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Fishing Rod Casting Techniques for Beginners and Advanced Anglers

Casting is an art mastered through practice, and whether you’re new to the sport or an old hand, a few minutes spent every day in the back yard is going to make you a better angler in no time.

The basics of casting are pretty simple: it’s all about timing the release of your lure with the swing of your fishing rod. But the specifics can be devilishly difficult.

To help you get the hang of casting, and put you on the path to casting like a pro, we’ve put together a guide to some common fishing rod casting techniques, as well as some advanced options.

Keep reading!

General Fishing Rod Casting Tips

Effortless casts start with preparation, and to get the most from your rod and fishing reel, you need to follow some basic guidelines.

Check the lure weight

The vast majority of rods will have their recommended line and lure weights printed on the blank. Staying within that range is just common sense, and your casting will suffer more the farther you stray from those numbers.

rod lure weight

I can flip a 1/64-ounce lure pretty well, but distance suffers.

Load your spool properly

Whether you prefer the wind-busting simplicity of a spinning reel or the precision of a baitcaster, good casts depend on proper spooling.

When loading line onto your reel, always take line with the replacement spool label-side up. This allows the memory of the spool to match the direction of the twist as you load line, and when you cast, it ensures that the line will come off more uniformly.

You also want to keep the line on your reels within about ⅛-inch from the maximum capacity of the spool.

spooled spinning reel

This reel is fully loaded.

spooled baitcasting reel

On a baitcasting reel, measure from the edge of the spool where it meets the body of the reel.

Reset your baitcaster when you change lures

Every time you change the weight of your terminal tackle, you’re altering the pressure exerted on the spool tensioner and the braking system. Very small differences might not matter, but I find that they often do, and big changes mean big trouble.

That is, unless you take the time to reset your reel.

Basically, I’ll leave my brakes alone unless there’s a huge change in weight. Instead, I’ll just adjust the spool tension until I get the drop I want when I release the spool. 

For new anglers, be sure to be conservative, and keep your reel’s setting pretty tight. 

If you’re not sure how to set up a baitcasting reel, take a close look at this article.

Essential Fishing Rod Casting Techniques

Basic casting techniques aren’t particularly difficult, but they do demand practice. And the more time you spend casting in your back yard or driveway, the happier you’ll be with your performance on the water. If your unsure what the difference is between rods, its something you should know! Check out our article on spinning vs casting rods.

Casting Basics

Spinning Reels

When you’re ready to cast with a spinning reel, begin by bringing your lure to within a foot or so of the end of your rod. Then, try to get the working part of the bail as close to the blank as you can.

This will make your line easy to reach.

You should have your hand up around the reel seat, and most anglers like to have the foot or leg between their index and middle fingers.

casting spinning reels

With the bail as close as it can get to the blank, the line will be easier to reach.

Then, using your index finger, grab the line and hold it.

spinning reel hand position

Note my hand position.

Now, open the bail, and you’re ready to cast.

After the cast, simply close the bail with your off-hand, and begin fishing.

Baitcasting Reels

Begin by bringing your lure to within a foot or so of your rod tip. Then, place your thumb on the spool and depress the spool release.

casting baitcasting reel

You’re ready to cast!

But now comes the tricky part. As you cast, the spool will spin freely, controlled only by the braking mechanism, the spool tensioner, and possibly your thumb’s friction.

Before the lure hits the water or slows considerably in the wind, you need to arrest the motion of the spool with your thumb.

If you don’t, something like this is likely:

tangled baitcasting reel

The Overhead

The overhead cast is the most common technique you’ll see on the water. Delivering both distance and precision, it’s the first cast to learn and master.

  • Begin by getting your reel ready to cast. 
  • Grip the rod with both hands, keeping them apart. Your off-hand should be very near the end of the handle, and you’ll use it for the power behind your cast, pivoting the rod on the fulcrum of your strong hand.
  • Then, move the rod tip rearward over your head, in much the same motion you’d use to chop wood. 45 degrees behind you or so–or about 2 o’clock–is far enough.
  • Don’t snap your cast before your lure has moved all the way rearward!
  • Pull with your off-hand and hold your strong hand still, using it as the fulcrum or pivot around which the rod moves.
  • Release your line when the rod tip is directly above you, at about 12 o’clock.
  • Follow through to about 10 o’clock with your rod, and watch where the lure is headed.

The goal is to create a more or less horizontal arc with your lure, not a high, dropping presentation.

The Sidearm

The Sidearm cast is ideal for situations in which you need to keep your lure low, whether that’s casting it under overhanging vegetation or avoiding branches with your rod while casting under trees or bushes.

It’s also great for reducing splash and can result in a very gentle presentation–with good distance–when you’ve had enough practice.

Advanced anglers can use a very shallow side arm cast to skip a lure across the water, much like you’d skip a rock across a pond. And when you’re trying to get a lure up and under a pier or dock, this can be just the thing!

  • Begin by getting your reel ready to cast. 
  • I typically perform this cast single-handed with my spinning tackle, but two hands can provide more power and control. 
  • Rotate your hand to the outside, angling your rod and reel over. hand position for sidearm castBasic hand position for a sidearm cast.
  • Then, move the rod tip rearward to about 45 degrees behind you or so. 
  • Don’t snap your cast before your lure has moved all the way rearward!
  • Pull with your off-hand and hold your strong hand still, using it as the fulcrum or pivot around which the rod moves.
  • Release your line when the rod tip is directly beside you.
  • Follow through to about 45 degrees in front of you, and watch where the lure is headed.

This should ensure a nice, flat cast.

Specialized Fishing Rod Casting Techniques

When you’re targeting wary fish like crappie huddled around a stump or bass hunting under lily pads, stealth and subtlety are key.

Dipping

Panfish can cluster near thick vertical structures like a stand of partially submerged trees. They can also school in other tight spaces that just won’t allow a conventional cast.

Dipping is one solution to this problem.

Dipping makes use of a long rod like a 12’ B’n’M or a cane pole to drop a lure into a tight spot. 

The idea is to creep close, stop your motor, and either use a pole or an anchor to hold your boat steady. Trolling motors are not going to help you when you’re this close to the action!

Then, using the reach of the pole or rod, and holding the line in one hand, you drop your jig in the pocket between branches or into heavy cover.

A gentle motion of your wrist will tease a bite from any slab that’s there!

Watch this gentlemen demonstrate the technique:

Shooting

Bluegill love to congregate under docks, taking cover in the shade to beat the heat and hide from predators. But when the water’s high and the dock is low, they can be hard targets to reach, and the real brutes will often look for the deeper pilings where you can’t reach them with a cast.

The solution? Shooting!

Using an ultralight rod, grab your soft bait behind the hook with your left hand, open the bail, and hold the line tight with your right index finger. By pulling back on the jig, you can load your rod like a bow. 

If you release your left hand and index finger simultaneously, you can launch that jig like an arrow! A few minutes of careful practice will have you skipping jigs into deep cover like a pro.

Watch Wally Marshall give a quick lesson:

The Roll Cast

The roll cast is an alternative to the sidearm, and it’s great when you need to get your lure into tight spots. Limited to pretty short-range applications, I find that it offers a very subtle presentation, and I like to use it when I’m worried about spooking fish near the shoreline.

Think of the roll cast as a side arm with a twist–a gentle motion of the rod tip that gives your lure a very flat trajectory.

  • I typically perform this cast single-handed. Get your reel ready to cast.
  • Rotate your hand to the outside, angling your rod and reel over.
  • Then, move the rod tip rearward to about 45 degrees behind you or so. 
  • Don’t snap your cast before your lure has moved all the way rearward!
  • As you begin your forward motion, rotate your wrist to orient the rod tip closer to the water.
  • Release your line when the rod tip is directly beside you.
  • Follow through to about 45 degrees in front of you and watch where the lure is headed.

With practice, this will provide a very soft, low cast that’s as gentle as can be.

Pitching and Pitch Skipping

Many bass anglers have learned that spooky largemouth can be tough to cast to. Any splash, indeed any glaring presentation, will send them packing. What’s needed is a stealthy, quiet, subtle presentation.

Pitching provides just that!

Designed specifically for baitcasting tackle, this technique requires plenty of practice.

The idea is to creep close with your boat, ideally with the trolling motor off.

  • Begin with your rod in your strong hand and your lure in your off-hand.
  • Then, raise your rod tip, release the spool, and turn the lure loose simultaneously. This should create a short, very gentle cast.
  • By braking the spool with your thumb, you soften the impact and reduce splash and vibration. More advanced anglers will want to develop a second pitching technique: the skip pitch. The idea here is to skip your lure across the water, but to do so gently.
  • Begin with your rod in your strong hand and your lure in your off-hand.
  • Open your body, extending your chest and separating your arms. 
  • Then, raise your rod tip, release the spool, and turn the lure loose simultaneously. You’ll need to use more power than you think, and release at just the right moment, to send your lure on a very, very flat trajectory.
  • By braking the spool with your thumb, you soften the impact and reduce splash and vibration.

Check out our guide on the best flipping and pitching rods!

Flipping

Flipping is a simple, but very effective, short-range stealth technique. When you’re in super close quarters, the flip can be a surprisingly effective way to present your lure.

The idea is to use your wrist and a bit of line to create a gently arching cast.

  • This one starts strange. Don’t open your bail or release your spool. Instead, let out enough line to bring your lure down to your reel.
  • Rotate your hand over, palm down. This will give your wrist a greater range of motion–and a lot more power! This is the correct hand and wrist orientation for flipping.flipping casting hand position
  • Holding your lure in your off-hand, release the spool, but hold your line with your thumb.
  • Raise your rod tip and release your lure and thumb pressure. The action should come entirely from your wrist–no arm motion at all!
  • Your lure should gently arc toward your target, and you’ll need to brake as usual.

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide has helped you refine your casting technique and maybe even introduced you to some new ones.

If it’s been useful, or if you have something to add, please leave a comment below.

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