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Casting Debate

Casting Debate

On June 19 we asked members of the Finesse News Network to post their opinions about casting distances that anglers need to employ when they are fishing for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass with finesse tackle and baits. We noted in this petition that one Finesse News Network member says he prefers to make casts that are 30 feet or less, while another member says he executes extremely long cast, and at times some of his casts reach 70 yards.

Anglers from Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and West Virginia contributed the following thoughts and insights:

Bob Gum of Kansas City wrote: "I typically will lengthen my casts when I am fishing clear water.  When the largemouth and smallmouth bass inhabit shallow water areas, I make long casts, too.

"I use stretchy monofilament line. Therefore, when I make long casts, my hook-setting capabilities are compromised, as is my ability to detect subtle strikes.

"Besides making long casts, I try not to use the trolling motor -- especially as the retrieve gets closer to the boat. Sometimes I turn off my sonar, too.

"The flip side of this can occur in the ultra-clear waters in Canada. For instance, as I unhooked a little northern pike, I notice a quality smallmouth bass milling about beneath my outboard motor. I simply opened the bail of my spinning reel, dropped the bait in front of this smallmouth bass' face, it inhaled the bait and I landed an 18-inch smallmouth bass."

After Gum's Canadian clear-water observations,  there was a short discourse about the under-the-boat phenomenon with smallmouth bass at other Canadian waters that are graced with big populations of smelt. It was noted that in late summer, when significant  numbers of smallmouth bass are foraging upon pelagic schools of smelt, some anglers catch these smallmouth bass under or near the boat by deadsticking a small Zoom Bait Company's Fluke or Z-Man Fishing Products' 3.75-inch StreakZ. These baits are affixed to a jig and presented vertically. Sometimes it is a shallow presentation, and in fact anglers can see the smallmouth bass following the bait and engulfing the Fluke or StreakZ. Often it is best if the angler doesn't shake or move the rod. In fact, some anglers place the rod in a rod holder to eliminate any hand, arm and body movements.

Brian Waldman of Coatesville, Indiana, and the Webmaster of Big Indiana said: "An average boat cast for me would be in the 30- to 60-foot range. Many times I'm pitching just 20 to 25 feet along steeper banks and alongside docks. My longest casts are in the 90-foot range or 30 yards. Someone claiming 70-yard casts with finesse? I'm not buying it -- no offense meant. Just doesn't seem plausible. See the following link and be sure to watch the video, too:

"Longest casts are for more or less straight swimming or horizontal retrieves with little extra bait manipulation. This frequently works best for crappie that are schooled and holding at a particular depth. For bass, the only time I make that long of a cast is a straight fast swim over rock flats and weed beds, or for subtle dragging and twitching retrieves over shallow gravel and rocky flats. Most banks and cover options I fish with finesse require some degree of line and bait control, and the best control is had with the shorter line lengths. This also applies to fighting and landing fish. In my opinion, shorter lines equal better control.

"I fish primarily stained water, where the clarity ranges from 18 inches to four feet, which makes long casts a rare necessity. Many anglers would be surprised by the amount of bass I often catch with casts of just 10 to 20 feet; it is almost like fishing at your feet. Stealth and cover allow for this, and at times it can be incredibly effective.

"Perhaps in the very clear highland reservoirs that some readers fish, long casts might make a big difference."

Kevin Hendren of Atlanta said "My casting distances are generally in the 30- to 40-foot range. As the golfers say, 'Drive for show, putt for dough.'"

Hendren thought that it was impossible for a Midwest finesse angler to make a 70-yard casts. He said, "Just to put it into perspective, a 70-yard cast is double the length of a long fly cast. It's probably two to three times the length of the typical professional bass angler's cast.

"The carp anglers (of which I am one) routinely make 75-100-yard casts, but they use three- to five-ounce sinkers and tackle designed for long casts, such as 12-foot rods and reels with enormous spools. Long-casting surf fishermen use similar tackle.

"I'll believe a 70-yard cast with finesse tackle when I see it."

George Kramer of Lake Elsinore, California, said: "You cast the distance the situation warrants. The lesson I got from flipper Dee Thomas never fails. If the fish is in the shadow, and you're in the light, you can get as close as you want, and he was using 20 to 25-pound monofilament. But if you're in the shadow and the fish is in the shadow, or if the fish is in the light and you're in the light, you're going to have to give them some space.

"How much space? Usually it's about the distance where you just become aware of the fish. (It's why tournament guys like to find the fish ahead of time, so they won't violate that distance by mistake).

"And as Bill Siemental has reminded us, often fish see the shadow of a bait in the air toward the end of a cast (especially in clear water) and will react to the trajectory and be waiting for the bait when it hits. This happens to me at Lake Mead every summer. You can never sleep on a cast."

Bill Reichert of Lincolnshire, Illinois, said: "I find this discussion quite interesting. I agree with the previous responses, but would like to offer another factor that seems to affect casting distance and that is proximity to cover. When fishing vast flats for smallmouth bass in Door County, Wisconsin, during pre-spawn it is very important to make long casts in order to fool the larger fish. This is much like fishing for bonefish on the flats where stealth is key. On the other hand, when fish are glued to structure such as boulders or wood they seem to exhibit a sense of security and are much more approachable. In these cases you can get very close to the fish without alarming them and discouraging bites."

Nathan Parker of Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote: "Here in northeastern Oklahoma, I like short casts in the 20- to 30-foot range when I can get away with them. But at some of our clear-water reservoirs, such as Skiatook and Tenkiller lakes, I have to cast farther than I did when I lived in Kansas and fished out of a float tube. Unless its cloudy or very early or late in the day at these clear-water reservoirs, I find that I have to cast 30 and 40 feet a lot, and when fishing for schooling fish in the summer, I sometimes hurl a topwater or a grub on a ¼-ounce jig as far as 80 feet to reach breaking fish. However, I still get a high percentage of my bites less than 30 feet from the boat.

Dwight Keefer of Phoenix, said: "Our water clarity in Arizona ranges from two to six feet at the lakes in the city parks to 25 to 30 feet at Lake Powell. No matter where I fish, I always want to be able to cast as far as my 'user-friendly-tuned' technique and specific tackle permits. User-friendly-tuned means the maximum distance with the least amount of physical effort. You can't get the distance you need unless you are prepared for various lake and weather conditions.  Whether walking the bank or fishing from a boat, I have always believed in a stealth approach.

"Here is a photograph of  three specific outfits I have done my best to tune for their technique specific needs.

 "The top picture is a Bass Pro Shops' Drop-Shot Spinning Rod CL69MLSDS with 2 ½ inches cut off the butt. I had the original butt piece drilled out and reattached. It is paired with a Daiwa Fuego 2500 spinning reel and seven-pound-test Sunline's FC Sniper Fluorocarbon Line. I can cast a 2 ½-inch Z-Man Fishing Products' ZinkerZ on a 1/16-ounce jig head about 30 yards or flick it under an overhanging willow tree if needed

"The middle picture is the same Bass Pro Shops' Drop-Shot Spinning Rod CL69MLSDS for use with the Z-Man's Finesse ShadZ, which is fished with either a jig or drop-shot sinker. The distance on the casts varies from 30 to 50 yards, depending on the weight of the jig and drop-shot sinker. After experimenting with and rebuilding about twenty different spinning rods, I have found that this rod paired with Daiwa Fuego 2500 and seven-pound-test Sunline's FC Sniper Fluorocarbon Line gives me the maximum distance, control and accuracy with the least amount of physical effort.

"The bottom picture is a Bass Pro Shops' Drop-Shot Spinning Rod CL72MSDS that I had stripped, cut 2 ½-inches off the butt and converted into a casting rod. It sports American Tackle Chrome Footed Nanolite Micro Guides and a one piece cork handle for casting with both hands. It is used specifically for a 3 ½-inch custom swimbait to find post-spawn largemouth bass It is paired with a Bass Pro Shops' X Crank Casting Reel with a 5.4:1 gear ratio. I  super tuned this reel with ABEC-7 Ceramic Bearing, and I also added a Bass Pro Shops Carbon Fiber Recurve Handle. It is spooled with 10-pound-test Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon Line. I can cast it about 70 yards, using both hands. My objective is to free swim the swimbait, using a countdown method and a slow-roll retrieve."

Mike Poe of Siler City, North Carolina, said: "I love the insights that anglers have posted in this discussion and debate.

"In our dark waters, which often have one foot or less of visibility, I use Z-Man's 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ and Gopher Tackle's 1/16-ounce Mushroom Head Jig around extremely shallow wood and grass cover. My casts are short, making for some close-contact encounters. Many times I see the strike while the line is still on my finger, then I just lift the rod and engage the reel. Many times, these casts aren't over 10 yards in length. My casts are primarily low-trajectory-skip casts.

"The only long casts that I employ occur when I am probing shallow flats with a shallow horizontal retrieve. These casts may approach 30 yards or so. If the contour is steeper and I am fishing perpendicular to the shoreline, I make fairly short casts with the boat not far from the deepest depths I am fishing."

Burton Bosely of Sutton, West Virginia, wrote: "I went out on my lawn this morning and made a 67-foot cast with 1/32-ounce Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head Jig affixed to a shortened four-inch Z-Man's Finesse WormZ. Then I made a 110-foot cast with a 3/32-ounce Gopher jig attached to a 2 ½-inch Z-Man's ZinkerZ. I only made one cast with each jig combo, and I didn't strive for maximum distance but rather a common cast.

"The casts were made with my eight-foot light-action spinning rod and six-pound-test monofilament. When I am casting from the deck of my boat with a bit of breeze, I'm sure the distances would be longer. I also think that when I work with my spinning reel that has a wide-diameter spool and eight-pound-test Sufix 832 braided line, I would get more distance. I've heard that Berkley's Nanofil is also good for distance.

"The ability to cast long distances accurately is a good thing. When I make a long and accurate cast, I don't have to worry about the hook set if I use little hooks on the Gopher Mushroom Head Jig. The reason for that is the little hook hangs in the fish extremely well. But the hook set can be an issue when I use long casts and conventional tackle with bigger hooks.

"Just because I cast long distances with a Midwest finesse rig doesn't mean I fish it all the way to the boat. As when we fish for bonefish, long casts allow us to cast from outside the fishes "nervous area," which is an ever changing parameter. On the other hand, frogs, Heddon's Zara Spooks and swimbaits are lures I cast as far as possible and fish all the way back to the boat as they have ability to draw fish in from greater distances than the subtle and little Midwest finesse baits do.

"Like Dwight Keefer I have changed out bearings and done what I can to my casting reels to gain maximum distance.

"I hope these observations contribute to this discussion."

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