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Tournament Casting - The Other Side Of The Coin

From July 30 through August 4th the Cincinnati Casting Club hosted the 99th American Casting Association National Tournament.  The best casters in the United States and Canada converged upon Cincinnati Central Turners Lake in Mt. Healthy where events including dry fly accuracy, bass fly accuracy, 1/4, 3/8 and 5/8-ounce plug casting accuracy took place.  Distance events were located several miles away at the Lebanon Sports Complex.  With almost all of the events taking place from Tuesday through Friday and from 8:00am until mid afternoon, the spectator crowd was, to put it mildly, thin.  That's unfortunate because this is an interesting and competitive side of the sport.  One is six Americans are licensed anglers and the available audience for serious competition is certainly much larger than was represented by the attendance we witnessed. 

Eleven casting clubs were represented by 54 casters, some of whom had taken extended vacations and traveled hundreds of miles to be a part of the competition.  The lack of commercial sponsorship did nothing to dull the sharp desire to win,  Despite the appearance of a friendly picnic, which in many ways it was, this was also serious business.

ACA events segregate competitors into several divisions.  There is a division for youth, juniors, women, men and senior men.  All divisions use the same range of events, which are detailed in a booklet available from the ACA.  All events have strict tackle restrictions, time constraints and target placement requirements.  Make no mistake, this isn't easy stuff to master!

The event that the Fly Fish Ohio staff adopted as the most germane to fly fishing in the Midwest was the Bass Bug Accuracy event.  In this competition there are six targets ranging from 25 feet to 70 feet from the casting box.  The rod cannot be more than 9' 1" long and the line has to be a floating line with a maximum diameter of .068 inches.  Using diameter is an interesting and though I don't have any specific details it appears as though this restriction allows for lines up to about a 10wt.  The leader, too, is specified. It must be at least 6-feet long with a one-foot tippet of .014 or more in diameter.  In short, this is gear we would use for largemouth bass fishing.

Let me say right now, this is not an easy competition. 70-feet is a long cast with a bass bug.  But distance alone is not enough.  Neither is accuracy.  Distance and accuracy both conspire with time constraints and a limit on the number of false casts a caster is allowed.  Here is an excerpt from the ACA rule book describing the event:

"Casting one-handed the caster stars the complete round of 6 final forward casts with the nearest target.  The caster may false cast as many times as required to measure distance to the nearest target before making a final forward cast.  The caster shall proceed to the next nearest target and so on until all 6 targets have been cast using no more than two (2) false casts. 

"At the conclusion of the sixth final forward cast or round one, the caster shall retrieve the line. The caster begins with bug in hand and no more than two (2) feet of line extended beyond the tip of the rod.  The caster shall repeat the procedure of round one except that only one (1) false cast shall be allowed between targets two through six.

"A perfect score of 100 points consists of 12 casts where the bug falls within or hits any part of the target.  For each foot or fraction of a foot missed, one (1) demerit is charged.  A maximum demerit of 2 shall be called fro target one through five.  Target six shall have a maximum demerit of 5."  Of course additional demerits are charged if your forward cast ticks the water, if the caster takes extra false casts or if the entire process takes more than the allotted 5 minutes to finish casting to all six targets twice!  I'm sure glad the fish don't score my casts this way!  The top five finishers in this event all scored between 94 and 97 points. 

There was a tie at 97 points for first place, which necessitated a cast-off.  Steve Rajeff and Kevin Carriero duked it out for one more round. Rajeff claimed the title with a score of 98 versus Carriero's 92.  In an amazing display of skill, the even was won by accuracy measured in inches over the course of 12 casts that spanned a combined 500+ feet - a level of performance far in excess of what any angler is called upon to deliver on the water.

This view from the casters box will tell you everything you need to know.  One false cast for each target and put the bug in the 30-inch hoop.  Easy?  I think not. 

The Dry Fly accuracy event is similar save the 70-foot target.  And the rod weight is limited to a 6wt that is a maximum of 9'6" long.  The Dry Fly event was won with a perfect score.  Second, third and fourth places were captured with scores of 97 points or more!

While the Fly Fish Ohio team wasn't able to attend due to the mid-week nature of the event, the fly distance events must have been quite amazing.  Some of the stats may work to convince the reader of this fact. In Angler's Fly the rod is limited to a maximum of 9'1" in length. A shooting head system is employed with a maximum of 310 grains.  This equates to an 8wt rod loaded with a shooting head - roughly the same gear used for fishing wipers on the Ohio River.  Steve Rajeff and Rene Gillibert hold the record at 190 feet. This year Rajeff took top honors with a cast of 171-feet, followed closely by Henry Mittel at 164-feet.  Richard Siciliano captured the senior men's category with a 141-foot toss and Pam Peters boomed a 126-footer for the women's category.  These are mind-boggling casts!

The two-handed salmon fly distance event featured casts that are almost surreal.  Using a highly specialized rod that is not designed for fishing, with a length limit of 17-feet, the participants can use a shooting head of nearly 2000 grains - about the equivalent of four 12wt lines combined!  Even with such esoteric gear it must be quite the show to see winning casts of 284 feet!

While the fly casting events are what captured our attention, the ACA isn't about fly-only.  There were also revolving spoon and fixed spool events.  Spinning rods and casting rods of both single-handed and doubled-handed design are used in distance and accuracy events.  In the 1/4 ounce single-handed spinning event the casters must use a rod under 8' 2" long - again this is gear much like we'd use on the local lakes and rivers for most any kind of fishing.  Henry Mittel, a dominating force in all casting disciplines, captured first place with an explosive 282-foot cast.  Dick Fujita took the seniors first place with a cast of 242 ft. It is rumored that he is over 80 years old which goes to show you that it is technique, not just muscle that wins the event. Pam Peters took the women's category honors with a 192-foot launch.  The idea of casting a 1/4 ounce lure the length of a football field is almost hard to envision!

Finally, with either casting gear or flies the actual artificial to be cast are carefully specified.  As you can see from the picture, the dry fly and bass bug used for these games are much like those we might use in local waters.  In fact, the bass bug looks a lot like Lefty's Bug, which is a favored pattern for Great Miami River smallmouth!

Detailed Results Of The ACA 99th National Tournament Coming Soon!

The Terminator!

Fly Fish Ohio talks to the biggest name in tournament casting, Steve Rajeff

 

On July 30 we had a very special opportunity to sit down for a conversation with Steve Rajeff, Director of Engineering for the G. Loomis Rod Co. and the winningest tournament caster in the history of the sport.

 

 

While competing in the American Casting Association tournament in Cincinnati, he even managed to break a couple world records!

 

 

In our conversation we explored Steve's introduction to the sport of tournament casting, the teachers he's had, and the influence of the Golden Gate Casting Club on his dominance of this world-wide sport.

 

 

We discussed rod actions, rod-line interaction and "the need for speed" in a fly rod.

 

 

We even talked a bit about fishing!

 

 

Don't miss this exciting Fly Fish Ohio Exclusive!  Click any picture to be taken to the interview!

 

 

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