Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Distance Casting With Deadbaits



To write about casting deadbaits long distances for pike is a bit of a minefield, as anyone who has for any length of time browsed some of the pike fishing forums will tell you. The subject tends to crop up quite frequently and straightaway the ‘I can’t do it , so no one else can’ brigade comes out in force with “the blokes a dreamer”, “impossible”, “the aerodynamics are all wrong” and other dismissive comments from armchair sceptics who have never seriously attempted the task.

I suppose the first real mention in print of casting a sizeable deadbait a long way was in the Rickards and Webb “Fishing for Big Pike” book when the late Barrie Rickards wrote of casting a frozen mackerel tail complete with a small pilot float 100 yards. Later in his last book “Fishing for Big Pike Revisited” this grew to 100 metres! I don’t ever remember anyone questioning Barrie on his claim(s), baring in mind he achieved this using a 10 foot  glass s/u carp rod and a Mitchell 300 reel loaded with 12lb line.

Not long after this Jim Gibbinson wrote quite a bit both in his book “Pike” (the Osprey series) and in several magazines about how he and his friend Dave Blaxford used powerful fast taper carp rods fitted with larger than normal reels (Abu Cardinal 77) to cast heavy leads with small deadbaits (sprats and roach) sixty to seventy yards out into Abberton Reservoir.

Eddie Turner also went into some detail on distance casting in his excellent book “Mega Pike”, this was again based around big leads and small baits. More recently the late James Holgate also wrote a lot about pike fishing at range ( casting), most of which was published in his series of “Castaway” books

This aside, very little has been written about the practice and application of casting reasonable sized deadbaits relatively long distances and I would have to admit I have never seen anyone actually cast what I would call a long way on any pike water I have fished over the past fifty odd years. When most pike anglers write or talk about placing their deadbaits at distance they are normally referring to the use of a bait boat to drop off their baits

Now I can only refer to the waters I fish in the South East and if I took in say a twenty mile radius of where I live (that would encompass both the Darent and Medway Valleys), I only know of two waters where bait boats are allowed. So, unless you fish either of these venues, the only way of putting a deadbait out a long way is to cast it. Of course I like many other pike anglers have not restricted my pike fishing to just local waters and some of the waters I have travelled to have allowed the use of bait boats.

Over the past twenty years or so I have spent a lot of time and effort (and money) looking at ways I can cast good sized deadbaits a long way, relative to the distances other pike anglers can cast. I have over many years had an interest in long range carp fishing and have written on a frequent basis in both carp books and magazines about how I go about it. Back in the early nineties I joined the Kent Sportcast Casting Club and although I realised very quickly I was just not big enough, tall enough or strong enough to make a top tournament caster I still managed to hit distances of over 240 yards and have the Sea Angler certificates to prove it. Therefore what follows is how I go about putting deadbaits a long way, I don’t claim it’s the only way and I’m sure there are others out there who can put their deadbaits just as far or further.

Back in the nineties the late Steve Edwards and I decided to return to pike fishing in the colder months after spending the previous five or six winters river fishing, mainly for big chub with the odd sortie after barbel or roach if the conditions were right. We had prior to this spell spent many winters pike fishing (as well as river fishing) and enjoyed catching our share of good fish. We decided to try again some of the many pits in the Darent and Medway Valleys and initially did pretty well, most of the pits were regarded as carp and tench waters and we rarely saw another pike angler. However even with what we saw as a lack of pressure it soon became apparent we were getting repeat captures.

We knew the waters quite well as we had fished them for both tench and carp for many summers, we had also done a fair amount of pike fishing on them prior to our river efforts. This meant we were familiar with most of the features these pits held, many of which were somewhat beyond our casting range and we quickly became aware our tackle was not capable of casting our baits anywhere near to these features - the gullies, bars and plateaux that we felt sure held different and maybe bigger fish, we needed to find a way of getting our baits much further out in to the pits.

We initially tried drifting when the wind was in the right direction and quickly picked up a few new fish but on a couple pits certain banks were out of bounds which often meant drifting wasn’t possible, therefore I, perhaps more than Steve decided to explore a few areas of tackle which might mean I could fish some of these far off features.

Rods






At the time I was using Daiwa Dictator Esox 3lb rods (which were paired with Shimano Spheros 5000 reels) a nice rod for close to medium fishing but it was obvious they just did not have the backbone to power six or seven ounces of lead and bait to any far off features, plus the ringing pattern didn’t help - too many and too small.

I needed something more powerful and by chance a visit to the tackle fair that used to be held at The Detling Fairground each October resulted in me buying a couple of Masterline Nigel Williams Big Pike Rods. These seemed like a very powerful blank but again the ringing pattern was awful, however I could change the rings if the rod was up to the job. The rods did feel very pokey and strong and the first few casts seemed to go okay, so at first I had high hopes for them but on my second trip out I blew one of them up !

After this I borrowed a couple of DL Bait Blasters from a friend and was quite impressed, some better distances followed, I tried to buy them but my mate would not sell (couldn’t blame him), so eventually they went back. I then purchased two Free Spirit Big Pike Rods from another friend, these were the original Big Pikes with the box weave, again like the BB’s quite impressive but I was still not totally convinced.

Not long after this another friend asked if I would sell him the Big Pikes as he had just gained access to a special water that held some very big pike, at just about the same time I was offered four un- used still in their bags Tony Fordham Predators, two of which  had a 3.5 test curve, both deals were done.

I used the Predators for several winters and was pretty pleased with them, they would certainly put my baits out a fair way but as my confidence in hitting them hard grew and as I started to look at other areas to help with distance, so the doubts started to creep in. I had started to join the lead and bait together and use a somewhat more aggressive casting technique. Three ounces of lead and three to four ounces of mackerel coupled with a very aggressive overhead cast was asking too much of the rod, well and truly overloaded the rod could just not perform and although my baits were going a fair way it wasn’t for me far enough. Add to that I was getting concerned about the blanks ability to withstand this regular abuse, I didn’t want to blow them up so toned things down a bit and started to look for something else.

By now I had concluded that just about all the available pike rods with text curves of three to three and a half pounds were just not up to the job, a really hard Fordwich type cast and the combined weight of lead and mackerel needed something stronger, more powerful.

I looked at some of the spod rods available at the time and felt it was possible they could be up to the job. Certainly, they could cast the weight and some carp anglers were claiming huge distances with big spods, albeit they were using light mono lines or fairly low breaking strain braid to heavy leaders. I looked at a few but they just didn’t feel right, they didn’t feel like a proper pike rod, add to that they looked a bit crude! This was some years ago and spod rods have improved massively, some of the high end ones you can buy today would I am sure make pretty good long range pike rods.

As luck would have it I was looking on an auction site when I spotted a rod that I was not aware of, a Greys of Alnwick Pike Extreme, 13 feet long with a stated 5lb test curve, could this be what I was looking for. I put in a silly high bid and won it for less than £50. As soon as it arrived I was impressed, it didn’t have any signs of use, I did speak to the seller who told me that he bought it at a Greys Trade Show in 1996 and wanted it to fish in the big Scottish Lochs as that’s where he had planned to move. The move never came off so the rod sat in his garage for the next ten years. I did speak to Greys about the rod, at first, they were pretty unhelpful but eventually put me on to someone who had been with company for years. He told me there were only two made the other being in Greys own museum, I did of course try to buy it but they wouldn’t sell, he also told me they were part of a range of pike rods designed in conjunction with James Holgate, again due to some policy changes very few of the range ever saw the racks of a tackle shop. Going back to 1996, this was a time when Greys produced their own carbon blanks, they later of course outsourced the making of their blanks/rods to the Far East.
One thing I was not too happy with was the ringing of the rod and therefore changed it, starting with a 50mm butt ring (that will get them going) and finishing with a slightly bigger tip ring, I did use the same whipping thread and tipping plus I used the same Aluminium Oxide type rings. This rod certainly met my expectations and then some, being well able launch seven ounces of bait and lead to the horizon, also because it has a proper pike action it is quite nice when comes to playing even quite small pike. It’s my go to distance pike rod.

Line and Leaders






Sheer distance of course is not all about the rod, although there’s no point going any further if the rod is not up to it. Line, end tackle, bait and technique all have a part to play. Line, mainline that is, is very important and plays a major part in casting at range, firstly and most importantly it needs to be light, physically light, heavy i.e. lines that sink quickly are a no, your line needs to be the lightest you can find. It also needs to be soft (the good thing is soft lines are usually light), it needs to be soft to reduce the choking at the butt ring, even with a 50 mm butt ring the choking factor is massive, it’s easier to choke something that is soft rather than something that is hard and stiff. The diameter of the line should be as thin as needs but the weight and softness of the line is more important. Lastly it must be strong, knot strength being vital, abrasion resistance on soft light lines tends to be not quite as good as on stiff heavy lines, although modern lines have all improved when it comes to resistance to fraying, plus I always use a leader which being at the end of the tackle is the section most likely to come into contact with snags, rocks, bars and mussels.

From what I have just written you will have gathered I use monofilament. Why not use braid? I do use braid for most of my pike fishing but not for blasting out heavy deadbaits and leads, however careful you are, braid will always throw the odd wind knot if you are hitting the rod very hard, this will almost always result in a crack off. Mono on the other hand, if you are careful, rarely throws a wind knot and even if it does if you are using strong line it rarely snaps but simply runs round the tangled ring.

Some years ago when I was looking for a line with the afore mentioned four attributes for extreme range fishing for carp without a leader (the rules), I tried and tested many lines, some which weren’t available in this country. Two of the lines I looked at and tested were made by a company called Xzoga, one was called Busterlon the other Rubylon. Both were very light (physically) very soft and had a very low diameter, 25lb breaking strain was just .33 in diameter. Both had good knot strength as well, both sat beautifully on the spool, were very smooth and cast like a dream, the only drawback was that they were pre-stretched which can cause a problem if they snap i.e. the section of line that is under stress prior to the break must be stripped off, as the strength of that section will be drastically reduced. However, being pre-stretched is a big plus when it comes to bite indication. I did not use either for my distance carp fishing but have used the Busterlon in 25lb for my distance pike fishing for quite a few years now with no problems. I do however use a leader, the one I favour is the Fox Snag Leader in 35 lb, very strong and somewhat underrated, it’s worth giving it a good stretch to remove any “memory” before casting in anger.

To join my main line to the leader I use a back to back Uni Knot, three turns with the leader



and four turns with the mainline. I also lubricate the knot with Krystons Granite Juice before tightening the knot right down. The leader should have at least four turns around the spool when the lead/bait is hanging level with the spigot/overfit. The leader knot should always be placed at the back of the spool before casting. When really loading up the rod for a big cast always check the spool is locked up tight and wear a finger stool. It’s always worth wetting the line before a big cast and/or applying some of Gardner’s Fluoro Plus line treatment. Lastly regardless of what you might read or hear  NEVER use a heavy braid leader to a mono mainline.

Reels

I don’t think reels play a major part in the casting equation, as long as they are of the “big pit” type with a good line lay, almost any of the mid-priced ones from Daiwa, Shimano or Okuma will do the job. Whatever, the reel does need to be fairly robust as long-range piking usually means they are going to have a hard life. I use an old Shimano Ultegra which seems more or less bullet proof, it does have a nice line lay and a fairly quick retrieve. I have got a spare spool loaded with the same 25lb line 35lb leader just in case, one or two of the pits I fish have pretty hostile bottoms and lines can sometimes incur damage. Another reel I have used which like the Ultegra is also bullet proof is the Daiwa Tournament 6000T, only slight downside is its slow retrieve. Last thing I would say is that every front drag reel I have used from the three mentioned companies has had a smooth and reliable clutch.

The Business End




Now let’s look at the last yard or so. To the end of my leader I attach/tie a small but strong swivel. To the swivel I attach an up-trace, in my case a long (30inch) length of 45lb Bleeding Leader, this is crimped to the swivel and covered with a tight-fitting rubber/ neoprene sleeve. On the up-trace runs one of those large lined run rings as sold by the catfish tackle companies. This is large enough to easily pass over the sleeved swivel. The other end of the up-trace is crimped to a snap link swivel, the crimp has a 10mm rubber bead forced over it, the bead retains the run ring on the up-trace. To the run ring I tie a length of heavy (40 to 50 lb) mono, this length of mono must be shorter by a couple of inches than your hook trace. Another snap link is tied to the other end of the heavy mono, I tend to cover both the mono ends, run ring and snap link knots with rubber/neoprene sleeves as they help with reducing tangles. My hook trace is around twenty inches long and is made from 40lb AFW wire, it usually has two size four Owner trebles attached. I would again emphasis the heavy mono link MUST be two to three inches shorter than the hook trace. I will attach several photos which hopefully will makes the end tackle clear.


Bait

For bait I usually use mackerel because it is very dense, easy to cut and also fairly easy to mould. I buy mine from Neville (sorry) or On Line Baits, both sell medium size ones of six to eight inches in length. When I get them, I normally select a dozen or so of the seemingly straightest ones and allow them to slightly thaw, I then cut them an inch or so behind the head at an angle of forty-five degrees, I also cut of their tail fin. I then massage and mould them so they are perfectly straight, very important as it will limit the amount they will twist or tumble in flight, then I lay them on a board and re-freeze them, they are then put in their own bag so they don’t get mixed up with other baits.

End Rig

To the end of my heavy mono link I attach a 3.5oz tri-lobe lead (these are sometimes called riser leads), I lay the straightened mackerel tail on the flat side of the tri-lobe lead and then bind the two together using PVA funnel web/mesh. If you find this a bit slippery you can give the lead and bait a squirt of plumbers freeze spray which will keep them together whilst you bind them. Also, if you want to slow down the PVA’s dissolve rate just dip the PVA mesh in a bottle of fish oil, don’t leave it in just dip it in and out.

I finish off the binding at the tail with one of those PVA cable ties. Hooks are then inserted into the bait in the normal way, the leader and the heavy mono link should then be supporting the weight of the bait and lead, the wire hook trace should have a bow in it, in no way should it bare any of the baits/leads weight.



Casting Technique



For casting long distances, the correct technique is critical for most of us, yes there will be the odd guy who despite having in theory an awful ungainly casting style who will somehow send his end tackle miles out in to the lake, there is always the exception to the rule. For most of us a structured, developed technique built on solid foundations will always work best. Over the past twenty-five to thirty years overhead casting techniques have moved forward enormously and I believe for casting fair sized deadbaits and heavy leads overhead casting is both the safest (for the pike) and most accurate (for us) way of getting our baits out a long way. I am a pretty competent pendulum and off the ground caster but would never use either technique to cast a deadbait/heavy lead combo.










The first major step in the advancement of the overhead thump cast took place on the banks of Fordwich carp lake near Canterbury, the anglers fishing there could only fish one bank and the carp soon learnt to clear off to the far bank. The carp anglers fishing there looked at ways they could improve their casting and soon came up with a better overhead thump. They extended their arms high above their head to increase the arc the lead had to travel through and at the same time took a big step forward at the start of the cast so adding body weight to their casts. This worked very well and even then way back in the eighties some of the really good casters were hitting 160 yards, this technique was later taken by the Fordwich guys to Harefield Lake a well known pit in the Colne Valley which attracted carp anglers from all over the country thus of course many of them picked on this extended arc cast and took it back to their local waters.

In recent years there has been a massive growth in carp matches in both Romania and Bulgaria which has led to the carp anglers in both countries developing casting techniques to get their baits further and further out into what are sometimes huge lakes. This in turn has led to lots of carp casting tournaments in both countries (just look there’s loads on YouTube) again overhead casting techniques have been improved and perfected in these competitions, using what is regarded as “standard” carp rods some of these competitions are won with casts in excess of 210 metres. I think the record distance for an overhead cast now stands at over 250 yards.

The Bulgarian/Romanian version of the Fordwich cast is what I use to send my deadbait way out into unfished water. What the Bulgarians and Romanians have done is simply added body rotation to the Fordwich cast, which makes quite a bit of difference without losing accuracy.

I start by standing sideways on to the direction I want to cast, my feet fairly close together, my arms will be extended above my head, I am right handed so take that into account. My right arm will be slightly bent, my back slightly arched so my arms/ hands are a little further behind my head so I can see where I want to cast. The drop from rod tip to bait/lead is half the length of the rod so down to the overfit/spigot, I will lean back until my lead/bait are almost touching the ground making sure my arms remain extended. I will look up at an angle of forty-five degrees and find a target in the sky, that is where I will aim and it is also my release of line point. I will simply make a big step forward with my left foot in the direction I want to cast, therefore using both body weight transfer and body rotation, once my left foot is planted my arms will be pulling (left hand) and pushing (right hand). It is vital that at the release point you try and keep the rod tip in line with the line leaving the rod to minimise friction. I’m sure it all seems a bit complicated, over the top and maybe a little uncomfortable but it’s not really. I will add several photos of the cast to hopefully make it easier to understand.
Finally, just to show how effective this cast can be, I have access to some reclaimed land which I have all marked out for casting practice. Last summer I took a carp rod, a reel loaded with .30 line (about 12lb) a 30 lb leader and a 3.5 oz lead, I would also point out I am 72 years old, about 12.5 stone in weight and 5ft 7 inches tall, the best cast I made that day using the technique described was 214 yards.

What I have written about is how I have gone about trying to put a reasonable lump of mackerel out in to the pit to a place the pike have never seen a bait before. It is however quite possible to tone things down a bit but use the same procedure and process to put say a smelt a really long way out in your lake or pit. All I do is use a lighter rod, in my case a Century C2D, a casting reel loaded with a Fox Exocet Tapered Leader 35/15 and a lighter tri-lobe lead of around 2.75oz. The smelt and lead together weigh around 4oz so well suited to most of the current 3 to 5oz carp casting rods. The Century C2D I use has a slightly more forgiving butt section which helps a little with the somewhat bulky lead/bait casting weight. This set up can be cast huge distances if done with the correct technique and areas of the lake that have never seen a pike bait can be really explored.


Hopefully what I have written will be of some help to those interested or struggling with the subject. I do know from the number of PM’s, e-mails, ‘phone calls and conversations I get/have from anglers that a lot of pikers want to know how to get their deadbaits further out in the waters they fish.

Cheers John Carver (Chub Creek)


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