Sebarau Fishing Guide

This is probably our liveliest sportfish! Weight for weight, I personally rank Sebarau as the hardest fighting freshwater fish in Malaysia! From the sudden thumping strike till the last few seconds before it is landed, the sebarau just never gives up fighting the angler!

Sebarau up to a kilo give great sport on light casting tackle. A sebarau over 2 kilos would be regarded as a rewarding catch. For casting small lures I like to use tackle from 3-4 kgs on a small baitcasters or spin gear. For larger lures, 6 kg tackle is my choice. Very occasionally sebarau as big as 5-7 kilos have been caught. The sebarau is a very adaptable fish, originally a riverine fish it
has now made its habitat in still and running waters as many of the original waterways have been changed by human development. Structure is the key when looking for sebarau, both in still and
running water.

They tend to favour fallen logs, lying horizontally in the water. Other good spots would be weed banks, stream or river mouths. Any spot that would congregate bait fish or other aquatic forage.
At times especially at dawn or dusk, they can be found hunting in-groups along the waters edge, giving distinctive sharp splashes as they feed.To catch sebarau, there are no hard and fast rules for working the lures. Well, actually there is a rule :- there are no hard and fast rules!

In each location the sebarau seem to have a different preference for lures, be it lure type or the lure retrieve style. However I have noticed that in most cases “matching the hatch” is important to achieve success. In many of the impoundments and rivers, the sebarau will take most Halco lures with a tight and quick action on a steady and constant retrieve. In the early morning and late evening, shallow diving lures do well. However, once the sunlight hits the water, it’s best to change to the deeper divers and look for structure deep down as this is where the sebarau have moved to, especially the big ones.

There was one location that the sebarau refused to take any of my increasing arsenal of techniques and lure types for two years, till one day, I was fooling around with a Laser Pro 45 that I had just acquired, doing an erratic twitch retrieve. Almost immediately I was rewarded with sebarau following to my feet. Trying again, this time I managed to get my first hook up after years of effort.
Later I tried the Tilsan Minnow that has a wonderful kick to the side on the slightest twitch and was rewarded many times. The Combat too has a nice kick when twitched and yet has tight action on a steady crank. It too has pulled out some fine big sebarau.

Sometimes the sebarau can really be confounding. At a impoundment, we had finally figured out that although the sebarau would occasionally take lures up to 90mm, it was the small lures like the Scorpion 35or the Laser Pro 45 that would get the most hits. However, once the sebarau were in a feeding frenzy busting the water all around, we cast and we cast to the feeding sebarau, but they just would not take any of the lures, big, small, fat or thin. Finally I discovered by accident what worked. I had cast to a feeding sebarau but it was ignored. Then there was a splash behind me and to get off a cast to the sebarau behind, I began to crank as fast as I could. Instantaneously I had a thumping strike! Putting two and two together, I figured that it was the cranking speed, extremely fast, as fast as the hand could turn the handle, that induced the strike.

After that it was easy to catch the sebarau that were feeding, just crank super fast. Within the Halco stable, my favourite small lure for the fast retrieve is the Scorpion 35 and the small Slices. As the lure retrieve speed was the critical point, and the reel retrieve ratio made a difference too. My reel’s high gear ratio of 6.2 to 1 got the fish, whereas the reel with 4.3 to 1 being used by my friend being cranked as fast as he could with the same lure got no bites. Trolling with deep divers like the Tilsan Barra or Scorpion 68 and 90 over deep structure or deep holes can produce the larger sebarau, as this is where the big ones tend to hang out. The electric trolling motor should be set at the upper end of the thrust range to give a quick trolling pace to get the best results.

So as experience has shown, the techniques vary from location to location. Some that work in one place may not work in another. Also timing makes a difference. Sometimes on a different occasion the regular proven technique for the location that is not working that day, may have to be set aside to try something new to provoke a bite from a dormant sebarau.

By Chris Tan