle. So it was with suave swag that they strutted in that searing Saturday morning, eager to meet whatever gargantuan groupers or sinister siakap that purportedly inhabit these waters. Like a squad of trained mercenaries, they quickly assembled their weaponry, fanned out orderly along one side of the pond and started firing an assortment of projectiles comprising mainly soft plastic lures. The rectangular pond is only about 60 by 15 metres, give or take, so our posse easily carpet-bombed the place with our offerings.
Not wanting to squash in with the crowd, I walked over to the opposite bank of the pond. Away from the aerating water-wheel and everyone else, the water here was still and it gave me “that feeling” anglers sometimes get where we just know there is a lunker in the water nearby just waiting to mince your tackle and make an ass of you. After a couple of casts, I figured the pond is about six to eight feet deep, so I alternated between a slow and moderate retrieve. That way, I reckoned my titbit would be crawling along the bottom on one cast, and darting around in mid-water on the next.
Either the technique was good, or I was just plain lucky … coz after about 10 swings, something bumped my lure twice in quick succession. “Tope … tope!!!” My heart imploded and visions of grappling with a Godzilla grouper blanked out my mind. I went into auto-pilot mode – lower rod, take up slack and strike the sh*t outta the SOB! I whipped my entire body backwards in a malicious double-handed swoosh. About a third of the way up, I felt a thunderous connection and my rod crunched downwards into a frightening curve. Hookup! It felt like I had snagged a tree stump, but it was moving … and fast! My reel hissed in protest of being forced to strip, while I dug in my heels as the enraged fish revved towards the bank on my right. When it got there and could go no further, it turned around and headed towards the middle of the pond, all the while furiously beating its tail and wildly shaking its head to tell me it was not happy about the way we met. I felt its raw power rattling my wrists on every run and hell, it was BIG!
Every time it stopped for a breather, I would steal back some line with a few quick pumps and rapid cranks. But whenever I thought I was making some progress, the belligerent beast would just turn its butt in my face and take off again. As the action peaked, Tiger 5 marshal and guide, Alex, quickly came trotting over with a videocam in hand to film me fighting the first fish of the day (*takes a bow*). A “pond deckie” also showed up beside me, with a large landing net at the ready. After about 10 minutes of rod-creaking and bone-crackling labour, a huge swirl emerged in the water about three metres from the bank. Whoooaaa! It’s a monster! As if to enhance my shout of awe, a Goliath grouper came up just then and glared at us. Holy howitzers, the dang thing had a head the size of a planet! Seeing an opportunity now that it was on the surface, I gingerly clicked the drag knob a couple of notches tighter and heaved a cautious lift. The fish tried to resist, but clearly quite spent from throwing its tantrum earlier, it grudgingly slid into the net. Touchdown!!!
My jaw hung open as they brought my captive up for a quick pic. It was a beautiful specimen, albeit a “small” one of only about 20kgs, wearing a dark-coloured commando uniform. Although restrained and in “enemy” hands, it maintained a dignified and brazen look. As it calmly swam away upon release, I gave it a mental salute, from one fighter to another … there was no loser in this battle.
With all the commotion highlighting the action on the side of the pond I was fishing, my friends Ming and Boon Yew soon came over and started working the waters too. And things really picked up from then on. Boon Yew caught two slabs of siakap that leapt like lunatics, while Kolby on the opposite bank hooked and lost something that ran like a finned rhino … only to get another hit moments later. He landed that one – a grumpy grouper that almost matched his weight (he’s very slim). But alas, Kolby’s rod broke later that day. Like I said, things were really picking up.
Just as I hooked my third fish, Alfred and Jason had simultaneous hits, making it a triple hookup! How cool is that? Lotsa fish were caught and released or lost from there on, and everyone was smiling, sweating and smelling like fish. With the exception of Ming and Erik, who both hooked and lost a fish each … and blamed it on each other. Also scoreless was Bruce, our de facto captain (hey, he brought the beers). But that didn’t bother him coz the guy is known to tame sharks with his little finger, so I guess “guppy groupers” would be beneath him.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, marshal Alex announced that we would next get to fish at “Pond #2” – where the action is even better! When we arrived there, I instantly recognized the place from the Tiger 5 videos online. It is an oddly-shaped pond, with a crooked and narrow plank jetty protruding about five metres out over the water. A strange feature at this pond is the two electric posts sticking out of the water (don’t ask). But the action here is crazy.
It started off really slow, and no one caught anything for about an hour. Then the pond owner showed up. Feeling a little embarrassed that his “performers weren’t dancing” that day, he enticed them a bit by scattering some feed fodder on the water. And the place erupted! Suddenly, there were fish everywhere in front of us. Just a metre off the jetty, a huge mouth startled me with an explosive “boof!” Pretty soon, the water was boiling with gangster groupers … fins sticking out, mouths boofing and tails slashing. All we had to do was toss out a rubber grub just a spit away and boof … instant hookup!
Over the next two hours, we were like a bunch of ants while fighting the fish … jostling our rods, going around each other and scrambling all over the jetty. There were double, triple, quadruple and multiple hookups, and just as many bust-offs, when the fish twined our lines under the jetty. I totally lost count and track of who caught how many fish. It was an insane scene, with adults whooping like kids, fish thrashing like kraken and the scent of adrenaline hanging thick in the air. Slowly and satisfyingly, we wound down our efforts to catch more fish. Not because they weren’t biting anymore, it was just that we all had already consumed enough joy to keep us deliriously ecstatic for months to come.
As we left, I thought about how I would tell the day’s story to an angler who has never been to this place. Such a person may balk at the RM2,000 per group fee, or the arduous long drive to get here, and would probably ask if it is all worth it. To which I would reply: “Have you ever had such a good fishing day that your arms screamed for you to stop?”
I rest my case …