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

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July 28, 2014

Which Rod Will Be Right?? — Part 1

by Stan Fagerstrom

Everything else is packed. You've got everything ready from rain gear to long underwear, but one question remains. What the heck rod should I put in my rod case?

You could, I expect, apply similar questions to the guy who plays golf, another who goes hunting in Alaska or perhaps the bird hunter who's just itchin' to take a whack at those pheasants in South Dakota. Believe me — it applies every bit as much or more to the angler who is heading for a distant destination with a limited amount of info on what he'll find when he gets there.

You'll run into some tackle busting whoppers in the Amazon but you can also find those you're able to handle with a spinning gear. That's how I boated this big black piranha and the small peacock bass I'm holding here.

Most readers will agree the best golfer in the world isn't going to beat par unless he's got a bag full of clubs designed to enable him to solve the different problems he's certain to face as he tours a course. It won't take the newest newcomer to sport fishing long to figure out he's in a similar situation.

There simply is no single fishing outfit that's a cinch to be best for every angling problem. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. Be that as it may, the way I see it there is one outfit that comes a heck of a lot closer than most. My thinking is the result of having had a line in the water in a whole lot of different places around the world. I'd like to share some thoughts in this regard.

What outfit, for example, would you select if you could carry only one and you were about to take off on a long-range fishing adventure? You knew this trip would take you into parts of the world where you weren't sure what conditions you'd encounter. For that matter, you weren't even certain what kind of fish would be available.

I used a spinning outfit and trolled a small Flatfish lure to take this dandy trout from a lake high in the mountains of Argentina.

I've had to make that kind of determination many times over most of the past century. Fishing adventures of one kind or another have taken me from the Amazon to Alaska, from Honduras to Hawaii, from Panama to the Pacific and a whole lot of spots in between. I've rarely been stuck with packing just one outfit, but many times I've been limited to only a couple.

I've reached my own decisions in regards to gear. I don't care where my travels take me; the outfit I pack first is a spinning rod and an open-faced spinning reel. I'm aware it won't be adequate for everything that swims in freshwater, but I do know that chances are great this set up will get me by reasonably well under a variety of conditions.

Having made that choice doesn't mean I think the spinning outfit is always going to be the best choice to solve every problem I encounter. No way! You can't, of course, use a lightweight spinning outfit for many kinds of Alaskan salmon fishing. You couldn't even throw the big surface lures often used for the Amazon's peacock bass with a light rod. If you did hook one of those wild-eyed buggers with such a rod, it would likely resemble a pretzel before the battle was over.

You can be sure I'd rather have a bait casting outfit in my hands if I have to tackle a mad largemouth in heavy cover.

I'd much rather have a casting rod and a level wind reel for most kinds of bass fishing. But again, day in and out, no single outfit does the variety — underline that word, variety — of jobs that can be handled by a good quality spinning rig. And it's going to cover a whole lot of bases when you're not certain of what you're up against going in.

I've had experienced fishermen, some who have traveled extensively, attempt to tell me the only outfit worth carrying on a fishing adventure to New Zealand is a fly rod. Baloney! I've had occasion to fish in that beautiful land almost daily for a month on two different occasions. On both trips I had opportunity to use my spinning outfit every bit as much as my fly rod if I chose to do so. You can, if you choose, do the same.

As I've indicated, the thing that makes the lightweight spinning outfit such a wonderful tool is its versatility. Purchase extra spools for your spinning reel. Load one with 4-pound line, another with 6, a third with 8 and a fourth with 10. Those four different line sizes let you cover a tremendous variety of fishing tasks. Today, with some of the new strong but small diameter braided lines, you can go even heavier than that in line test and still handle relatively lightweight lures. I'll have some specifics on that in my next column.

You can slip a 4 or 6-pound test spool onto your spinning reel and throw tiny jigs in the 1/32nd-ounce class. Such tiny jigs, equipped with miniature curly-tailed plastic worms, are among the most deadly of lures for panfish such as crappie and bluegill. They also work well for some of the exotic species you'll find in other parts of the world. I've whacked piranha with them in both Colombia and Brazil. I've done the same with tilapia in the waters of Mexico.

I'd never have hooked this beautiful trout at the New Zealand Lake I'm pictured on if I'd not had the spinning outfit you see in my hand.

Your spools of light line work just fine on a spinning rig for lightweight trout fishing with small lures. If you choose, you can use the same outfit to throw a floating bubble and a fly. I've had the opportunity to spend a couple days fishing with General Chuck Yeager, the famed test pilot. Here's another guy who has fished all over the place. One of his favorite angling adventures is hiking into the high Sierras for golden trout. He often catches them with flies. On a fly rod? No way! He uses a lightweight spinning outfit and one of those baubles I mentioned.

Yeager told me he has done the same thing in some of the top trout waters of Montana as well as in New Zealand and other parts of the world. "I can get way out there where the fish are with my spinning outfit," he says. "Often, conditions wouldn't permit me to do that with any other kind of outfit."

As I've already mentioned, be assured that if I have a choice, I'll do the same thing those pro golfers do. I'll carry an assortment of rods and reels that will give me a shot at solving the different problems I'm a cinch to encounter. Having access to the right tools is one of the basic ingredients to consistently putting fish on the bank or in the boat.

There are some other factors to consider. Watch for my September column, where I'll discuss some of the additional reasons I feel the way I do about the versatility of a top quality spinning outfit.

-To be continued-

January 31, 2014

Practice Makes Perfect - It Also Puts More Fish In The Boat

by Stan Fagerstrom

Practice casting is certain to put more fun into your fishing. It's also going to make it a whole lot more pleasant for your fishing companion.

When I wrote my previous column about the importance of practice, I immediately thought of what a friend told me about a couple of friends he had taken along on fishing adventures, each at a different time.
"I asked both of these guys a few questions well ahead of the time we were to leave," he says. "I was to provide the equipment and I needed to know what kind of gear they could handle.

See the edge of the lily pad field in the background of this picture? I had to get my lure into those pads just right to get results. Here's proof that the practice I'd done prior to getting out there with my bait casting outfit enabled me to get the job done.

"The first of the two I took assured me he was familiar with both level wind reels as well as open faced spinning reels. As a result I put together four bait casting rigs and a couple of spinning outfits. I asked him if he'd like to do a little practice casting before we left. He assured me that wasn't necessary.

"How wrong that turned out to be! I doubt he had ever attempted to cast with a level wind reel. He never even picked up one of the outfits I'd brought along for him. His experience with a spinning reel had evidently been limited to trolling. He's a heck of a good guy and I value his friendship, but if anybody could have used a little practice before getting on the water, it was him.

"I well remember the reaction of the other friend who I invited to accompany me on the same kind of trip. I was again to provide all of the equipment we'd use once we got there. "Jack," this friend said, "any chance I could come down and spend a day or two with you before we go? I've not used a level wind reel much and I'd like to practice with it a bit if that works out for you."

I should never taught this attractive gal to handle a spinning outfit properly. Why? Because now she often catches more fish than I do!

My friend went on to tell me how the second of his two friends did come to stay with him a day before their departure for the trip. He set up a couple of targets out in his yard and gave this guy, his name was Bob, a couple of the same reels he'd be using when they got to where they were going.

You'd like Bob. I'd heard that he was competitive in anything he tackled. He sure as heck was. In no time at all he was handling my level wind reels like he'd been using them for years.

So what was the result of my friend's experience? If you're an experienced angler yourself, you could undoubtedly guess. The first guy, the one who didn't see the need for practice, had an awful time. When he wasn't hung up in the trees, he was picking at tangles. As a result he didn't catch as many fish as he should have.

"That wasn't how it went with Bob," my friend told me. "He was a pleasure to have in the boat. He was able to put his lure on target darn near all the time. As it turned out, he caught more fish than I did and I think he went home happy about the entire experience."

I expect I've done about as much preaching about the importance of casting practice as anybody in the country. As I mentioned in my previous column, I've been at it since I gave my first casting exhibition more than half a century ago.

You can bet that little gal waiting her turn for some hands on instruction is going to hear about the importance of casting practice. So are those other kids waiting their turn. Years later I sometimes hear from one or another of those I've helped at outdoor shows somewhere around the country. They invariably tell me how important their practice casting was to them in learning how to catch fish.

There's no question about it, casting practice is essential if you hope to ever catch your share of fish. The sooner you accept that, and do something about it, the sooner you'll join that 10 per cent of anglers who catch about 90 per cent of the fish.

There are certain steps to take that can be of great help if you do decide to practice your casting. I'll detail what some of the important basics are in my next column. It starts March 1.

-To Be Continued-

January 06, 2012

Closed Face Spinning Reels for Kids Part 2

by Stan Fagerstrom

The closed face spinning reel can be an effective fishing tool for the relatively few who learn how to use it properly.

As far as I'm concerned, no other reels even come close to providing a little boy or girl a relatively easy way to get into fishing. Show them how to handle the pushbutton reel properly in the very beginning and you'll get away from the misery so often and so unnecessarily associated with teaching kids how to cast.

You can bet the closed face spinning reel you can see on her rod helped this young lady catch that nice catfish she's holding.

I base those comments based on decades of personal experience.
I've been teaching youngsters over a sizeable chunk of the world how to use a closed face spinning reel almost since these reels first came to market.

Getting distance with one of these reels is no problem. Almost any kid can learn to throw a practice weight halfway down the block in short order. Trouble is those same kids usually wind up with their line draped over a telephone pole or with the casting weight hung up in the nearest cottonwood tree.

There's a way around this problem. Give casting exhibitions at some of the world's largest outdoor shows (and I have) and you better be darn sure you can hit your targets and entertain your audiences. At least you better have that ability if you expect to get asked to return.

If it's a youngster you're teaching how to use a closed face spinning reel, be sure you get a reel small enough for them to handle. The Daiwa Goldcast GC80 shown here is a great one for this purpose

Because I was already doing some exhibition casting when closed face spinning reels first came to market, the Zebco people gave me one of their first Zebco 333 spinning reels to try out. It soon became abundantly clear that getting distance with this new style reel was no sweat. Consistently hitting my targets was another matter. Attempting to get the job done by using the reel's thumb control button just didn't work.

I tried a number of different approaches before I came up with a technique that did. I still didn't have the pinpoint accuracy I got with a level wind reel or the open faced spinning reel. But what I did have was entirely adequate. I hope you'll study the next few paragraphs carefully. Get a good handle on how to use the closed face in the fashion I'm about to detail before you attempt to teach it to your youngsters.

Here's how it goes: Have your boy or girl place the closed face spinning reel in the palm of their left hand. Have them extend their left forefinger to trap the line securely where it comes out of the center of the reel's enclosed spool.

Once they have the line trapped securely against the hole in the center of the reel's spool, have them depress the reel's thumb control button and hold it down. When they are ready for their practice weight to fly out, release pressure with both the left forefinger and the right thumb at exactly the same time.

When you're ready for the lure to fly out, let go of the left forefinger and the thumb control button at the same instant. All the time the lure is in the air be sure the line flows is flowing over your left forefinger as it comes off the spool. All you need do to drop the lure right where you want it is to increase upward pressure on the line with the left forefinger.

Now comes the key to accuracy with the closed face reel. All the time the casting weight is in the air, the line should be allowed to flow off the spool over the left forefinger. All in the world your youngsters need do to drop the lure smack on target is increase upward pressure on the line with that left forefinger.

It's downward pressure from the right thumb that lets an expert with a level wind reel put his lure on target time after time. You can use upward pressure from the left forefinger to do nearly the same thing with a closed face spinning reel.

Be sure you get one of the smaller reels I've already named for your youngsters. They will fit nicely into the palm of even a small hand. It's surprising how quickly even little guys and gals, provided they have the right kind of instruction, can learn to get a practice casting weight out where it belongs with these little reels and lightweight matching rods.

I began this column by saying the closed face reel can be an effective angling tool for someone who really learns how to use it. I see disbelief in their eyes sometimes when I tell someone what I witnessed at one of the many Bassmasters Classics in which I participated.

You have to be a great angler to even get into this World Series of Bass Fishing. You don't buy your way in. You get there by scoring sufficiently in previous elimination contests. Classic contenders are accompanied by an observer.

I got into the boat at one Classic with a contender from Tennessee. He was a man who was to qualify for the Classic two different times. The day I shared the boat with him he had five casting rods in the boat---and every last one of those rods held a closed face spinning reel! Now do you see why I made that comment about these reels being an effective fishing tool?

I'll have a few final thoughts to share where kids and the closed face spinning reel are concerned. I'll do that in my next column beginning

- To Be Continued-

December 06, 2011

Closed Face Spinning Reels - The Best For Kids

by Stan Fagerstrom

I'm one lucky guy.

Why? Because I'm one of those fortunate few who for the most part have been able to make a living doing something they love. In my case what that's boiled down to has been fishing and writing about it or demonstrating how best to use the tools---the rods, reels and lines---associated with the sport.