There's few more hair pulling frustrations when beach fishing than spotting a school of fish or a nice deep gutter and not being able to reach it, often meaning missed chance and below par action. It's safe to say metres with casts can really count some days on the sand!
Surf anglers are often striving for extra casting distance and accuracy when on the beach. Limited by how far you can wade out on many beaches, much of the casting distance you achieve comes down to the gear in your hands and how you use it.
With this in mind, what are a few considerations to take into account when you're gearing up for a beach bash and looking to cast like a champion?
Those fishing the sands have often been of the mindset that to cast great lengths you needed the longest possible rod and a large reel to match. While beach fishing will always be about using longer than average rods, modern graphite rods, braid and compact yet tough reels to match have meant maintaining those thumping casts can still be done, but with an outfit much lighter and more compact than was previously the case.
Take for instance the Shimano Revolution Coastal 902 rod matched with something like a Twinpower XD C5000XG filled with 20lb Power Pro. You can fish reasonable lure and bait weights with a setup like this, and maintain considerable distance - an ideal lighter to medium bait/lure setup that will save your arms and back a lot of torture over a full day of casting!
Using braid like Power Pro adds considerably to casts, and even for fish like jewies people are packing on 30lb to 60lb line and banging slab baits out a mile, while for any spin work you'll soon notice the extra yards on casts also. While there's a need for a shock leader to reduce pulled hooks, and to absorb the pressure of casting, it does have a lot of benefits.
Be sure to fill your spool up well with braid, as more resistance equates to less metres! Wider, long cast type spools can also mean extra metres, although Shimano reels feature AR-C spool technology, meaning you'll be using highly efficient casting reels anyhow, regardless of which model you select.
Finally pick an outfit you can cast your desired weights with confidently and not hold back. This can mean fishing a touch heavier than you would in short cast situations so you can rip it out hard. Also adding confidence to casts is using a 'gutsy' faster tapered rod that is a more effective at throwing heavier weights compared to a 'softer' actioned rod. Beach fishing can dictate the need to punch casts into strong head-on or cross winds, and at times throwing heavy baits and lures to combat these conditions. Many people take a lighter and heavier option when hitting the beach so you can switch between outfits if needed. There's nothing like fishing light in milder conditions to have a ball when you can, while the heavy gear is great when you need to be more practical. A finger guard will also help you cast braid further and with more gusto.
Getting good distance on the beach is equally as concerned with your rigging as it is the outfit in use. Bait anglers need to pay attention to bait size and shape. For instance many anglers chasing giant jewies only use relatively small and rather aerodynamic baits so they can make the long casts needed to hit the sweet water in some areas. Trim your slab baits up so they're more streamlined and consider using a half cut bait over whole baits if you're struggling to land it in the desired area. A handy tip when rigging baits is to utilise any hard bony sections of the bait and the skin. These will be solid holding points when casting. Half hitches are often essential, or some additional rigging such as bait cord can be used for further casting security.
Bait anglers can also increase sinker weight and use rigging options that don't 'tumble' through the air when cast. It'll all help your cause. Also your bait rigs shouldn't be overly long to the point they impede your normal casting action.
Lure anglers should ideally carry a spread of lure weights and styles with them depending on the conditions at hand. A half decent salmon for instance will still attack a 120gram metal if that's what you need to reach the fish, while in milder conditions you could get away with a lighter surface lure like the effective ColtSniper RockPop 90.
Smart lure selections are crucial, as many poppers and stickbaits don't have the weight to be cast out a significant distance, so ideally bring those you know will cast well and are suited to the outfits you're using.
A final point is to ensure any braid to leader knots are kept off your reel to prevent them catching or reducing your casting. Most times you don't need an overly long leader surf fishing, so keep the joining knot off the reel if you can.
Casting technique also plays a vital role with your surf casting distance. The best surf casters aren't necessarily big strong men or women, but rather those with a slicked out casting method that gets the most from their outfit, and by the same token, their arm/shoulder strength.
Putting it plainly, if you can cast with a perfectly straight rod action, without the round arm characteristic creeping in you'll utilise your Shimano surf rod to its fullest. As you cast use the butt section of the rod, with a hand placed lower down on the rod butt. If you can pull down on the rod butt while casting this will help generate more rod speed and add metres to your casts. It's well worth practicing your surf casting and taking the time to put together a balanced surf fishing outfit, as the extra distance and accuracy achieved is likely to come back in the form of more fish from the sand!