When it comes to casting with spinning tackle, are you a pincher or a hanger? Maybe you’ve never really thought about it. When an angler who is a “pincher” prepares to make a cast, the index finger of the rod hand extends, picks the line up on the fingertip, and pinches the line against the rod’s foregrip. The line is kept squeezed tightly against the foregrip during the backcast and is released at the end of the forward cast, allowing the line to pour off the reel.
A “hanger” prepares to cast in a similar way, extending that index finger to pick up the line on the fingertip. But instead of squeezing the line against the foregrip, the fingertip is bent to hold the line and does not contact the foregrip at all. The line hangs over the fingertip until the backcast begins, held in place by the weight of the lure or bait, and is released by straightening the finger at the end of the forward cast.
So, which are you? It makes a big difference. Hangers tend to be better casters than pinchers, and also tend to have fewer problems with line tangles. In particular, the dreaded “wind knot” which torments users of braided line occurs much less frequently for hangers.
How can such a seemingly tiny difference in technique make such a big difference in our casting? Hanging the line over the fingertip keeps just a bit of tension on the line, due to the weight of the lure or bait.
This serves to keep loose loops of line from jumping off the spool when preparing to cast. Those loose loops easily form if the line is pinched against the foregrip when the bail is opened, and they are the main cause of wind knots.
But there’s more. Anglers who hang that line over their fingertip during the cast are better able to feel the load on their finger as the rod loads up on the backcast. This makes it easier to judge the exact moment to let that cast fly with just the right timing to whip off the longest cast possible. With the line pinched against the foregrip this is more difficult to judge.
There’s another factor at play also. Unless the line is large in diameter and the grip of the angler is very strong, there can be slippage of the line under that pinched finger when the cast is really loaded up. The pinching angler will probably not be aware of it, but even a little slippage can rob lots of distance off the cast.
If you’re a hanger, congratulations on your technique. If you’re a pincher and you’re happy with your casting, then more power to you. But if you can learn to be a hanger — which is a difficult transition for long-time anglers — your fishing experience will probably improve.
But what happens after you fire off that cast with a spinning rod? We all, every one of us, have launched casts that we immediately realized were not headed where we’d hoped they would go. Sometimes you can fix that.
When you throw a rock at a target, your control of the trajectory of the rock ends as soon as the rock leaves your hand. But when you make a cast with a lure or a bait, you are still connected to that lure or bait by your fishing line. As such, it’s possible to alter the trajectory of the cast (at least a little bit) while it is in mid-flight.
If the cast is going to fall short there’s not much you can do except watch it fail to reach the target. But if you are off a bit to the right or left, you can steer just a bit by quickly thrusting your rod tip off to the side in the direction you want the cast to go.
Your bait or lure is dragging the fishing line behind it. Swinging your rod off to the side during the cast slightly changes the direction of the pull made by the trailing line, curving the bait or lure a bit to one side or the other.
Yes, this works. It works better on high, arcing casts than on flat, high-velocity casts, but it does work. You are not going to move a cast by 20 feet, but making a difference of a foot or two is possible and sometimes this is enough to change a cast from a tree-snagger to a fish-catcher.
What about a cast that’s too strong? If you let fly with a cast that’s clearly headed right past all the water and into the tree limbs, you might be able to stop it before it gets to the wood.
The most commonly used method to do this is the least effective: I see lots of anglers panic when they realize that they’ve launched a wild pitch and react by jerking the rod backwards during the cast. This helps a little, but not much since the bail is still open and line is still flowing off the reel.
Grabbing the reel handle and frantically cranking to close the bail works better, though it takes time to find the knob and spin it enough to engage the bail trip lever.
A much faster and more effective method is to simply clamp your hand over the front of the spool to immediately stop the line from uncoiling. The results are not very pretty. The bait or lure will abruptly halt in midair, and probably rocket back towards the angler. I have seen people hit by returning baits when this happens.
But that might still be better than having to break out a ladder to climb the tree where your favorite lure is hanging. You carry a ladder while you’re fishing, don’t you?
There are ways to put the brakes on a wild cast in a more controlled manner. You can slow, but not completely stop, the line that’s uncoiling from your reel’s spool by feathering the whirling line with the tip of the index finger of your casting hand. Extend the the index finger down away from the rod until the whirling line just starts to brush against the tip of the finger and you can slow the uncoiling a bit. This gently brakes the cast.
Another alternative is to cup the palm of your non-casting hand around the front of the spool, not touching the spool but close enough to the spool that the uncoiling line feathers against the insides of your palm or fingers, or both. This is not a precise way to guide a cast. However, with practice you’ll find that you can save at least some errant casting efforts. You might not need that ladder after all.
Let’s go fishing!
Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing tour boats located at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer, and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Contact him at 941-639-2628 or Captain@KingFisherFleet.com.
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