Complete Guide to Casting a Fishing Rod

Whether you're using a spincasting, baitcasting, or spinning tackle rod, we'll explain how you can use them properly - with less knots, and more fish.

Last updated: March 5, 2024

By: Jon Stewart

You will definitely find it challenging to consistently swing those lunkers onto your boat or land them on shore if you aren't familiar with casting a fishing rod.

It might be the most crucial component of learning how to fish because this action gets your tackle to the bass wherever you find them.

Understanding your equipment and techniques will make the difference between hours of enjoyment or frustration when you are out on the water.

Let's look at some casting tips, how your reel selection affects casting, and break down how to cast with three popular reel designs anglers use daily.

Crucial Casting Takeaways You’ll Want To Remember 💡

Properly Casting a Rod Depends on the Type of Reel 👇

Simply put, your reel affects your casting more than the rod will. You will want to select the type of reel before a rod, as you must match the equipment for it to work correctly.

Spincasting reels are economical and designed to last a couple of seasons before needing to be replaced. A button frees the line to spool out of a hole on the end of the enclosed housing. You depress the button and hold it until you are ready to release the line at the end of the casting motion. The design reduces backlash, but it is not the most durable design.

Spinning reels are usually mid-range in price and are nearly as easy to use as a spin caster. The wide-open design uses a metal bail to hold your line until you grasp it for the cast. That bail is closed once you begin to retrieve your lure, helping to recoil the line onto the spool. These reels offer more control and durability and work great in pole holders!

Baitcasting reels are often the most expensive and take some practice to use correctly. Experienced anglers and bass pros love these reels because they offer excellent accuracy, distance, and drag control.

Once you push the spool button, your thumb becomes an integral part of the braking and feathering for your fishing line. You will get backlashes using these reels until you master them; be prepared for the downtime needed to untangle those bird's nests as you learn.

Similarities and Differences Between Bait Casting, Spin Casting, and Spinning Tackle Rods ⚖️

When it comes to fishing rods used for species like bass, you will find the casting and spinning rods handle the three reels mentioned previously. A spinning rod is used for spinning reels, while the casting rods wear baitcasting or spin-casting reels. Both rod blanks come in similar lengths, action, and power ratings. There are differences worth noting, however.

The reel on a spinning rod sits on the bottom, placing the line guides along the lower portion of the pole. Pressure from the line will pull the line guides away from the rod, meaning big fish could rip one or more line guides away from the rod blank. Bait and spin casting reels sit on the top of a fishing pole. The guides on these poles sit along the top edge, which means pressure from the line pushes the line guides into the blanks for more durability against large fish.

Spools on the spinner tackle and spincaster do not rotate; the line spools off the end of the assembly. The spool on the baitcaster spins to allow the line to peel from the side of the spool.

A look down the rod from an angler's perspective while fishing along the shoreline.

Baitcasting rods use several small line guides to keep your line moving straight as a gun barrel does for a bullet. Spinning tackle uses fewer guides, but these go from large (near the spool) to small (near the tip). That helps reduce the coils into a straight fishing line.

These design differences limit the type of reel you can mount on a fishing pole. That is why most anglers pick a rod based on the fishing reel they want to use or buy a pre-packaged rod and reel combo.

How to Cast a Spincasting Rod 🎣

Casting a fishing pole with a spin-casting reel offers new anglers a great way to start their fishing careers. You might compare a spin caster to using a point-and-shoot camera; it is almost that simple.

A typical spin caster rod uses a handle with a trigger you can rest your index finger against while you wrap your remaining three fingers around the handle. Your thumb rests on the release button at the back of the reel housing. That button is pushed down and held while winding up for the cast and then released between one and two o'clock as your pole tip swings toward your casting target.

Start with your lure or bait dangling about two feet from the pole tip. The spin-casting rod starts with the pole pointing toward your target. As Shawn Gee from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation states, the movement is like picking up a cup and bringing it to your mouth. Your elbow stays at your side, and your shoulder does not lift; all your movement is in the elbow joint.

Bring the reel up to the side of your face and then look behind you to verify your lure will not snag on anything, including your fishing buddies! You can cast toward your target, letting go of the line release button on the back of the reel housing.

Young anglers or those with strength issues in their thumbs can grasp the pole with both hands so that both thumbs can depress the release button. The body should align so the lure can swing behind and to the side during the wind-up and then forward in the same arc.

These rod and reel combos usually last a season or two before anglers upgrade to spinning tackle or baitcasters (or both). A spin caster is good with lighter tackle such as soft plastics, which are a common favorite for many bass fishermen.

How to Cast a Spinning Tackle 📖

Spinning tackle has become perhaps the most popular rod and reel combo since being introduced in the States in the the late 1930s. Casting a fishing pole with a spinning reel is almost as simple as a spin caster, with better balance.

Most anglers grip the handle so that you have two fingers on either side of the reel stem connected to the rod. Your thumb will rest along the top of the handle, pointing towards the tip. You will use the index finger to hold the line after you open the bail, releasing it from your crook at the one or two o'clock position as the tackle moves towards the target.

Begin by letting the lure hang six to eight inches from the rod tip. That allows the weight of the tackle to help with the loading as the rod bends. Turn the bail to make the fishing line sit near your fingers. Grab the fishing line with your index finger, and pull it into the crook at your knuckle joint.

You can cast one-handed, but using both hands will provide more control and power. With two-handed casting, you will grasp the butt of the handle with your off-hand.

An angler holding their spinning tackle off-handed on the banks of the water.

The overhand cast has a motion similar to the method described for spin caster reels. Lift the spinner reel towards your cheek, using your elbow as the hinge point. After checking to avoid snagging something, locate your target. Bring the tackle forward, opening your finger to release the line between one and two o'clock.

A roll cast involves you turning sideways, with the pole on the shoreside of your body. You keep the rod tip lower and parallel to the ground. Force the rod tip to make a clockwise circle and move the rod tip forward as you exit the six o'clock position. Release the line as the pole moves forward, causing the lure to launch as the bend unloads.

The side cast begins with a similar stance as the roll cast. The difference here is you won't load the rod with a bend from the rolling movement. Instead, bring the rod forward from your side and release it as the tip points toward the target area. These rods excel when using light tackle, so consider this rod and reel combo when experimenting with spinnerbaits of less than half an ounce.

How to Cast a Baitcaster 🎯

Casting a fishing pole with a baitcaster reel has a higher learning curve than the other reel designs, but it also offers customization regarding drag, line, and heavier fish. Tournament anglers like Donny Karr also use baitcasters for greater accuracy and distance.

Many baitcasting rods include a small trigger grip where you place your index finger while gripping the handle. With a baitcaster, your thumb will rest on the spool button or the fishing line itself.

You will want to adjust your tension knob before your first cast and again after you switch lures, checking the reel by releasing the spool button and letting the fishing lure hit the ground. If it does so without causing a bird's nest, it is ready; otherwise, tighten the tension knob so the fishing lure can free-fall to the ground without bird nesting.

Your thumb becomes an integral part of the baitcaster due to the free-moving spool, acting as the braking mechanism that will slow the spool to prevent tangles (bird nesting) once the lure slows or stops. Once the spool button is depressed, your thumb holds the line in place as you cast. You lift your thumb while still keeping it in contact with the line; the trick is to let the spool move so the line can stip off of it, but also keep it from spinning too quickly and causing a bird's nest.

If you are new to using a baitcaster, the side cast might be easier for starters. You will face sideways, with the rod on the opposite side of your body from the target. This cast requires a smooth arc, not a sudden start and stop between the 10 and 2 o'clock positions. You will release the thumb tension of the spool at the point in the arc that allows your lure to travel toward the target.

Once you become comfortable with the side cast, you can apply these concepts to an overhand cast. The muscle memory from side casting makes the arcing motion smoother on the overhand movement, helping to eliminate the fast starts and stops that tend to cause tangles at the spool.

Baitcasters take time to learn, so you will want to practice casting at home and out on the water. These durable rod and reel combos are great for the typical gear you want in a tackle box for bass.

Cast More Than a Shadow Next Time You Are Out ✅

Correctly casting a fishing rod will increase your enjoyment on the water and help you swing more bass onto your boat. Whether you’re fishing from shore or from a stealthy fishing kayak, knowing how to properly cast is the foundation of successful bass fishing.

Various casting methods combine with specific rod and reel combos to create presentations that will be hard for fish to resist or force a reactionary strike from them. You'll soon discover why bass pros like Gary Clouse carry so many rods and appreciate how to use each fishing pole in your collection.

Learning casting techniques can help you get strikes in any conditions, letting you catch largemouth bass no matter where they are within their natural habitat. You will accurately place your lure to draw lunkers out from cover and reach anywhere you need to, including from shore. Until next time, tight lines!

Casting a Fishing Pole: FAQs

How can I keep my line tight when casting?

One of the best ways to keep your line tight when casting is to throw with the wind so that tension remains on the line. You will also want to match line weight with smaller lures to prevent any excess line from coming off the spool before the tackle hits the water. Use a heavier lure if you have to cast against the wind or a strong current.

Do stiff rods cast further?

Stiff rods don't cast further than flexible rods. Most anglers and organizations describe stiffness as power, with ultra-light bending the most and extra-heavy the least. A medium-powered rod generates enough load off the bend to cast farther without becoming too flexible for larger lures or fish.

Do longer fishing rods cast further?

Longer fishing rods do cast further than shorter designs. More length increases the initial speed generated during the cast, driving the lure or weight further. That can be handy when fishing from shore or on calm and shallow water.

What type of fishing line is easiest to cast?

Beginners may find the monofilament line to be the easiest to cast out of the various fishing lines used by most anglers. Its single-strand construction offers the least surface resistance, but it will be thicker pound-for-pound strength than a braided line. A braided line might be better for deep fishing or trolling because it does not stretch.

How do you cast a fishing rod far?

You will cast your rod farther by using both hands for maximum power. Release the line when the pole is far enough forward to prevent your tackle from arching into the air; many anglers start by releasing at the one o'clock through two o'clock positions in front of them and adjust their casts accordingly.