Improve Your Catching!

June 24th, 2002

Target and Distance Casting Practice Seminar
Lesson Five
Conducted By Jim C. Chapralis

In order to enjoy better fishing results, it is necessary for most anglers to practice casting on a continuing basis. Admittedly, practice is b-o-r-i-n-g, so it's my job to make casting practice so much fun that you'll almost like it as much as fishing! And down the road you might even want to enter a casting tournament! And Win!

LESSON FIVE: The Bass-Bug Event

To review: To succeed in fly fishing, we need to become good casters primarily in terms of accuracy, but also, under certain circumstances, in distance. In our introduction, we mentioned that most of us learn the fundamentals of casting through books or videos, casting schools, or, perhaps, from a veteran fly-casting friend. But between fishing trips, these lessons are lost, so it is necessary to practice our casting periodically. We agreed that usually practice isn't fun, but we're going to make casting practice "fun," to a point that many of us will actually look forward to it.

The Dry-Fly and Trout-Fly Events (Lessons Three and Four) focus on casting small flies at reasonable distances. How about an event for anglers who like to toss poppers or bigger flies or streamers for bass, pike, muskies and even snook or other saltwater species?

Well, we've got just the event for you. The fascinating, challenging Bass-Bug Event.

PLACING THE TARGETS: Remember in Lesson Two when we told you to obtain or make six 30-inch targets? So far we've only used five targets. Here's where we use the sixth target. Use the same setup for the first five targets that we used for the Dry-Fly Event (Lesson Three), and place the sixth target 65 to 70 feet from the caster's box. Yeah, you're right! That's going to be a tough cast all right.

THE TACKLE: We'll use heavier gear than what we recommended for the two previous events, because we're going to cast a bass popper, which is a lot more air resistant and heavier than a dry fly. Here are our recommendations for this event:

The Rod: A nine-foot fly rod calibrated to take a No. 8 or a 9 fly line is ideal. If you don't have a nine footer but have an 8-ft. fly rod that takes a No. 8 line use it.

The Line: A No. 8 or 9 forward tapered floating line is best.

The Reel: Your normal single-action fly reel is best.

The Leader: At least 6-ft. in length tapered from about .026" to about .013" or less.

The Bug: Use a cork body bass bug. The cork body should be at least inch in length and no less than inch in diameter. The hair tail should be an inch or longer. The ideal color for visibility is yellow, and, of course, be sure to remove the point and barb to avoid any accidents.


To start with strip sufficient line from your reel so that it is at least ten feet beyond the far target which is about 65 to 70 feet away. Now strip in all the line (don't reel it in) so that you have about two feet of fly line and leader beyond the rod tip.

Round One: Start your false casting so that the line, leader and bug are moving back and forth in the air, without intentionally striking the surface in front or in back of you. While false casting, as per the two previous lessons, let sufficient line pass through the rod guides, until you think you have enough line out to hit the first target. If you let out too much line, strip some in while false casting. After adjustments are made, and your bass bug seems to hover above the near target on your false cast, make the final forward presentation and allow the bug to settle on the target. Put some force behind the forward cast. You don't have to make a delicate presentation. You want to straighten out that leader.

Let's go to the second target. Lift the bug off the ground or water and begin false casting again over the second target. Let out line through the guides as needed. If you let out too much line, strip some in. When you think the bug will land in the center of the target, make your forward cast (presentation) and drop the popper on the target. Easy, huh? Okay, here's the catch. Except for the first target, you can only make two false casts between the remaining targets. In other words, you have to adjust the amount of line out quickly.

Now proceed to the third target, fourth and fifth target. You'll notice that the distant targets are harder to hit.

Why only two false casts? Suppose you're fishing and you notice a marauding bass chasing some minnows just beyond your popper. If you make a lot of false casts that fish is LG (long gone). You got to deliver the bass bug accurately, decisively and quickly.

After you make your cast to the fifth target you've got the long one! That's a real toughie! Unless you are a very good caster (or very lucky), that last target is a killer. And remember you can only make two false casts between targets!

That takes care of the first round. Now strip in line (don't reel it in) until you have only about two feet of line and the leader beyond the rod tip and the hookless bass bug is in your non-casting hand.

Round Two: You do the same thing as before. Make as many false casts as you'd like to the close target and make your presentation. You're going to cast to the next five targets in the same sequence as in Round One, but on this round you will only make one false cast between the targets. I know it's tough, but these events are designed to improve your casting by challenging your skills to the max.

That sixth target-where you go from 45-50 feet to 65-70 feet with one false cast-is a button buster. You need to know the double haul (or single haul at the minimum).

Why is Cathy Sero jumping with joy? Because she cast from the white target (50 ft.) to the yellow (65 ft.) with one false cast as required in the Bass-Bug event at the 2001 Illinois State Casting Championship!

I said at the beginning this event is a difficult, demanding event. But the purpose of these "games" is to make you the very best caster you can possibly be and if you practice these casting exercises you will see a constant improvement and the rewards are twofold: You will enjoy the effortless casting while fishing, and your angling success will definitely improve. You'll feel an absolute "high" when you deliver that popper next to that stump 70 feet away!

Caution: You have to be careful in lifting up the line from second far target (45-50 ft.) to cast the far target so that you don't damage the rod. Yes, it requires some oomph but you have to learn to peel the line from the surface and at the same time accelerate the back cast with the single haul. Again refer to the casting instruction books and videos on single and double haul.

If you having problems reaching the distant targets move them in five to ten feet and adjust the others accordingly. Then as you gain casting efficiency and confidence move them out. Some fly casting outfits were not built to cast a bass bug 50 to 70 feet. Don't try to do this event with your No. 5 or 6 trout fishing outfit!

SCORING: : There is one demerit for each foot or fraction the bug misses the target for the first five targets, with a maximum of two demerits. See, the people who designed these rules have some compassion after all. Well, not quite, because on the last target, the one that's way out there, they increased the maximum demerits to five to both rounds. Obviously that last target is extremely important. There are other demerits: Each tick gives you one demerit, and if you make more false casts than the allotted number (two false casts in first round and one false cast in second round), you're charged with one demerit for each additional false cast.

YOUR SCORE: As we mentioned previously, it's important to keep track of your scores, so that you can see your improvement with casting practice.

    As per previous lessons, here's my arbitrary rating for the Bass-Bug Event. (We'll not count ticks or demerits for additional false casts here.)

    Under 70: Something is wrong here. If you miss every target by the max your score would be 70, since we're not counting ticks and additional false casts here.

    71 to 75: Hey, this is a tough event. You'll get the hang of it.

    76 to 83: You've got the basics and all you need to do is practice.

    84 to 90: You're casting very well! Good eye-and-hand coordination. Terrific!

    91 to 95: Superb! You are an excellent caster.

    96 to 100 (Super-Elite Class): If you are making the right number of false casts and not ticking, you are ACA National Casting Tournament Championship material! You're among the top 1 percent of fly casters in the world! Very few of the top casting instructors are going to score in this bracket!

HOW DOES THE BASS BUG EVENT HELP OUR FISHING? If you use big flies (bass bugs, poppers, large streamers, etc.,) this event will help you immensely. One of the lessons you will learn is that you will have to wait longer on your back cast than you normally would if you were casting small trout flies. Being able to pick up a lot of line and deliver a long accurate cast is certainly very helpful in just about any sight saltwater fly-fishing application. Bonefishing. Tarpon. Snook. Redfish. The same applies to sight freshwater fishing. Big northern pike or muskies cruising the shallows. Steelhead. Salmon. Just about every species.

We've all had the experience that no matter how much power we were able to put into the cast, we were six to ten feet short of a feeding fish. Frustrating, right? We eventually find out that it is timing that becomes more important rather than "muscle."

You'll quickly learn the importance of good back cast, loading a rod, double haul, how to pick up a longer line, how to cast an air resistant large fly or popper with accuracy and many lessons that are so necessary in many fishing presentations.

THE CHAMPS: After you try this event a few times, you probably wonder what type of scores win in the ACA National Tournament produce? Usually, 96 and above, and yes, there have been some perfect scores. Amazingly, Luke Brugnara, when he was an intermediate caster (age 13 to 16), cast a perfect score! And remember, they are doing it under the pressure of competition!

Next Week: The Angler's Distance Fly. Enough about accuracy. You want to be able to cast a long line. Well, get ready, but in the meantime learn the mechanics of the double haul. One of the best places? Take a look at James Castwell's articles. Click on The Double Haul found in the 2nd Quarter 2001 in the Castwell Archives.

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. Currently involved with the 94th Annual National Casting Tournament July 29 to August 3, 2002. You can reach Jim via his website

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