The key to casting a fishing rod is a nice fluid motion that sends your fishing lure optimally to a targeted spot on the water. Sounds simple, right? It IS once you get it down. Much like a good golf swing, it really just takes practice.
We should probably address a few terms here to start. The basic action of casting a fishing rod is more or less the same, but the reel type will determine many of the hand movements involved. Understanding a fishing reel will help you learn the proper techniques and troubleshoot when things get tangled. Oh, how they can tangle…
The three main types we’ll address here are Spincast, Baitcaster and Spinning Reels. We’ll start with spincast, since that’s where most of us start. These are the simplest to operate and understand. If you’re a kid, it most likely says Zebco on it;)
To start with your spincast rig, you’ll want to grasp the rod handle with whichever hand is the most comfortable. The handles of most spincast rods have a recessed seat with a trigger-like projection on the underside. Wrap your index finger around this to ensure a secure grip and offer the leverage needed to cast.
Make sure your path is clear of obstructions both behind and in front of you. You can easily snag things (or people) on your backswing. If you’re new to it and want to practice, simply attach a large sinker as your lure and start casting it in any outdoor spot that gives you space.
Your line should be strung through the eyes (or rings) of the fishing rod, and there should be 12 to 15 inches of line from the end of your rod to your lure to give your cast the best momentum. You can either let some out or reel some in. Now you’re all set.
Next, locate the button at the back of the reel. This will let out the fishing line when deployed. Press and hold this when you’re ready to cast, and go ahead and draw back your casting arm until your hand is in front of your face, and the rod is pointing backward over your head.
Now make a smooth snapping motion from the elbow, And at the top of your swing arc, release the button and the line will unspool from the reel and hopefully fly out over the water at your target. Don’t fret if it didn’t work the first time. It’s all in the timing, and will become second nature to you once you’ve mastered it.
Once your lure hits the water, turn the crank on the reel clockwise ¼ turn to engage the bail and begin reeling in the line. You can retrieve it if you are using casting lures, or engage it and let it sit if you are using a bobber.
Just remember to turn that crank enough to engage the bail if you are using a bobber. Should a fish hit the bait before then, you’ll be reeling in nothing but embarrassment over missing the strike. It happens.
Next up is the spinning reel. This is arguably the most popular reel set up among anglers. Unlike the other reels, it rides below the rod and features an open bail design that easily flips open by crossing in front of the open spool.
Instead of having your finger on the trigger like the other rod, your index finger now holds the line tight while the bail is open, and then lets it loose at the top of the cast stroke to let the line unspool. It becomes an automatic action that is easy to master. Too early and the bait flies up, too late and it plunges into the water wherever your rod is pointed.
As with the spincast reels, you must always engage the bail by turning the crank a quarter turn or more to make the bail flip closed. It is basically designed for you to cast with one hand, and reel with the other.
Since more people are right-handed, the majority of spinning reels are designed with the handle on the left side of the reel. You will find, though, that most spinning reels will accommodate the handle on either side. Just DON’T flip it around so that the reel is above the rod…that will get you jeers from most anglers. Don’t be THAT guy.
And finally we have the baitcaster. This thing may resemble your kid’s spincast outfit, but it’s more like your friend’s Mazerati that handles beautifully but may act up at the drop of a hat. They seem at first fairly simple but will create a bird's nest of fishing line if handled improperly.
Baitcasting reels make use of a centrifugal braking system with a tension knob, which creates drag when the line is cast. If you’re new to baitcasting, crank the resistance setting up to 9 or thereabouts to offer better control of the line. Once you get the feel of it you may want to loosen it up for better performance. Just be careful you don’t throw the settings out of balance.
You’ll want to grip the rod with your thumb resting over the line spool, which is open but mounted horizontally unlike the spinning reel. Your thumb will become key to controlling the flow of the line. Press the spool release button, which may just be a small bar at the back of the reel.
Now your thumb is acting as the brake, so hold it tight while drawing back, and release it at the top of your casting arc to let the line go. This cast is more about finesse than force, and the weight of the lure is usually enough to pull the line off the reel effortlessly depending on the resistance setting.
Now is when things can get a bit tricky. Just as your lure is about to reach the water, begin lightly braking with your thumb to slow the line down, or ‘feather’ it gradually to a stop. Make sure it stops completely once that lure hits the water. Why?
Because at this point if your thumb isn’t stopping the line, it will continue coming off the spool once the bait is no longer moving. Thus, you should try to control this timing before throwing too many casts, as this is where the tangles happen, (and why you want stiff resistance to start).
What I personally found was that after I made a few successful casts, I think I got a bit lazy with my timing. I suddenly found a bird’s nest in front of me, at which point I handed it back to my friend apologetically and resumed with my spinning reel. So it goes, (or went) for me.
Fly Rods are a type of rod I won’t discuss here, simply because it warrants a blog of its own. Fly fishing is really more of an art form, and one that yours truly isn’t really qualified to address. The three reel types discussed above will cover a vast majority of angling opportunities, and give you a solid foundation to turn to fly fishing once you’ve mastered the others.
At the end of the day, casting a fishing rod is much like developing a golf swing or learning to hit a baseball. It’s all about timing and building the muscle memory of the fluid motion needed for perfect casts. But much like hitting a ball, don’t expect to smash it perfectly all the time.
But hey, that’s part of the fun, and part of the very reason we fish. If it was too easy or predictable we’d pretty much collect them from a fishery. What fun is that?
Learning to cast a fishing rod is your first step in beginning that wonderful journey. To learn more about ALL the equipment you need for fishing visit our blog on that topic, not to mention the proper clothing you’ll need. So jump on in. The water is fine.
At WindRider we’re all about making memories, having fun and enjoying the water. -WR