Good body rotation can improve beach casting

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We have looked at the background mechanics of body rotation and torque, says John Holden. These are the exercises that let you feel the winding and unwinding process without the distraction of a rod. They highlight what happens naturally when the body rotates backward, then uncoils forward to the cast’s launch point and beyond.

Run through the exercises until you can clearly feel the tightness of the set-up position, the weight shift which triggers the cast and the feeling of acceleration and power as you drive through to completion. The rest is easy…

Good cast, bad cast

We’re almost ready to add body power to a real cast. But before explaining the ‘power clock’, I’ll show you the difference between a good cast fuelled by body rotation and a bad cast powered by, well, nothing much except hope.

Learning to spot the good and bad in other casters will help to refine your own style but don’t forget that when you are casting, feedback and feel, not mechanical analysis, are what you should be concentrating on.

The most noticeable feature of the good cast is the powerful set-up position, shown here with the sinker on the beach. Other than the obvious differences, a pendulum should look the same. My body is wound up, weight on the right leg, arms slightly extended to give a wide rod arc.

The cast begins with a smooth weight transfer and body rotation, bringing me naturally to launch point, which is almost exactly the same body and arm position as the beginning of our previous heavy hammering exercises.

The rod is compressing nicely even though my arms have done nothing but move automatically into hammering position. Torque has loaded the blank for me. My body continues to uncoil, accelerating all the way through to the final hammering action that whips the sinker away at high speed on exactly the right path.

Abad cast begins with my dumping the sinker on the ground, then shuffling into position. You can see that the set-up lacks any direction and sense of purpose, with little if any pre-loading. The rod arc is seriously restricted.

Without body torque to drive the action, it’s left to my arms to provide all the effort. At what should have been a power-laden launch point, the rod is too upright, too far forward and still virtually uncompressed. The rest doesn’t matter - this is a cast going nowhere.

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SETTING THE ‘POWER-CLOCK’

The amount of body torque dialled into your personal casting clock, plus the layout of rod, leader and sinker, allows controlled amounts of compression to be built in quickly, slowly or anywhere in between.

These combinations of rod angle, drop and sinker position extract the best performance from an outfit. Arod that’s too quick and stiff can be tamed. Likewise, a blank on the slow, sloppy side can be livened up.

The power and speed unleashed by a good body action may require that you open or close the stance a little so that the hammering action is accurately aligned with the aerial target. By the same token, the target may also need some adjustment to match the increased power output and altered trajectory.

Body-driven casts tend to fly to the right of an arms-dominant action. You may also get the feeling of slightly premature release, which is nothing to worry about. Your previous style probably threw low and left with a ‘sticky’ release.

Imagine a clock face under your feet, with 12 o’clock pointing toward the water. Coil around until your body feels comfortably tight. Remember to lean slightly forward as you turn, so that your body weight slides over to your right leg.

This is your basic turn on a medium-power setting. Somehow, relate the position of your shoulders to the clock face. When I rotate to medium setting, which is my starting point for fishing casts, it seems to me that a line drawn across my shoulders would align with the 2 o’clock and 7 o’clock marks. That is, just short of square to the 6 o’clock direction. Exactly where your shoulders settle, or how you judge them relative to the clock, does not matter provided that your coil is nice and solid, and that you can dial in the same degree of turn from cast to cast.

Wind yourself up really hard. Where do yourshoulders point now? That is your high-power setting, which you will rarely need on the beach. To establish the low-power setting, uncoil a little from the medium baseline toward the launch point angle.

Between the two you will sense a torque load that feels reasonably powerful yet still retains enough free space to generate a handy amount of rod compression before the launch point arrives. This low setting is handy on a steep beach that restricts rod movement.

Go back to medium setting and drop the rod roughly into position for a ground cast. Waggle it around in a flat arc. At one extreme lies the maximum angle and arm extension of the South African cast.

At the other end of the spectrum is a comfortable and natural-feeling minimum angle, which for most anglers points the rod somewhere toward 7 o’clock. Here your hands are relatively close to the body. At the South African position, the arms are almost straight.

Body setting plus arm extension control the rod layout angle. The widest power arc is a combination of maximum body wind-up and the longest arm to rod extension. It’s pretty obvious how to set up the minimum arc. What isn’t so clear is how to control the middle angles.

Should you set up for an 8 o’clock rod angle by using medium body wind-up and a medium reach? High setting and small arm extension or low body power and long arm extension? Where should the sinker lie? What about leader drop? The options depend on what you aim to achieve and how that process must be controlled... of which, more later.

THE ‘POWER CLOCK’ IN ACTION

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Good casts arrive at launch point with the rod under compression, powered by an unwinding body action. From then on, it’s a simple matter of hammering the sinker toward the aerial target.

These two off-the-ground casts show that there is plenty of room for personal interpretation of a style provided that the framework is sound. The semi-South African uses plenty of body rotation and an extended rod and sinker layout.

The high-inertia Easy Cast develops its power from less body rotation and a smaller rod layout angle with only a small arm extension. The sinker lies on the inside of the rod tip, almost under the blank.

Both casts arrive at an almost identical launch point where the blank is nicely compressing with arms and body in the vital heavy hammering position. All this happens while the body continues to unwind on automatic pilot.

There is no need to deliberately control the arm movements that lead up to launch point. Before you cast, remind yourself of what a solid launch point feels like. Then allow your subconscious to take over and make the necessary adjustments as the actual cast gets under way.

The South African cast uses a long rod arc and a low-inertia (low resistance) sinker position whereas, in the Easy Cast, the inside sinker position generates a heavy and immediate resistance for the rod tip. Along, slow build-up or a short, quick build-up - which suits you better? It is not a matter of good or bad but of personal preference and ability.

Find the set-up positions and tackle layouts that feel right and work best. Bear in mind that rod length, action and stiffness, sinker weight and leader drop all affect the way the rod is compressed at launch point and beyond.

To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.

Overcoming problems with your beach casting

Casting from the shore is one of those activities where, when things go badly wrong, your beach fishing session can soon turn into a real headache.

How often have you found yourself next to an angler on the beach only to watch him smoothly bend the rod and send a baited rig a long way out? When it is your turn it suddenly goes pear-shaped. Crack-offs, overruns, veering right or left or simply not far enough – it all adds to a bad day.

First, if you’re fishing a venue where long distance casting is vital for success and you can’t reach the fish, then you need to find a venue where you can.

Second, make sure that your rigs are easy to cast. Bait clips will help but you don’t always have to use them. Very long rigs and snoods can hamper casting.

Finally, before you cast ensure that your line isn’t wrapped around the tip. Get into the habit of reeling the rig to the tip ring and then dropping it slightly. If the line is wrapped around the blank, it won’t drop.

Ensure that you are comfortable. Being unstable or off-balance can be the main cause of problems. Most of all, don’t be put off by the guy who is casting long every chuck. These are the anglers who have many years of practice and experience behind them. If you put in the same hard work and effort, your day will come.

Using a casting instructor can iron out bad habits as well as helping boost your distance. 

Why wind is a pain  
Great advice for better casting technique

Casting into a head wind can be very frustrating for some anglers.

An onshore wind can create crunching waves on to the shingle and coupled with a hampered cast that drops your rig close to the shore, it is only a matter of time before your rig is washed back up the beach or buried in the shingle.

Ways to avoid this happening are first to reduce the number of hooks on a rig.

A two-hook or single clipped rig will cast better than a three-hook version. Keep baits small; large baits are more difficult to punch into the wind.

You can gain extra yards by keeping your cast low over the water. Sending a rig high into the wind will only see it slowed dramatically or even pushed back to you.

Finally, if the wind is so bad you won’t enjoy the session anyway it’s probably best to put the bait back in the fridge and wait until conditions are much more comfortable.

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Combating a strong tide 
Methods to stop your rig being washed ashore

Strong tides can be so difficult to fish that many anglers just pack up and leave.

After casting, some like to tighten the line into the spiked sinker and soon find that the fast-running tide pulls the rig from its hold. The rig ends up being dragged down tide, even with a fixed-grip lead.

One way to get more fishing time is to walk uptide, cast and then let out quite a large bow of line as you walk back. As the rig settles and anchors in front of you, don’t tighten the line because the bow will take the strain of the tide without dislodging the sinker. When a fish is hooked, the line should go slack as the sinker is pulled free. It may not be possible to use this tactic on a crowded beach, and casting short may then be the only solution.

How to get a grip
Time to bring out the rubber gloves

Q When I cast with a multiplier reel the line slips under my thumb. How can I stop this?

A Trying to grip the spool of a multiplier reel when casting with a wet thumb is difficult, but this is an easy problem to fix.

Many anglers like to use a small piece of bicycle inner tube fixed under the reel seat or coaster. Before casting fold it over the spool of the reel, and then use this to grip the spool with your thumb.

An easier solution is to use a simple pair of Marigold gloves, cut the fingers off and then cut 1in segments from them. Slide a segment over your thumb and leave it there while you fish. Each time you cast, this will aid in gripping the spool. If the ‘thumby’ tears, replace it with another segment that you have cut.

Click here for masses more pages covering beachcasting tips, techniques and solutions.

 

Improving your body movement will improve your beach casting

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Long casts are fuelled by a powerful arm and body combination, which can be summed up as turn-and-hammer. The series began by looking at the actions as separate issues before combining them into a simple action, which is good for over 125 yards with around 5oz of lead. Now it is time to turn up the heat using body action, says casting instructor John Holden

At our present level of beachcasting, which translates into 100-125 yards with bait, the differences between styles involve little more than what you do with the sinker prior to the turn-and-hammer sequence.

Assuming that beach conditions permit, the choice is yours: off-ground with an outside or inside layout, abbreviated pendulum swing, aerialised outswing - whatever you prefer within reason.

Before stepping up a gear into the world of high-performance casting, we must backtrack and dig deeper into the original exercises. They are perfectly sound even in their simplest form and many anglers need nothing extra.

But for intermediate and advanced casters, basics are just the beginning. In horsepower terms, the engine was a four-cylinder 1.6. The next steps replace it with a three-litre supercharged V8. To handle the extra power, we must also beef up the chassis and suspension.

Let’s begin with some work on the turn, which is the most important component for many casters. From the technical point of view it tends to be misunderstood and is therefore hard to perfect, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a personal casting coach.

What is turning?

Rotating the body backward and forward stores and releases energy in a process similar to winding up and releasing a clock spring. The advantages of body rotation for casting are more power, a longer, smoother arc for the rod to work within, and less critical timing.

The big muscles of the legs, torso and shoulders are very powerful but slow moving compared to the arms with their rapid hammering action. They only deliver maximum performance when used together in proper sequence. Poorly combined, they cancel each other out - all pain, no gain.

Turning the wrong way... and doing it right

The weak caster begins by facing away from the water. He drops the sinker on to the beach or sets up the pendulum swing angle. The rod is lifted into position. Then he turns his body away from the sinker and shuffles his feet until he feels most comfortable.

Finally he lets fly, losing half the arc by bringing the rod over much too high before slashing downward like a Ninja swordsman. Total disaster - a horror movie now showing on a beach near you. What went wrong? Note the set-up sequence - sinker, rod, arms, body and feet.

Here’s a better caster going through his routine. He looks out to sea, then towards an imaginary target in mid-air. He places his feet just so - no indecision.

He winds his body around, shoulders dipping a little, right leg slightly bent. Arms extend to put the rod on to the correct plane, dropping the sinker on to the sand or beginning the outswing. The cast comes around as smooth as syrup and away goes the sinker.

How the heck did he cast so far with no effort? Again, note the sequence - target, feet, body, arms, rod, sinker. He did it the opposite way around – so what’s going on?

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Automatic release

With the body fully wound up, all you need to think about is shifting your weight on to the left foot and concentrating on the aerial target. The cast unwinds on auto-pilot, on time and in perfect sequence.

Torque - casting’s deadly weapon

The secret of effortless power lies in the relationship between shoulders and hips. In slightly amended forms this body torque generator is also the powerhouse of discus, shot, hammer-throwing, the golf swing and every other powerful athletic movement.

The essence of the action is that during the loading phase your shoulders rotate one way while your hips resist. The result, like wringing out a wet dishcloth, is a massive amount of torque (twisting action) stored between the two. Inject that energy into the rod, and the sinker zooms away.

Here’s an exercise that lets you feel how torque is generated and released. Stand facing a wall with your feet about a shoulder-width apart and your hips and shoulders parallel to the wall.

Cross your arms in front of your chest. Turn your shoulders as far to the right as they will go, allowing your body weight to drift on to the right foot as you rotate. Lean forward from the waist a little. This is important - resist the shoulder turn with your hips. Hold the hip line as close to parallel with the wall as you can manage.

Wind up nice and tight. Hold the position for a moment. Then without altering hips, feet or body weight, unwind your shoulders back the other way. Shoulders only, mind you. Legs and hips stay put. Body weight is still on the right foot.

You will notice an immediate relaxation as the system goes dead. Every ounce of power evaporates. Big mistake. A poor caster does precisely this every time he lets fly - dumps whatever torque he had managed to store almost before the rod begins moving along its forward arc.

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Developing strong torque

My hips resist as the shoulders turn, generating and storing large amounts of energy. At the completion of the turn, my shoulders are at 90 degrees to the casting direction, while the hips have moved less than half the angle. The less the hips move, the better.

Here’s the right way

Set up in the fully-wound position again. This time begin the unwinding action by sliding your body weight - don’t rush - from right leg to left. At the same time, turn your head to look at a target in mid-air to your left. That is all you think about.

Go with the flow and let the unwinding process happen automatically. Feel the easy, powerful acceleration as your shoulders whip around, driven by a combination of unwinding and momentum.

As you become familiar with the exercise, increase the speed. Don’t force or try to control it though. Tell yourself that this time you want some extra zip. Wind up, release and let it happen. You should finish balanced on your left foot with your right toes just touching the ground.

You might even need to step forward with the right foot so as not to fall over. Despite all that power being released, you should feel little sensation of effort.

Smooth, controlled power will not develop unless you do the unwind on automatic pilot. Any attempt to tinker with the process by using conscious control - such as deliberately exaggerating the shoulder movement or pushing off with the right foot - will kill the action stone dead.

Did you notice that we have also cured a disease that affects so many casters - how to time the beginning of the cast? Timid ground casters suffer most.

They develop a hesitant twitch because they focus all their attention on their arms and the tackle. At best the cast begins with a snatch. In extreme cases they’re paralysed by indecision and cannot start at all.

Now we know the answer. When the cast is wound up and ready to go, forget about the rod, sinker layout and arm action. Pull the trigger by smoothly sliding your body weight back on to the left leg. Feel your weight shift.

Trust your body to do the job. Every link in the power chain – legs, hips, shoulders, arms, rod, leader and sinker – will move exactly on track, on time and in the correct sequence.

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No body torque - probably the biggest mistake in casting

1. First the sinker goes into position.
2. Then the feet and body set up as best they can. There’s almost no body torque.
3. Without torque to provide both power and a wide arc, the rod must be brought through much too high using mainly arm power.
4. Lack of an aerial target coupled to poor rod action sends the cast low and left.

Unwinding in detail

Sliding your weight back toward the left foot causes your hips to rotate to the left, in the opposite direction to shoulder rotation. Torque increases momentarily, creating even more stored energy. But because your shoulders were already fully wound up, something has to give. The little bit of extra pressure generated by the weight shift and hip turn virtually forces them to switch into reverse and follow the turning hips.

Since your hips started first and continue to move ahead of the shoulders, torque remains stored even though the shoulders themselves are beginning to accelerate quickly. For maximum casting efficiency, the hips should lead the shoulders to the point where hammering begins. They will if you let them. You can feel the result quite clearly - the upper body stays loaded with power through and beyond launch point.

Notice, too, that when you unwind starting from the feet and hips, the upper body moves into the heavy hammering position from which it can drive forward. Again, the hips leading the shoulders produce the correct position perfectly naturally.

This method of unwinding which leaves the shoulders lagging behind for a fraction of a second, at the very beginning of the cast, also puts a caster in the highly desirable situation where the rod feels as if it is coming from somewhere behind his right shoulder.

This is the power position that casting coaches have been stressing for decades but which few casters ever achieve to their satisfaction. The behind-the-shoulder feeling is also a critical factor in pendulum control.

Besides boosting casting power it greatly reduces the likelihood of the sinker ploughing into the beach halfway around.

All this power and control can be yours only if you learn to wind up properly and release on automatic pilot. Otherwise you will struggle, regardless of style, tackle choice or how much you practise.

Feel the wind up. Trigger the cast by shifting your weight. Let your body move naturally into the fully-loaded launch position – and then hit it with your arms. You’ll find that the sinker accelerates like a stone from a tightly-stretched catapult.

How far should you turn?

When your body winds up efficiently, you become physically tight. To begin with it feels just plain wrong to cast this way. But tension is precisely what you want, because it is stored power. Learn to recognise it and enjoy the feeling.

When you unwind, your body relaxes as it uncoils and becomes smooth, steady and comfortable through launch point and hammering. Relaxation during the final stages of the cast means that the body is freewheeling at full power - the perfect way to maximise speed and to release every ounce of stored energy.

Set up incorrectly without pre-winding the spring, though, and not only is there little stored power but your body also tightens at around launch point. Just when you most need freedom of movement, the system locks up. Shoulders get way ahead of hips, wind up the spring in reverse and slam on the brakes.

When maximum range is the target, wind up as tightly as you can. For everyday fishing, dial in enough rotation for the distance you need or that circumstances allow. Controlling the proper set-up and release is easy once you have identified the full, medium and low settings on your personal power clock. We’ll look at that in the next feature.

To look through the whole range of articles in this series, click HERE.

How to beach cast, part 2

In part two of our feature on beach casting, our casting coach and expert sea angler, John Holden, explains how you can cure off-ground headaches by aerialising the lead weight rather than laying it out on the ground.

The easy cast is simple, powerful and a good allrounder for most flat and sloping marks. The weight and rig normally lift from the ground with hardly any dragging. But like any off-ground cast it is of limited value or useless on weedy ground, rocks and in surf.

Another complaint is that ground casts do not handle clipped-down rigs very well. The moment the rig touches the ground the clips release the baits prematurely because the leader slackens. Experienced casters keep the lead on the move so that it barely touches the beach before being powered away. This useful trick still doesn't address the issue of needing somewhere fairly clean and unrestricted to lay out the cast.

All of these headaches can be instantly cured by aerialising the weight rather than laying it out on the ground. This is not real pendulum casting, which even in compact form uses a generous out-swing and inswing to lift the lead weight well above head height before the power arc begins. Think of it as a re-positioning of the weight to a spot in mid-air just above its normal ground layout point.

Starting a cast with the lead in midair worries newcomers far more than it should. It must be difficult to control any aerialised method, surely? Well, yes and no.

It is necessary to co-ordinate the lead's hovering at the peak of its inswing with the beginning of the main power arc. You need to watch the swinging lead carefully at first, but practise lets you feel the moment that the lead stops climbing.

Pressure on the rod tip falls slightly at that point, almost as if the lead has disappeared. For the experienced caster this feeling is the red 'go' signal that triggers the main part of the cast.

Learning to swing a lead is easier with a disciplined A,B,C sequence of outswing, inswing, cast. If anything goes wrong - no matter how little or how early - stop, then start all over again. Short drops cause more trouble than long ones, so if anything err towards a little extra. Longer drops slow the swing and make timing smoother; swing direction and height are easier to control.

Once you get the hang of swinging the lead accurately, you will be free to experiment further with drop length and angles to find the combination that gives smooth, easy power.

Confidence is at least as important as set-up and control. A less than perfect swing carried out with confidence outperforms perfect technique ruined by hesitation. Commit yourself.

Make the swing and then cast without worrying about the result. Accept that everyone makes lots of mistakes at first.

The setup

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The new cast and the off-ground version share many key steps, including aerial target, stance, body rotation and rod angle. Run through the ground cast a few times to get yourself back in the groove. Marking foot and tackle layout positions is a good idea, so that you have some handy references from which to work.

The cast

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STEP 1

It may help to lay the sinker on the beach before lifting it into the start position, shown here. I'm using a lead drop of about half the rod length. Most beach rods including the long ones do well with 4-6ft of drop. Having prepared the reel, and pre-set my stance and body wind-up, I raise the rod tip until the lead hangs about 2ft from the blank, then push it away to begin the out-swing. The push is slow but purposeful.

STEP 2

I've aimed the out-swing to the right of the line on the sand that marked the off-ground rod angle. The lead tends to drift to the right of the rod, passing roughly over the original lead layout point. Aim somewhere in the general direction. I'm using a tennis ball to make this demonstration clearer, and you may find it helpful at first because it slows the flow and forces you to make a positive swing.

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STEP 3

When the lead reaches suitable height on the out-swing - head height or a little below - push down with your left hand to reverse the action. The inswing naturally tends to steer itself to your right and well clear of the rod. Seen from above the caster, the rod angle on the inswing would be about the same as it was on the out-swing, both being roughly aligned with the mark on the beach.

Experts keep the swing low to maximise the rod's power arc, but this demands perfect timing and swing control. For now, keep the inswing fairly high so that the lead peaks somewhere between waist and shoulder height. Just as the swing approaches its limit - and anticipating the hovering point can be tricky until you get used to it - smoothly and relatively slowly drop the rod tip by raising the butt cap with your left hand, as I'm doing in the photo.

The right hand can stay where it is. Its natural reaction is to drop a few inches, which is fine, but don't push down deliberately. Drop the tip too low, and you risk driving the tip and/or the lead weight into the ground.

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STEP 4

As your left hand rises, the rod tip begins to compress against the resistance of the lead which is now hovering in mid-air. Turn your head and focus on the target. Unwind your body then hammer the lead up into the air, exactly as in the off-ground style. The natural reaction is to bring the rod around much too quickly and fiercely in order to prevent the lead weight from hitting the ground. Strange though it seems, the best way to keep the lead airborne and on track is to slow right down.

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STEP 5

The follow through is the same as before except that you may notice that the rod has come through on a slightly shallower plane. This is a natural and correct response to the aerialised lead position, which makes the cast's power arc flatter and slightly U-shaped compared to the off-ground cast's more upright lift off and power stroke.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Because of the changes to lead position, timing and power flow, the start of the aerialised cast will not feel the same as that of a ground cast.

Rod compression, for example, starts as early as it does in the offground version, but the feeling will be of a flatter launch that flows more around the body before veering towards the familiar, natural rod angle during the fi nal hammering action. These changes are subtle and best left to take care of themselves. Avoid side-arming the cast or forcing it towards the vertical, and the action will flow smoothly.

If swing control and timing are difficult, chances are that you are rushing, which is almost always due to lack of confidence. Slow down, relax, lengthen the drop a little, use a tennis ball if it helps, and above all remember that there is no rush to start the power stroke. A well positioned lead hovers for what seems ages, allowing a slow, steady start to the main part of the cast. The power flow itself should be about half as fast as most beginners imagine.

JOHN'S PROFESSIONAL TRICKS

Aerialised and pendulum casting styles tend to aggravate multiplier spool slip and backlashes. The reel may even twist on the rod handle. These annoyances tend to disappear when the style improves, but these tricks may help at first.

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1. Cut a one-inch wide strip of inner tube and thread it under the coasters before attaching the reel, which should now be far less prone to any twisting out of place when the rod comes under pressure.

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2. Sandwich the end of the rubber between your thumb and the spool for a slip-free grip and painless release. Trim the strip to extend just beyond your thumb when you grip the reel spool.

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3. Suffer from backlash? Tighten the drag until you get a feel for the cast, then back it off to give the usual hint of free-play on the spool. If control is a problem, cast against a lightly set drag. Use your oldest reel, though!

Missed part one of this series? You can read it HERE.

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