OPINION: Casting, Fit your gear to you
Updated: May 9, 2021
I'm going to say something very unpopular and will likely get ostracized for even bringing it up. That's ok though because in reality, I'm hoping this generates a discussion. When I started surf fishing, one of my biggest aggravations was not casting my line out as far as other anglers. I couldn't understand why I was not getting it out there with all the gear I had and with ease after years of casting fresh water. I thankfully found an answer after doing a product review of the Ninja Tackle Ninja Dagger. Change your gear to fit your style.
As in all of the other pieces I've written, you'll see me reference YouTube. It is easily one of the best sites to go to when you're a visual learner and have a question. Need to change a car stereo? Yep, there are plenty of videos on how to do that. Want to know how to reformulate an excel document? YouTube has that covered. Want to learn how to surf fish? Well, we know that has you covered very well! Want to know how to cast further? This is where the rabbit hole can get deep and dark. There are a plethora (If you just saw Three Amigos pop in your head, we can be friends) of videos out there that talk about how to cast it way out there. There are even a bunch that will talk to you about form and what you should do to get a long cast. So much information to comb through it is mind-boggling. What I found missing, though, was the context of gear.
Before I finally purchased my 12' Okuma Longitude, I had purchased a 12' Ugly Stick Big Water, thinking that the length was what I needed to get my cast over the bar. Many different anglers had mentioned it being a good starter rod for surf fishing (it is, I'll give it that) and will help send your cast out further. For me, though, I was not too fond of it (review coming for that shortly). It was a noodle of a rod that felt sloppy when I cast it and more so on the retrieve. Nothing about it felt right, and I couldn't understand why. It had all of the characteristics I could want in strength, speed, and length, so why wasn't this thing doing what I expected? When I cast the Ninja Dagger, I found out what the issue was: I needed a stiffer rod to perform the task and feel that I required.
I'm going to use a bit of golf here (I suck, so don't expect much except the point of this anecdote) to paint my picture better. I repeatedly sliced with the driver I was using at the time while playing rounds with my friends. I finally went to a golf shop and did a simulator to pick up a new driver. It turned out my problem was my swing speed didn't match my club. I was using a medium flex graphite shaft, and I needed an extra stiff. Once I got the right club, I was shooting straight drives and increasing my distance significantly. I still three-putt, but that's another story for another day. I wondered one day while fishing if the same principle applied to this particular situation. If my swing (throw) was too fast for the Ugly Stick, would I be sacrificing distance? After I threw the Dagger, my cast was inline with my planned path, longer, and felt right. Maybe there was something to this theory!
Am I saying you NEED a Ninja Dagger? No, I am not saying that at all. What I am saying, though, is you should try a few different rods out if you're able to. I am fortunate I fish with a few people from the Panhandle Surf Fishing Group on Facebook, and we all have a myriad of different gear. Daggers, Over the Bar's, Okuma, Penn's, Shimano's, H20's, and the list goes on! Ask a friend if you can try their rod (be prepared to pay them back if you break it, which you likely won't do) and give it a throw. You will get a feel for it and have a better idea as to what feels better.
Here comes the part where people are not going to like what I have to say. Cast how feels right to you and nets you the most distance! With all of the videos I watched, three styles caught my eye to try: Pendulum, Straight arms & looking to the sky, and throwing a Javelin. All of them felt unnatural to me and didn't work. I was telling my friend Justin about how aggravating it was, and he said to me that many people go through that whole ordeal as well. After watching him bomb his casts out, I stole a page out of his book and started casting how he did it: from directly overhead, straight out, and level. That's the best way I can describe it in writing.
I set my body facing where I'm going to cast with my left foot a little further forward than my right. I raise the rod directly over my head so that it is level with the horizon. My left arm is fully extended, and my right is bent comfortably, holding the line with my right index finger. I follow the push/punch and pull method. To start, I push with my right arm a little slow to get the motion going, then increase the speed to a punch upward. When I hit the punch point, I yank (yes, YANK, which is where many other people will frown at me) downward with my left arm. This puts the power into the cast as that becomes the torque and work lever. I release at the top (mostly on time, sometimes a moment late which gives a great line drive cast) and track it flying. My right foot will come up and around for my follow-through, and that's it. Nothing fancy at all! I do not look to the sky like one video suggested, as it feels uncomfortable and distracting. I don't do the pendulum as my timing sucks horribly. I don't do the javelin launch because, well, I don't throw javelin or spears, so yeah, no. I do what works for me.
Am I saying my cast is correct for you? Not even a little. However, I am saying, find what is comfortable for you and go from there. I cannot cast the Ugly Stick the distance I can with my Okuma or the Ninja Dagger with my casting style. It doesn't keep up and doesn't reach out. The stiffer rod's however, work very well for me and do what I want them to.
Another option is to get with a local Surf Fishing Charter that offers instruction. I reached out to Blake at Reel30A and Mike at Smitty's Surf Fishing Charters to see about setting up a class for myself to learn the art of casting since they offer it. They are both excellent instructors and will help you out with this lesson. I also recommend having a friend record you while you cast. This is a great way to see what your mechanics are, and you can break it down each step of the way (get creative and use the slow-motion feature to see the details). I learned quite a bit from watching a video of myself and have adjusted a bit since then.
Before you go spending several hundreds of dollars (or more) on new gear that you think will help you cast further, take a class or throw a few different types with your casting style to see what works. The little money you invest in learning through someone that does this for a living will pay dividends in the long run.
Thank you for reading, and hopefully, this helped someone out there. If you have any suggestions or would like me to write about something you've been wondering about, please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll see you next time and until then, go forth and do good things!