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Bula! GT Popping at Ocean Souldiers Fiji

By Ebb Tide Tackle

Straight up, you need to watch these Fiji vids from out trip, we would love it if you dropped in a comment and subscribed too!  (click the photo to go straight to the video in YouTube)

Our biggest GT from the trip, hooked up in true tiger country!

Check out the ‘GT day spa’ on the flats at Yacata Island

Beast mode – serious fish call Yacata Island home

first met Chad Kockott in 2015 when he was a guide for 2 seasons at No
Boundaries Oman.  Chad’s infectious
enthusiasm made him very easy to like and he was bloody good at his job.  With a background working for Nomad, he was
the cliché, South African fisho, with a destiny to be a guide.   Chaddo was a man with a dream, who wanted to
set up his own lodges on a remote island in Fiji. Pretty ambitious stuff, with
the bureaucracy of foreign operation in a Pacific country for a small operator.  
and a bit years later, Chad has been quiet on social media; but working like a man
possessed with his business partner Ryan Daynes developing their brand Ocean
Souldiers and fulfilling their dream in Fiji.  
From the distance I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on in
Fiji. Lots of building and development. Occasional social updates on some
fishing, but not loads of fresh news. So we decided we needed to go and check
it out for ourselves and see where Ocean Souldiers and the dream had gotten to.

Assembling a small crew comprising of Aaron
Dillon, Daniel Xerri, Lydia Cahill and myself, we set off for Fiji mid-September
for a week long assault on the reefs surrounding Yacata Island. The base for the
Ocean Souldiers operation.  

Chaddo doing what he loves at Ocean Souldiers
Now getting to the island is a bit of a trek we found out; fly
from Melbourne to Nadi, then a 7 hour stopover before catching a domestic
flight to Taveuni Island where we met up with Chad.  The plan was to immediately cross over to
Yacata Island, but with poor weather and strong winds this was inadvisable with
nightfall approaching.  This was fine, it
was a great chance to catch up with Chad, sample some Fiji Bitter and good food in the
process, and enjoy a local resort.
Early the next morning, with weather not much better, we
embarked on a wild ride in the back of a ute, before loading up and setting off
with our luggage and gear stowed in massive dry bags on the two incredibly sea
worthy Yamaha and Simrad equipped 23 foot Ocean Souldiers custom skiff’s.  The crossing is 25nm across open ocean and on
a good day would be 90 minutes to two hours max, however our crossing directly
into the swell was a lot longer than that, but nonetheless safe and
efficient.  Chad tells me that a catamaran
or sea plane option is available as well to get to Yacata, if a skiff crossing
is not your preference. 
Loading up the skiffs on Taveuni
Arriving at Yacata, we were welcomed by a magnificent fringing
reef system edging the entire volcanic island, with the typical Fijian drop to deep
water that plummets hundreds of meters very fast.  On the sheltered north side of the island, we
traversed a shallow channel entrance to the sheltered blue lagoon
surrounded by a cluster of smaller islands, this being the home of milkfish,
indo pacific permit, triggerfish and GT’s perfect to target on fly.  Once in the lagoon, this is where we finally got to lay eyes on the Ocean
Souldiers base camp, named Amanzi Wai.  
Check out those deep edges, flats and blue gutters

The lagoon and Amanzi Wai camp are at the top left of the pic, beautiful!
I normally would not write so much about the facility of a
sport fishing operation, but this requires it, as it’s unique, very special and
essentially the hub of the operation. Chad and the local village have grafted
hard to build a very unique place; the centre piece being ‘the tree house’ the
rustic timber hub of Amanzi Wai where all meals are served, guests hang out and
naps are taken if required.  Nestled up
the hill on a volcanic rock base, it is my idea of an eco-camp with all structures
and furniture hand built by the crew from timber cut from the surrounding
jungle.  Accommodation consists of a
double bure or one of two amazing African safari tents, all connected by timber
walkways and enveloped by jungle and with lagoon views, we had mullet
continually busting up below ours, the perfect noise of nature to wake up to.  There is a strong commitment to environment
and sustainability throughout this operation with many unique touches evident,
such as the drop toilets complete with a sawdust flush and almost all the
vegetables consumed are grown in ‘the farm’ a few hundred meters behind camp.  The word luxury is too strong to describe
Amanzi Wai, but there are definitely luxurious touches. One being the quality
of the evening meal which, is as close to 5 star as I have had on a fishing
trip.  Fijian chef, Goony is very skilled
with his native Fijian cuisine, often with a touch of Indian or South African
influence, no doubt demanded by Chad and Ryan.     
The ‘Tree House’ – the hub of all down time at the Amanzi Wai camp
Ocean Souldiers is entrenched in the friendly and welcoming local community, and no
doubt gaining permission to build and operate on Yacata took a lot of work and
establishment of trust.  First order of
business for us after dropping off luggage and gear, was to attend a Sevu-Sevu
ceremony with the local Chief in the Yacata village, several kilometres away at
the far end of the lagoon. This involved a formal gathering in the house of the
chief where, we gave Kava roots purchased from Taveuni, and introductions made,
before we were given permission to fish, swim and enjoy the waters of the
community around the island. It’s a formality, nonetheless insisted on by the
Chief, and show’s their genuine interest in the Ocean Souldiers operation and
who they bring to the island.  With the
formal bit done, it was now game on, although it was damn windy!
Off to the Yacata village for our meeting with the chief

Sevu-Sevu ceremony, where we are given permission to enjoy the waters
Rather than a day by day break down and this report becoming
a novel, I thought it better to describe what we found at the four main fishing
locations that we experienced. Out of respect for Chad’s spots, I won’t use the
real names of the locations. This is an off the grid location and no one needs
their best spots all over the internet!
Doubles with Daniel land based! Amegari Urpekari and Jack Fin Pelagus 200F for reference

Aaron with a healthy green jobby on the jig

The Atoll

This was possibly my favourite spot to fish. A fair run from
Yacata, it’s clear that this location receives very little fishing pressure
from the locals, with amazing marine life present.  We spent an entire day here and I would have
loved to have gone back if the weather allowed, on the windward side were good
numbers of GT’s in the surf zone, with all of us getting in on the caranx
action here right from the first drift.  On
the protected side we had epic PE5 fishing with red bass, green jobfish,
bluefin trevally, long nose emperor, coronation trout, massive barracuda and
several unstoppables with lure losses high! 
Up on the flat the guys got into some great light tackle GT fishing and
triggers and plenty of parrot fish could be seen milling about.  We didn’t get much chance to jig here as the
topwater was so good, but it looked very promising.  
Longnose for JC on the Amegari Lingo inside the lagoon

GT’s milling about on the flats at the waterfall

Walking in for a land based mission on the flats

The three islands

Located quite close to Yakata, we got to fish the three
islands twice. It is a significant reef system, that offers exceptional GT
fishing in gnarly territory, casting right past the surf onto the reef flat was
actually the most productive method and our best GT in the 30 kilo class came from
here along with plenty of others.  There
was great light tackle for the usual species with the jigging especially good
here on the back side of the island, green and red job fish, coronation trout,
emperor and cod common with doggies to 20 kilos encountered in the 60 – 120m
zone.  We had opportunities on better
fish with one being sharked on the surface and other bust off’s.  The Ocean Souldiers crew have experienced
dogs to 40 kilos in these spots.
Some really big cuda are about on the edges! Jack Fin Pelagus 165S for reference

Nice Spanish on the micro jig for Aaron
Lyds with her first ever red bass on Amegari Lingo at the Atoll

Hat Island

A prominent island,
with private ownership south of Yacata. Hat Island has the most gorgeous lagoon
I have ever seen and the perfect place to stop for lunch.  With fishing a little tough this day, we
still managed an exceptional Maori sea perch and other reefies in the morning. After
lunch, things fired up on the run out tide, working the channels and blue holes
with the tide running over them.  Jigging
was also good on this ‘back side’ where we all got amongst small doggies.  I feel on it’s day, this spot would be a
Lyds didn’t want to pick it up, fair enough too… big cuda on Amegari Lingo

Thumping red bass for JC on Heru Bobara

Yummy coronation trout for Lyds on the jig

Beast mode, a big Fiji geet for JC on Heru Tuna 120

Yacata Island
Predominantly due to the wind, the home island was fished by
us the most, although, it is also very good. In fact the three best GT spots
for numbers, two were within 1500m of the Amanzai Wai camp, and the other close
to the village!  One spot in particular,
the waterfall, walking distance depending on the height of the tide, and the
most reliable GT spot I have ever seen anywhere and a unique place where you
can experience land based sight casting to GT’s in very skinny water, wait for
the videos!
Also close to home, is a stretch of drop off that is OCS
most reliable big doggie drops. With fish to 50 kilos recorded and great
jigging for other species including our biggest longnose and a lovely napoleon
wrasse!  Our best doggie opportunity came
after dark on a live bait but sadly we didn’t convert.  The entire reef edge of Yacata may produce
anything, and the windward side near the village very reliable for GT’s,
Spanish mackerel and reefies.
The Yacata lagoon is also fantastic. We caught longnose,
barracuda, coral trout, missed GT’s and had shots at triggers, milk fish and
Indo pacific permit, sadly without conversion, however that is more a
reflection of my fly skills than anything. This all minutes from camp.

Red bass on top for Aaron

Geet off the back of a surf break on a Siren MXP for JC at the three islands

Woof.  Nice dog for Aaron on the jig, bigger ones roam

Sweet looking  MSP for Daniel on top!  Amegari Urpekari for reference

Despite the challenging conditions for strong winds for most of the week, we enjoyed excellent fishing, all taking home highlights and plenty of new species for some of us.  We all loved the entire Ocean Souldiers experience and fell in love with the camp feel. 100% we will be back and wish Chad and Ryan all the best. Stand by for the videos, which are sure to be epic.

Some general observations I made along the way that may help
your Ocean Souldiers experience include:

Cast long
The GT’s in particular were holding very close to the reefs
edge and even over it, so with swell and wind it was essential to have a long
cast, with distance being an asset to keep the boat safe but get to the bite zone.  This may mean going down to PE6 if you have a
modest arm.

Excess baggage
We flew with Fiji Airways and although the service was fine,
the baggage limit of 23kg modest for a week-long jig and pop expedition.  The Fiji Airways website has scary notes
about the cost of excess baggage, however our experience was that this was
sensibly applied and were not hit too hard.
Pretty bluefin trevally for JC from hat island on Heru Bobara

Sight cast double for Lyds and Daniel from skinny water! Amegari Kaxu and Urpekari.

Gear Guide

Having been once I would now refine my gear as follows:
PE8 popping / stickbait x 2 – Rod Recommendation: Howk Bullfighter 200 concentrating on sticks and
poppers to 120g, we did particularly well on the following lures:

Jack Fin Pelagus 200F
Blaze Saththa 120 
Heru Tuna 120
Heru Wahoo 100
Heru GT Mania
Amegari Kaxu 215
Amegari Urpekari 190
Jack Fin Kronos 180 popper
Siren 225 MXP

Light jig – PE3 up to 120g jig Howk Hot Spot
Medium / heavy jig for dogs – PE6 and up to 300g jig. Howk The Special One X or Special One XL
10wt fly for permit / triggers and option for a 12 wt GT
Visit Ocean Souldiers at and give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram.

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