Going the Distance!
There’s a blustery cross wind and I’m standing on the edge of a field in Essex, England under the watchful gaze of top tournament caster & World record breaker Terry Edmonds. He’s asked me to show him a cast before embarking on the lesson that I’m hoping will allow me to reach more distant horizons and more importantly some bigger fish. Since I’ve not picked up a carp rod in almost 2 months thanks to the Arctic conditions back in Connecticut let alone had the need for casting much beyond 80-100 yds I’m feeling just a little nervous.
I try & relax while getting the feel for the Chris Orme custom built rod Terry has handed me. The rod is paired with a Shimano Ultegra 14000XSC reel loaded with 12lb mono (0.30 mm) connected to a 50lb braid shock leader (see the note on safety) and a 4oz distance lead. My first attempt is a reasonably respectable 132 yds (accurately determined with a measuring wheel) for an overhead cast and earns approval from Terry for looking relaxed but with plenty of scope for improvement.
And so the lesson begins… Over the next three hours Terry explains the theoretical and also demonstrates the practical approaches I need to take to add more distance to my casts. There are plenty of opportunities to practice under Terry’s critical gaze and after each chuck he reviews my latest effort as we walk up the field to recover the lead buried in the soft ground. As the measuring wheel does not lie any gain, however small, provides a realistic indication of my progress and what I need to work on. After a short while he’s helped develop my stance, maximize the arc the rod travels, fixed my gaze about 45 degrees above the horizon and achieve the correct application of power – hit it too hard or too early & you will risk line fraps. As a result I’m consistently hitting around 145 yards. That might not seem like a huge gain from my starting point but as Terry points out I had many of the basics already sorted and simply needed some fine tuning to go to the next level. In many cases Terry’s students see incredible gains with some going from under 100yds to consistently hitting 140-160 yds by the end of a lesson.
I ask Terry if I can try one of the new Harrison Trebuchet Lite 13ft rods and he soon has the reel swapped over and ready to throw. There has been a lot of talk about these new rods and my only experience to date had been with the original Trebuchet model while fishing in Romania last year. I personally found the older model to be a bit of a beast when playing fish let alone throwing a lead. The new 3.75 test curve ‘Lite’ model feels altogether different and potentially more angler friendly especially for my lighter build. As a result I’m immediately hitting just shy of 150yds while Terry once again demonstrates his incredible skills and promptly puts a lead way past 200yds – still with the strong cross wind!
My shoulders are beginning to complain about the effort being demanded of them and as we near the end of the lesson Terry urges me to focus on arching further back and using my hips and legs to help generate more power. The result is a couple of casts past 150yds with the longest hitting 153 yds which in calmer conditions Terry says would easily translate to 160 yds plus. He also notes that my casts are very accurate, consistently landing within a few feet of each other despite the blustery conditions. I’m more than happy with the result which equates to a 14% improvement and one I’m sure will increase with more practice.
Practice certainly and perhaps some more time in the gym to develop the appropriate muscles. That’s an important part of Terry’s regime to remain competitive and continually reach past 200 yds so he spends plenty of time working out and lifting weights. This latter point about casting fitness is one that any sensible angler needs to consider. A 12-13’ rod with a 4oz lead can put a lot of stress on your body especially if you are out practicing for an hour or two. It is very easy to over ‘do it’ especially if you are not particularly athletic or have an underlying injury. It is vital to do some regular exercises that will help mobilize and develop those leg, back, shoulder and arm muscles if you want to get the most from your casts. Finally its not just about how strong you are but about how quickly you can accelerate the tip of the rod and that only comes from developing your technique.
As Terry Edmonds notes 200 yds seems to be the new ‘150’ that anglers like to talk about. However there are in reality only a very few folk even capable of even hitting that distance in tournament casting competitions let alone while out fishing. All too often anglers are lured with expansive claims that suggest purchasing a particular rod will magically give them a meteoric increase in distance. Even worse are the videos of someone with clearly limited casting skills throwing a lead with whoops and exclamations that anyone should know barely went even half the distance claimed! The old saying ‘a bad workman always blames his tools’ has rarely been more true when it comes to distance casting. There is absolutely no substitute for improving your casting skills than getting some well qualified tuition from an expert like Terry Edmonds followed by lots & lots of practice.
Since I have always had an interest in rod design and have followed some of the developments in distant casting both for carp and surf fishing over the years it is an ideal opportunity to talk to someone with Terry’s depth of knowledge. One topic has to be butt ring diameter. Terry says a 50mm regular or a 40mm stand off (‘K’) butt ring is vital for mono but can be smaller for braid. He agrees that too many rods never intended for distance casting should be fine with a 40mm butt ring. We also talk about Fuji’s choke ring theory (dating back many years) and the recent ‘microwave’ guides that were designed for light braids for spinning rods. Terry says they’ve never proven successful (especially with mono) in the tournament casting arena where innovations live or die by accurate measurement instead of hyped up marketing claims.
While we don’t have too many places demanding long distance fishing in North America it certainly does not hurt having the ability to realize the opportunity when the occasion arises. Fishing up to 80 yds is certainly with in reach of most carp anglers. I know that might not sound very far but fishing at distance is not the same as simply being able to chuck a lead a long way. Then consider the importance of placing the bait in the desired spot. If you are off the desired mark by only 3 feet with a 40yd cast then it will off by 6 feet at 80yds, 12 feet at 120 and so on. So there is no point in being able to cast a long way if you cannot place the baited rig in the intended area.
There is little doubt that if you want to maximize your casting distance then you usually get what you pay for. Top of the range blanks from specialists such as Harrison or Century are not only built from the highest quality carbon fibres but have design specifications that simply cannot be replicated in lower cost, mass produced rods. They have test curves upwards of 3.25 and to hit any serious distance you’ll likely need 3.50 or even 3.75 in 12′ or 13′ rod lengths. However that’s not to say you can’t get close to these upper casting limits with top of the range models from the likes of Free Spirit, Fox, Nash and others. But just like a performance car you need to set them up correctly then practice to get the best from them. There has been a move away from some of the super stiff casting rods recently and these newer rods certainly make casting and more importantly playing fish a little easier and more pleasurable. That said it’s also worth remembering that unless you really need to cast over 100 yds a more through action rod of 2.50 – 3.00 test curve will likely be a better choice to avoid hook pulls – especially with the hard fighting fish here in North America.
A reel comes next and once again you’ll need to make some decisions on how much you are prepared to spend. A big pit reel with a large, long and relatively shallow spool will certainly out perform a standard fixed spool. A model such as the top of the range Shimano Technium will cost upward of $1100 but fortunately there are now several less costly cousins. A lighter reel reduces inertia when casting to help generate more tip speed but unless you are dedicated to tournament casting the extra cost might be better spent on the rod. Line lay on the spool is critical as any hindrance to the line coming off the spool will have a negative impact on the distances you can reach. There are some line and reel combinations that seem to work better than others and if you really want to get serious then learn more about ‘shimming’ out the spool with different thickness washers to maximize performance.
The choice of main line is one area where your choice can have a very significant impact on casting performance. While pound test is perhaps relevant to your fishing conditions you really need to pay attention to line diameter. A smaller diameter line usually equates to increased casting distance due to reduced friction through the guides, less air resistance and less weight while being pulled being pulled along by the lead weight. Once you compare line diameters and pound test you might be surprised to find a suitable compromise of a high enough test for your fishing & casting needs. Its also important to make sure the line is not too stiff or subject to coiling (line memory) as both of these will limit casting distance. It is also vital to keep line clean and free from any build up from dirt etc. Reeling in the line through a light colored cloth with some diluted dish detergent occasionally will not only remove dirt and grease but you might be surprised at how much dirt gets left on the cloth after just a couple of sessions. When you wind in your line onto the spool make sure there is sufficient tension on the line for it pack down neatly. If there is too little tension it will have a tendency to come off too easily, sometimes with multiple coils that can get fouled and cause a break off. If there is too much tension (especially after playing a hard fighting fish) then the coils can get jammed creating more drag off the reel. Mono can stretch by upwards of 12-20% so if you’ve caught a lot of fish then simply winding the line back on the reel at the end of the day can result in the line coming off in tight coils when you next go fishing.
Terry recommends a shock leader made with 50lb braid with at least 4-6 turns on the reel spool when pushing the limits (together with a finger stall or casting glove to protect your finger). This is vital with lines of 15lb or less as a break off mid cast can send an untethered and potentially lethal lead and rig way further than when dragging a hundred yards or more of mainline. So no matter if you are fishing on a lake or practicing in a field make sure there is no one down range that could get hit should you break off. It is also important to remember that if you break off while fishing then the bait can still be picked up by a carp. So it is critical with any shock leader system to make sure it does not end up being dragged around by a fish in the event of the main line breaking. The braid to mono connection should be tied carefully so that it creates a neat, small knot that will allow a rig to pass over it. It is also important to check these main line to leader connections on a regular basis and re-tie them if you have any doubts about them.
Some Suggested Mono to Braid Connections:
So don’t just sit there dreaming about making long distance casts get out there and give it a go. Oh and don’t just guess how far you are casting – measure it!
In Part II we’ll look at how you put the theory into practice.
About Terry Edmonds
Terry’s the man when it comes to all things casting. Being a tournament caster for five years saw him take three UK records; casting 267 yards with a 3oz lead, 246 yards with a 2½oz and 212 yards with a 2oz. On top of this he also holds the two furthest casts with a fixed-spool ever recorded in the UK, launching a 4oz lead a whopping 285 yards and a 3oz 287 yards. That’s some resume!
No longer a competitive tournament caster Terry is now a casting tutor and assists big-name companies in developing their rods.
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