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?
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.
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.
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.