Casting techniques have come a long way in the last 20 years. The refinements involved allow serious shore anglers to put a bait an extremely long way out if the need arises. The improvements in technique have been accompanied by significant developments in tackle design so that average anglers with less refined methods can also achieve good distances.
Step one: With your feet set and torso twisted, get the rod ready to pick up the lead. Hold the left arm out straight – hand on rod butt, at about eye level. Bend your right arm with the hand at shoulder height. The rod points down with the tip about 30cm (12in) off the ground. Make minor adjustments until comfortable.
To start with your weight is on your back foot, with the toes of your front foot just touching the ground for stability. In a good cast your weight transfers on to the front foot, putting your body weight behind the cast, as in any throwing action, such as shot putting or hitting a golf ball.
Step two: Once you are properly set up, you’re ready to start. The cast begins when you uncoil at the waist, raising your right hand slightly so that the rod tip comes up. This lifts the sinker a little way off the ground (lifting too quickly is a common fault). By the time your chest faces 3 o’clock your left arm (still straight) is guiding the rod forwards with the right just below eye level. The rod is near the horizontal, the sinker well off the ground.
Step three: Now that the rod is well compressed and the sinker is moving in an arc, you must punch it into the sky. The left hand pulls the butt end back and across into the chest, while the right hand punches upwards and forwards. Put your full weight behind your right hand. It helps the arms complete the punch and accelerates the sinker even more. At this stage the rod should be at about 45° to the horizontal.
Step four: Release is a little harder than with the overhead thump, but the principles are similar. Aim high – 60° is about right – any lower reduces distance. The rod has a much flatter arc than with an overhead thump, so the effect of an early or late release is exaggerated. Let go too early and the lead goes right, too late sends it left. Take it steadily and get it all right before really turning on the power.
For decent cod like this from the beach, distance casting can be a real advantage. They are one species for which a good style gives you a definite edge – so get practising in time for the winter!
The rod is aimed high, and all his weight is now on the front foot. The rod tip is flexed slightly to the right, indicating that this is the way the sinker swings round – as it does with all powerful casts.
The pendulum cast is probably the ultimate technique for tournament and beach casting. However, it can be a little too much to go straight on to this from an overhead thump. It’s best to work on your casting in three separate stages.
Start with the offthe-ground or South African cast, progress to a simple side-to-side type pendulum and finally, when you are ready, move on to the full-blooded pendulum cast. All three casts are capable of putting a bait over 175yd (160m) or a plain lead over 200yd (180m) on a field, if you are prepared to practice.
The three-stage approach has two main advantages. Firstly, casting offthe-gound teaches important lessons about body rotation and punching the bait out, while the side-to-side pendulum gets you used to the idea of a moving lead before you try to master the intricacies of the pendulum proper.
The second advantage is that each of the stages is itself a good practical casting style. You may find the offthe-ground cast suits you perfectly, letting you blast your baits over the horizon. In that case there’s no need to look any further.
The off the-ground cast starts with a static sinker, so you can check that everything is set up correctly before you even move. With a pendulum cast, once the sinker starts to move towards the set up position, it’s too late to check.
Also, the final punch and release is very similar for all three casts. For these reasons, offthe-ground is the place to start.
Steady as a rock
The off the-ground cast teaches you all you need to know about the power stroke and release. It is also a highly useful cast in its own right. With a long rod, it can cast well over 200yd (180m) on a field.
When you’ve got everything right you can feel it, and distance comes without effort. Once the cast is flowing sweetly, you can really turn on the power. You might find you’re happy with this cast and have no need to try a pendulum, but if you do mean to learn the pendulum, the offthe-ground cast is the best way to start.