A Guide to Casting by Peter Phelps

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
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Now that we have covered the basics of selecting a rod and reel setup, as well as line selection and the type of knots. It’s now time to take your first cast. The act of casting is a fairly basic concept, throw your lure as far or as close towards your target. It sounds simple enough right? Well it is, and with practice & patience you will improve. I’m going to look into why we use certain casts for certain situations. This will help you put more casts on target, and



Now that we have covered the basics of selecting a rod and reel setup, as well as line selection and the type of knots. It’s now time to take your first cast. The act of casting is a fairly basic concept, throw your lure as far or as close towards your target. It sounds simple enough right? Well it is, and with practice & patience you will improve. I’m going to look into why we use certain casts for certain situations. This will help you put more casts on target, and put more fish in the boat. I will go through the basics of each cast and give you pros and cons of each. With the ultimate goal of catching more fish next time you’re on the water.

As with everything in fishing there are no hard and fast rules. Only opinions which establish basic guide lines to start out. As I explain through each cast I am referencing my experiences and what has worked for me. I am right handed but mainly cast with my left, you might be the opposite. Whatever feels right for you is the one you should work on. The general theory being you work your rod with your dominant hand, and wind with your other.

First we will look at rod position and where you should try and have your hands and fingers. Starting with a spin rod, keep your dominant hand above the reel so your index finger is just above the bail arm roller. Using the tip of your index finger to hold the line, release the bail arm and get a feel for the pressure needed to keep the line on your finger as you go through a casting motion. All too often I see beginners holding the line with the index finger to close to the rod. Worse yet using multiple fingers to hold the line. This will negatively affect your casting accuracy as your fingers and hand will hinder the line trying to come off the reel. Using the index finger only also leaves you in the perfect position for feathering the line as it comes off the spool. This allows you to slow the lure’s flight allowing for precise control of distance and velocity.

Setting up a bait caster reel is essential before trying to take your first cast. Whether your reel has a magnet or centrifugal casting brake system. I recommend setting them to 30-50% ‘ON’. Secondly, adjust your spool tension (usually located next to the handle) to just tight enough that in free spool you cannot ‘wiggle’ the spool left and right with your thumb. An old rule is you want your lure falling to the ground with the spool in free spool at around 1 to 2 feet per second. This is still a good starting point and as you become better you will be able to lessen the tension and rely more on your thumb.

To perform a simple overhand cast with a bait caster. It is easiest to hold the rod in front of you pointed at your target. Turn the reel 90 degrees towards your centre, so the handle of the reel is pointed to the sky.  A simple raise of the arm combined with cocking the wrist should be all that’s needed to send the lure out. One thing to be mindful of when using a bait caster is the cast relies on the inertia of the lure to begin spinning. If lure weights change, you will need to adjust settings accordingly. Likewise, if you go from casting with the wind to against the wind, your lure will be getting slowed by the breeze. You will need to similarly slow down your spool so that is does not overtake the slowing lure.

When power is needed for a cast I like to have my non-dominant hand on the bottom of the rod. This is the hand that puts all the muscle into my cast.  Almost like a lacrosse player uses both hands to push & pull to throw a ball, a similar movement is used for casting. As my dominant hand pushes the rod forward, my bottom hand is pulling the rod butt back. This accelerates the tip of the rod providing more speed and power which results in increased casting distance.



First in the casting styles is the overhead. This involves bringing the rod straight over your shoulder as you face towards your target. Aim and cast direction comes from moving the rod down the line to your target. If your rod is straight up & down and moving towards the target, your lure will follow. Getting the correct distance requires a combination of timing, strength and touch. This style is the back bone of your casting and the easiest to start off with. However, there are disadvantages to the over hand cast and that is it has a high trajectory. This means wind can affect the cast, pushing your lure off target or dropping it short. Because of the high trajectory it becomes hard to place lures under over hanging structure and the height of the cast causes lures to splash down, possibly spooking nearby fish.



The side arm cast involves holding your rod on a horizontal plane. Bringing the rod around your body to make the cast. Essentially you are making the same movement as the overhead cast, just in a horizontal plane. The key to this cast is the release. If your timing is off your lure will land to the left or right of your mark, possibly snagging in structure. If your timing is right, the lure’s path stays low to the water, allowing you to land under over hanging structure. It also allows you to gain further distance and control when the wind is blowing. An example is when fishing open flats or deep water where accuracy is not important. I like to leave around 3 to 5 feet of line from my rod tip and using the side arm cast allows me to load the whole rod up which results in maximum distance.



Next is the under hand cast. This is my preferred presentation around structure or when fishing shallow water. Start by holding the rod horizontally, like you would for a side arm cast. With approximately 8 to 16 inches of leader hanging from your rod tip, move your arm in a semi-circle and exacerbate the action with your wrist. This will move the rod tip in an inverted ‘C’ shape keeping the rod tip close to the water’s surface. Timing your release is very important, if done correctly you will be able to keep the lure low to the water, placing it in and under structure. You can also feather the line as it reaches your target making the lure land softly in the water. Casting distance and boat positon are the only down falls with this cast. It requires the rod tip to be low to the water, so standing at the front of the boat is ideal as you can get right out over the water opening up multiple angles. When using the underhand cast your distance will be limited because the flight path keeps the lure close to the water and depending on lure weight and wind resistance, it drops away fairly quickly.



Pitching is a technique we don’t hear about much in Australia. I have been practicing and refining it for some time and it is now a technique I rely on. Whilst I might not get a chance to use this cast every day, when the opportunity presents itself I really love this technique. River or heavy structure fishing presents a fantastic opportunity for the pitching technique. For example fishing a timbered edge you are constantly presented with vertical trees, as you pass around the standing trees these provide a perfect spot for you to pitch and hopefully pick up an extra fish. Pitching allows you place your lure very tight to cover with minimal water disturbance. It is usually done with bait cast tackle but can quite easily be adopted for use with a spin rod. Start with the rod in a vertical position with the reel about chest height. Your lure hangs down to your reel and you hold the lure with your opposite hand. Next, disengage the reel; let go of the lure and drop your rod tip. The lure will begin its pendulum motion and as it reaches the bottom of its arc you lift the rod up and release your thumb from the spool. The lure should be just above the water at the bottom of its arc, with practice, timing and technique your lure should travel inches off the surface as you feather it in for a perfectly placed cast with minimal disturbance. Rod length is important with pitching as this gives you greater distance and control. The longer the better with a rod from 7 to 8 feet being ideal. With the announcement of a river round this year in the 13 Fishing Hawkesbury River round, I am excited about the possibilities of utilizing this technique on the tournament scene.



Now I am the first to admit that I am no expert fly fisherman. There is an endless supply of videos, tutorials and websites from more experienced anglers available online. But I will hand down some tips on what not to do. Getting my first fly rod some years ago I made the very eager choice of jumping straight in my boat the day I purchased the rod and trying my luck. Since that experience I cannot stress the importance of practicing to cast first before trying to catch a fish. A perfect place to start is on a sporting oval or somewhere large enough with short grass so you don’t damage your line. The line is what does the casting and provides the weight to propel your fly. The larger the fly the more draft it catches slowing your line making it harder to cast. You combat this by using heavier lines and more powerful rods. For most bass scenarios a #6 to #8 weight rod will do the job. I recommend starting with a short leader under 4 feet from your fly line. Tie of a very small piece white cloth on the end so it is easy for you to see and with no hooks to pierce the back of your head. To start strip about 20ft of line out and practice the action needed to make loops around 3 to 4 feet in diameter at each end of your stroke. Imagine trying to create a cylinder shape with your line as you go through your action, this is the basic action required. For the final stroke of presenting your fly you with need to have tension on the line to help it lay out from its loop, failure to do this with result in the line and fly falling in a heap. As you practice your timing your feel will improve and you will be able to gain control and distance. There are multiple techniques for different fly casts like double hauling or roll casting. For the most part, a simple cast should be all that’s required to get you started. Fly lines are the key in the whole setup and require care to keep it in perfect condition. Cold weather can stiffen lines, likewise warm weather can make them soft and sticky. Stretching your fly line is an important part and will do away with unwanted memory in the line. This can be done as you pull the line off your reel in preparation for making a cast. I have also laid it out on the grass in the sun, even taking it off the reel while at home and hanging it on a curtain rail in large loops all the way to the floor to help prevent the tight reel loops. Fly fishing requires patience, it is not a technique I turn to everyday but it can be incredibly effective if done properly. One day I decided to just take the fly rod. I was amazed, even with my poor casting technique I still caught quite a few bass. I just had to put in the time and effort to fish it effectively.

Next up we will look at an overview of some of the successful techniques used for bass.

Peter Phelps