By Gary Dobyns
At Dobyns Rods, we build models for every technique bass anglers need to employ. Sometimes, they’re making short, precise casts, flips, pitches or skips to specific targets; other times, they’re launching baits long distances. It’s important to develop your skills at all presentations, but I think the long cast is something that doesn’t always get enough attention.
Let’s start by looking at when and why you’ll need a long cast. First, for me, is clear water. In Southern California, for example, the water is so clear and so pressured, you often have to make a long cast or you won’t get bit. You throw unweighted Senkos, small flies and other light baits, strictly because the water is so clear and it as so much pressure.
That’s a good rule of thumb: Any time you’re dealing with a lot of pressure, you really need to stay as far away from the fish as you can.
In general, when I think of long casts, the first things I think about are crankbaits and swimbaits. These presentations both require maximum time in the strike zone and the longer you can throw them, the longer they stay in the strike zone before they start coming back up to you.
In many cases, you’ll also need a topwater like a Super Spook or a Whopper Plopper with a long cast. This one often comes into play with breaking fish. Whether it’s largemouth bass busting shad or spotted bass chasing blueback herring, you have to stay off the fish or you’ll push them down. The other thing is that by the time you make it over to the breaking fish, they’ve usually already left the area. In these scenarios, long casts are your best option for engaging these fish.
Another time we need long casts is when we’re frog fishing on places like the California Delta where the weed growth is out so far, you can’t get your boat close enough to reach into the backs of pockets with a normal cast. So you have to be able to cast a long way. Sometimes with frogs, you’re just making short casts, but other times, you need throw it a country mile to get back in there.
The basic rule for your distance is this: Longer rods cast farther. I’ll vary my particular model based on the particular bait I’m using, but you’ll never see me making long casts with anything less than a 7-6, and usually an 8-foot rod.
There is, however, a point where the benefit declines. For example, when that big, long crankbait casting rod deal became popular a couple of years ago, I did some testing and when I got to that 9- to 10-foot range, I really didn’t see where I got enough extra casting distance to make it worth the trouble of messing with a rod that big.
For me, the most important detail in selecting a rod for long casting is the ability to load properly, so when it releases, it actually drives that bait forward. If you have an underpowered rod, you can’t get enough whip and drive to the bait; but if you have an overpowered rod, it’s too stiff and, again, you can’t drive the bait.
When I think of a long cast rod, it’s still a fast action rod, but just a little bit slower so it will load back into the rod. That’s the reason we call all of our crankbait rods “mod-fast.” They’re still a little on the slow side, but they load in the upper 35 percent of the rod.
The reason this is so important is that it’s all about driving that bait. You have to be able to load properly and then deliver the power to drive the bait forward.
When I’m making a long cast, details matter. Follow through is a big deal, but it actually starts well before that stage, which I’ll get to in a moment.
I can cast a lot longer by increasing the amount of line I have hanging from the end of my rod. As I swing backward, I’ll have that lure hanging down maybe 3 feet, whereas a lot of times, guys are reeling it up to about 8 inches off the rod. I’ll let that rod really load hard before I whip it forward and with a little bit of practice, I can get another 15-30 feet out of a cast.
When I make a long cast, most of the time, I want to release at 10-11 o’clock and as the line’s going out, I’ll drop my rod down. As it’s going, I want that line to have no resistance as it’s shooting through the guides. If you release too low, the line fights against the rod and loses momentum.
Another key point: When I’m making a long cast, I always grip the rod with both hands. I’m right-handed, so my left hand’s on the butt of the rod and as I snap that rod forward, I use my left hand to swiftly pull that rod butt toward me. It’s basically a 2-handed load-snap and when I pull my left hand toward me, I get a really good whip out of that rod.
Once I turn it loose, I point my rod right at the bait because I want absolutely no load on the rod and no drag on the tip. I want my line flying straight through the guides.
As far as boat positioning, I suggest being very careful when you’re fishing with someone in the back of the boat. That big load-up brings your rod farther back than normal, so make sure you don’t take your partner’s head off.
Wind direction is also important and whenever you can fish with it at your back, you’re going to get so much more distance. I like to fish into a light breeze, but when it’s really blowing, there’s no question that working with the wind will help you launch those really long casts.
The last point I’ll make on this topic is about accuracy. With crankbaits and big swimbaits, you don’t normally have to hit a particular target — you just get the bait into a general area. But there are times when you do need to blend distance with pinpoint accuracy and one of my favorites is throwing topwater frogs far back into narrow pockets in the vegetation.
The other time I need to make a long, accurate cast is with those schooling fish I mentioned earlier. Particularly on blueback herring lakes, you may need to make a presentation to a particular fish that breaks the surface. That fish will usually look for more baitfish before moving, so if you can get a bait in front of him quickly, you’ll catch him.
Here’s my tip for that scenario: I’ll keep a long rod with a topwater bait hanging off the side of the boat so if I see fish busting, I don’t waste time unhooking a bait and getting ready for a cast. I just load up and let it fly.