Everyone talks about the strike zone, but not so much about the spook zone. You have one. It's all around your boat, extending to a radius determined by water clarity, wind velocity, fish activity level, and fishing pressure. Obviously, distance casting rods are out of the question when flippin' or pitchin' to targets in cover. But where cover is rock, formed by structure, thin, or non-existent, the farther we cast the more fish we tend to catch. Long casts and cover are not mutually exclusive, either. Modern braided lines are thinner and stronger, so they cast farther and rip fish out of weeds and junk better. And the closer the boat comes to some fish, the farther they retreat into cover — making longer casts increasingly necessary. Making a longer cast isn't just about getting past the spook zone. Benefits also include better lateral coverage. Long-cast tools designed for that purpose provide more enjoyment and better results from baits at both ends of the weight spectrum — those too heavy or too light for standard gear. And long casts allow crankbaits to achieve greater depth — something pros have been pointing out to manufacturers for several years. And manufacturers have responded with a few rods and reels designed to cast farther than ever before.
Continued after gallery...
€¢Abu Garcia Veracity VERCW711-8 (abugarcia.com
€¢Abu Garcia Revo Winch (RVO TR WNCH 50)
Bass Pro Shops
€¢Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris CarbonLite Spinning Rod (basspro.com
€¢Johnny Morris Signature Spinning Reel
€¢Cabela's Platinum ZX Casting Rod (cabelas.com
€¢Cabela's Prodigy B Baitcaster
€¢Quantum Kevin VanDam Tour Launcher (quantumfishing.com
€¢TKVD7117MB/Quantum Kevin VanDam TKVD150SPTA reel
Kevin VanDam wanted cranks to get deeper on the cast, so he helped Strike King design the 10XD. Once the new lure was in hand, he instantly realized he needed new tools to throw it with. "It's bigger," he says. "It's almost muskie sized, and a challenge to cast. I tried to cast it with my standard crankbait rod, but the 10XD overpowered it."
VanDam got with Chris Strickland, product manager for Quantum Avid Brands, and began tweaking out a new design that resulted in the TKVD7117MB ($159.99). Appropriately enough, this 7-foot 11-inch weapon is called the Launcher. "We had to beef it up," VanDam says. "What we wanted to do was achieve maximum depth with the new 6XD and 10XD cranks by getting them farther from the boat, and the result was a rod perfect for umbrella rigs and big swimbaits as well. The key is adding fiberglass to the equation. I think the main benefit of a graphite composite rod is you don't have to put as much effort into loading the blank to cast farther. It's like golf. With the right stick, a long, smooth swing gets it way out there, and timing becomes more important than power. With the Launcher, I can get a 10XD down to 25 feet. It was a dominant factor in a lot of tournaments this year."
Strickland says the new Quantum EXO 200 or KVD 150 ($229.99) casting reels make longer casts easy. "Quantum's new ACS3 Cast Control Technology includes a new braking system designed to sense your needs in each situation," he says. "Quantum engineers refined ACS technology until they came up with nine brake settings. Set the cast-control setting you want with the right spool tension and it won't backlash."
G. Loomis (gloomis.com)
"The new G. Loomis NRX 872S JWR Jig & Worm Rod ($550) was designed as a Great Lakes smallmouth tool," says John Mazurkiewicz of Catalyst Marketing. "Long casts and clear water were integral considerations in the design process. Balanced with the Shimano Stradic 2500FJ ($179.99), it becomes the best long-cast combo of the era."
G. Loomis NRX graphite is dense, light, and stiff. "Combined with new Nano Silica Resin, this graphite material becomes the lightest yet strongest possible," he says. "NRX isn't new this year, but the Jig & Worm rod is. It's 7 feet 5 inches long to enhance cast length and provide better hook-setting power at distance. It gives bass anglers the most dynamic rod possible in terms of weight, strength, sensitivity, and power." G. Loomis offers three casting rods and one other spinning rod in the Jig & Worm lineup, intended to "take care of bass anglers on the Great Lakes and ultra-clear reservoirs." The Shimano Stradic lineup for 2014 offers "X-Ship, an innovative double bearing supported pinion gear" for the most effortless retrieve on the market.
St. Croix Rods (stcroixrods.com)
Today, the look, feel, and weight of finesse can blend with power to handle big fish. In last year's Gear Guide we called it the Dr. Jekyl — Mr. Hyde phenomena, and at least one rod in the new St. Croix Panfish Series exemplifies it — the 7-foot PFS70LXF ($120). Rated to protect 2- to 6-pound lines, it performs very well with 3- and 4-pound braids. With a 3-foot, 4-pound fluorocarbon leader it becomes the coolest crappie rod ever. I used it to pitch 1/32-ounce jigs tipped with 2-inch grubs for crappies and it made monster casts.
But tie an 8-pound leader and the same mild-mannered stick becomes an incredible long-cast smallmouth and walleye tool with 1/16- to 1/8-ounce jigs and plastics. We coupled it with the impossibly light, Shimano Symetre 1000FJ ($79.99), which has a sharply beveled lip on the spool for efficient, drag-free line release. This little reel makes 100-foot casts effortless with light braids. The drag controls pressure on light lines and delicate knots.
The St. Croix PFS70LXF has micro guides — something several manufacturers have added to long-cast rods. "It allows for more guides without adding weight," says St. Croix Promotions Manager Rich Belanger. "More guides increase sensitivity by adding additional contact points on the blank, and help to distribute stress more evenly. Smaller guides reduce line slap, creating a more even flow through the guides, and reduce weight in the tip area of the rod. In all, micro guides give you a lighter, more sensitive rod that casts farther than traditional large-ring guide configurations."
Kistler Custom Rods (kistlerrods.com)
The new Kistler KLX Mark Rose Offshore 10XD (KRX-MRO-711H — $199.95) was designed to throw the new Strike King 10XD and other deep-diving cranks out of sight. This 7-foot 11-inch blank loads perfectly with 1/2- to 3-ounce lures, sending them way out there. But once a lure is pitched into another time zone, something has to set the hook.
"FLW bass pro Mark Rose worked with me to design this rod to chunk heavy, non-typical lures a long distance in order to get the lure well away from the boat and into the strike zone," says Trey Kistler, president of Kistler Custom Fishing Rods. "The balanced (stiff yet somehow "moderate") tip allows anglers to easily cast heavy lures far while maintaining a slow, deliberate response and a strong backbone for penetrating bone on a long-line hook-set."
Even with a full cork handle, this is not a bulky rod. "The MRO is beautifully designed," Kistler says. "Even with a solid cork handle and non-exposed reel seat, micro guides and high-quality graphite keep the weight down. It has the most comfortable, firm grip possible with a rod of this power. Other rods of this quality normally retail for about $300, but in order to provide our customers with the best product at the lowest price, these rods only are available at our kistler.com website, eliminating the unnecessary overhead associated with selling retail so we can offer wholesale pricing."
Micro guides subtract weight while adding distance and accuracy to this blank's performance. Rose says that, coupled with a Lew's BB1 ($159.99 — 10 ball bearings and an oversized, uniquely placed titanium line guide that reduces friction to almost nothing), the Kistler MRO casts heavy baits and deep-diving cranks farther than any other outfit he's worked with. "I think this rod and reel combination works perfectly," Rose says. "I like the tip and flex. I can launch the 10XD a country mile and easily achieve 24 feet of depth."
Carbon X Rods (carbonxfishingrods.com)
In recent years, In-Fisherman Field Editor Gord Pyzer ran into the kind of problem this article kicked off with. "Fishing last year, he told me he needed a long-cast rod because his bass get way up in shallow water every year," says David Gray, owner of Carbon X Rods. "He said when those smallmouths see the boat, it's over. He needed a rod for longer casts. We designed the Pyzer LCT-C14 ($219.99) and sent it to him."
Pyzer says, "Very first cast with a Heddon Chuggin' Spook, I could not believe the distance. It threw that Spook halfway across a big bay. A couple years ago, I'd mentioned to David that I hadn't found the perfect topwater rod for large lures like Spooks. He said he'd give me full reign to design one — 'Enough rope to hang yourself or design the one you've always wanted,' he said. When he sent me the first prototypes last fall, I was amazed at casting range. We tweaked and tweaked and the rod got better and better. I was surprised to see how something as insignificant as the amount of lacquer applied to the guide wraps affected the feel of the rod. Ditto, when the rod maker adjusted the location of the handle by as little as 1/16th of an inch. I like the way it loads, how it transfers power to the butt on the cast, and the sensitivity in the tip."
Jeff Green, bass pro from the Ozarks, says once you hook a fish with the Pyzer LCT (Long Cast Technology) C14, "it's superb at beating big fish fast. At 7 feet 2 inches, designed to throw 3/8- to 1-ounce lures, it fills an important niche."
Abu Garcia (abugarcia.com)
Kevin Jarnagin, promotions manager with Blue Heron Communications, says, "Abu's new Veracity rods ($179.99) are engineered to precise standards. Field tested by pros and guides, Veracity rods are light and balanced, among the most sensitive on the market. Constructed with 36-ton graphite using nanotechnology, they delivers a combination of sensitivity and impact resistance.
"Veracity's titanium alloy micro-guide system improves balance, reduces weight, and facilitates long, accurate casts." But it's the way this rod loads under pressure that makes it a unique long-cast tool when using lures and rigs in the 3/4- to 2.5-ounce range. "I've been using the Abu Revo Winch ($269.95) on the new 7-foot 11-inch Veracity Winch Rod and I love it," Jarnagin says. "At that length, tip speed is incredible and cast lengths are huge with a quality reel like the Revo."
Bass Pro Shops (basspro.com)
For 2014, Bass Pro Shops introduces the Johnny Morris CarbonLite Spinning Series ($99.99). They cast light lures incredibly far due to super-light, 85-million modulus blanks. Super slick titanium-carbide guide inserts are designed to allow mono, braid, and fluorocarbon to fly through these blanks with less line slap.
The Johnny Morris Signature Spinning Reel ($99.99) has a long-cast blueprint. The oversized spool (Mag Spool Technology) on a smaller body releases fewer coils per yard of line released in a lighter package (10 ounces) — meaning less friction and line slap. Its long reel stem reduces line slap, too. The sealed carbon-fiber drag is highly durable because dust and debris can't get in.
Chuck Smock, promotions manager for Cabela's, says the new Platinum ZX Spinning and Casting Rods ($199.99) include a revolutionary new "Powerlux" carbon matrix that loads and releases energy more efficiently for long, smooth casts. "Platinum rods are up to 15 percent lighter yet 30 percent stronger than other materials on the market," Smock says. "And the new Fuji K-Series Guides reduce friction.
"When matched with Cabela's Prodigy B baitcasters ($99) and Prodigy MG spinning reels ($99), these are serious long-cast tools for anglers fishing waters where casts have to be a farther." The Prodigy B has 11 ball bearings, bronze gears, a new Magforce-Z magnet system, and a free-floating spool for smooth, long casts. The Prodigy MG Spinning Reel has 11 bearings and features aircraft-grade aluminum gears, making it one of the most durable yet light reels on the market.
Casting farther has benefits, like getting crankbaits deeper, covering more water, and escaping the spook zone around your boat. Having tools capable of doing that in one cast seems logical, especially when those tools address every lure weight, every conceivable situation, and every species freshwater has to offer.
*Matt Straw, Brainerd, Minnesota, is an In-Fisherman Field Editor and regular contributor to In-Fisherman publications.