Take it easy when you swing the lead, especially when you’re learning the cast. Aim for a smooth, relaxed swing that doesn’t bounce the sinker about all over the place. Style and technique are more important than brute force.
When an off the-ground cast is impractical, some form of pendulum comes into it’s own. Paul Kerry continues his series on casting with an easy mini-pendulum – the side-to-side swing.
Learn to cast properly off the ground and you can achieve distances of over 180m (200yd) on grass – and up to 230m (250yd) in good conditions. This is certainly enough for all but the most extreme fishing conditions. However, problems arise when it isn’t possible to lay the sinker on the ground.
Rocky areas and beaches with big stones can make it difficult. Hooks catch, blunting them, and Breakaway spikes are forever pulling out. Sometimes you need to wade before casting. Laying your trace back into water is obviously not an option.
If you need distance, the side-to-side swing is the perfect cast for rocky marks such as this. You can’t cast off the ground because the lead or the hooks might snag on the weedy rock.
The side-to-side swing
Step one: With your feet set, waist twisted and rod in position 1 (see The set-up – the angles right), you’re almost ready to swing the lead. First you must hold the rod so it points up and, with a sinker drop of 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft), the sinker is left about 60cm (2ft) off the ground. Bend your right arm slightly, so the right hand is about chest-high. Keep your left arm straight with the hand below waist height.
Put your weight on the back foot, ready to transfer it on to the front foot during the punch, just as with the off-the-ground cast. Keeping the left arm fairly still, swing the sinker parallel to the 3-9 o’clock line with the right arm. Swing it towards 3 o’clock, then back to 9 o’clock.
The sinker is in position for the next stage of the cast as it reaches the peak of the second swing, about 0.9-1,2m (3-4ft) off the ground.
Step two – the pick-up
Step two: As the lead swings towards 9 o’clock it pulls the rod tip round, putting compression (bend) into the rod early on and giving potential for extra distance. At the peak of the swing the sinker is teed up and ready to cast.
To get into casting position, slightly drop your right shoulder, raising the left arm (still straight) quickly to about shoulder height. You’re now ready to uncoil at the waist, releasing all the energy you have stored in your body.
Step three – the pull
Step three The aim is to pull the rod round parallel to the ground at about shoulder height by uncoiling at the waist, keeping your left arm straight. This stage is similar to the same part of the off- the-ground cast.
The rod becomes highly compressed during this stage, allowing most of the energy from your body and arms to go into accelerating the lead in an arc behind you.
Your weight starts to move on to the front foot. This comes naturally if you get the rest of the cast right.
Step Four: This is identical to the punch and release with the off- the-ground cast. When your waist has fully uncoiled, pull your left hand in across your chest, punching out with your right at the same time. Put all your body weight behind the right hand by transferring your body weight fully on to your front foot as you punch.
Remember to aim high – about 60° – in the release and try not to put too much behind the cast until you’re confident you’ve got it all right. Then you can really send the sinker into orbit.
Before teeing up the lead for casting, make sure you’re comfortable and have a firm foothold. Rocks can be extremely slippery, especially when they’re covered in weed.
A lovely 1.6kg plaice taken on Deal Pier. The side-to-side swing is perfect for piers because casting off the ground is often impossible and a full pendulum may be dangerous.
Up in the air
What you need is some way of setting up the sinker in a castable position in the air. The overhead thump does this, but is extremely limited in terms of distance. The answer is to swing the lead into a position similar to the set-up for the off the-ground cast.
Not only does this remove the difficulties posed by casting from rough ground, but by swinging the sinker you load compression into the blank before the cast starts, hugely increasing the potential for distance.
Ultimately, this leads to the full pendulum cast but there is an intermediate stage between off the-ground and pendulum proper. This stage – the side-to-side swing-is an excellent cast in its own right, capable of producing well over 180m (200yd) on grass. It is fairly easy to master, it teaches good timing and it provides enough distance for fishing in 99% of situations.
The off the-ground cast is the best possible start for learning the side-to-side swing. The position of the feet, body weight distribution, twist at the waist and the final punch are the same for both casts.
Practice makes perfect
Once you’ve studied the pictures of the cast and understood them, you’ve got to get out and practise it. It’s best if you can do this with a friend who’s also keen on learning to cast. That way you can each watch what the other is doing and make helpful and constructive criticisms. (Some friends are better for this than others!)
You might find after hours of trying that this cast really doesn’t suit you. Don’t try to force it – that just makes it worse. Have a lesson with an instructor – he’ll soon show you where you’re going wrong. The other option is to stick with an off the-ground cast where the ground is clear, using an overhead thump when you can’t lay the trace back – but you do lose distance.
The side-to-side swing is great preparation for the full pendulum cast. It teaches invaluable lessons about timing and transferring power from the swing to the punch.
However, you don’t need to move on once you’ve perfected it. Indeed for most fishing situations, the side-to-side swing is a better cast than the pendulum proper – you can achieve excellent distances on the beach, it doesn’t call for such a fiat surface, and it’s easier to use at crowded venues.
Despite that, there are always going to be places and times when the only way to catch fish is to cast as far as is humanly possible. In those situations, or if you want to compete on an equal footing in casting tournaments, a full pendulum is often your best bet. And that’s the next step after you’ve mastered the side-to-side swing.
Pendulum casting -timing and power
For a silky smooth finish and the ultimate distances, you need the last part of Paul Kerry’s guide to good casting – the full pendulum.
The reason for putting a swing into your casting action is to allow you to generate a great deal of blank compression and sinker speed, without the need to lay the trace and sinker on the ground. With the side-to-side swing, you can achieve roughly the same distances as are possible with most off the-ground casts.
The next step is to increase the casting arc by taking the starting position farther round, and to increase the drop length. By swinging the sinker much higher (and along a new direction), you can develop a full pendulum cast. It relies on the basic elements learned with the previous casts but also adds new ones, aimed at increasing rod compression and sinker speed.
Once you progress to the full pendulum, you are unlikely to find any cast capable of greater distance. True, casting off the ground with an extremely long rod in the South African style can give the same sorts of results, but once again you are stymied if you can’t lay your sinker down. The full pendulum also has the advantage that most of the better quality rods available in Britain are designed to suit it.
Coordination and power
Each stage of the cast is important. It’s only when you’ve got everything right in the swing and have uncoiled fully that you can start to put all your strength into punching the lead away. That’s why it is so important to start from the basics, learning each stage properly before merging it with the next.
You can usually perfect a reasonable off the-ground cast quite quicklythe sinker is static and you can get into the correct position before you start to move. Introduce a swing and you begin to hit problems.
The sinker position is only correct for a fraction of a second, and you then have to adjust your posture quickly and smoothly to get the rod into position to hit the lead hard.
That’s one reason why learning the side-to-side swing before the full pendulum is usually a good idea – it teaches the right lessons about timing.
The timing problem is at its worst with a pendulum proper. Everything has to be properly coordinated so that the rod tip arc is like a smooth, flattened ‘U’ from the top of the swing through to the release. Any sudden changes of direction allow the sinker to take short cuts instead of following the rod tip, reducing compression of the rod.
Hard and fast cast
The best way to get it right is generally a ‘slow-in, fast-out’ approach. Of course slow and fast are relative terms because casting action is, by its very nature, always fast. However, the idea is to avoid rushing in from the very start. Swing the sinker, get the rod down into the correct position, and then start uncoiling and building up speed.
If you rush in, the tendency is to uncoil too fast, before the rod is down properly, which deprives you of a lot of power. Once into the right position, you can really push hard and fast to accelerate the sinker through to the release.
None of this is easy. To watch an expert you would be forgiven for thinking that it is, but then that’s true of anything done correctly. Study the movements and have a dry run or two (without a sinker attached) to give you a feel of each stage of the cast. Then it’s practise, practise, practise until you’re happy.
Only you know what you need from a cast. But whether it’s 110m (120yd) into an angry sea with a big bait for cod, or 230m (250yd) on grass in a competition, the pendulum cast can deliver.