Casting is probably the method of fishing visualized by most people when thinking about fishing. Casting is a method of throwing the bait and using its weight to get it where you want it. There are many ways to cast, making it the most versatile way to fish. You can catch just about any fish that swims by casting and you can also fish in almost any kind of waters you encounter.

Equipment Needed for Casting

A rod-and-reel combination is needed for casting. You can use any kind of outfit but you need a reel that will hold the line and allow it to play out when you cast the bait. The type of rod can vary a lot, too, but it must be capable of holding the reel and having a way to guide the line to the tip of the rod that will allow it to go out.

The basic kinds of reels used to cast the bait are spinning, casting, and spin-casting. Each works in a different way but all hold line and allow it to go out freely when cast. Rods can vary from short three-foot ultralight types that are very limber to stout surf rods eleven feet long and capable of throwing a weight that would break an ultralight. Most rods have guides wrapped with thread and glued on them to guide the line to the tip, but some have a method of running the line through the center of the rod to guide it.

Spinning reels hang under the rod. Bait-casting and spin-casting reels sit on top of the rod. Spinning rods have big guides that are placed under the rod; the other two have smaller guides that sit on top of the rod to line up with the reel.

Just about any kind of fishing line can be used in casting. Monofilament is the norm but specialized lines are available to fit any specific need. Depending on the type of cover you're fishing and the kind of fish you're after, you can pick a line that is best for that purpose.

Cost can vary from a few dollars for a basic spin-casting outfit to over $1,000 for a quality reel and custom-made rod. To start out, you don't need the most expensive equipment but you should buy outfits that will work consistently well and hold up under use. And the type you learn on will often be your favorite for a long time, since you get the basics of using it down first.

How to Use Casting Equipment

There are a lot of variations on casting but all require you to hold the line at the spool so it doesn't release until you want it to. You can release the line with your thumb, your finger, a trigger, or a push button, depending on the type of reel. You swing the rod tip to throw the lure or bait and release the line at the correct point in the rod swing. When the bait hits the water you turn a handle to engage the line and start reeling it in.

To cast, do the following depending on what kind of reel you're using:

  • With a spin-casting reel, push the button in and hold it to keep the line from releasing.

  • With a trigger reel, hold the trigger in to keep the line from releasing.

  • With a spinning reel catch the line with your trigger finger and hold it to keep it from releasing while opening the bail.

  • With a bait-casting reel, hold your thumb against the spool to keep the line from releasing and push the free spool button.

  • With all three kinds of reels, hold the line as you make the cast, releasing it to spool out at the correct point in the cast.

Casting each kind of reel takes a slightly different action by your hands and you must get used to each kind. Once you master one, it's easier to switch to one of the other kinds since the casting motion is the same. The release of the line is what's different.


Thumbing a spin-casting reel.


A line release on a spinning reel.


Thumbing the line on a bait-casting reel.

Learning to cast takes practice, no matter what kind of outfit you use. A few minutes in the backyard or on the water with a practice plug can save you trouble later when you want to catch a fish. Start off without hooks for both safety's sake and to keep your line from snagging onto things. You must coordinate the action of your hand moving the rod with the action of your fingers or thumb releasing the line at the correct time. It's easier than it sounds and most kids older than six pick it up quickly.

To cast you:

  • Hold the line at the reel.

  • Face your target and point the rod tip at it.

  • Flex your elbow to raise the rod tip over your head.

  • With a smooth, continuous motion, whip the rod tip back toward the target.

  • Release the line at the reel when the rod tip is at about a forty-five-degree angle.

  • Follow through with the rod tip until it's pointed at the target again.


The casting motion with a bait-casting outfit.

When to Use Casting Equipment

Casting works for almost all fishing situations for getting the bait to the fish. You can throw a surf bait well over 100 feet with the right equipment, or you can pitch a plastic worm to a tree trunk ten feet away. Casting works from the bank, from a boat, and from piers and jetties. And you can cast baits as light as a feather or as heavy as a hammer with the right outfit.

To set the free spool on bait-casting reels, tie a lure on the line and hold it at the rod tip at a forty-five-degree angle in front of you. Push the free spool button and adjust the tension so the lure descends to the floor and the spool stops spinning when it hits the floor.

You can learn to cast a bait so that it enters the water without making a ripple (for easily spooked fish) or you can let it splash down (to draw the attention of schooling fish). Casting to shoreline cover while bass fishing, throwing a bait a long way when surf fishing, or casting to grass beds while trying to get a muskie are all good ways to use casting equipment.

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