Casting For Snakehead

Completely engulfing my Zerek Gandalf Jump Frog
For most parts of the year, i am usually fishing offshore somewhere, chasing Pelagic and Demersal species. I rarely do any fishing inland. But when the rainy season comes, i wipe the dust off my bait casting reels and get my casting rods out of their bags. I pick a handful of my favorite lures, swap out the older hooks and split rings with some new ones. It's time to go fishing for Channa Micropeltes, also known as the Giant Snakehead (Toman).

While it is possible to land a couple of them locally from land based casting, I am not a huge fan of long treks and playing hide and seek with the relevant authorities just to get a couple of casts in. (Unlike my team mates Lemuel and Lala) Instead, i prefer to fish from a boat in rivers, lakes and dams around the region.

A rare fish landed in a legal fishing area with the Zerek Tide Trail
Because of the traveling involved, i only bring tackle which are essential for the trip. I have 2 set ups for different applications. I use a 10-20lb rated rod paired with a high speed reel for top water lures and a 12-25lb rated rod paired with a lower speed reel for crank baits and minnows. 

For top water lures, i prefer walk the dog type of lures (110-120mm) that are exceptionally noisy and jump frogs. I use Walk the Dog lures primarily at areas that are open but have structure scattered around (suitable for a long cast). In fact i often cast with WTD lures when we arrive at a new spot because watching the snakehead smash the lure on the surface is simply exhilarating. 

On a spinning set up with the Surecatch Range Slider Lure
When fishing in heavy cover, i like to use jump frogs. These lures are easy to use and you just need to cast and crank. However, there are not many frogs in the market that are heavy enough to make long casts. Adding some soldering wire by coiling it on the back of the hook will give you some additional distance.

Another one on the Zerek Gandalf Jump Frog
On some occasions, I have to cast into grass that has grown above the surface of the water. In these instances, i use a soft plastic frog rigged with a weedless hook. These types of lures can also be used in narrow channels with overhanging brush that require precise low trajectory casting or skipping.

Beautiful Watermelon landed on the Surebite Buzz Frog
When the fish are wary and avoid top water lures, i switch to a floating minnow (120-125mm) to tempt them with sub surface action. I either do a straight crank at a moderate speed or use the twitch and pause method (Twitch Twitch Pause / Twitch Twitch Twitch Pause) where the lure floats up on the pause. 

The Dobyns rod and Ryoga reel combo enabled me to pull the fish out of the snag
Landed on the Surecatch Gobimaru minnow
In areas where the water is deep, i use sinking minnows (100-120mm) or Vibes. Sometimes, these areas will hold other species as well so don't be surprised to catch a Sebarau or two. Especially if there is moving water. I use a straight retrieve with intermittent twitches for the minnows and employ the "lift and drop" method while reeling for Vibes. ( A simple straight retrieve can also be used with both lures.)

Sebarau on the Zerek Rocker Vib at the river 

Pesky Little Guy went after the Zerek Rocker Vib in a cove
When sight casting for snakeheads, i use deep diving crankbaits. It is important to get as close as possible to the rise as you can. Use a crankbait that goes to a minimum of  5 meters and be able to get to that depth quickly with a couple of cranks. Use the lure's buoyancy to your advantage if you encounter any structure on the way down, pausing will allow the lure to float slowly back towards the surface. 

 I have to admit that this is one of the harder aspect of snakehead fishing. It requires the angler to be patient and focused as well as make an accurate cast when the fish rises. The window of opportunity is very small and if you mess it up, you've got to hope that you haven't spooked the fish and wait for its next rise to breathe. 

Finally got him after countless casts, Landed on the Zerek Giant Ruby
When a snakehead strikes your top water lure, don't panic and strike. Often the lure will come flying back at you because they only knocked into the lure. Don't be fooled by the dramatic splashes. Instead, wait til the line straightens and set the hook. Once you have set the hook, control the fish and and prevent it from going into the snags. The best way to do this is to thumb and pump.

When the fish is boat side, be alert to respond if the fish dashes under the boat. Dip your rod in and bring the fish back out. I would advise using a rubber net ( I have one from Golden Mean) to land the fish. ( Trebles can get stuck on the normal nets and result in dropped fish) The fish should go into the net head first. Steer the fish towards the net then scoop it up. Although Snakeheads can breathe out of water they don't do well in the heat. Take a quick picture and send the fish on it's way. 

My very first Snakehead. Caught on a Zerek Barra X
Tackle Recommendation

Rods:

There are several rods in the market which are popular at the moment. Something in the 10-20lb or 12-25lb range will be good for snakehead fishing. Longer rods will give you an advantage when you are casting but can be a chore to transport.

Reels:

Reels wise, I use reels with high gear ratio (8.1:1) for top water lures and  low (5.1:1) for crankbaits. I I also use normal speed (6.3:1) if i am using minnows or soft plastics. If you can only choose one go with the medium speed reel. I load my reels with 20-30lb braided line and roughly use a meter of 50lb FC leader. 

Lures:
Buzzbaits - Grub Kit / Booyah / Jackall 
Frogs - Feed Skip 28 /  Spro King Daddy 
Walk the Dog - Imakatsu Trairao / Evergreen Showerblow 
Minnow - Duo Realis Jerkbait / Duel Aile Magnet
Crankbaits - Evergreen Combat Crank / Norman DD22
Vibes - Jackall TN / Ima Koume / Duo Realis Vib

(There are loads more but these should suffice as a general guide)

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