In our back to basics approach, we looked at casting in last month’s issue. We reviewed some of the techniques you can use to improve your casting efficiency, such as accuracy and distance. This month I would like to look at some more advanced casting techniques. Although advanced casting doesn’t really fit in with the concept of a ‘back to basics’ approach, it seemed timely to look at it directly after covering basic casting technique.
When you watch a good tournament angler, you immediately notice they use a few different casting techniques. The fishing stance and the way the rod is held and operated often appear quite different to what we normally see. There are good reasons for this. Tournament anglers aim for pinpoint accuracy when casting in conjunction with a focus on making a lure land as quietly as possible on the water. Lures are often required to land in very hard to reach locations. To achieve these results, anglers are often required to adopt some specialised casting techniques.
Tournament anglers are always trying to get lures into tough places, because basically that’s where the fish usually are. If you are going to encounter a big fish, you can bet it will be found in a sheltered location such as tight against or tucked away under a good bit of structure. Casting a lure into difficult spots often seems a daunting task, however it can be made relatively easy with a few new techniques and a bit of practice.
The first way to make life easier is to get everything happening down low. By this I mean aim to get the trajectory of your cast as low to the water as possible. If you think about it, there are good reasons for this. If a fish is sitting under an overhanging object or sitting tight against a structure such as a tree, bridge or pontoon, you stand a much greater chance of getting a lure into that zone if the cast is made close to the water level. The rules of physics dictate that a low cast will either shoot in under overhanging structure with ease, or will hit a structure just above water level and then fall into the water very close to the strike zone.
The moral of the story is to get your rod tip down low and tough casting targets will suddenly become a lot more achievable.
In last month’s column we looked at casting in an overhead manner. This month we are going to learn how to cast in an underarm fashion, and unlike bowling underarm, this technique is still sporting! The art of casting with a low rod tip is called pitching in some circles.
Start by holding the rod directly above the reel. Keep two fingers either side of the reel mount and while maintaining pressure on the main line, release the bail arm of the reel.
Keep the rod parallel to the water and then slowly drop the rod tip towards the water surface. Aim to stop lowering the rod tip once it is 30-50cm above water level. In this photo you will notice the rod is being used to cast in a backhand manner (the same as a backhand in tennis). It doesn’t matter whether you use a backhand or forehand technique. Many anglers find it easy to start using a forehand pitching technique and then practise getting better with the backhand.
At the end of the day, whether you pitch cast backhand, forehand or with the rod pointing straight down (as casting champion Adam Royter does) it really doesn’t matter. As long as you get that tip down low and become comfortable using one method then you are heading towards catching more fish.
When you are ready to do so, use mainly your wrist and shoot out the cast. Make sure you keep the rod tip travelling low to the water throughout the cast. Aim to have the rod tip pointing towards your target when you have completed the cast.
Pitch casting is a technique which does not require brute force. Anglers who pitch cast well use mainly their wrists and minimal amounts of full arm movement. The casting technique is similar to playing squash, in that anglers who use a good wrist technique will produce as much casting velocity as anglers who use their whole arm to complete the cast.
An added bonus when learning to cast in this manner is the improved ability to ‘skip’ soft plastic lures. If you want to get a soft plastic under overhanging structure (vegetation or artificial), you will be able to do this by casting with a hard and low trajectory cast. A low, high-speed cast will often result in a soft plastic lure bouncing off the surface of the water. This effect is much the same as skimming a stone, and it allows anglers to get a soft plastic a long way under a structure where fish wouldn’t normally see a lure.
I mentioned earlier that tournament anglers aim to land a lure as quietly as possible on the surface of the water. The reason for this is two fold. Firstly, a big splash on top of a fish will quickly spook it. Secondly, a fish that suddenly finds a foreign edible object in their space will often eat it as much out of hunger as aggression. This is commonly referred to as a reaction bite. So, how do you go about landing a lure quietly on the water? Well, the best way is to use a combination of three techniques.
The first part of the equation is to cast your lure so it stays close to the surface of the water. The reason for this is that a lure landing on the water from a great height is always going to make a splash. Now that you know how to pitch cast, you already know how to keep a lure low to the water when casting.
The next key ingredient to ensuring a lure lands quietly on the water is to watch it in the air. I am always amazed by how few anglers actually do this. By watching a lure travel through the air, you’ll be able to stop the lure when it nears the target area. This in turn will allow you to land the lure exactly where you want it and with minimal splash. It stands to reason that if a lure is travelling at velocity close to the top of the water, and suddenly all velocity is removed, the lure will land gently and quietly.
The one instance when a lure will make a splash after having been cast low to the water is if the lure is stopped very suddenly. The bounce effect this produces will ensure that a lure always hits the water at velocity and therefore noisily. The way to alleviate this problem is to slowly stop the lure. It is a bit like driving a car and applying the breaks at a stop sign. A nice gradual braking technique will have the car stopping quietly and gently. However, if the driver jams on the brakes, the car will come to a grinding and noisy stop. To land a lure on the water with little or no splash, you need to gradually stop the lure by gently applying pressure to the spool of the reel during the cast. This technique is called feathering the line.
Picture 4 shows an angler using a forefinger to gently feather the spool as a lure nears the target area. Many anglers use the main forefinger to feather the spool but I use my free hand to do the job. I hold the rod with the right hand so I use my left hand to feather the spool. There are no set rules though – you should do whatever is comfortable and works for you.
In summary, the three key points to remember are: pitch cast low to the water, watch the lure in the air and feather the spool gently when the lure nears the target area.
We introduced Darren last week, as our beginner to the lure fishing game. Darren is a self-professed fishing no hoper and has become the ‘back to basics” guinea pig. The aim of using Darren is to show you how an absolute novice uses the information described in these columns.
This week, Darren’s casting actually began to get better! I was starting to wonder if it was a lost cause as Darren had spent a lot of time casting in every direction except the desired one. However, on our last trip, I left Darren to his own devices in the boat. I had to unhook the occasional mislaid cast, but I gradually noticed that a few casts were starting to land pretty close to the target. Darren was proud of his performance and mentioned that as soon as he had stopped trying to force his casting it had started to become more accurate.
Darren started flicking a few pitch casts and this improved his accuracy as well. It made sense when I thought about it, because what he had done without thinking was reduce the amount of movements he used during casting. Darren also started using his arms less and his wrists more. The simple little flicking motion he was developing began to send his lures much closer to the desired locations. There is hope for him yet!
Darren topped off his last trip with his first ever fish on a lure! A trevally that I still think was severely unlucky, grabbed a Berkley soft plastic that Darren was flicking about. He is now off his fishing doughnut, and I am looking forward to next month’s trip!
These advanced casting techniques will take a bit of practice, but are well worth the effort. They make sense and are very effective, which is the reason lots of tournament anglers use them. Here is a game for you to play. Take your watch off your wrist and put it on the opposite wrist. Do it before reading any further…
It feels very awkward doesn’t it? The funny thing is that when you first put a watch on your preferred wrist it probably felt just as strange. However, now you don’t think twice about putting your watch on because you are used to it. The same principals apply when using new casting techniques. At first they will feel very strange, and the urge will be to give them away. However, if you persevere with your new casting techniques, they will gradually become second nature and soon they will feel as normal as wearing your watch! The difference is that good casting technique will catch you fish!Reads: 2397