February 15, 2022
By Frank Sargeant
- Note: This article is featured in the March issue of Game & Fish Magazine. Click here for a preview. Click here to subscribe.
Being able to make really long casts is a big advantage in many fishing situations, like when fishing from a pier or the shore or when wading. It is also advantageous when the water is calm, clear and shallow.
The farther you can throw a crankbait, the deeper it will run. And, of course, the farther the cast, the more water you can cover.
That all sounds great, but how do you go about it? Here are some tips to get you reaching out the next time you hit the water.
Former U.S. national casting champ David Roberts knows how to cast great distances. Roberts competed for years, and along the way he learned how to get the most out of his equipment. While his equipment for casting competitions is very specialized, the principles used for competition apply to maximizing casting distances out on the lake.
"It’s important to have a very fine, flexible and slippery line," says Roberts. "For spinning, many competitive casters use 4-pound-test Berkley Fireline, which has the diameter of most 1-pound-test monofilament. For baitcasiting, most use 6-pound-test Izor monofilament.”
Few if any bass or salmon/steelhead anglers would opt for line that light under most circumstances. However, if a line’s flex, finish and diameter are critical considerations to these long-distance casters, shouldn’t they be for us regular anglers, too? Low-diameter braid gives up nothing in strength compared to monofilament but offers a big advantage in distance.
Roberts says that large-diameter, tapered spools on spinning reels, completely filled with line, give a distance advantage, too.
“The bigger spool means less friction, and that gives a longer cast—provided it’s filled to the lip,” says Roberts.
So, if you’re setting up a long-range rig, you might choose a 3000-size reel over a 2500 or a 2000. Many of today’s reels—like the Vanford series from Shimano—are super lightweight, so there’s almost no weight penalty for using the larger reel. Both the 2500 and the 3000 weigh just 6.3 ounces, while the much larger 5000—great for surfcasting or larger fish—weighs only 7.8 ounces.
All things being equal, Roberts notes that longer rods cast farther, with the top distances attained with 13-foot rods. Of course, a 13-footer is too long for anything but serious surfcasting, but my 8-foot-6-inch St. Croix Triumph salmon/steelhead rod consistently outcasts my 7-foot, all-duty inshore spinning rod by about 20 feet with the same reel (a Shimano Vanford 3000 loaded with 10-pound-test PowerPro) throwing a half-ounce lure. This is a medium-action, fast-tip setup ideal for lobbing light lures long distances. The soft action also makes it nice for heaving egg-sack baits for steelies in big rivers.
THE RIGHT LURES
Some dense, compact lures, such as heavy-gauge spoons like those from Krockodile and lipless crankbaits like the Rat-L-Trap, naturally cast long distances. Onboard weight-transfer systems (rolling metal weights that position in the lure’s tail on the cast) in minnow-type, hard-plastic lures also help with casting distance. On the other hand, lightweight, high-drag lures like most weedless frogs are not the best choice when you want to really reach out.
Kevin VanDam is recognized as one of the longest casters on the pro circuits.
"Use your whole body when you’re trying for that maximum throw," he says. "Left foot forward, right foot back [for right-hand casting]. Bring your right shoulder back, and then step into the cast. It helps if you follow the flight of the lure with your rod, too, to cut line friction on the guides."
VanDam also notes he prefers long rods—7-foot-4-inch to 7-foot-10-inch models rather than the 6-foot-6-inch to 7-foot models most of us use. Of course, long casts are always easier with your strong hand on the reel seat and your other hand on the butt of the rod to pull as your strong hand pushes. A rod with an extended butt section also helps.
Last but not least, when possible, take advantage of the wind to help your casting. Like fly-anglers, throw your casts high when the wind is behind you and low when the wind is in your face to achieve maximum distance. When you can, attacking from the upwind side increases distance.
Put it all together and you’ll soon find your casts are reaching out farther than in the past—and that usually means more fish in the boat.
Terms manufacturers use to rate rod performance.
The way a fishing rod performs is determined, in large part, by two factors—its power and its action—and there are various terms used to rate the power and action of every rod. A rod’s "power" refers to how much pressure it takes to flex the rod. Different rod powers are engineered to efficiently handle a specific range of lure weights and line sizes. These run from "ultra-light" through "medium" to "extra-heavy."
The "action" of a rod is determined by where a rod flexes along the blank’s length. Fast-action rods flex mostly near the tip and excel for casting lures long distances. Moderate-action rods flex more near the middle of the blank and are good general-purpose sticks. Slow-action rods flex closer to the butt section and are good for casting live bait and lighter lures. Rods are rated "extra-fast," "fast," "medium" (or "moderate") and "slow."