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Guyana Gear Pack

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

By David Graham: Dec 23, 2023

In the wake of my 2023 trip to Guyana I had a lot of interest and questions regarding the gear and equipment I brought. So - I am going to breakdown the gear we had, what we didn't need, and what we wish we had brought here.


Rod and Reel

I brought a total of four rods for myself. Two 'big game' setups, and two for casting lures for smaller predators. The most critical gear was obviously the rod and reel combination's! Guyana's Essequibo river system has unique targets that range anywhere from two-pounds to over 300 pounds! We needed gear that could tackle everything in-between.

Heavy Combo

Both heavy rods were seven foot heavy action Ugly Stik boat rods. Each was paired with a Penn Spinfisher 8500LL spooled with 150lb power pro main line, and a 7-8 foot 'shock leader' of 200lb mono.

These were utilized specifically for catfish and arapaima. I have used essentially the same combos for various species like alligator gar, sturgeon, sharks, juvenile goliath groupers. stingrays and more. They have always held up to the task for fish up to 400 pounds.

I like the use of a live line feature any time I am bait fishing with circle hooks. This keeps the fish from being able to abruptly jerk a rod overboard, and gives you more leeway to allow the fish to carry a bait before deciding when to engage the fish.

The Ugly Stik's gave me the confidence that in such rugged conditions torqueing on exceptionally powerful fish, I would not have to worry about being out in remote jungle far from civilization and having a rod break.

In retrospect, bringing a single rod, but maybe two reels with different line class may have been better in the spirit of minimizing gear. At no point did we ever fish more than one rod at a time. Generally this is because you're fishing from a small boat and the action was always fast.

Med Heavy Combos

For 'smaller' species - the medium heavy 7'6 rods worked well on predator species. I paired a Star Seagis rod with a Daiwa BG 4000 spooled with 40lb braid on each. This setup proved to be more than enough for the peacock bass, arowanas, payara and piranhas.

In Retrospect

Ideally, two to three piece travel rods may be the more ideal option. Having nothing but one piece rods did give a little extra backbone in the rod - but was difficult to lug around in a long rod tube. They were not great for transport, and the only good thing we had going for us was the fact it was a one way flight to Georgetown from Miami. In future trips, I would absolutely favor 2 to 3 piece travel rods.



Rigging for the catfish, toothy predators, and arapaima was very basic. I pre-tied and brought rigging material for catfish and arapaima prior to the trip. Rigs were interchangeable between species using a 600lb snap swivel attached to the 200lb shock leader.


For catfish species I used 180lb Malin Hard-wire leaders coupled with 10/0 Demon Perfect circle hooks using a haywire twist. We found the catfish were not weary of the leader material at all and it held up to the beating of numerous fish exceptionally well.

In retrospect, the demon perfect circle hook may have not been the best performing hook. They seem to lose their edge easily and don't re-sharpen particularly well. I would absolutely favor something like a size 10/0 BKK Monster Circle in the future.

The hard-wire leaders handled the abrasiveness of the catfish's mouth well, but was mostly used to combat the ever present issue of piranhas. The piranha absolutely positively could not hurt the integrity of 180lb hard-wire whatsoever.

Because most of the catfish fishing was done around deep pools in heavier current with a lot of rocky bottom, we used 6-8oz. egg sinkers on the shock leader above the hard-wire leader. These held well enough, and we only had a handful of situations where our sinker got wedged into rock crevices. In retrospect, a heavy teardrop weight on a breakaway rig of some sort may be a better application in this environment where - heaven forbid - an entire rig doesn't have to be lost due to the weight getting stuck.


I brainstormed up an idea on these fish months before the trip. This prehistoric giant is generally slow moving, investigative, and cautious. For that reason, I knew the rig would be critical.

At the risk of being bit off by piranhas, I opted against wire leaders with arapaimas... and did not want to use straight heavy mono, because while its durable and abrasion resistant, its also stiff and detectable to an investigative bite.

Rather, I chose to tie rigs with 550lb kevlar cable. The specific cable I chose was by Emma Kites. It is a highly abrasion resistant material that can withstand extreme conditions. The cord itself is so tough it can actually by used to saw through wood, pvc pipe, rope and more!

Despite its toughness though, the material is SOFT. This was the key component for me. I needed leader material that was durable, but pliable and soft. Something a fish could chew on and mouth, but not be overly suspicious of. I admit that the idea of tying rigs with this material made me nervous, but it performed incredibly well!

The Kevlar leaders were each about three feet long and tied to 10/0 offset circle hooks with a snell knot. I found some inexpensive 10/0 catfish hooks that were absolutely perfect... and frankly, the same hooks worked just fine on the bigger redtail catfish and jau as well.

I had also brought large sliding floats. I think under the right circumstance these would be great for 'bait and wait' style fishing for arapaima, but most of what we did was casting at rolling fish... so it was just free-lined chunks of bait with no float and no weights. Still, i'd suggest putting out a sliding float for earlier bite detection if waiting with lines in the water.

The heavy 200lb mono shock leader was very useful for the arapaima. The key here is that when you and your guide have to physically get out into the shallow water with the arapaima, you're controlling the fish with the line. It is thrashing and fighting and people are grabbing the line to leader the fish in by hand. You will destroy your hands if using straight braid in this scenario. The thick 200lb mono was perfect for grabbing the leader and containing the arapaima.

Other Hooks - I would absolutely suggest bringing a variety of hook styles and sizes. At times we found large schools of payara below our boat. The circle hooks were not very effective or efficient with the toothy mouth of the payara. We made a switch to size 3/0 Gamakatsu 4x strength Octopus hooks so we could set on the payaras and it was far more effective in getting good hookups. Something like a 7/0 4x strength Gamakatsu I believe could have even handled the largest catfish species while still providing a low profile, low detection hook in the bait. I love this style of discreet but powerful J hook when bait fishing for species that have tough mouths.




We brought an assortment of small hard-plastic twitch baits, bladed baits, and topwater lures. The common denominator with most artificials thrown, and one of the most important suggestions I can make - was the use of 'tooth proof' leaders for virtually everything. Between the piranhas, the rocks, and most of the other predators having teeth, you run the risk of losing A LOT of lures if not using a sturdy leader. These fish are not leader shy at all!

I used 12 inch strands of 44lb stainless steel 'Tooth Proof' wire. The wire was attached at both ends to barrel swivels using a haywire twist. On one end I connected 50lb Sea Striker fast snaps so I could quickly change out lures.

By far the most effective lure were size 10 Rapala X raps. These 4 inch jerkbaits will catch absolutely every predator species in the Essequibo from the smallest to the largest. Do NOT overthink these fish, the largest peacock bass in the river will happily eat a 4 inch bait. There is no need at all to go there throwing monster plugs.

Expect your lures to take a beating. The piranhas will do an absolute number on the lures... and you will likely be bouncing baits off of rocks and other jagged edges during your trip. Be absolutely sure to bring extra trebles to change out hooks on your lures! They will be dulled and bent by snags, rocks and large fish!

I used small 2-3 inch long plopper style surface plugs. These were excellent for arowanas. When we would find arowanas, it was almost an absolute guarantee they would bite one of these lures! We also caught peacock bass on them as well. Any small surface plug that mimics an insect or something scittering along the surface should be in your lure box.

Small blade baits like rooster tails and inline spinners proved to be great search baits - and low effort lures. These caught a lot of piranhas, and did well in low current where peacock bass were schooled up. We were told these were great lures for the red pacu that lived in the rapids but we did not personally have success catching them when we saw them.

In calmer water where we fished closer to the bank, butterfly peacock bass would hug the shoreline close to overhanging brush. Here, we threw these Heddon chuggin' spooks and they went absolutely insane on them. It was some of the funnest lure fishing we did the entire trip. Watching schools of peacock bass virtually fight over the spook and launch themselves out of the water to assault them was amazing.

In Retrospect - Something like a few packs of 7 inch Z-Man jerk shads would have been a great choice in areas we were fishing dense brush and overhanging limbs in slack water. The fish were absolutely stacked in those areas but throwing lures with treble hooks kept us from really getting deep into the cover. I brought Zoom flukes and they got smacked on almost every cast. The elastic properties of Z-Man's jerk shads may be up to the task of handling the beating from the fish, and the cutting teeth of the piranhas to some extent.



There are a number of tools you would want to consider for this trip. Fishing wise, one of the most important was a good set of boga style grips. Because much of the fishing was with lures that had multiple treble hooks - fiesty peacock bass or other toothy predator species often came to the boat thrashing lures and slinging teeth. Being so remote, you shouldn't risk self harm by putting your hands anywhere near the fish until it is unhooked. We found the best program was to keep any species on the boga until all hooks were fully removed.

Split Ring pliers with wire cutters are a must. These were great tools for removing hooks, opening split rings to interchange bent or dulled hooks, and clipping wire leader. A set of needle nose pliers is a no brainer for any fishing trip. For the sake of minimizing, multi tools that serve functions for cutting, grabbing, and snipping are the best route so as to avoid having to bring numerous different tools.

I never go fishing without a good pair of sheers/scissors. Braid scissors or sheers will help with cutting small bait chinks, cutting heavy braid, clipping tag ends, and clearing old knots from hook eyes.

As mentioned several times before - your hooks will take a beating in the Essequibi. There are A LOT of rocks and hooks will be grinding and bouncing off of them. Between the sheer number of fish being caught, and the constant abrasion against bottom and rock, hooks need to be cared for or flat out changed throughout the trip.



Aside from an assortment of cameras, one would want to bring whatever charging accessories they can for personal devices. At the actual lodge there were power outlets to charge all electronics. We would spend hours away from camp every day though. I would suggest bringing some sort of mobile charging device like a power bank. Waterproof, rechargeable options are all over the internet and would be best suited for this trip. I personally brought some cheap ones I had from home, and they did excellent, but I would prefer something that could handle water or outdoor elements better.

I would suggest something like a Garmin inreach explorer or similar device as well. There is extremely limited service (if any) during most times of the trip. We did not bring a satellite phone, but a device of this sort would be awesome for tracking locations and communicating with loved ones or friends.

Beyond that, we did not bring many electronics other than camera gear and our personal cell phones. I am not generally big on getting weights on fish so no digital scales or anything of the sort were brought either although I could see others wanting to do so.

Misc. Accessories

There are some common sense camp accessories one would want to bring for camp life.

Head lamps and flashlights are great if you want to explore around camp at night. I would not leave for any adventure of this nature without a reliable head lamp and/or flashlight. I prefer the re-chargeable kind so as to not have to lug along boxes of batteries.

Polarized sunglasses - every fisherman should have a pair! This is one I would not leave home without. This is in part because of the ability it gives to canvas the water for targets, and because the Amazon is just so hot and bright! You are going to spend hours and hours on the water and dealing with the intense sun and reflection off of the water.

Sunscreen - Being right on the equator, the sun here is extremely powerful. You will want to pack sunscreen, ideally odorless. I never like having some sort of unnatural scent or chemical on my skin or hands that can be transferred to my bait or lures. I suggest bringing stick style sunscreen rather than spray or liquid so it cannot run or be transferred as easily.

Superglue - Superglue is a very useful tool that I think a lot of people sleep on! Add it to your medical kit to help bind wounds in a crunch, coat knots, simple repairs etc. You would be surprised how often you run into a situations that could be 'fixed' with superglue!

Electrolyte packs - Here is a big one! We brought these electrolyte packs by LMNT and they were absolute game changers! My first night in Guyana I had full body cramps because of a loss of hydration. I did not prioritize drinking water and hydrating because I was so excited about the experience. I had packed these and added them to my water after that and they are fantastic, easily packed, and weigh nothing.

First Aid - anyone would be wise to bring at the very least some Band-Aids, gauze, and basic wound care ointments. You are going to be FAR from civilization, hospitals, or care.

Dry Storage - Pelican boxes, dry bags, dry backpacks, and waterproof phone cases! Keep in mind the environment you are in is the rainforest! It may very well rain and rain HARD. But, what people don't take into consideration is the water thrown into the boat by the fish themselves. The arapaima and large catfish can toss gallons of water into your face and all over your gear boat side with one swipe of their massive tail. At times you may be stepping into and out of the boat into water and trailing water behind you into and over your gear. Keep valuables and delicate gear concealed in weatherproof storage!



The operation which I chose was Adventure Guianas, run by Navin Roopnarain. With this operation, laundry is done daily. Therefore, we could have gotten away with bringing much less clothing. Ascertain whether or not laundry service will be available for your trip. I would have opted to bring no more than two pairs of pants, two longsleeve shirts, one pair of shorts, and one short sleeve shirt in retrospect.

Clothing should ideally be UPF material designed for sun protection but vented or breathable material. I preferred long sleeve UPF shirts that would keep me protected from the sun, but also keep me cool in the heat. The same rule applied to long pants. Although we found there were almost no biting insects at all, long sleeves provided protection in that regard as well.

I used a pair of Nortiv 8 waterproof barefoot shoes for this trip. They are extremely versatile, comfortable, and dry quickly. Your feet will get wet and sandy regularly. These shoes handle the elements well, inexpensive, and are extremely light weight.

A hat! - I always wear a baseball style brimmed hat anyway, but a hat here will be another critical piece of sun protection. A full brimmed bucket hat could be even better to ensure the back of your neck doesn't get roasted!

Rain Gear - a light weight packable rain suit like frogg toggs would be wise to pack! We got lucky and did not encounter any rain while fishing, but it did rain at camp very heavily on one day. The weather here is not so predictable, and it is - after all - the rain forest!


I would not consider myself a 'gear head' by any means! I have generally always been pretty under geared, but seldom ill-prepared. The nature of this trip is generally about minimizing gear to be within the 50lb maximum parameters, but also able to be equipped for harsh elements of intense sun or pounding rain. Do not overthink the trip from a tackle standpoint! Come with strong gear, but diverse equipment is not overly necessary. You'll generally be fishing one rod at a time, and find that the fish here are willing and happy to take just about any lure that moves and fits into their mouth!

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