Text: Alan Bulmer Lead image: Hook ‘n Surf
IS SIDE OR OVERHEAD CASTING BETTER FOR LURES?
There is no correct answer to the question “Is side or overhead casting better for lures” as both methods have their place. The choice is ultimately down to personal preference and the purpose of this article is to discuss the merits and shortcomings of both methods.
Irrespective of whether the lure is cast using an overhead or side cast, the angle the rod tip travels through during the casting sequence is roughly the same at 110 – 120 degrees. Line is also released from the finger tip or thumb at roughly the same point in both casting styles. The only real difference is the plane the rod travels through.
The basic technique in casting for distance is relatively simple. Instead of the short-stroke cast that most anglers employ to toss a lure 50 or 60 feet it is important to reach back further with the rod. Use both arms and shoulders to put some muscle in the forward stroke, and use your left hand (if you’re right-handed) to pull the rod butt sharply toward your body as your right hand pushes the rod forward. This bends the rod more deeply and moves the lure faster. The rod must be ‘loaded’, that is bent by the weight or inertia of the lure. The rod, which at the end of the forward cast is still bent, rapidly recovers its shape and straightens which adds acceleration to the lure and this ultimately translates into extra casting distance.
Finish with an abrupt stop to transfer maximum energy to the lure as it departs the rod tip. Many anglers make an indefinite forward arc when casting, with no defined end to the stroke. This is counter productive. If you want to radically improve your distance bring the rod to a sharp stop so that the rod transfers momentum to the lure.
Overhead casting is more commonly practiced and probably easier to learn. Once mastered it is ideal for close situations with limited room where accuracy is critical and for distance casting, especially with an overhead reel. The ability to cast large distances is why this casting style is so commonly favoured by the surf casting fraternity. It is the choice of reel though that ultimately determines casting distance as fixed spool spinning reels by their design limit distance due to friction on the line as it travels over the spool lip. The general casting sequence is shown in the diagrams below and the rod path generally moves from 9 to 1 o’clock on the casting clock.
The big weakness of the overhead casting is casting light lures, especially into the wind. The high release point leads to a high arching trajectory which gives the wind plenty of opportunity to blow the lure off course and restrict casting distance. As you can see from the graph below the optimum trajectory that a lure must travel through to achieve maximum distance is 45 degrees so irrespective of whether the cast is overhead or side this is the trajectory to strive for.
Side casting, or off the ground casting, is different from overhead casting in several ways. Firstly the angler initially stands with feet parallel to the shore. The rod tip is then drawn back behind the angler and as the cast is executed the angler swivels to face the target. The front foot moves to point at the target and the rear foot follows. The hands end up in front of the eyes and the rod tip is moved through the desired casting angle. This short UK video shows how it is done.
Obviously when you are side casting lures then it is important that you do not place them on the ground as they will inevitably snag. I generally swing the rod tip back and as the lure straightens out directly behind the tip I rapidly accelerate forward into the cast. This loads the rod more and increases casting distance. The lure never actually touches the ground at any point during the cast. The following Active Angling video shows how I side cast in detail. Note how the rod angle constantly changes depending on how much wind there is and the wind direction.
I personally prefer to side cast when lure fishing the flats. There are several reasons for this but it is mainly to do with the ever present wind and lure weight. I generally fish with small 7 – 11 gram lures and achieving any sort of distance when casting these lures into the wind with an overhead cast is difficult. If I am casting into the wind then I tend to lower the casting angle to 30 degrees to get a flatter trajectory. This reduces distance slightly but the lure spends less time in the air and therefore is less affected by the wind. If the wind is blowing from directly behind then I will increase the casting angle to 60 degrees so that the wind has more opportunity and time to push the lure further away.
When it comes to side casting lures on the flats long rods are a decided advantage. The extra rod length increases the distance the rod tip travels in the casting stroke which in turn increases casting distance. This is covered in detail in the Active Angling “Are longer rods better” post. Check it out: –https://activeanglingnz.com/2015/09/24/are-longer-rods-better-on-the-flats/
There are a few other things that can assist in gaining extra metres in the cast, irrespective of whether a side or overhead cast is used.
For spinning reels, thin lines cast farther than thicker ones . This is all due to friction on the spool lip as line peels of the spool. With thicker lines the line level on the spool drops more quickly and this means that more line is in contact with the spool lip during the cast. Increased contact means more friction and less casting distance. To counteract this re-spool with the smallest-diameter line that’s still strong enough for the fish you target. For example a thin fused braid, such as 15-pound-test Nanofil, is an ideal compromise for estuarine flats work. I would definitely recommend braid for use in spinning as it is less prone to twist, gives improved sensitivity and is thinner in diameter than nylon monofilament.
Some people recommend overfilling the spool slightly, adding line right up to the edge of the spool rim. This does increase casting distance but it also dramatically increases the possibility of line tangles. If you do this then manually trip the bail after every cast and make sure that the line is coming off the spool cleanly as this helps eliminate tangles.
Lengthening the trace and how much of it extends out of the rod tip is another way of increasing casting distance. It is important to make sure that the knot between the braid and trace is outside of the rod tip when casting as if it is inside the rod then it could snag on a guide during the cast. One of two things will happen if the knot grabs a guide. The first is that the tip of a multiple section rod will come loose during the casting stroke. If you are using a single piece rod then the tip will snap off . Either scenario is ugly as both end in tip breakage.
If you start snapping off lures with more powerful casts, consider a shock leader. With medium to heavy tackle, use an Albright or five turn Surgeons knot to splice a stout monofilament shock leader that is about 1 metre long to the lighter main line. This leader absorbs the initial increased force of distance casts, while permitting the lowered friction of a thin main line across the spool lip.