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  Tackle Talk  Rods & Reels

Basics in Bait Casting


There sure is a fair amount of miss-information flowing around on baitcasters or overheads. Many fishing enthusiasts believe they are difficult to use, yet this is not really the case, because in fact they are easy to master. If you use the correct technique, and are prepared to spent a bit of time practicing so that it becomes a natural process, a baitcaster will become a dream machine to use.

A golf swing requires hours of repetitive practice to perfect. In contrast, an overhead baitcaster requires nothing like the time the golf swing needs. However, it does require a little repetitive training. For those prepared to put in the hour or two, the rewards will be fantastic and you'll find accuracy and distance with every cast. And you won't get those embarrassing line twists, or bird-nests.

First Rule

Hold the rod and reel tilted so that the handles are higher than the spool of the reel. (Left handers should have the handles facing down). The reel should be cocked to one side of top dead centre.

Second Rule

The grip should be similar to holding a tennis racket. The "V" developed between the thumb and the index finger should be virtually at top dead centre. The grip should be relaxed.

You will find that in holding the rod as described in rules 1 & 2, the index finger is all that is required to stop the rod falling to the floor. The weight, or balance of the rod will cause the butt to push up into the palm of the hand. Actually it will be pushing up into the palm area beneath the thumb known as "the mount".

Third Rule

The area between the side of your thumb and the flat of your thumb should rest across the line on the spool. In other words, if you consider the rod to be pointing North, your thumb should be pointing more North North West than North.

Rules 1, 2 & 3 are the basis for making overhead baitcasting a dream. Too many anglers attempt to hold the reel in the upright position. This forces the thumb to lie straight north south, and this in turn cause a whole host of problems which are sure to result in over-runs (birdnests).

Upright Problems

The first of these problems is that you have to grip the rod too firmly, and use all your fingers. If you don't, the tip of the rod will fall away to the ground.

Secondly, you will find that as you bring the rod back to cast your wrist will lock. This, in turn, will force you to use more arm action, destroying the natural action of the rod, and resulting in less distance, less accuracy and the expenditure of more energy.

Thirdly, on the forward thrust, your thumb will want to lift off the line on the spool. This will occur as a direct result of the mount of your palm and your fingers fighting to grip the rod, to stop it leaving your hand. Once your thumb cocks up in the air as a result of this wrong grip, you can guarantee a back-lash. Your thumb will never get back down on the spool quickly enough to stop it.

By rotating the reel to the side, you no longer have to hold the rod with that vice like grip. You can now relax your grip, bring your fingers into the cast, and it becomes all wrist action, with a completely relaxed forearm. The forearm in fact becomes an extension of the rod's length, pivoting at the elbow, whilst your upper arm remains relatively motionless.

Preliminary Practice

Before you attempt to practice you should make sure your spool contains enough line. The line should fill up to the bottom of the chamfer on the top edge of the spool. A full spool does not have to revolve so quickly as the line peels off on the cast. If the spool is only half full you are going to need more force to overcome greater rotational inertia in getting the spool going. This is sure to result in problems.

You should treat yourself to a set of Australian casting plugs. They are not expensive and will make practice in the back yard that much more enjoyable. Choose the biggest (5/8OZ, or 18g) plug, as this is the best to get the feel with when you are first starting out. Practice should start before you leave the house. Hold the rod and reel in the correct position, and with the rod point in the air. You should then allow the plug to drop to the floor, feathering the line as it drops, but only stopping the spool as the plug reaches the floor. By continually doing this exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes, you teach your thumb the process of controlling the spool.

As the line drops to the floor you should be able to feel the rotating spool, tickling your thumb as it spins. Your 20 minutes practice teaches your thumb to feather the line on the way out to the target, to stop the lure or bait when it reaches its target, and not to point North. Twenty minutes is not much when you consider the practice required for the golf swing !

Once outside, flex the rod back and forth whilst holding the spool with your thumb. This is not a 20 minute exercise - just flex the rod back and forth to get the feel of the rod loading and unloading. It is a continuous backwards and forward motion taking the rod well back, but don't stop the rod in the back position.

Backyard Practice

You will by now have conditioned you thumb, brain and arm to all the essential things they're required to know, do and feel, during the cast. For your first few casts you should aim to lob your plug to a given target. Make sure your reel is tilted to the side, your grip is relaxed, and your elbow is by your side. There is no need to bring your upper arm into the action during the cast.

Your first casts should be gentle and high looping. Keep the movement fluid and gentle. Glance at the target you wish to cast to, but watch the plug as it glides through the air. As it travels you should be feathering the line with your thumb, ever so gently. As it reaches the target zone, your thumb should stop the spool.

That 20 to 30 minutes practice in the lounge will make the whole deal so easy. In a matter of a few casts you will find your confidence soaring. Once that feeling is achieved a whole new world of fishing pleasure will open its door to you.

Although these reels are called baitcasters, they are best suited to lure casting. Sure, you can cast bait with them too, but they are the only way to go when tossing lures for species from Bream through to Barra.

When you're using artificial lures, the baitcaster is the best because it's extremely accurate, is a one-handed operation, and doesn't twist the line. The baitcaster is also excellent when fishing for bigger fish of any species on light line. Once you start using them you will be hooked better than the fish you are chasing.

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