Learn to cast

I had an experience last week that bears repeating here. There's a lesson in it for everyone — especially for recreational anglers.

You'll remember that last week I opined Florida was good for the biggest bass of your life. Well, I almost caught one of my biggest ones a few days ago. I was fishing a lake down here with a Tiny Torpedo when I noticed an open spot behind 10 feet of lily pads. They're called gar holes, or at least that's what I call them. I tossed my Torpedo into the back edge of the spot.

Within seconds the water looked like a toilet had flushed under the surface. I set the hook and saw a bass that was easily in double digits. She was big. I knew I couldn't pull her through the pads, so I tried to ease the boat over to her. It didn't work. She jumped straight up and then came down in the middle of the thickest part of the pads. All I saw after that was my bait hanging on a big, green leaf. It was frustrating to say the least. At the same time, however, it was thrilling.

Better to have hooked and lost than to never have hooked at all, they say. As I was reliving the experience, I realized that but for my casting skill, I never would have hooked that fish. I was able to set my Torpedo down in the back of the hole where I could get the most distance out of the presentation, and the most turns of the prop, before I hit the front edge of the pads.

Now, I'm not saying I'm the best caster around — far from it. I am saying that casting accuracy is a skill that's more important than many anglers realize. It used to be talked and written about a lot, but not anymore. I don't know why. It's something that anyone can learn to do with a minimal investment of time, and no monetary cost whatsoever. If you'll spend 10 or 15 minutes a day practicing in your backyard or on your driveway, you'll be amazed at what you can learn to do.

Then, next spring when the club tournaments start, or if you're just out fun fishing, you'll catch more bass. You won't make four or five casts to hit the sweet spot behind a stump. And the next time you want to drop a jig into some heavy shoreline brush, you'll be able to do it instead of ruining the spot by hanging in a limb and being forced to jerk your lure loose. This isn't the most interesting topic, and it certainly isn't the sexiest, but it's darn important.

Think of it this way: You wouldn't expect to be a good hunter if you couldn't shoot accurately. Why do you think you can catch fish if you can't cast accurately?

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