Improve Your Catching!

August 15th, 2005

The 97th ACA National Casting Tournament
By Jim C. Chapralis

Someone said it was 94 degrees in the shade, so it was conceivable that it was more than 100 degrees on the sun-drenched distance-casting field at Dundee, Michigan. Most of the casters who competed in the 97th American Casting Association National Tournament, August 1 -6, 2006, may have grumbled occasionally about the heat, but their focus was definitely on making that long cast or hitting a target. After all, this was the Nationals: The "Super Bowl" of casting. Well, the most important casting event in North America.


Most consider the One-Hand Fly Distance Event the most demanding and challenging of all the disciplines. You have five minutes to make your casts and the longest cast determines the winner. The second longest is also recorded in case of a tie.

Rene Gillibert cast 200 feet. Henry Mittel topped that by one foot. Then Steve Rajeff stepped into the caster's box. The line folded back and forth in very narrow loops, gaining speed and elevation, and then coupled with perfect timing, Steve launched a 223-foot cast to win the Gold.

In the Senior Division Zack Wilson, Ed Lanser and Jim Chapralis won the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals respectively.

Bobby McGraw and Rob Kolakowski have only been practicing for a short period of time. They cast exceptionally well, especially in the distance events. This was their first tournament.

But the real story involves two young casters who placed 5th and 8th. Bobby McGraw is a tall, lanky 19 year old who has been practicing distance and accuracy casting only for a few weeks. He threw a fly 173 feet to capture 5th place in the highly competitive Men's Division, while Rob Kolakowski's 167-foot cast earned him 8th place. He, too, has only been practicing only a short period of time. They, along with Bob Nasby and Vic Mason, recently started the St. Paul Casting Club in Minnesota. In fact, right now, this quartet of anglers represents the club's total membership. But they will grow and grow.

The Angler's Fly Distance event is similar to the One-Hand Event, except that much lighter tackle is used here. The shooting head is equivalent to a No. 10 line. Most casters use mono for the shooting line (it must be .015" or heavier).

Jay Clark, who has been casting competitively for only four years made a phenomenal 189-ft cast to win this event. He topped Rene Gillibert and Steve Rajeff, co-owners of the present record of 190 feet. Henry Mittel made an incredible 193-ft. cast, which would have been the new record, but his leader was inch short which disqualified his cast (the leader must be 9 to 12 feet long). Actually, a longer leader than what Henry used would have been an advantage because of the breeze.

"Cajun" Bill Clements, casting in the Senior's Division, said that the Angler's Fly Distance was his weakest event. Yeah, right. Tom Gong, the Senior's record holder in this event with a cast of 164 feet loaned his fly rod to Clements. Result? Cajun Bill made a cast of 166 feet, which not only was long enough to win the event but to set a new record for the Seniors. This is just another example of the high degree of sportsmanship that exists in competitive casting. Simply, casters help each other. Tom Gong came in second and Tony Yap won the Bronze.

Alice Gillibert (left) won the Angler's Fly Distance with a cast of 136 feet. To her right is her daughter Nicole Kozicki who won five Gold medals at the tournament!

In the Ladies Division Alice Gillibert, Pam Peters and Nicole Kozicki won the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

But what was very impressive is the progress made by George Revel, his brother Dusty and Andy Tulgetske (they finished in that order) in this distance event in the Intermediate Division (ages 13 through 16). They all cast very well and George threw a 154-ft. cast. Remarkable! All three showed excellent casting form, and will undoubtedly be the champs in the future.

Steve Rajeff is probably the best all-round caster ever. He knows how to load a rod for a distance event.

The Two-Handed Fly Distance is similar to Spey casting only the tackle is considerably heavier. And that's an understatement. Steve Rajeff beat Henry Mittel by a single foot with his cast of 275 feet. Jay Clark won the Bronze with 257 feet. Bill Clements won the Gold in the Senior's followed by Ed Lanser and Zack Willson.


Steve Rajeff shot a perfect score (100) in the challenging Bass Bug event. Among the disciplines one must cast to a 50 ft. target, lift up, make a single false cast and then deliver the air-resistant bass bug into a 30-inch target that's 65 to 70 feet away. To illustrate how difficult this event is, only three other casters had shot a perfect score in this event at a National. Steve Rajeff now is the only man to have shot a perfect score in all six plug and fly accuracy games in National competition.

Zack Willson shot a 98 in the difficult Bass Bug Event to set a new record in the Senior Men's Division. Zack has been elected on the All-American Casting Team 35 times!

There was excitement in the Senior's Bass Bug when the venerable Zack Willson shot a 98 for a new National record. Previous holder? Zack Willson with a 97. Young Andy Tulgetske won the Intermediate Division with a 91.

Bill VanNatter and Charles Judy wait their turns by watching Ed Lanser cast the Trout Fly Event.

The Trout Fly Event encompasses three types of casting: Dry Fly, Wet Fly and Roll Casting. Henry Mittel, David Roberts and Chris Korich won the Men's Division in that order; Tony Yap, Ed Lanser and Bill VanNatter won the Senior's; Pam Peters, Elaine Gong and Nicole Kozicki earned the medals in the Women's Division.

Randy Olson performs the roll-cast segment in the Trout Fly Event. Randy is one of the smoothest roll casters we've seen.

In the Intermediate Division, George Revel won it, while Andy Tugetske came in second and Dusty Revel took the Bronze.

In the Dry Fly Event Rene Gillibert tied Steve Rajeff and won the shoot off for the Gold. Chris Korich earned the Bronze. In the Senior Men's Division Tony Yap, Dick Fujita and Bill Burke placed 1-2-3. In the Women's Nicole Kozicki, Pam Peters and Elaine Gong won the Gold, Silver and Bronze. George and Dusty Revel took the Gold and Silver while Andy Tulgetske won the Bronze.

Henry Fujita, in his upper 80s, is one of the smoothest fly casters around. He is patient, poised and knows the importance of a narrow loop.

The Toledo (Ohio) Casting Club in conjunction with Cabela's Inc., hosted the National Tournament. Cabela's 250,000 sq. ft. incredible outdoor sports emporium is a wonderful place to visit. Between events, I spent a lot of time gazing at the huge browns and giant rainbows that swim freely under the bridge of an indoor trout stream. A couple of these trout probably weighed 10 pounds!

Which reminds me that I better go to Wisconsin and try for that big brown, that sucked a Disco Trout fly round midnight. The take sounded like a plumber's plunger. And I know that's trout address.

Interested in knowing more about these fascinating games? Fly Anglers Online has considerable background information on the following events. (Just click on the event name):

~ Jim C. Chapralis

About Jim:

Jim Chapralis is a world traveler, a pioneer in the international fishing travel business, and author, most recently of Fishing Passion, reviewed in our Book Review section. He is an avid angler - and caster. You can reach Jim via his website

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