May 26, 2021
Editor’s note: This article is featured in the Midwest edition of June-July's Game & Fish Magazine. Learn how to subscribe
Bass fishing's foundational skill set is the ability to accurately present a lure with a baitcasting rod and reel to a specific target area. Some techniques, like tossing a crankbait across an offshore point, place added importance on casting distance to keep the lure in the strike zone longer throughout the retrieve. Others techniques, like casting around docks, require precise casts at shorter distances.
As with anything, developing the ability to consistently make accurate casts, both long and short, requires practice. This means many repetitions of proper form to meld body and equipment to work in unison.
So, whether you're just starting out with a baitcaster or are in need of a tune-up, here are some ways to refine your casting technique in your backyard or the next time you're out on the water.
TWO KEY CASTS
There are two basic forward casts in fishing: the overhead cast and the sidearm, or roll, cast. The overhead cast provides maximum distance due to its higher launch angle. Meanwhile, the roll cast offers better control and accuracy because of its lower trajectory.
To perform the best overhead cast, limit the rod’s overhead motion from a 10 o’clock position on the back cast to a 2 o’clock position when releasing the spool with the thumb. Stopping the forward motion of the cast at the 2 o’clock position—instead of immediately dropping the rod to the water—keeps the rod synchronized with the line’s trajectory as the lure reaches its apex.
This minimizes line friction within the rod guides, which results in additional distance on the cast. As the lure nears the water, you can feather the rod tip down to the 3 o’clock position to accommodate the flattening angle of the line. Also, keep your elbow, forearm and rod in relative alignment to most efficiently transfer power at release.
A proper roll cast, or sidearm cast, starts with the casting hand palm-up on the back cast. During the forward cast, the wrist rolls the hand to a palm-down position and launches at a low angle, just above the water. The 10 and 2 o’clock rule still applies, though in a horizontal plane. You still release the thumb at approximately the 2 o’clock position; however, for consistent accuracy, allow the rod tip to follow through and point directly at the intended target.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
One of the most common errors I see novice anglers make is attempting to cast just as they would throw a baseball. That is, with one arm and their elbow away from the body. This form reduces both accuracy and distance and quickly causes fatigue in the casting arm.
Instead, the wrist and forearm should dominate in an efficient casting motion (whether overhead or sidearm). And, during the process, you should keep the casting elbow relatively low and somewhat close to the body. This approach allows the action of the rod, rather than the strength of the arm, to serve as the engine for propelling the lure.
Whether casting overhead or sidearm, you can easily multiply the force behind your casts with your non-casting hand. Placed on the rear section of the long handle of a modern baitcasting rod, the non-casting hand can help contribute to effortless power and control.
As you initiate the forward cast, pull the rod handle toward the body with the non-casting hand, while the casting hand and wrist applies forward motion. The opposing pressure to the handle’s base increases the flex, or load, of the rod blank during the forward cast, and this propels the lure with greater force than a one-armed cast will allow.
The additional support of the non-casting hand also improves rod control throughout the cast, leading to better accuracy.
Another key for achieving pinpoint accuracy: Have a very specific target in mind before making a cast. That is, aim for the left side of a bush instead of the whole bush. This doesn’t require Jedi-like concentration.
However, pausing briefly to consider the specific target before pulling the trigger dramatically improves your casting precision.
To ensure the baitcasting reel is working with you and not against you, properly set the tension knob on the reel. Located next to the reel handle, the tension knob controls how freely the spool spins during the cast. If the tension is too loose, backlashes occur. If it’s too tight, it restricts casting distance and accuracy suffers.
The proper amount of tension varies based on the weight of the lure and prevailing winds. A tried-and-true method for properly setting the tension is to overtighten the knob while holding the rod parallel to the ground.
Depress the thumb bar to disengage the spool and slowly back off the tension knob so the lure descends freely without significant overrun once the lure hits the ground. The tension should be adjusted as needed throughout the course of the day as lures and wind conditions change.