John Merwin's Tips for Tweaking Your Spinning Tackle to Improve Long Distance Casting

Sooner or later, everybody who picks up a spinning outfit tries to see how far they can cast with it. That's just human nature, sort of like flooring it when you're driving an empty road. Sometimes, though, long-distance casting is more than a whim. If you're fishing, say, a northern trout pond from shore, or tossing catfish baits into a broad southern tailwater, longer casts often catch more fish. Great Lakes jetty anglers also need extra distance, as do millions of shore-based surf anglers from Montauk to Monterey.

Maximum casting distance comes as the sum of numerous small changes to your tackle. Among many possibilities, I'm only describing the three most important. You'll gain the most range by using all the following tips at the same time, although any one of them will help.

You can cast farther with finer-diameter lines because they create less friction against the upper lip of a spinning-reel spool. Note that diameter is not the same thing as pound-test, which is the most common description of spinning-line size. One maker's 10-pound-test monofilament might be .015 inch thick; another's might be .009 inch. Fortunately, most manufacturers label their spools with both characteristics, so you can read the fine print and shop intelligently for the smallest-diameter line that's still strong enough for your fishing.

You might also consider one of the fine-diameter superbraids, specifically Berkley FireLine. Henry Mittel, a world-class tournament caster from southern California, tells me it is the line of choice in single-handed spinning-distance contests. As an extreme example, American Casting Association competitors use hairlike, 4-pound-test FireLine to toss ½-ounce casting weights with single-handed tackle farther than 100 yards.

Unfortunately, most common freshwater spinning tackle is designed for bass fishing from a boat. That's all right as far as that sport goes, because casting distance isn't critical there. What you need for distance is a reel with the largest spool possible in the overall range that is suited to your fishing. Make an in-store comparison of ultralight spinning reels, for example, and choose the one with the largest-diameter spool. Larger spools produce less friction because they create fewer coils in the outgoing line. Some models with larger-than-normal spools include Abu Garcia's C700UL (ultralight), U.S. Reel's SuperCaster 225 (medium-weight), and Daiwa's Emblem Pro (for big water and surf).

When you load these or any other spinning reels with fine-diameter line, fill the spool right up to its outside edge. Overfilling a spool can cause massive tangles for beginning casters (because slack line is more likely to pop off), but experienced spinfishermen should be able to flirt carefully with disaster and cast farther as a result. Novices should stick to the more common recommendation of filling a spool only to within 1/8 inch of the rim.

Any longer rod that's not a limp noodle will help increase your range. During a cast, the tip of a longer rod moves through a longer arc than that of a short rod, which in turn means the longer rod's tip is traveling faster. This gives a lure more speed through the air. For ultralight spinning, move from a 5-foot rod up to a 6-footer to gain casting distance. If you're using midweight gear to cast for walleyes from shore, use a 7- or 8-foot rod instead of the more common 6½-foot model. Surf casters might look at 10- to 13-foot sticks to replace their perennial 9-footers.

Tournament casters usually lock down the drags on their reels to keep line from sliding and cutting their fingers under the extreme pressure of a cast. Do that while fishing, though, and you'll have to constantly readjust the drag so you don't break off fish. The Cannon from Breakaway ($22;361-949-8083; is a mechanical release for heavy-duty spinfishing that will save your finger without sacrificing the ability to land big fish. Tape it to your rod just above the reel's rim. To cast, put the line over the device's center hub instead of under your finger. Hold the trigger down with your index finger, and let it go to release the lure. --JOHN MERWIN