Malaysia, Home Of IGFA World Record For Toman (Chado Aka Giant Snakehead)

Snakehead is a freshwater species that breathe air and can survive out of water much longer than other species depending on the circumstances. They have known to survive prolonged droughts by burrowing deep into muds. Toman live in deep water as well as shallow water and does not mind living in just inches of water. 

Toman is the largest species in the snakehead family. It is known locally as Toman. It can grow up to 20kg and current IGFA all-tackle record is at 13.61kg (30lb) proudly own by a Malaysian angler. Fishing for toman means heavy tackle and big lures.

Where To Catch Toman In Malaysia?

Toman can be found in many places in Malaysia especially West Malaysia. Swamps, ponds, abandoned mining lakes, rivers and reservoirs will usually have any species of snakeheads. Toman can live in shallow and deep water. Toman are active all year round and you can find spawning toman all year round too. 

Royal Rumble In Snakeheads Town!


The moment you set the hook (you might want to set the hook several times to make sure it is solid hook set), toman will bullish it's way into the nearest cover it can get too. The first few moments fighting toman means setting your drag to the max and using your rod power to try turning it's head away from cover as it dives to every cover it sees underwater. After a while, toman will start to become tired and need to rise to breathe air. Slowly it will rise to the surface and as it follows you helplessly as you reel in, you will loosen your drag. When the fish comes near the boat and see the angler in the boat, it will dives several times under the boat for another try to escape. Remember not to set the drag too tight during this time as the probability of any of your terminal tackles to fail will increase during this period. Just let your rod to do the job, never high sticking your rod while guiding the fish back to the boat and let your fishing buddy to net the fish safely (head first, not tail first) into the boat. 

Safety Practises When Fishing Toman:

Toman will struggle violently in the boat. In fact, toman can crawl on land for a long distances without water. It has very sharp teeth capable of snapping heavy wires. Although it is not known to attack anglers, we must practise safety when handling a struggling snakehead with big treble hooks in its mouth in the boat.


  1. It is best to unhook this fish while it is still in the net.

  2. Make sure to free your reel spool before unhooking the fish. 

  3. Use a long pliers instead of short pliers to unhook the fish.

  4. Put away your rod and your lure safely before taking photos with the fish.

  5. Use big fish grip or use tough gloves to handle this fish. The fish grip will support the fish head while your other hand will support the fish belly when taking photos. 

  6. Some fish grip will permanently damage their mouth if not handled properly so consult with your fishing guide is the fish grip suitable for this fish. 

  7. There are some incidents where toman accidently swam with the fish grip while releasing the fish. The proper way is to secure the rope that comes with fish grip to your hand first before handling giant snakehead in the water. 

Best Technics To Catch Toman - 1) Live Bait:

To catch a toman, the conventional method is to use live bait, African Catfish (4 inches to 6 inches size) being the most popular bait due to it's nature as tough flesh that is not easily tear away when cast, not needing oxygen supplies when transporting and will survive rough handling by anglers, even living for days with hooks on their backs. Best way is to fish using float and steel wire by casting where you think snakeheads is and just wait for them to take the bait. Another way is to use the bass fishing texas rig (also with steel wire), make a long cast and wait for the bait to sink to your desired depth, and slowly reeling in it back. When using live bait, toman will usually bite half of your bait first (you can usually see bubbles rising to the surface as a sign) and slowly swim away with the bait. You need to give some time to let the toman to fully swallow your bait before setting the hook. In the case of using float, just wait until the float fully sink and you feel your rod bend enough before setting the hook. 

Best Technics To Catch Toman - 2) Sight Fishing:

Most popular way to catch toman is by sight fishing for them. As mentioned earlier, snakeheads are air breathing species and will rise to the surface to breathe air. How often do they rise to surface depends on several factors such as water temperature, how deep the water is, oxygen supplies and others. But when you are in snakehead town, you will definitely see lots of snakeheads rising to surface to breathe air.  Their need to rise to surface exposes their precise location and when manipulated effectively, anglers will catch them easily. 

When sight fishing for toman, anglers will stay quiet in the boat, not making much noises and always ready to cast lure to where snakehead rises. Using good polarized shades, we will be able to see exactly where the snakehead swim after they breath air on the surface. Your lure must reach 5-6 feet further from the snakehead and when you retrieve back, your lure will cut through right in front of the snakehead triggering violent reaction bite from the toman. Sight fishing for toman requires sharp eye, fast reflex and accurate cast and if not properly executed, accidents may happen when two anglers in the boat are competing for the same fish at the same time. Please practise patient and communicate loudly with your fishing buddy before making a cast. 

Best Technics To Catch Toman - 3) Probing Visible & Underwater Cover:

If you think you are too slow for sight fishing, you can also target specific covers and thoroughly work your lures in, around and over that cover to catch toman. Toman, especially the mature and big ones are very territorial and will pick covers such as laydowns and pile brush as their home. They also love vegetations as cover to ambush their meal. This method requires great patient and will take lots of your time to trigger the reaction bite from the monster hiding in that cover but the reward will definitely worth all the effort. 

Best Technics To Catch Toman - 4) Attack When They Are Most Vulnerable

Another specific way to target trophy size toman is to sight cast for toman fry. Both male and female snakehead will guard their fry up until these fry grow to fingerlings. These toman fry will look like a giant red ball swimimming below the surface and will repeatedly rise to the surface. You can see both the male and female viciously guarding these fry from predators. Anglers will cast their lure into the ball of fry when they swim to the surface. The objective is to make your lure look like a threatening predators. Sometimes it takes just a few cast to trigger defense attack from the guardian but sometimes it will take quite some times before the guardian finally feel threatened by the constant bombing of your lures into the swimming fry. And if you are lucky, you can catch both male and female guardian guarding the same fry.

That being said, even though by far this is the most popular way for local anglers to catch their personal best toman, it is also wise to know that targeting these spawning giant snakeheads has a huge impact on the declination of giant snakehead populations. Once their guardian is removed from the fry, the possibility of predators to prey upon these young giant snakeheads will increased drastically, even when you removed the guardian just for several minutes. And when both guardians are injured and stressed due to hooking and handling them using rod and reel, the possibility of the fry to survive to juvenile giant snakeheads will also reduced drastically. It is up to the angler to decide wether sight fishing for giant snakehead fry is the way to go for trophy size but we hope that every angler will handle and release the guardian as quickly as possible back to their young fry. 

Lures For Fishing Toman:

Snakeheads are aggresive species and they will wack everything that moves, theoretically. Here are some tips for your selection of lures for fishing toman: 

  1. For sight fishing toman, distance is king. Any lures able to achieve good casting distance is a must have in your tackle box.

  2. Stock split ring and treble hooks that comes out of the box is not recommended and must be changed with hooks and split rings meant for big game fishing.

  3. Topwater lures that zig zag (walk the dog action) and spits water.

  4. Heavy wire spinnerbait and buzzbait is good for combing through vegetations, laydowns and pile brushes. 

  5. Deep diving crankbait that dives rapidly. The deeper it can achieved the better. 

  6. Soft plastics and hollow body frog great for floating cover and skipping in tight spots. 

Tackles For Fishing Toman:


Good tackles are essential  for fishing toman. For toman fising, two setups is all your need to cover most techniques to catch toman. Here are some tips to select your two tackles to bring for toman fishing:


  1. Rod: 8lb-25lb or 10lb-30lb, supporting lure up to 1oz, 6'6" to 7' length for deep lures and softplastic applications.

  2. Rod: 12lb-25lb or 15lb-30lb, supporting lure weight up to 1.5oz, 7' length for topwater lures and heavy cover spots.

  3. Spinning or baitcasting reel loaded with 20lb to 30lb braided line for deep lures and softplastic applications. 

  4. Spinning or baitcasting reel loaded with 40lb to 50lb braided for topwater and heavy cover applications.  

  5. Braided line is recommended for your mainline due to its advantage (over mono or fluoro line) of thinner diameter but stronger breaking strength, longer casting distance, and will cut through vegetations.

  6. Fluorocarbon leader material 30lb for deep lure applications and 50lb for topwater and heavy cover applications.

  7. Wire steel leader if you are using live bait to catch toman.