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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February 28, 2014

You Can Make Your Practice Pay

by Stan Fagerstrom

You and your best pal are going fishing in the morning.

You've been thinking all afternoon about what you need to do to be all set when he comes by to pick you up in the morning. As you think about it, you become more aware of just how darn few things you can do that will actually help assure catching a few fish.

You can't, for example, do a blasted thing about what the weather will be. You don't have any kind of control over the water temperature, barometric pressure, wind velocity or direction or any number of other factors - all of which might affect the fish to one degree or another.

As I've mentioned, there are just so many things you can't do anything about as you prepare for the trip. Developing the ability to handle your gear so you can place your lure on target time after time isn't one of them.

Actually, accurate casting is one of the few variables associated with fishing that we can control. Sadly, and as I've endeavored to point out in my last two columns, not all that many anglers do exercise this one controlling factor that is available to them.

A level wind reel is one of the best fishing tools there is. I don't care what the advertising says, you're going to have to accept the need for practice to really learn how to use it.

Let's suppose you're one of those rare newcomers to angling who does recognize and accept the need for practice. What's the best way to go about it? I'm assuming, of course, that you've been successful in finding quality equipment to work with.

The first step is to get yourself a selection of practice casting weights. Be certain that you have weights of 1/4th-ounce, 3/8th-ounce and 5/8th-ounce.

These three different size practice casting weights are essential for your practice sessions.

You'll also want different size targets. They needn't be fancy. You don't have to have water for your practice sessions. That's one of the easy things about it. Just get your gear and head for the backyard or the front lawn. Either spot will work just fine.

Hula Hoops work well as targets if you're doing your practice in your back yard or a neighborhood park. Different sized cardboard boxes also work well.

I like to use a small kiddies' plastic wading pool as a primary target. You can fill it with water if you choose. Your casting weight won't bounce out of the plastic pool if it is filled with water. You can get the same result by placing something like a blanket in an empty pool.

Whatever targets you select - and this so important in the beginning - don't set them way out there somewhere. Forget all about distance as you begin your practice. I'll make you a promise: Concentrate on learning to hit your targets consistently close in. Once you do, you'll find that it's no sweat to reach out farther when it's necessary.

I stress this because it's so darned important in developing good casting techniques. Unfortunately, distance is often what beginning casters are prone to give the most attention to. Don't make that mistake. Again, learn to hit the targets you've positioned fairly close in the beginning. If you do it the other way around you'll be in trouble from day one.

I've had the good fortune to share thoughts and demonstrate casting over a sizeable chunk of the world. This picture is from one of a number of appearances I've made in Brazil.

So what's a good distance to work with in the beginning? I recommend setting your primary target 25 to 30-feet away. There's little physical effort involved in casting that far if you've got good quality, balanced equipment to work with.

If it's a level wind reel and casting rod that you're working with, tie on a 5/8th-ounce practice weight in the beginning. You'll find the heavier weight handles with less effort. A practice plug that size also brings out the action of the rod and helps give you the "feel" for what good casting requires.

You'll eventually want to switch to lighter weights for some of your casting practice with a level wind reel but hold off doing so until you've got a good sense of what's required.

Your level wind reel will never perform the way it should if you screw all of its spool tension devices way down tight. Practice will enable you not to have to do that.

Someone is sure to ask what test lines should they choose for their practice sessions. I favor 12 to 14-pound test on the level winds where monofilaments are concerned. With quality braids like Power Pro, my choice is 20-pound test.

With the open faced spinning reels my choice is usually 6-pound test with monofilament and 10-pound with braid. Incidentally, if you've not used Shimano's Power Pro braid on your open faced spinning reels, don't hesitate to do so. It spools beautifully. You won't quite get distance as easily as you do with monofilament, but as aforesaid, distance is overrated where accurate casting is concerned.

Closed face spinning reels come already loaded with monofilament. If you're teaching a youngster how to use one, and those reels are a great choice for kids, pick one that's small enough for them to easily handle.

Like most anything else, you'll generally get about what you're willing to pay for in purchasing a closed face reel. One of the best I've found is a Daiwa Goldcast. It's a dandy. The smallest of these quality reels, and that's the best size for kids to handle, is the Daiwa GC80.

If your wife, like mine, doesn't want to get into fishing up to her ears, but wants to be able to enjoy herself when she does choose to go, a closed face is also a good choice. Years ago, I got her a Daiwa Goldcast closed face. I taught her how to use it properly early on and she's pretty darn good with it.

There's a whole lot more to be said about the importance of casting practice and how to go about it. But I'll make you a promise: mastering the gear you'll be using for actual fishing will have just one result - that's more fish in the boat.

If that doesn't make you happy, I don't know what would!

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.