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Casting Tips for Distance
by Frank Daignault

If you are going to spend the night throwing something,
it costs no more to do it right.

on't get me wrong: I still think distance casting gets way too much attention. The notion that winging a bait or lure further than anyone else is productive only when measuring the idea that beyond that of the other fishers on the beach, one's offer is alone. Still, surfcasting is a game of endurance, and fishing properly, including the distance one casts, takes less out of you.

REGARDLESS OF TACKLE CHOICE

Whether fishing with spinning or conventional, two considerations in bait and lure choice are weight and aerodynamics. Within the design limits of your tackle, heavier weights, when combined with the aerodynamics of what is cast, figure in strongly with your distance casting results. Certainly a tin is going to fly a country mile when compared to the air resistant quality of plugs. A lone sinker, or casting weight as used in distance casting tourneys, is probably the best example of sound castability choices, as long as the sinker is not too heavy for the caster to heave or the rod to withstand in its loading. The average caster lacks the strength to combine optimum weight for his strength and rod, much over six ounces. It is when we add bait to that sinker that distances are compromised because of the poor flying qualities of the bait. Sure, if the bait is a small piece of sea worm then resistance is way less than if it were a half a bunker. Also, once we start combining heavy baits with sinkers, windmilling picks up and can cut your distance down to close in fishing. Always remember that casting is about fishing. What I mean by that is if you swing mightily and splat your sea worm all over the first wave while your sinker is frightening surfers on the coast of Spain, the tail is wagging the dog. Similarly, big chunks of cut bait are okay for close in fishing but distance is only an option if you reduce the size of the chunk being thrown.

A less drastic effect which is similar to that created by bait comes into play when teaser fishing. With the addition of a fly, piece of pork-rind or small rubber lure, one more thing is creating air drag for the cast. Before adding all that junk, think about the distance requirement of the spot you are fishing. Often, I have enlarged the size of a teaser for close in fishing and selected the smallest one for spots that called for a little more distance. In the case of far away bars and sloughs, I take off the teaser entirely or use a lure for a casting weight chosen for its casting qualities and let the teaser do the fishing. Where necessary, you choose what flies well.

LOAD THE ROD

All casting combines caster strength, efficiency, and rod loading. Certainly, rods that load too easily are designed for lighter casting weight, be they lure or sinker. Stout sticks, while not as easily loaded, bend with the casting motion better on heavy offers half pound sinkers and big plugs like Atoms, Dannys, Pikies and more traditional artificials. You can get away with using lightweight offers that fail to load the rod; they just don't cast as far. So what. For years our son, Dick, and I have thrown one-ounce Rebels on squidders that splat in our foreshore.

Many amateur casters are plagued by anti-cast considerations and, as a consequence, think their solution is greater rod length. I know this is controversial, but do not think you can foster distance with a long pole. Distance casting competitions exhibit inordinately long rods but their issues are just not the same. They are not fishing and they don't deal with losing baits and repeating the process for hours on end. If you are a big man and insist on a longer length, then 10 feet max. I use a 9' 3" and my wife uses an 8 3/4.

Now, pay attention, and tell your friends you heard it from me. Do you remember David in the Bible who, whenever he got into a beef with the Romans, had a sling that could throw a stone with more muzzle velocity than a one-five-five howitzer? He did not launch the stone fast because he was strong. David could do this because his sling was very long. I know your uncle says that a longer rod will cast further but I fished with your uncle and I strain to be polite here. So it is with a surfrod.

The idea is to apply force without a hernia, to put a pipe on the wrench of surfcasting. I know what you want to do. You want to have your surface to air missile chosen for casting distance six inches from your tip the school of googan. But if you allow your casting weight to hang all the way down to the reel, that sinker or plug or clam will travel through an arc equal to the rod's length plus all that drop or distance from the tip, which can be 15 or 16 feet. Now, you have swung a nine-foot rod, with the wind resistance of a nine-foot rod, the weight of a nine-foot rod, and its speed, while benefiting from a 16-foot arc. This works in an onshore wind, while the guys from coasts where routine winds are from behind them, are gasping at your distances.

SPINNING TACKLE

Keep in mind that most of the aforementioned is for both types of casting gear. However, spinning, on the other hand, has a few issues that are specific to it. Years ago the Australian sidecast reel hit the market as a "distance" reel by taking advantage of that; the gosh-taked spool was ten inches in diameter. Then they recommended little, itty-bitty lines suitable for roach fishing in an Ohio creek. You laid into that buggar with a small tin and it went so far you could not see it hit the water, then had time to eat lunch during the retrieve. It was a great caster but unrealistic in the world of moby stripers. Nonetheless, they were taking advantage of spool depletion as the enemy of distance. For that reason you want as large a diameter spool as is offered.

Rod design is important but I leave that to the many custom rod makers that dot our coast, because they left the big companies who make great light and fly fishing tackle behind a generation ago. You want as large a collector or first guide as is made to cut down on line and coil slap, but those guys know that. Some of the cut-rate stores offer cheap imports with small spinning guides to accommodate shipping but they are no good for casting.

Another important way to prevent spool depletion during the cast is to fill the reel within its limits. Just dont overfill the reel so that line comes out in bunches. You can of course reduce depletion by fishing with a lighter line but that has left more, otherwise competent, casters sobbing and retching in the dunes than anything I can bring to mind. Again, this is supposed to be fishing, and bear hunting with a squirrel gun gives competent surfcasting a bad name.

They now make monofilament line that is the size of 20-pound test that tests at 30 pound Stren Magna-thin and AN-40 Silver Thread, for example. That seems to be the only place, when examining the issues of distance casting, where trade-offs are not required. It makes no sense to me to fish with a thicker line than you have to if there are no trade-offs.

CONVENTIONAL TACKLE

Justification for conventional tackle, in spite of my love for it, keeps thinning as a result of all the improvements in lines. Still, as long as people are doing it, they may as well do it right. The smaller braids do perform better when wet, the same way your father's braid did back when only girls wore earrings. You would have to be bombed out of your brain to lay into a dry spool on a squidder - dah. Not only that but a burned thumb is no way to spend the night fishing a conventional reel. (My old friend, the late Gene Lubash, used to win the MBBA distance cast every season by dumping his beer on the spool when it was his turn to compete.)

The curse of revolving spool reels is the backlash and it has sent a lot of fine athletes to the golf course or to boat fishing prematurely. The "educated thumb" became part of surfcasting's literature back when the Andrew sisters learned the truth about men. Casting this stuff can't be taught, but there are things that can be done to help casting. Get into the habit of thumbing the corner of the spool. This keeps your thumb from interfering with the line lift from the spool. Lay the line on the spool level, as the neater you place it on, the greater its ease in getting off. Level wind reels do this for you and reduction in distance due to level-wind is negligible when fishing.

Assuming the reel's bearings are in good order, adjustment of the side play through the bearings is critical to the reel's performance. I'm not sure how this works, but I keep them oily. I also like play that allows the reel the freedom to slide sideways, say .020 to .030 inches on a squidder and less on an Ambassador. Never grunt and lay into conventional reels until you have gotten the feel of the one you are using. What you do is to sneak up on a conventional reel in the daylight. The long trail mentioned above also makes for a smoother cast.

Once you are confident enough to swing a conventional stick, think about installing a trigger under the reel clamp or fashioning a clamp that is equipped with one. Such triggers prevent the axial slide of the rod in the hand and keep you from squeezing the rod so much that your thumbing control is poor. The trigger is a more natural grip that permits the thumb to go on watch, so-to-speak. In conventional, care of that thumb is everything. I really don't think distance is a big deal in surfcasting. Still, if you think it is important, then it is for you. And, many of us have a lot of gear that is plagued by anti-cast considerations that we should get after. You never know.

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Frank Daignault, All Rights Reserved

Frank Daignault is the author of Striper Surf, Twenty Years on the Cape, Striper Hot Spots, The Trophy Striper, Eastern Tides and Fly Fishing the Striper Surf. Autographed books can be purchased directly from Frank; Order Form »

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