How to catch the Mekong giant catfish


1.0 Introduction

2.0 Setting up

2.1 Gear

2.2 Rig

3.0 Bait mixing

3.1 The mixing part

3.2 Packing it in

4.0 Getting the bite

5.0. The fight

5.1 Using the right muscles

5.2 Steering the fish


1.0 The Mekong giant catfish is one tough mofo and its strength is something that should never be underestimated. To actually land this freshwater behemoth one must get a bunch of things right. Any slight error in the process can easily result in a fruitless trip, like my first few times. When going to a pond like Bungsamran, one can easily hire a guide to perform all the tedious task of setting up and bait mixing but for some of us that’s where half of the fun is! There are many things to consider when trying to catch the Mekong giant and in this short little guide I will hope to cover as many of these areas with whatever expertise I can provide.


2.0 Setting up

Firstly, make sure the line, reel and rod are tough enough to handle at least 40lb line.

2.1 Gear

This is my usual set up,

Line: 40lb Berkley trilene monofilment

Reel: Shimano baitrunner 6500 or Shimano Tekota 500 .

Rod: A stiff 5’5″ rod that can handle at least PE 6-8.

Personally I am not a fan of braided line when fishing the Mekong as it has a nasty habit of floating and drifting around. This drifting is actually detrimental to your success rate and will be explained further in section (4.0). The rod and reel must both be ready for some heavy duty work as the Mekongs can put up a very serious fight. In fact, this sailfish in Kuala Rompin was a walk in the park compared to a Mekong giant catfish. The rod should be short and stiff for the purpose of power-lifting which would be explained further in the fight section (5.0).

2.2. Rig

When setting up the rig thread these items onto the line in the following order:

– large plastic bead,

– float,

– large plastic bead,

– coil feeder,

– and large plastic bead.

Then tie on a heavy-duty swivel. On the swivel, tie on a strong braided line (100lb test is my choice for safety). At about an inch or two down that braided line tie on a #15 gamakatsu hook.

Your rig should look something like this:



Next, tie on a rubber band at around 120-150cm up the main line. This will control the depth of the bait.



3.0 Bait Mixing

When fishing at Bungsamran for Mekong giant catfish on has the option of either fishing with bread crusts or grounded rice husk (known as rum/รำ ). With these baits the angler can also have the option of adding various additives and flavourings.

Personally, I find these additives as a gimmick to increase profits. Seeing that the fish at most ponds are fed plain unflavoured  rice husk it makes absolutely no sense to make one’s bait smell different from what they feel safe eating on a regular basis so for the rest of this bait section all mention of the word “bait” is in reference to the mixture of rum and pond water.

3.1 The mixing part

It going to be hard to explain the water/bait ratio through text so I’ll try my best. The ideal water/bait ratio should leave the bait soft at flaky to touch but with some moisture seeped into the grains.

If mixed evenly the ideal bait should:

– not have lumps,

– be flaky and moist to touch,

– pliable enough to be pressed into a solid ball.



3.2 Packing it in

The next step involves packing the bait into the coil feeder. Begin by cupping a handful of bait with hand #1. With hand #2, place the coil onto the bait. Now with hand #2, scoop up a handful of bait onto the coil feeder. Now simultaneously, firmly squeeze the bait into the coil with hand #1 while hand #2 presses firmly to prevent any bait from escaping. Once everything feels tighter, rotate the coil, grab more bait with hand #2 and repeat the squeezing/pressing process. Do this about three to four times until you get a ball slightly bigger than a tennis ball. Then hold the coil vertically and do the squeezing/pressing thing a few more times to shape up the ball. You should be left with a tight ball ready to be launched into the hungry mouth of a fish.


4.0 Getting the bite

Depending on a bunch of factors such as temperature, rain, pH level and etc. the Mekongs almost always feed uniformly at different depths on different days. Some days it can be as shallow as 60cm  from the surface and on other days they may even go as deep as 350cm from the surface. Your job as a fisherman is to determine where they are. Fishing in a two-man team makes this task much easier as one can start from the top while the other can start from the bottom. Usually the safe bet would be at roughly 150cm.

Another very important factor in getting the bite is casting accuracy. Each time you cast out a bait ball it creates a cloud of food in the water. The Mekong giant catfish would then suck in the cloud of food along with the hook like a vacuum cleaner. If your casting is sloppy you will be scattering the food all around resulting in a dispersion of the fish. Ideally you would want them to be concentrated in one area so keep clouding up one area with food. As you can see, braided line’s tendency to make the bait balls float away from the target zones can often times be problematic.

Once the bait ball is in the water give it about 15 minutes max before reloading the coil feeder with more bait.  Remember to set the drag to low in order to not have the fish pull y0ur rod into the water. Thai people generally would place a Red Bull bottle on the line so that when it tightens the bottle falls over alerting the angler that it is fishing time.


5.0 The fight

Many of my friends who have fished the Mekong giant catfish have all experienced the tough endurance battle involved with pulling these fishes out of the water and this hardship is all attributed to one thing: technique.Without technique a fight with the Mekongs can easily result in some broken gear and very sore body parts.


5.1 Using the right muscles

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen from my friends who were new to the Mekong scene is their form. To make the long fights with the Mekongs more manageable here are some things to keep in mind:

– Remember to use as many muscle groups as possible to ease the burden.

– Use your body weight to your advantage, if the fish pulls one way you lean the opposite way.


6.2. Steering the fish

Many rookies of Mekong fishing will often face this situation: the fish is hooked and it feels very light so the rookie faces the fight halfheartedly only to realise soon after that the fish is actually swimming towards the him and is heading straight for the sharp wooden docks to cut the line.  Thus steering the fish is crucial.

Here are some basic protocals for fish behaviour:

line gets light, fish swimming towards you: reel and pump the rod to collect the slack and force the fish to the surface. Give the fish tension, give it a reason to swim out and away from you and the docks.

fish swims to the side: tighten the drag and pump the rod to the opposite direction until the fish complies.

fish dives directly under you and is trying to go into the docks: this is going to be hard but you are going have to squat down and pump the rod with all your might using every single muscle in your arsenal.

fish has gone into the dock: pray that your line can tolerate the abrasion and just keep pulling in the opposite direction until the fish swims out to continue the fight.

Remember, practice makes perfect!

  1. Jane says:

    nice site!

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