REACH AND HOOK THAT FARAWAY LUNKER
Longer Distance With A Spinning Rod
Photos by Jim Prudhomme
You read up on it. You become sure you can do it. After all, hitting a good tee
shot seems a lot harder than casting a spinning rod.
So you march to the lake with visions of hooking and landing a faraway
lunker. You set up your fishing rod and step up to the bank and cast. Your
lure, however, flies off to the right and not very far. You cast again and again.
The results don't change.
Golf didn't seem this frustrating! So you think all you need is some practice.
But after hours and hours of it, you're still in the same, going-nowhere
casting boat, so to speak.
How discouraging! Even makes you think about giving up fishing.
Yes, I know! But instead of giving up, I wondered, what if there's a lot more to
casting a spinning rod than what I read? What if I experiment with using other
techniques, like the techniques of throwing a ball, and of casting a fly rod?
So I began a year of casting trials and errors. Lots of errors! Then finally it
happened: Consistently, I felt the beauty of loading the rod, of watching the
lure streak over the water, and land right where I wanted it to.
Here's how I got there.
THE OPEN STANCE Most of us feel more comfortable using an open stance;
so, because I'm right-handed, my left foot is forward and pointing straight at
the target. This is similar to the position I'm in when I throw a baseball. The
front of my right foot is about in-line with the front of my left heel and points
outward, about thirty degrees to the right of the target. (If my right foot is too
far back or too far outward, I'll limit my hip rotation during the forward cast.)
To help increase my leverage and power, my knees are slightly bent. I shift my
weight to the ball of my front foot. My right heel is off the ground. I flex my
thumb and put it on the top of the rod handle. I hold the rod loosely and point
it straight ahead and parallel to the water or slightly downward. My elbow is in-
line with the front of my waist. The lure hangs down about two feet from the
THE CLOSED STANCE I believe there is nothing wrong with using an open
stance, but I also believe that when we cast a spinning rod, unlike when we
throw a ball, we don’t bend at the waist to generate leverage and power.
Instead, we rotate our hips as much as possible, like a batter hitting a ball or a
boxer throwing a punch. If my left foot is in front of my right, I will not be able
to fully rotate my hips forward and get all my weight into the cast. Therefore, I
prefer to use a closed stance: My right foot is in front of my left. At first, this
will probably feel awkward for many casters, but with time, I believe, it will
become more comfortable.
THE POWER GRIP. I start with two fingers in front of the reel stem and two
behind. I pickup the line with my right index finger, then move my hand back
so only my line finger is in front of the stem. Next, I pull the line up and back,
then press my fingertip against the stem, but not against the line. (I like to
feel the weight of the lure to cast it accurately.)
I hold the line this way for the same reason a good fly caster doesn't let slack
form in his fly line: to keep constant tension on the line, so that as soon as I
start the cast the lure pulls on the rod and immediately begins to load it.
Holding the line the conventional way made it impossible for me to keep
enough tension on the line. Even worse, I found it very difficult to keep my
index finger from prematurely straightening and releasing the line.
No wonder my casts were short, and high and off to the side.
(Until I got my timing down, I used a golf glove or a band-aid to prevent the
line from cutting into my finger.)
MOVING THE ROD. I initially assumed the faster I moved the rod the farther I'd
cast. For three reasons I was wrong. 1. A pitcher achieves maximum power
and velocity only when his arm moves in sync with his body rotation. If his arm
gets ahead of his body he becomes an "arm thrower". No wonder major
league pitchers seem to throw as if they're not using all their might! Maximum
arm speed is reached only at the release. 2. To fully load the rod, it must be
accelerated. If it moves too quickly at the start of the cast, or at constant
speed during the cast, the lure won't fully load the rod. The cast dies well
short of its target. 3. If our arm gets ahead of our body, we will lower the rod
tip from the target line at the end of the cast, and, the rod will not unload all
of its power at once.
(A stiffer rod loads better with a shorter, faster stroke, but the stroke must
still be accelerated.)
THE CAST AND POWER SNAP. I open the bail. Using my arm not my wrist, I raise
my elbow and slowly accelerate the rod up and back. As I move the rod, I
rotate my shoulders backwards and shift my weight to the heel of my back
foot. When the rod is at about two o'clock, I break my wrist back and lower the
rod to about three o'clock. My elbow still points straight ahead. (If it points
out to the side, I'll not be able finish the cast without lowering the rod tip from
the target line.) My forearm, depending how far I raised my elbow, is between
one and two o'clock. My upper arm is parallel to the water or points slightly
upward. My knees are still bent. That way, I'll be able to fully use my legs to
rotate and to generate power on my forward cast.
If my lure is not too light, and/or my spinning rod too stiff, I should have
already begun to load the rod.
(During the back cast I never move the rod too fast. If I do, the lure will
bounce at the end of the cast and prematurely unload the rod. When in doubt,
it is better to move the rod too slowly rather than too quickly.)
I immediately start my forward cast with my eyes focused on an imaginary
target in the sky, about forty-five degrees above the water, but higher if the
wind is from behind or lower if from in front.
Leading with my elbow, keeping my wrist locked, we accelerate the rod up
and forward until the rod butt moves at a right angle to the target line. We
begin to rotate our hips forward. This is the start of the loading move. (Fully
rotating our hips and shoulders allows us to increase the length that we can
move, and therefore load, the rod at this angle.) When we have rotated our
body about three-quarters of the way, we tighten our grip. Then, as we
approach maximum arm speed, we shift all our weight to our front foot and
snap our wrist down halfway, as if we're hammering a nail. The rod tip turns
over. Without lowering it from the target line, we squeeze the handle and
abruptly stop the rod at about 10:30, and let go of the line.
My front leg is now straight. My right
shoulder is all the way forward. My arm
is fully extended. My weight is on the ball
and toes of my front foot. I hold the rod
still so I don't lower the tip and pull the
THAT EXTRA DISTANCE: So, we practiced
these techniques and we're casting farther
than ever, but wouldn't you know it: We're
back on the water, and again the fish are ten
feet beyond our reach.
Now what's a caster to do?
We'll borrow techniques from spey - rhymes with say - casters, and lengthen
our so-called back swing, and therefore load the spinning rod even more.
We begin our spey-like cast with the rod again pointing straight ahead and
parallel to the water or slightly downward. Then, using our arms, not our
wrists, we point the rod tip up to about ten-thirty. Without stopping, we swing
the rod outward. Keeping our elbow in place (I like to think of it as a swivel)
we begin to shift our weight back. Slowly increasing acceleration, and
keeping the rod at the same angle to the water, we pretend we're using the
rod tip to draw a big half-oval in the sky. When we're almost finished drawing,
we raise our elbow and break our wrist down. The rod should be between
three and four o'clock. Immediately, we begin the forward cast.
AS I DESCRIBE ALL THIS. Learning to cast a spinning rod seems a lot easier
than it was. Well maybe if, like most skilled golfers, I had learned the right
techniques from the start it would've been.
But better late than never.
Copyright 2007 by Randall Kadish. All rights reserved.
Earlier versions of this article appeared in Canadian Sportfishing and in