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Baitcaster Basics: The Overhead Cast

Bass Crash Course: Technique tweaks to maximize distance and accuracy.

An effective casting motion with a baitcasting reel can come in various forms, including overhead, sidearm and underhand, as with flipping and pitching. And each serves a role depending on the desired result: overhead for distance, sidearm for more accuracy and limited lure splash, and flipping/pitching when precise lure placement and quiet entry is at a premium around shallow cover.

When maximum distance is needed, the higher launch angle of the overhead cast makes it the best choice. The downside is that the high launch point of the lure leads to a higher entry point into the water, causing a louder lure splash. The higher trajectory of an overhand cast also keeps the lure in the air longer, thereby reducing accuracy in windy conditions.

For this reason, the overhand cast is ideal for launching a crankbait over a tapering point, sending a topwater lure toward schooling fish or any other situation where a premium on casting distance is preferable to precise accuracy and quiet lure entry.

One mistake I occasionally see among new anglers is making an overhead cast with a "flying elbow." That is, the same motion used in throwing a baseball is implemented with a rod and reel in hand, causing the casting elbow to point high or well behind the body when loading the rod on the back cast. Instead, an efficient overhead cast involves the casting elbow pointing toward the target on the back cast. As a result, the primary propulsion of the lure is derived from the loading and unloading of the rod, not the arm and shoulder. The overhead cast should be a very efficient motion, with the casting forearm and rod in alignment throughout the cast.

Using the vertical clock face analogy, keep your casting hand/wrist between the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions when loading the rod, with 10 o’clock being the position on the back cast and 2 o’clock being the release point. If you lift your casting elbow too high on the back cast, it causes the rod to point at the ground behind you, which leads to wasted motion and effort. On the forward cast, there is some natural follow-through with the rod tip that can take the hand beyond the 2 o'clock position. However, immediately dropping the rod tip toward the water after releasing the thumb from the spool significantly reduces casting distance due to the excessive friction of the line against the rod guides.

A common tendency of new anglers is to cast with one arm. Because the modern baitcasting rod is anywhere from 6 feet, 9 inches to 7 feet, 10 inches in length, a repeated, one-armed casting motion can put tremendous strain on the casting wrist throughout a day of fishing. Additionally, the one-armed casting motion lacks the ability to generate enough power to properly load the rod during the cast and send the lure very far.

The remedy for this wrist strain and lack of power comes from grabbing the aft part of the rod grip below the reel with your opposite hand. Modern bass rods have plenty of handle length to accommodate the addition of the opposite hand to stabilize the rod as it's loading up in the back cast, and, most importantly, applying slight pressure to the handle toward the body during the forward cast. This downward pressure applied to the rod handle will add increased "load" or flex to the rod as it's suddenly propelled forward to launch the lure toward the target, adding effortless and efficient power to the casting motion. The more force applied to the handle with the opposite hand will create added power throughout the cast.

There's yet another force multiplier when trying to bomb a lure to its maximum distance, and that's adding the force of your body motion to the cast. Maybe you've seen tournament footage of pros like Kevin VanDam as he tries to cover as much water as possible when casting a crankbait as far as possible. There's a slight rotation of the shoulders, as well as a slight forward weight shift as increased force is applied to the rod during the forward cast—very similar to how the body works when throwing a ball. Again, the elbows have a freedom of motion to move the rod into a powerful position on the back cast, yet the primary power comes from the pressure of the opposite hand and the slight turning of the shoulders during the cast. This added motion with the body is only necessary when seeking maximum distance.

Casting a lure does resemble throwing a ball in the timing of the release point. In the case of casting a lure, that's when you release the thumb from the spool on the forward motion of the cast. If you find your lure is frequently landing well short of your target, the release point is likely too late. Conversely, if the release point with the thumb is too early, the lure will shoot too high into the air, also compromising distance.


Finally, casting distance can be maximized by not reeling the lure all the way to the rod tip. Instead, leave about 6 inches of line at the end of the rod tip before you make the next cast. The weight of the lure at the end of this short span of line will increase centrifugal force as you change direction from the back cast to the forward movement of the rod tip, which will aid in sending the lure toward the target with even greater ease.

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