Basic Casting Technique

Hold the rod lightly

Lightly grip the fishing rod in your dominant hand. Start with your shoulders square to your target, elbow near the front of your rib cage, forearm and rod pointing in the direction of the cast. You should have 5 to 10 inches of line extending from the tip of your rod to the practice plug, which, because the rod is motionless, hangs straight down. Look at your target.

Secure the line

Either push the button or depress the lever of the reel and hold it, or, if your reel has a bail, flip it open, making sure to secure the line in the crook of your index finger.

Illustration of angler and casting motion

Picture a clock face

Timing is everything in casting, and picturing the movements as if moving around a clock face can help you learn to make good casts time after time.

Think of your elbow as the hub of the clock and your forearm as the hour hand.

  1. Start the cast at 10 o'clock.
  2. Bring your forearm slowly but steadily back to 2 o'clock.
  3. Sweep the forearm forward to 10 o'clock, releasing the line somewhere near 11 o'clock.

If you follow the hours exactly, your lure should land where you aim it.

Practice just about anywhere

Practicing on water is best, but casting at targets in your backyard or a park will help you get ready for the real thing. Practice with a bell sinker or a plastic casting plug attached to the end of your line. And never use a hooked lure when casting on land around small children or pets.

Casting in tricky situations

As you fish, you will develop your own casting style. You will also learn special casts, such as the sidearm cast or underarm flip, that will allow you to throw a lure when branches or brush make the overhand cast impossible. All casts, however, depend on the basic back-and-forth motion. That's the best way to take mechanical advantage of the rod.

Here are some tips to improve your casting:

  • Casting heavy lures or baits requires more of a lob than a cast. Increase slightly the distance between the lure and the rod tip and use more of a sidearm cast. Bring the rod back more slowly and pause longer before beginning the forward cast. Use your entire arm instead of just the forearm for casting.
  • If you need more distance, longer rods generally allow you to cast farther, if they are correctly matched to the weight of the lure or bait. Make sure your reel is filled to capacity so the line does not drag on the reel spool. Using a two-hand grip and bringing the arm back more quickly on the backcast will load the rod with more energy potential.
  • Casting into a strong wind requires a lower trajectory, which is achieved by releasing the line slightly later in the forward part of the cast.
Common problems

Accuracy is often more important than distance. Many fish remain near protective cover and will strike only those lures that come into their immediate vicinity. You can improve your accuracy by casting to definite targets, even while on the water. Make sure you focus on your target while casting. And if you sense you've cast too far, you can slow the lure by providing some drag on the line with your fingers or by lifting the rod so that the line drags against the end guide, instead of flowing through it.

If your lure bounces or skitters across the water, you are releasing the line too late. Release earlier for a higher trajectory. Remember the bouncing technique, though, for you may someday want to skip your lure under a dock or raft.

Many problems with distance or accuracy result from holding the rod too tightly. Use the minimum amount of force necessary to hold the rod through the cast. Seizing the rod tightens muscles and restricts fluidity, especially in your wrist. The lighter the grip, the more control and distance.