April 03, 2023
While the overhead cast is ideal for bombing lures long distances, the sidearm cast, or roll cast, is the choice when there’s a premium on accuracy combined with a quiet lure entry. Additionally, because the lure is kept very near the surface of the water throughout the cast, the sidearm cast has less chance of getting pushed offline by prevailing winds.
A roll cast is powered by using the centrifugal force of the lure at the end of the rod tip to load the rod with a high to low "rolling" of the wrist. Many newer anglers are naturally inclined to extend the casting arm and elbow in the same manner as a sidearm throw of a baseball or football. However, this is an inefficient and counterproductive motion in the roll cast. Instead, the wrist motion, aided by the opening and closing of the forearm, keeps the elbow relatively close to your side. It’s also necessary to start with 6 to 8 inches of line between the lure and rod tip, which will help generate the centrifugal force to load the rod properly and power the cast as you change direction from back to forward cast.
To get the sense of feel for the lure loading the rod tip, simply hold the rod directly in front of you and start rotating the wrists to get the lure swinging at the end of the rod: righties will rotate the rod in a clockwise motion while lefties will rotate counterclockwise. This is the basic motion that powers the cast as the forearm and wrist moves forward to eventually send the lure toward the target.
As with the overhead cast, resting the opposing hand on the base of the rod handle supports the weight of the rod in the back cast and is a force multiplier for properly loading the rod on the forward cast. At the start of the forward cast, pulling the butt of the handle toward the casting forearm or body with the opposing hand generates extra load throughout the rod blank for adding distance with minimal effort on your part.
The other way to execute a sidearm cast is “backhanded,” which is useful for when you have a partner standing beside you in the boat or you simply need a different angle of attack to reach the target. The same motion is repeated across your body—similar to a backhand stroke in tennis. Again, the rod tip works in a high-to-low loop as the rod changes direction in the back cast, creating centrifugal force from the weight of the lure and shooting it low and fast above the water. Of course, righties will now rotate the rod in a counterclockwise loop, while lefties will rotate in a clockwise motion to power the backhanded roll cast.
Casting accuracy comes with practice, and practicing good technique is always key. Accurate casting starts with looking at the target—just as you would look at the first baseman when firing a baseball across the diamond. Therefore, be precise when selecting a target. For example, when casting to a bush on a shallow flat, focus on the specific side of the bush on which you want the lure to land.
The point at which you remove your thumb from the spool is also a major component in casting accuracy, with the spool being released well before the rod tip reaches the target. Consider a horizontal clock face with the target at 12 o'clock; the release point will be somewhere around 10 o’clock for lefties and 2 o’clock for righties.
The final key to increased accuracy is to allow the rod tip to follow through and point toward the intended target as the lure tracks across the water; the line will unspool wherever the rod tip is pointed. You can reroute a wayward cast, if only by a foot or so, while the lure is in the air by redirecting the rod tip to apply pressure to the line as it unspools. Again, this is for fine-tuning a cast that’s only slightly offline but can really assist with precise lure placement.
The quiet lure entry of the roll cast is assisted with the feathering of the spool as the lure approaches the water. Additionally, a subtle lifting of the rod tip as the lure nears the target will put lift into the line, thereby slowing the lure’s entry. This lifting of the rod tip can be likened to a last second pull of a parachute to slow the speed of the lure and give it that soft “touch” down, as opposed to a loud “splash” down.
Practicing the roll cast in your backyard or driveway is a great way to groove the timing of the release point. As a righty, if your lure constantly lands left of the target (right of target if you cast left-handed), the release point of your thumb from the spool could be late or the spool tension knob could be too tight. If you consistently land right of target (left of target if casting left-handed), make sure you follow through on the cast by pointing the rod tip toward the target as the lure approaches.
Though there are a lot of technical aspects to the roll cast, it's actually quite easy in practice. Soon you’ll develop the muscle memory and timing to simply see the target and make the cast without thought. You just “feel” where you want the lure to land and make it happen.