If predators are your quarry then something fishy or meaty is going to be your bait of choice, unless you have opted for artificial flies or lures.
Fish Baits - Live or Dead
If using freshwater live baits it is always better to catch the bait fish at the venue. We should not move fish from one lake to another for fear of spreading disease and/or introducing alien species. If using sea fish as bait (mackerel is a great choice) there is no problem with this. At the two most popular predator fishing lakes in Chiang Mai (Dreamlake and Teak Tree Lake) you cannot take your own bait, but they are supplied at the venues.
There are three commonly used methods for attaching a fish to a single hook. The first involves inserting the point of the hook under the lower lip and pushing the hook through the top lip, the hook shank will be facing forward with the tip of the hook facing up. This allows the baitfish to look natural as it swims forward, but hooking the baitfish through the lips will keep the water from passing through to the gills and it will eventually die. Check your bait often. Lip hooked baitfish can be used on a basic ledgering rig and also a float rig.
The second option is hooking the baitfish through it’s back in front of the dorsal fin. Be careful to pierce only the skin and not through the spine. Using this method the baitfish will stay alive for a longer time. This hooking technique is used when fishing a float rig.
The final option is hooking through the tail for free-line or ledger fishing. Insert the hook tip at the fleshy base of the tail and run it through, ending with the hook tip and shaft facing rearward. Free-lining is not permitted in most Chiang Mai lakes, and I don’t recommend it, because if your quarry takes the bait and swims towards you there will be no indication of a bite (with a ledger used there is no problem). The fish will have time to swallow the bait and be deeply hooked. This can only be recommended where the fish will be killed for eating anyway.
Note that treble hooks are not welcome in the paid fishing parks because of the damage that they can cause to expensive stocked fish, hence all of the rigs shown above use a single hook. If fishing a reservoir you may choose to use treble hooked rigs. There is lots of information available on the internet on how to setup rigs with them.
This may sound immensely cruel, but then live baiting is never going to win you any awards for humane treatment of other species. If you can get over the idea of using a live frog you will be using one of the best baits for a number of Thai freshwater species – particularly the Giant Snakehead found in the Chiang Mai reservoirs; they love ‘em.
Rigging a frog, fortunately, does not need to involve pushing a hook through its leg or body (which is good, because I am not sure I could do that). All you need to do is give the frog an elastic band or two for a belt and slip your hook in behind that. This works great since the frog is unharmed and will skip around happily for hours; unless of course a snakehead strikes and bites him in half. Oh well… such is life.
How you catch frogs to use as bait is something that I will leave to you, but the neighbours kids and cash incentives may play an important part – or, of course, being Thailand, you can just buy some from the market. Strong elastic bands can be made of sections from bicycle or motorcycle inner-tubes.
Shrimp – Live or Dead
A number of Thai predator species will happily gobble up shrimp, both live or dead. If using live shrimp (again, available from many markets) you should take care to rig them so that they can still swim as normally as possible, whilst staying on the hook when being cast out. Using the smallest hook that you can easily get away with will minimise harm to the live shrimp and lead to it behaving more naturally.
When casting distance is important, as it often is, it’s best to hook the shrimp through the tail. To do this, first lay the hook along side the shrimp to see where the hook should ideally exit the shrimp. Next, push the hook into the center of the rear of the tail section and thread the shrimp onto the shank. Feed the shrimp onto the hook aiming to have the hook point exit out of the center of the shrimp’s back at the predetermined location.