Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at stanfagerstrom@hotmail.com.

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June 01, 2012

Spinning Reel Techniques

by Stan Fagerstrom

I had just finished my casting exhibition at the big International Sportsmen's Exposition in Sacramento, California.

When I got back to my table at the end of the casting area there were several show attendees waiting to ask questions about some of the things I'd talked about during my demonstration. A couple of them wanted to get a closer look at what I'd had to say about using the open faced spinning reel.


The open face spinning reel is a tremendous angling tool. Experience tells me there are a whole lot of anglers out there who don't realize there's more than one way to use it.

"We want to get a closer look at how you get the accuracy you do with that spinning reel," they said. "Will you make a couple of casts for us so we can get a close up look at what you're doing?"

I've heard similar requests countless times in the hundreds of demonstrations I've done around the country over the past half century. If you're among the many who do most of your angling with a spinning outfit chances are you'll find my answers to that question of interest.

Let me start off with one simple statement: There's usually more than one way to do darn near anything. That includes utilizing different techniques with various items of tackle. This applies to reels just as it does rods. Have you, for example, ever considered mastering a different method of casting with your open-faced spinning reel?

A good many fishermen fail to even realize there really is more than one way to cast with an open-faced reel. Take a close look at fishermen you see using these reels. It's a safe bet you'll see darn near all doing essentially the same thing. They open the bail and drape the line across their right forefinger. When they are ready to cast they simply straighten out the right finger and the lure sails away.

There's nothing wrong with that method of casting. It's the one the manuals advocate. But it's not the only way to do it. It's not the one I use myself. And there are other techniques besides the one I usually employ.

If what the manuals have to say work well for you, stick with it. If they don't---and they didn't for me---experiment until you find one that does. That's what I've done. I know others who've also made some changes.

One such example is my friend Steve Rajeff. Steve is an executive with G.Loomis Rods. This soft-spoken casting expert has won more casting championships at the national and international level than anybody anywhere. He has tremendous casting skills. Steve is best known for his expertise with a fly rod. Believe me, he's every bit as good with a spinning outfit or a bait casting rig.

I mention Steve because he uses a different technique to get his lure out there with an open-faced reel. If you ever have opportunity to watch him handle his open-faced reel, observe carefully what he does with it. You'll find he opens his bail and then drops his right forefinger to trap the line against the side of the reel's spool. He holds the line tight against the spool until he is ready for his lure to fly out.


Here's the procedure one of the world's finest casters uses with a spinning reel. Once he's opened his bail he traps the line against the side of the reel's spool with his right forefinger. He releases forefinger pressure to let the lure fly to its target but feathers the line with the forefinger to achieve pinpoint accuracy.

Why does he do this? Because he finds he gets better control that way than he does casting in conventional fashion. "I get a degree of accuracy using my open face reel this way that's very close to what I enjoy with a level wind reel," Rajeff says. "It's the procedure I always use when I'm involved in casting competition."

The reason he is able to get better control is because he can feather the line with his right forefinger as it peels off the reel's spool. The key to any kind of accurate casting is being able to communicate with your line while the lure is in flight. You've got to be able to slow the flight of the lure, but you can't do it in such a fashion the lure stops with a jerk.

I've been giving casting demonstrations around the world now for decades. If you've ever watched one of my demonstrations you're already aware that I utilize yet a third technique with the open-faced reel.

I learned early on I couldn't get the kind of pinpoint accuracy required for demonstration work with a spinning outfit trying to feather my line with my right forefinger. I got reasonably good accuracy, but not consistently enough to feel comfortable when I had 500 people jammed around my casting area waiting to see if I could practice what I was preaching.

The procedure I worked out brings both hands into the act. I'm right handed. I begin by opening the bail of my spinning reel and draping the line across my right forefinger just as you probably do. But from here on things change.

Now when I let go of the line with my right forefinger I trap the line against the lip of the front of the reel's spool with my left forefinger. When I'm ready to cast, I release pressure on the line with the left forefinger and away goes the lure. All the time the lure is in the air the line is flowing off the spool immediately under my left forefinger. I find it a whole lot easier to feather the line with my left forefinger.


You can use your left forefinger to do much the same thing. Just open your bail but then trap the line at the front of the spool with your left forefinger. Release the finger pressure to let the lure fly out, but maintain contact with the line as it peels off the spool. It's a great way to get the accuracy you need and want.


Here's another view of the positioning of the left forefinger. Using this technique with a spinning reel provides line control similar to that you get with your thumb on a level wind reel.

If you're familiar with level wind reels, you know you control the flight of your lure by applying pressure to the revolving spool with your thumb. My procedure with the open-faced reel is much the same. The line comes off the spinning reel under my left forefinger. All I need do to get my lure where I want it is to use pressure from my left forefinger to control things.

For many years I removed the bails from my spinning reels to facilitate making the two handed cast. On the older reels I used at the time it was much easier to use the left-handed technique if the bail wire was removed. If you caught one of my demonstrations years ago you undoubtedly heard me talk about removing the bail.

That's no longer necessary with the reels I'm now using. I switched to Shimano reels years ago. There's ample space between the bail wire and the reel's spool for me to position my left forefinger where it needs to be. If you watch one of my demonstrations today you'll note I'm using a Shimano Symetre open-faced reel. It's a tremendous fishing tool.

You needn't be unduly concerned how I cast or how Steve Rajeff casts. The only thing that matters is how much enjoyment and satisfaction you are deriving from the method you're using for your own fishing.


Accuracy is essential for successful fishing with a spinning reel. This pictures shows what can happen when you have it. Pictured is Bruce Holt with a beautiful smallmouth he caught. Holt is an executive with G.Loomis Rods.

Nowhere is it written in stone that you have to cast as I do. And neither of us has to follow the instructions printed in some manual. Chances are whoever wrote that manual hasn't spent half the time fishing we have. But I repeat what I said before: How are you going to know if your present procedure is doing does the best job for you unless you give the other methods a try?

It doesn't take long to find out. Rig up a spinning outfit and head for the back yard. Try the procedures I've outlined. It won't cost you a dime to try them out. It just might wind up putting a whole lot more fun into your fishing when it's spinning gear you're using.

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