Rods and Reels

The chief deciding factor in what you buy will be where you plan to fish, and what you plan to fish for. As with most things in life, money will, of course, also be an important deciding factor in what tackle you buy.

For the purposes of this guide I am going to go with what most visitors to Chiang Mai fish for and assume that your intended quarry will be catfish, with the possibility of some Carp, Pacu and Giant Snakehead thrown in. What you need then is some strong tackle that won’t fall apart at the first big fish you encounter. You can find a map showing all of the Chiang Mai fishing tackle shops by clicking here.


Rod ActionRods are generally sold according to weight of action. Here in Thailand that is normally defined by a stated “lure weight”; the bigger the stated weight the heavier the action. For big fish such as catfish you will need medium to heavy action. If your intended quarry is small fish such as tilapia then you will be much happier with the whippiness and “feel” of a lighter action rod.

To give you an idea of prices and what you might expect for your money three example rod and reel sets are given below (prices as of 2013).



Beginners Low Cost Set. For this choose one of the lower cost tackle shops from the list on this website, and do let them guide you. They are generally good, unless the owner is out and you are left with the largely decorative assistant to “help” you…

- Rod made of fibreglass, of 6 to 8 foot length, with a medium to heavy action (aim for heavier stated “lure weight”, 100 to 140gm is ideal) – from about 400 Baht
- Reel: try and get a decent size, with a fairly deep spool to hold a lot of strong line, and a smooth clutch action - from about 400 Baht

The sort of tackle that you can buy for these prices should be fine for somewhere like Chiang Mai Fishing Park, where the biggest fish you are likely to catch are not much more than 10Kg. It would struggle at Bo Sang if you hook a monster – at best you would have to be very gentle and have your clutch appropriately set; at worst the rod would snap and the reel fall apart!


Moderately Priced Set. Any of the larger tackle shops is where you would find this tackle.

- Rod made of carbon fibre, of 8 to 10 foot length, with a medium to heavy action (aim for heavier stated “lure weight”, 100 to 140gm or more is ideal) – from about 1,200 Baht
- Reel: medium to large size, with a deep and wide spool to hold a lot of strong line, and a smooth clutch action - from about 800 Baht

With carefully chosen tackle (again, let the owner help you) at this price level you should be fine for fishing anywhere in Chiang Mai. The fish at Bo Sang hold no fear, but you might still have to be gentle unless you have chosen a rod at the stiffer and heavier action end on the range.


Higher Priced Set. MK or Boomtown would be good shop choices to go to for this tackle.

- Rod made of carbon fibre, of 8 to 12 foot length, with a medium to heavy action, made by an internationally recognised manufacturer and with a lovely “butt to tip action” (meaning it curves nicely along its whole length) – from about 3,000 Baht
- Reel: medium to large size, made by an internationally recognised manufacturer, with a deep and wide spool to hold a lot of strong line, a “baitrunner” second clutch (to allow line to run freely until you can get to your rod) and a smooth clutch action - from about 4,000 Baht in Chiang Mai!

Great tackle that will serve you well and last a lifetime so long as you don’t do anything silly to destroy it (i.e. sticking the rod point into the ground when walking…).



For most people a fixed spool reel (Americans call it a spinning reel) is the best choice, although you will see some Thais using multiplier type reels. I have never used a multiplier reel and know nothing about them, so look elsewhere for information if this is what you plan to use.

Fishing ReelThe reel pictured to the left is representative of the ideal reel for you to buy (and it’s mine!). What makes it ideal is that it is made by a quality manufacturer (Abu), is a decent size (big enough for Chiang Mai’s smallish lakes), and has the raised lever at the rear indicating that it has a “baitcaster” type second clutch. This will allow line to run freely when a fish takes my bait – and hence avoid my rod being dragged into the water. I bought a pair of these, new, off fleabay, in early 2013 and got them delivered directly to me in Chiang Mai for only 60 pounds (3,000 Baht) for the pair – so not too bad.

My ideal reel, if money were no object, is a large Shimano Baitrunner reel. The larger models have sufficient line capacity for even the largest Bangkok “monster” lakes, have a lovely smooth clutch system and are well enough made to last a lifetime. They do, however, cost getting on for 5,000 Baht each from MK Fishing shop. Not cheap…

If you don’t have stacks of cash to spend you will be buying a reel without a “baitrunner” type free running feature. You will therefore have to loosen off your clutch every time you set your rod down (or hold it all of the time). This is annoying because it means to strike you have to hold the spool, and then you have to adjust your clutch to the correct tension whilst playing your fish. This is far from impossible and I did it for a long time until I got my new Abu reels. You get used to anything if you have no choice!

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Posted by Marco on

I will be in Chiang Mai in a couple of months and I’ll now be bringing my own baitrunners. Maybe I will see you guys at the lakes? Thanks for the heads up on the reels.

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