Become a master caster
  |  First Published: April 2009

The fleeing baitfish and a huge boil that broke the surface gave promise to the next cast. It was right in the mouth of a feeder creek that was very narrow and lined in thick mangroves. The roots of the red mangrove tree gave plenty of cover, a place the barramundi find ideal for ambushing the massive population of mullet that invade the shallows on the rising tide.

The lure was placed right into the creek and positioned hard in the roots of the mangroves. I knew that I would have the attention of whatever was lurking amongst the entwined timber.

My lure hardly moved an inch before it was engulfed. The strike came so close to the surface that in sucking the lure into its mouth, the boof of a big barra broke the silence. The instant the hooks were home the fish launched clear of the water, gills flared and head shaking in an attempt to free the lure from its jaw.

Sounds a lot like fishing writers dribble but it actually happened to me a few short weeks ago. Unfortunately the fish did manage to shake free during one of those sessions when the barra were deep in the snags and I was getting desperate for a fish. The casts had to be right on the money and up under the dense growth of mangroves that line every bank of the river. I have been lucky enough to fish from one end of the country to the other and while in this instance, I was casting lures at barra on Cape York, the scene can be repeated for anglers casting small plastics for bream in Tassie. Becoming a master caster takes plenty of practice but can pay off in the end.

How to Cast like a Master

Just like my old footy coach used to preach, learn the fundamentals and the rest will come. Correct casting technique is often overlooked but when it comes to working lures or putting baits into structure, casting is the difference between success and failure. I have been able to spend time on the water with some brilliant casting mentors who have not only taught me how to cast, but also challenged me to become more accurate and technically sound.

Pro bream anglers are some of the best casters that I have meet and these guys made casting light threadline outfits popular, while indirectly filling tackle stores with imported quality threadline casting outfits. Being able to flick and shoot lures into structure sees threadline reels as the preferred outfit. Even up in Cape York and the Northern Territory, threadline outfits are becoming a popular contender to the popular baitcaster.

Before we look at the correct technique for casting a threadline, it is vital that the outfit you choose is neatly balanced. A balanced outfit also includes the fishing line that you are using. Light estuary fishing can be done with 4lb braid and is best to be used on small 1500 reels matched to rods rated to the line class. Put 12lb line on the 1500 reel and everything from the line-lay on the spool to casting distance will be poor. Also, the small 1500 spools support small drag washes that are best to be used on light line with light drag settings. It is all about getting the balance right and you are half way there. It might be worth noting though, the lighter the line and outfit, the easier it will be to accurately cast and ultra fine braids are far superior to nylon lines.

Breaking my technique down in steps will get you started and using this as a guide, you will be well on your way, but the rest is all about practice.

Step one

Hold the rod in your dominant hand with the stem of the reel between your middle and ring finger. Most anglers learn to wind with their dominant hand but it’s best to break this habit and start retrieving with the non dominate hand. This will allow more control of the rod when playing a fish. Also after dropping a lure into structure, it can often get hit on the drop so not having to change hands before you start the retrieve means you can instantly react to bites.

Step two

Open the bail arm with the minimal amount of line hanging from the rod tip. If using a lure, this is simple and only a few centimetres of line needs to be left hanging. The more line that is hanging, the harder it will be to cast accurately.

With the bail arm open, reach down with your index finger to the lip of the spool to stop the line from falling from the reel.

Step three

Once you’re in position, bend your elbow to draw the rod straight back to 12 o’clock. If the rod is good quality graphite, it will load up similar to a fly rod. With the elbow bent and the rod loaded, throw your arm forward in a similar fashion to throwing a dart, aiming it at your target.

Step four

Casting with some power in the cast is vital because it stops that untidy and very un-accurate lob. Instead, loading the rod and firing it out means you can cast under overhanging growth, bridges and other structure as well as keeping the line tight in preparation for an early strike.

Casting with this amount of energy means that the distance needs to be controlled by ‘fanning’ the line with your index finger. It is best to slow the cast by allowing the line to flicker over your index finger until it is slowed enough to reach its destination as opposed to just digging the finger into the spool lip and stopping the cast dead in its tracks. This will cause the rod to load up and may even bring the lure straight back into the boat. Practice this a few times and you will soon understand what I mean and you’ll also be surprised about how accurate this can make your casts.

Step five

As soon as the cast is complete, engage the bail arm either by a short, quick crank of the handle or flick it over with your winding hand so you are ready for a strike instantly. Once you start getting a cast right into the structure, especially if using bait or soft plastics that swim on the drop, fish that are up near the surface can grab it as soon as it hits the water so be prepared. If fishing deep water, you may have to leave the bail arm open for some line to sink but be prepared to be hit on the drop.


Practice makes perfect and becoming a master caster is all about trial and error. It’s always best to practice when on the water. If your time on the water is limited, practise casting weights are available from tackle stores for a few dollars so set some targets up in the yard and go for it.

Once you start to get the hang of the cast, bringing the rod tip down to the side, very low to the water and putting in a powerful cast can cause the lure to bounce across the surface before landing or may just help getting it under jetties or low growth. I love to get a soft plastic skipping a couple of time because it makes the lure land a lot softer and instead of spooking fish with a heavy landing, it actually imitates a fleeing prawn and can turn the fish on.

Putting some work into your casting is one of the easiest ways to improve your fishing and if you’re anything like me, it’s a great way in increase the enjoyment you get from your fishing. There is nothing like putting a cracker of a cast into some structure and have the rod load up with a solid fish. Now that’s fishing.

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