By: Gary Buchannan
Posted On: 2009-01-24
Spinning is a fishing method that's rather new in this country. Brought here from England shortly after World War II, this method originated in France, where it has been called "light casting" because of the lightweight lures used. At first spinning caused some American anglers, especially the fly-fishermen, to panic, because it was such a deadly Trout-catcher, and they tried to have it declared illegal. Even now its use is prohibited in some waters. It's deadly not only because fish like its lures, but because spinning tackle is so easy to cast with that every angler becomes an expert. It's even simpler to use than bait-casting tackle, and in most cases can be used instead of it. Spinning tackle can also be used in places where fly-casting tackle can't, because a spinning rod doesn't require a lot of room for a cast. There is no back cast in spinning. It has one disadvantage, however. The size of spinning line is limited, and this limits its strength. Therefore spinning tackle isn't recommended for general fishing where there are lily pads, weeds and snags because the fish will break off easily. You'll lose too many.
Spinning requires a special rod between 6 and 8 feet long with a very stiff tip. Before buying a spinning rod, test it by switching it back and forth with a fast snapping motion. After each switch, the tip should snap straight again instantly with no lag. A rod made of split-bamboo will have a stiffer tip than one made of glass, but will be more expensive. Glass spinning rods perform almost as well and are cheaper. The advantage of a short rod (6 feet) is that it's easier to cast with when you're surrounded by bushes and overhead tree limbs. It doesn't need as much space for your casting swing. You can recognize a spinning rod by its cork "grip" or handle on which the reel fastens by means of two sliding metal bands. You can recognize it also by its first line-guide above the grip; it's huge, almost an inch in diameter. The line "spins" through it during the cast. The remaining guides, about 4, are smaller and vary in size. The tip guide is the smallest.
The spinning reel is an amazing little machine, although it looks clumsy. Some anglers call it a "coffee mill" or "grinder," and it really 94 does look like one with its big handle and its long post which makes it project almost 6 inches from the rod's grip. Its spool, which holds the line, is "fixed"—it doesn't turn during the cast. One end of this spool faces the front of the rod. During the cast, the line slips out over the edge, or "lip," of this front end of the spool with a "spinning" motion. This is the reel's secret! The line leaves it freely, with almost no resistance. It doesn't have to turn the spool and a handle as it goes. If it weren't for air resistance, your spinning reel would let you cast a lure a mile—almost! Also, you don't have to stop the spool and handle with your thumb at the end of a cast. When the lure hits the water and stops, the line automatically stops also. There's no overrunning of spool and handle to cause a backlash. You can't backlash a spinning reel. Your thumb is out of a job!
When you turn the reel's handle to retrieve the line, a wire loop called a "bail" (or a curved metal finger called a "pickup") snaps over the line, catches it and turns around the spool, winding it back on like magic. Since spinning reels are multipliers like bait-casting reels, each turn of the handle winds 4 or 5 turns of line on the spool. The reel also has an adjustable "drag," or brake. This protects the line from breaking when a fish pulls too hard. With the bail or pickup in place, the line can't uncoil from the spool when the fish pulls—but the brake allows the spool to slip and turn on its axis like a bait-casting reel's spool, and the line is pulled out in spite of the pickup. A better name for this brake would be "clutch" because it actually regulates the amount of pull required before the spool will slip and turn. Before fishing, you must set this drag so that it's less than the breaking strength of your line.
Before each cast, the bail or pickup is snapped out of the way so the line will be able to spin from the spool. Since nothing moves on the reel during the cast, there is no need for you to touch it with your fingers. The long base post holds it away from the rod grip where the line can spin off without interference. The reel is attached so it hangs below the cork grip. Where you place it on this long grip depends upon where you "feel" it balances best when you hold the rod. Most anglers prefer it just forward of the center position.
Spinning line is made of monofilament (single-strand nylon), or of braided nylon strands, dyed blue, green or gray to make them invisible to a fish. This line must be light and fine, almost as thin as thread, so it will have no weight to slow up its spinning from the reel or to slow up the lure as it flies through the air during the cast. One of 3- or 5-pound-test is strong enough for most panfishing in open water. It can even hold a 10-pounder if you "baby" him and let your rod absorb his sudden twists and leaps. As the water gets weedier and the fish get large, however, it's best to use a heavier line, perhaps one of 10-pound-test, although it will shorten your casts slightly. Such a line should be powerful enough to hold a Musky or Striped Bass—if you have enough of it. The spool of a standard size spinning reel holds about 200 yards of medium-test line. This should fill the spool almost to its "lip," or edge. If the line on the spool is more than 1/16-inch below this lip it will catch on the lip and won't spin off freely. If it's piled up higher than the lip it will slide off in coils and will snarl. When you have too much line, cut off the surplus. When you don't have enough, add some "backing" line as described in the chapter on bait-casting. For very large fish, including the salt-water species, you can get a king-size spinning reel that will hold all the line necessary for their long runs. Such reels work well for surf-casting, too.
Be careful of kinking, or accidentally knotting, a monofilament line since kinks and knots will reduce its strength to at least half. There aren't many knots you can use for tying a lure to monofilament without weakening it—the one described for attaching leaders in the chapter on fly-casting is the best and safest. Although your spinning line won't backlash, it can cause you trouble in another way—it can get twisted 96 by a lure that revolves steadily in the water, or you can accidentally give it a twist as you first wind it on your reel when it's new. Then it will form kinky loops instead of remaining straight and pliable. And these loops, spinning from the spool during a cast, will snarl and might catch in the guides, snapping the line. To avoid a twist when fishing, always use a swivel or two between your line and lure. If there is a twist on your line, remove the lure and let out all the line behind a moving boat; its motion through the water will untwist it. To avoid a twist when putting a new line on your reel, wind the line by hand and after every 10 windings turn over the original spool the line is wound on so it comes off first from one side, then from the other.
More lures are made for spinning than for any other kind of casting. They even outnumber the artificial-fly patterns. Fly-casters poke fun at them and call them "jewelry." Truthfully, some of them do look like fancy lockets or earrings. They certainly don't imitate anything a fish has ever seen in nature. Only half of them resemble minnows even slightly. But, mysteriously, they all catch fish! Maybe the fly-casters are just angry because a Trout can be so smart about flies, but so dumb about spinning lures.
With spinning tackle you can cast bait such as minnows, worms, frogs and so forth. Most of these are heavy enough for use without any added weight such as a sinker. A bobber can be used if desired. But the artificial lures catch almost as many fish and are more fun to use. Try spoons, plugs, wobblers, spinners or weighted flies—anything from ⅛- to ¾-ounce, even most bait-casting lures. They all cast easily. You can even cast a dry fly or wet fly with spinning tackle, a fact that makes Trout fishermen very unhappy. Tie the heavy torpedo section of a torpedo-tapered fly line to the end of your spinning line, and add to the fly line the regular fly leader and fly. Then, with your forefinger holding the spinning line as usual, false cast (see the section on fly-casting) the fly-line rig overhead with your spinning rod, timing it just as though it were a fly rod and you were getting ready to cast it that way. But, when you have the fly line looping back and forth with good timing, release your forefinger on a forward swing and out she'll fly. You'll get more distance with that fly than you ever did with conventional fly tackle. All the spinning rod needs is the slight extra weight to cast, and the fly line added to the fly supplies that.
How to Cast
Ready to discover why spinning is so easy? Assemble your rod sections by lining up the guides, then by pushing—not twisting—the ferrules together. Fasten the reel to the grip by means of the two sliding bands, thread the line through the guides and tie to its end a very light sinker (¼ ounce) or a spinning lure from which you've removed the hooks. Now grasp the rod grip just above the reel, your thumb along the top of the grip, your forefinger in front of the base of the reel and your remaining three fingers in back of it. With your free hand, crank the reel handle until the bail or pickup is at a bottom position, then reach downward with the forefinger of the hand that's holding the rod and hook that finger around the line. Lift the line with it and hold the line against the rod grip so the lure can't pull it out. Then, with your free hand, snap the bail or pickup out of the way. You're ready to cast—but first let's see how the reel works.
Point the rod ahead of you and release the line you're holding with your forefinger. The lure will fall and the line will spin out. But when the lure hits the ground and stops, the line will stop also. There'll be no backlash. Now for the retrieve. Crank the reel handle with your free hand. The bail or pickup will automatically snap back into position, hook the- line and wind it back on the spool. Reel in the lure until it's about 8 inches from the rod tip and prepare for a real cast. Hold the line with your forefinger as before, snap the bail or pickup out of the way and swish the lure back and forth over your head. Note how the springiness of the rod tugs on the lure. Select some target about 100 feet distant and on one of the forward motions of your rod, when it is pointed only slightly above this target, release your forefinger. (A large basket is a good target to practice on—or a hula hoop.) If you've released the line too soon, it will climb like a little Atlas missile and disappear over a treetop. This is what usually happens to an angler used to bait-casting tackle when he tries spinning for the first time, because the timing is different. A bait-casting lure must be released sooner in the casting swing because it's slower getting started due to the drag of the reel spool and handle which it has to start turning. If you've released the line too late, however, as most beginners do on their first try, the lure will hit the ground at your feet. But after a few tries, you'll quickly learn the right timing. Then when you point your rod tip at a target (which might be the swirl of a big Bass), snap the lure over your head and let the rod tip snap it forward again, it'll shoot out for a bull's-eye every time. When you see that your lure is going to overshoot the spot you've aimed for—you've cast it too far—it's simple to stop it. Just grab the line with your free hand as it spins out. Or crank the handle once so the pickup will hook the line and stop it. After you've learned the straight overhead cast, you can try the variations—side casts, underhand casts, bow casts, and the rest. They're all just as simple.