Volume 1: April 2001, Virgin Fishing at Spratly's Ardasier Banks
by Alfred Yong []


I have waited anxiously for a whole month for this day to come. Finally, I am getting to go to the restricted access Ardasier Banks that lies in the territories claimed by many countries collectively known as the Spratly's. Access to this restricted area is strictly enforced by
Hardcore Tan's 15.5Kg Dogtooth Tuna
the Malaysian Navy from their base nearby. This translates into virgin fishing ground untouched and undamaged by the commercial fishing boats like the Vietnamese long liners and the Filipino fish bomber. When we got to Labuan, the Malcos which is the 108ft boat that would bring us to the Spratly's was already at Victoria Harbour waiting for us. With its 3ton crane, it easily lifted my Boston Whaler and Patrick Song's two boats onto its upper deck. The sea condition was calm and we embarked on our 180 miles trip to the virgin fishing ground. At the Malcos cruising speed of about 8 knots the trip would took about 21 hours. I was amazed by the facilities on the Malcos. All the rooms are air-conditioned 24 hours a day. There are 2 full size bathrooms with hot water too! The living room was equipped with a TV and karaoke along with over a hundred VCD movies to keep you entertained during the long boat ride. There were also power points (240Volts) in your room for you to charge your satellite phones or camcorder batteries. On top of all these, we have a ship captain who loves sports fishing and knows what to do and where to go. Good weather, experienced captain, great facilities, team of very experience sports fishermen (no rookie), virgin fishing ground, this would definitely be a trip that would not disappoint.

Virgin Fishing at Ardasier Banks

"So @!%*# Small, Dont Take My Lure!"
Upon arriving at Ardasier Banks, the crew lost no time in lowering the boats into the water. Ironman Glen and Rory were off trolling on their boat first and we were next. The Captain reminded us that we can only troll to the East away from the Navy base or we will get into trouble with the Navy. The bank is a large area with plenty of reefs so this restriction posed no problem to us. Initially, we started trolling my homemade line of 24 flies to catch small tunas for live baits. After trolling about half an hour, we caught a few small tuna (1Kg), Trevally, Rainbow Runners and many Mackerel on the flies. We put the Tuna into my Tuna Tube to keep alive for use later. We intended to troll the live Tuna for big pelagic but before we have a chance Hardcore Tan's Tiagra 50 reel with a Rapalas lure was hit and his reel was screaming off lines line crazy. Jungle George quickly retrieved the flies and I turned the boat around and follow the fish so that Hardcore Tan could recover some line. After playing the fish for at least 15 minutes, the Tuna was getting exhausted (Tan was just as exhausted) and was brought to the side of the boat and quickly gaff by Jungle George. The Dogtooth Tuna weighs in at 15.5Kg. We continued trolling and minutes later Jungle George Penn International
Fred's Hard Fighting 9.5Kg GT
Reel started peeling off lines, it was a coral trout of about 5Kg. Usually Coral Trout are just a heavy weight to reel in but when they are caught trolling in shallow water, they could give quite a decent fight. Before Hardcore Tan could get over his Dogtooth, his Tiagra 50 started screaming off lines again. This time the fish was fighting harder. I quickly strapped on the harness for him to help him relieve his already exhausted arms. He managed to bring the fish to the side of the boat ready for gaffing and Jungle George went for it was the gaff. It saw the gaff and with one last dash, it snapped the leader and won the battle. It was a Yellowfin (easily identified by its yellow sickled fin) of about 18Kg. We continue to get a hit about every 10 minutes and caught quite a few Coral trout. Patrick called us on the VHF radio to remind us that the Navy does not allow us to fish after dark and that we will have to return to the Malcos soon.

Our Team
Unbelievable Bottom Fishing

With half an hour to spare, we quickly rig up to do some bottom fishing. We drifted the boat over the reef and it was just unbelievable how hungry the fish were. It was instant bite every time and the fish were nice Coral Trout of about 1.5Kg. There were just tons of them. Bottom fishing here is just absolutely superb exceeding even the Royal Charlotte or Louisa Reefs. Patrick called us over the radio again and asked us to come in. We reel in the line and returned to the Malcos for dinner.

Bad News

At dinner Patrick told us that the Navy just informed the Captain that we have to be out of that area by midnight because of some military exercise they have to do in that area. That was an awful blow to all of us who have not had enough of the excellent fishing in that area. We only had 2 hours of trolling and half hour of bottom fishing.
After dinner, we started fishing bottom and were rewarded by a huge variety of fish. Some of the fish caught were Ikan Sunlit, Trevally, Tuna, and grouper. The fish were caught on fish fillet, cuttlefish and metal jigs. Metals jigs seems to be very effective over here especially those luminous kind. By midnight, we had to reel in all our lines and sadly say goodbye to the virgin fishing ground. But all was not lost; we were heading for the Royal Charlotte reefs and would be there by daybreak.

Ironman & Hardcore with their Tuna
Royal Charlotte Reef

Having been here only a month ago in the terrible monsoon, it was quite a change to see calm clear water at the Royal Charlotte. You could see the reefs below in 80 ft of water. I think scuba diving fans would love it here. The efficient crews of the Malcos immediately lower our boats back into the water from its upper deck upon anchoring. We started to do what we intended to do at Ardasier and that is to troll for small tunas and then troll live tunas as bait targeting huge pelagic fish. Our highly effective flies quickly caught Rainbow Runners, Ikan Sulit and Trevally. We placed the Rainbows (1.2Kg) into the Tuna Tube to keep them alive as live-bait but the story of Ardasier struck again. Hardcore Tan's Tiagra 50 reel started screaming off lines with a 5Kg Albacore Tuna taking his trusty Rapala. We quickly reel in the flies and let out another lure with birds teasers in between the lures. Just when we were settling back to our seats, we got a double strike, with lines zipping off our reels, I quickly grabbed the rod and started to play the fish. Unfortunately for me, my leader line snapped and along with it goes my Bonita (bib-less) lure. George managed to play his Albacore to the side of boat and Tan gaffed it. We caught trolled and caught a big Barracuda before heading back to the Malcos for a rest and lunch.

Kiasu Tiagras & Penns
Red Hot Action

We had a long lunch and started trolling along the drop-off. The Royal Charlotte reef drop-off is quite different from that of the Ardasier. The drop-off here is very abrupt going from the shallows of 10ft to 1000ft within a stone throw distance. We had only a few strikes in the afternoon but each strike was by some big monster resulting with us losing more Bonitas and Rapalas. By late afternoon (5:00pm) the action was red hot! It was solid non-stop action in which caught us tons of Dogtooth tunas (4 to 7Kg). Every time after gaffing a fish and letting out the lure we would instantly get hits. Suddenly, the big Rapala attached to teaser flies was hit and my Tiagra 50's 80lb braided line was zipping off at high speed. I know we have hooked onto something big. I grabbed the rod and started playing with the fish. After an excruciating 15 minutes the fish was gaffed and it was a 9.5Kg Giant Trevally. We caught a more Tunas after that but by 6:30pm, the sky was dark and the action slowed down besides we w ere all tired from all that action so we returned to the mother boat for dinner and to do some bottom fishing.

Sample of catch when bottom fishing at night
Good Eating Monster

After dinner and a nice hot shower, we all started fishing from the Malcos. The Rainbow Runners are still alive and well in the tuna tube. We rigged up two rods with the live Rainbows and lowered them to the bottom. Ironman Glen took a 2Kg Trevally we caught earlier and rigged it up with huge 12/0 hooks. With that out of the way, we all started jigging with luminous metal jig. It was tiring but a very productive means of fishing at night. There was plenty of action for everyone with all kinds of fish being caught. By midnight most of us were worn out and decided to take a break in the living room. I heard shouts from outside and found Glen's Trevally has hit home and landed a monster Escolar (Oil Fish). It weighs in at 26Kg. It is not the most pleasant looking fish but it is definitely good eating. A little while later, one of the rods with the live Rainbow Runner had a strike and the clicker on the Penn was screaming for attention. Jungle George started playing the fish but we know that he didn't have a chance, the fish was just too big and did what it liked. Finally the line gave way. George was partly disappointed that he lost the fish but at the same time relieved that his rod is still in one piece.

Rory, Ironman & the 26Kg Oil Fish
Ang-Tau-Ping Action

We still had half day fishing before leaving for Labuan. This time we didn't bother to troll for live bait and went straight into trolling with artificials. We went back to the hot spot that was incredibly productive the evening before. Again Hardcore Tan's trusty Rapala was the first to get a strike and resulted in a 4Kg Albacore. On my rod, I trolled the Ang-Tau-Ping (Redhead) Rapala CD18 that caught the GT the day before attached to my homemade teaser. The action was slow at the hot spot so we decided to move on and troll other areas and just as we were moving away, my reel went Zzrrrrrrr with lines smoking off the reel. I quickly grabbed the rod and just continue losing line. This must be the big one that I was waiting for. I had my drag set at 20lb and the fact that it could take lines off like that simply means it must be huge. Hardcore Tan turned the boat and gave chase. I managed to recover a lot of line but the fish was still no way in sight. As Tan put the boat into neutral, the fish went for another
Jungle George & one of his many Coral Trout
run taking lots of lines with it. Then the most horrible thing that could happen happened. My line went slack and I lost the fish. I inspected the line and found the 80lb wire leader had snapped!

We trolled and caught some more Tuna and Barracuda and return to the Malcos. Back at the Malcos, I started jigging with Nasir's Magic PVC lure (read Rod & Line July 2000 article on it) and immediately caught a Ruby Snapper. Patrick was bringing up Dogtooth Tuna with the PVC lure but lost a few tuna on the way up due to its sharp dog-like tooth. We could not use a wire leader as it hinders the action of the lure but usually the long shank of the hook will suffice. By noon, we had lunch and the Malcos set sail for Labuan.
This was an incredible trip, I just wished we could have spent more time at Ardasier Banks but Royal Charlotte is not bad either. I could hardly wait for the upcoming Labuan Tournament at Luconia Reefs, which would produce similar fishing thrills.

Bent rods are common action here
Read about Ironman Glen version of the trip on the upcoming issue of the Rod and Line Magazine.


I was asked to explain the names of the people in my story. Well here they are:

1. Hardcore Tan - A real hardcore sports fisherman who would go fishing anytime anyway and anywhere.
2. Ironman Glen - A diehard sports fisherman with full of energy and stamina hence the Ironman.
3. Jungle George - Apart for fishing he is an avid fan of jungle hashing thus the name George of the Jungle.

And as for me, I am simply called Fred.

Our Motherboat, the Malcos
Dolphin escorting us when we were trolling

Coming up in June - Luconia Reef - Labuan Fishing Tournament