Learning Bait Casting
Learning Bait Casting
Every angler has a favorite method of fishing; he may be a fly-caster, or he may be a still fisherman, but probably nine-tenths of present day anglers who fish for black bass, pickerel, etc., are bait casters, using either live bait, or the artificial baits before described.
Except in places where deep water is found near the shore or bank, and when fishing from a boat, the angler knows that he will get the most fish by getting his bait out several rods from him, where the water is deeper, or where the fish, not being able to see him, have not become frightened. The way of the still fisher is to use a long cane rod, say fifteen or twenty feet long, and a line nearly as long as the rod. With this outfit he may be able to reach out thirty feet from shore. But neither the line nor the rod can be conveniently lengthened, and the length of the cast is limited to the combined length of rod and line, at the best. This is a serious handicap, for the best places are always out of reach, and as fishermen in general are ambitious, is it any wonder that the mode of casting the bait from the reel was discovered and perfected as it is today.
Formerly live baits, minnows, small frogs, hellgrammites, crawfish, etc., were much used, but now the artificial baits are gradually taking their place. This is not because the one method is unsportsmanlike, but because it is more convenient and more enjoyable to fish with an inanimate bait, and many denounce the use of live bait as cruelty.
Each of these styles of bait fishing requires a different mode of casting the lure, and as the live bait fishing is older than the other I will describe the old method of bait casting first.
For this the bait rod is used, and it should be about eight or eight and a half feet in length. The reel, above the handle, is a quadruple multiplier, and when the rod is turned with reel seat up, the handle end of the reel is to the left. In casting the reel is kept on top, but as soon as the bait strikes the water the rod is shifted to the left hand and turned with the reel in under, which throws the handle to the right where it is convenient for the right hand, and the line runs freely in the guides, on the underside of the rod. The line is size H, or No. 6, for bass, and for larger fish is size G, or No. 5 or larger, and must be of soft, undressed, braided silk. The longest casts can be made with the fine line, but the heavier line wears longer. The hook must be of a size to suit the fish sought, and should have a snell of strong gut or gimp, and is attached to the line by means of a small swivel. No leader can be used for bait-casting.
For bait, the minnow is most commonly used. The way to hook bait will be described later.
We will suppose now that an angler is fishing from the shore of a wide stream, or perhaps wading the water, and he wishes to cast his bait to near the opposite shore, eighty or ninety or more feet distant. He reels in the line until the swivel is close up to the rod tip and the bait hangs only six or eight inches from the end of the rod. Then he grasps the rod in his right hand, with his thumb pressed firmly on the spool of the reel, the reel turned up, and pointing slightly to the left; then he turns so that his left shoulder points towards the place where the bait is to be cast to, A in the diagram, the angler facing B, and he drops his elbow down to the hip and points his rod to the right, the bait down almost against the water. Then without turning his body he turns his head so that he can see the place he wants to cast to, (A) and with a steady sweeping movement he swings his right forearm across in front of his body, to the left, and upward, until the rod points upward at about a twenty-five degree angle and an angle of thirty degrees from the line of his shoulders; this is the end of the cast. Just before reaching this point the pressure on the reel spool is eased up, the thumb pressure almost removed, and the momentum of the bait drags the line from the reel, the bait traveling outward and upward for quite a distance, then curving downward to the water.
But the pressure on the spool must not be entirely released, unless it is one of the self-numbing kind, or the reel will run so fast that it winds the line back the other way, bringing the bait up with a jerk and tangling the line. This is called a back-lash and the back-lashes cause the amateur more trouble than everything else combined. To learn to control this pressure so that it is not so hard that it hinders the spool in movement, and yet hard enough to prevent a back-lash, is the great secret of bait-casting. It takes months of practice usually, and some persons are so constituted that .hey can never become good casters.
The movement of the rod, already described, is simple enough and easily learned, but that it may be more easily understood I will try to describe it in another way. The rod is pointed downward and to the right, the angle being about thirty degrees from the line of the shoulders and it is swung across before you to the left, to a line of thirty degrees from the shoulder line on that side, at the same time swinging it upward by bending the elbow, and when it reaches the limit of its movement the butt should be level with the left shoulder. The butt has started at the right hip and traveled to the left shoulder, and the elbow has moved across the front of the body, but close to the body all of the time. The rod must not be swung too far or the bait will go to the left of the place you have in view.
The best casts are made by swinging the body somewhat along with the movement of the forearm and the entire movement must be steady, so that there is no jerk, and so that the end of the rod stops when the arm stops.
The instant the bait touches the water the pressure on the reel spool is increased so that the reel stops, and the bait is allowed to sink some distance beneath the surface. At the same time the rod is taken in the left hand so that the right hand is free to reel in the line. The line is reeled in a few yards, then a pause, then a few yards again. When it is brought in quite close it is all reeled in again and another cast made. When reeling in line, the line must be spooled with the thumb, or thumb and finger of the left hand, so that it lays evenly on the spool of the reel. If it winds more one place than another you cannot cast well as the thumbing of the reel will be more difficult. The common practice is to rest the butt of the rod against the body, holding the weight of the rod, and spooling the line with the left hand. There are rubber butt caps made to fit on the butt of the rod to keep it from slipping. Another way of spooling the line is by holding the rod in such a way that the left end of the reel rests in the palm of the left hand and the line is guided back and forth with the thumb. The even spooling devices are a great help here.
Of course an angler who can cast only to the left is greatly handicapped, but it is just as easy to cast to the right. For this, the right forearm is swung across before the body until the hand is even with the left hip and the rod pointing downward to the left and the angle about thirty degrees from the shoulder line. Then the hand and rod is swept across to the right, and upward until the arm is fully extended and the angle of the rod is thirty degrees from the shoulder line, as before.
The other method of casting a bait is more modern and now a very popular style of fishing. It is known as the overhead cast, although the same outfit can be used for a side cast. The short bait-casting rod is used, reel and line the same as in the other method, but the reel is placed on the rod with the handle to the right and is kept on top of the rod all the time, and the guides are also on top. This is the outfit for frog casting, and either a regular snelled hook or one of the several frog harnesses described elsewhere can be used. But by far the larger number of anglers using this method, use one of the artificial baits before described.
As before, the line is reeled in until the bait is close to the end of the rod, about six or eight inches, and the rod is pointed forward towards the place where the angler wants to place the lure; the thumb pressing on the spool of the reel, which is on top but turned somewhat to the left; and the rod is then brought upward and backward until it points back over the right shoulder to a level or a little beyond; then with a quick movement bring your rod forward again to the original position, releasing the spool of the reel when the rod is in a vertical position so that the bait draws out the line, but not releasing it entirely. In making a cast of any kind from the reel, the thumb pressure must be increased as the bait gets farther away and the spool must be stopped entirely just when the bait strikes the water. The best casters do not turn the rod so that the reel is exactly on top, but turned somewhat to the left, as the reel runs more freely in that position and the line does not cling to the rod but runs freely through the guides.
It is not necessary to try this out on the stream — you can practice it out in the field or any clear space, using a wooden plug without hooks instead of an artificial bait. Practice to cast accurately rather than far and you will have less trouble from back-lashes. Even in actual fishing accuracy counts for more than distance and casts of more than seventy-five feet are the exception, even with the expert.
In fishing by this method the amateur angler should use a surface bait, i. e., one that floats, as the frequent back-lashes and loss of time in shifting the rod, etc., allow an underwater bait to sink into the weeds and add to the angler's troubles. When he becomes more expert he may use the underwater bait, especially for running water, where there is a current, but in still water, and where there is a growth of grass or water lilies the surface bait is more satisfactory.
The end of the line near the bait gets the hardest wear, and it should be examined and tested frequently. If it shows signs of weakness cut off a few feet.
The reel must be kept well oiled and should be oiled every day, especially if a very light oil is used. The wearing qualities of your reel and the free and easy running of the spool depend on its care.
Brooks, Lake. The Science of Fishing. Columbus, OH: A.R. Harding, 1912. Print.
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