Whether you're casting a finesse rig or a big spoon, being able to place that bait in the desired location is the object of a good cast. Once a bait is cast however, the retrieve becomes the critical part of the presentation, optimizing the effectiveness of that bait or lure.
While there are many ways to cast with four basic types of reels — spinning, spincast, casting, and fly — there are four basic casting methods. With each, you control the release of the line with the reel, while the rod becomes an extension of your arm, used to propel the bait to its target.
With all of these methods, it's important to practice, something that can be done on dry land before heading to the shore or boat. Practice should involve not only getting used to how the mechanics of a cast works depending on the reel, but it also should involve attempting to hit a target with your cast, as that is your goal with each cast. Being able to place your bait where you desire not only ups your odds of catching a fish, it's also fun and satisfying to be able to hit your spot.
The spincast reel is the easiest to cast so we'll start there. With this reel, you simply push down the button at the back of the reel with your thumb and hold it down. Now, swing the rod behind you, either over your shoulder or to the side, and then move it rapidly forward, releasing the button just before your rod tip is pointing at your target, which is how your cast should end.
With a spinning reel, open the bail while holding the line just in front of the reel, tight to the rod. The casting motion is then the same as with the spincast reel, the only difference being that you lift the finger you had holding the line to the rod to release the line on the forward cast.
The cast with a casting reel is the same as that of the spincast reel, with one exception. When you depress the button on the reel, the spool is in freespool so you must keep it from spinning by sliding your thumb from the button to the spool. On the forward cast, release your thumb, allowing the spool to freely turn while the lure sails toward the target. At this point you can lightly "feather" the spool to prevent line overrun. As soon as the bait hits the water, press down on the spool with your thumb to stop the release of line. This helps prevent the dreaded "bird's nest" of tangled line that can happen when the spool overruns.
Casting with a fly rod and reel is a whole different story. Rarely do you bring the rod back and forth a single time to release the cast, rather a series of back-and-forth sweeps of the rod with one hand while the other hand controls the release of the line, leads to a successful cast. Casting with a fly rod and reel takes coordination that requires significantly more practice than is needed to master casting with other types of reels.
Each lure should be allowed to fall (or not fall) in the water column when it hits the water at the end of your cast, depending on the lure and the location of the fish. Retrieve speed also varies with each lure or rig. Some baits sit on the bottom for long periods of time, while others are quickly reeled back and cast again. Each retrieve should attempt to optimize the effectiveness of the bait or lure while keeping it in the strike zone for as long as possible.
Experiment with retrieves and working depths. Sometimes it takes a little more or a little less speed to get the fish to react. Sometimes you need to pause a lure to induce a strike. Let the fish tell you what they want.