Choosing the Right Rod and Reel

When it comes to selecting fishing equipment there is an endless supply of choices.  Some good, some great, and some so bad words cannot even begin to describe.  Today we are going to examine the better of those and try to narrow down what will be the best fit for river fishing, or more specifically, river catfish fishing.

First of all, as a fisherman you need to decide on a few things.  What type of fish will you target? Where will you be fishing?  Will you be casting from the shore or sitting in a boat?  What size fish will you be targeting? And so on.  To make it easier we will discuss the most common fish targeted in the Chao Phraya and other rivers around Thailand.  As you can see in the Species section of this blog the most commonly found fish is some type of catfish.  The catfish here range from less than 1 pound to well over 600 pounds.  In fact the world record is a Giant Mekhong Catfish caught in North Eastern Thailand weighing in at 646 pounds.  These catfish generally feed on live bait such as worms or cockroaches, and ground baits baits like bread and rice bran.   Given that these catfish generally like to feed at night and come up into the shallows of the river during high tide it is safe to assume that most fishing will be done from the shore while casting bait a reasonable distance of say 20-30 yards.  This will require a rod capable of slinging the bait with decent accuracy to place it right along the weed lines where they like to search for food.  Finally, the last question you need to answer is what size fish do you want to target.  Generally speaking you will find fish in the 2-10 pound range with the occasional 20 or even 30 pound fish lurking below. Now that we have calculated the variables we can go ahead and start fitting the right rod and reel into our arsenal.

The first thing to consider is length.  How long does this darned thing need to be to get us to the fish and control the fish when we have hooked up?  Being a bass fisherman in the past it was quite common to have 4 or 5 rods in the 6′ to 6’6 range which were quite easy to cast all day and accurate enough in the 10-20 yard range.  Catfish fishing is another story altogether.  Since we will be sitting most of the time waiting for the fish to pick up whatever we tossed out there it won’t be necessary to have a light flick able rod that we can manage for 4-6 hours.  My personal preference is at least 7′ with 8′ being optimal for getting the bait out where it needs to be.  Not only does the length help with casting, it helps to control the fish when they are trying to dart for cover or get tangle up around the many pilings and debris scattered in the river.  Imagine how much more leverage and reach you will have with another 2 feet of rod.

Next we will look at weight.  How much rod and line do you need to crank these suckers in once they bite.  Personally I like a medium to medium heavy action.  Something in the 8-17 or 10-20 pound test range.  Right now my main rod is an 8′, 10-20 pound test, graphite, medium fast action with 15 pound test line.  Mated with this is an Abu Garcia 5500-C3 baitcasting reel.  This setup is heavy enough to get out of the weeds and junk that backs up in the river if need be, yet light enough to still cast a reasonable distance.  More importantly it is strong enough to handle a cat up to 30 or more pounds if the situation arises.

Now, what type of reel do I need you ask?  Well this depends a lot on personal preference and your experience with fishing tackle.  I prefer a round baitcasting reel because I am much more accurate with it and find the line capacity and drag to be more fitting to a bigger fish.  That being said I do have spinning rods which I use on a regular basis.  When I am going in still, open water where the location of the cast is not so crucial I will use the spinning rod as a second line to get way out in the middle while the baitcasting setup is reserved for putting the bait right up against the edges of weeds or structure.  One thing to remember though is if you are not comfortable with a baitcasting setup then by all means a spinning reel is perfectly fine.

Remember, you don’t need to go out and buy everything at the tackle shop to catch fish.  Simpler is often better when choosing tackle and will certainly save you a buck or two in the long run.  Better to find you want another rod after a fishing trip than to buy three rods and find out you only get use out of one.

If you have any input or questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

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