TALK casting with many anglers and there will be a great deal of banter regarding low back casts, wide loops, tight loops and the dreaded broken wrist. Yet I rarely hear much discussion relating to perhaps one of the most fundamentally important parts of a cast: how to grip the rod.
In fact I would advise that when picking up a rod you don’t actually grip it at all, instead just ‘hold’ the rod gently in the hand. A well-balanced rod fixed to a reel should balance near to the point where cork meets blank. To test for yourself, run your finger up and down the underneath of the cork handle until it balances. If the rod falls forward then the reel is too light for the rod and if it falls backwards, the reel is too heavy.
Once you have your balance point, place your thumb on top of the rod with your fingers gently wrapped around the handle. Imagine you are holding a screwdriver or shaking someone’s hand. This loose grip ensures your muscles are not tense which allows the blank to flex naturally under the tension of the line. A stressed grip will cause the opposite, placing unwanted tension in the rod leading to vibration within the blank and ultimately the line. Treat your grip as a fulcrum for the rod, not a major source of power; this should come from timing and technique.
While the common grip is thumb on top of the rod there are a number of others. One of the most popular is finger on top of the cork, wrapping thumb and remaining fingers underneath. This is a good grip for short range casts and is surprisingly comfortable. It is also useful for those who may have a lack of strength in their thumb, through injury for example, and those who struggle to maintain a high back cast. It is far harder to bend a first finger back rather than a thumb, which often flips over the shoulder when assisted by a flexing wrist, a major cause of low back casts. Try experimenting with different grips, but above all ensure you are relaxed and that the rod feels comfortable in hand.
Many anglers ask why one rod may be more expensive than the other. There are many reasons but most certainly premium quality rods come fitted with high-grade cork. To maintain a comfortable grip invest in quality cork. Silky smooth in the hand this feeling alone helps an angler to relax.
If your budget will not stretch to this look after the handle of your rod by sanding it down periodically and use a little filler to plug any gaps. Always remove the cellophane protective cover wrapped around the cork. Many anglers leave this in place resulting in a blackening of the cork as it is exposed to moisture that cannot escape. The resulting rot that sets in can quickly destroy the handle and create an uncomfortable surface on which to place a hand for the day while casting!
Finally think about other sports that you may play; golf is a fine example. Such activities rely on a comfortable grip for success and coaches will provide a great deal of tuition based around how to hold a club, bat or racket. The grip really is the foundation of the cast so use the training tip to get the very best from yours and see results in the form of reduced fatigue and with time, longer, more accurate casts.
Try thumb or finger on top of the rod to see what works for you. Begin a cast, flicking the rod backwards and forwards. During the rod stroke gently reduce pressure throughout the arm and hand. Try this for short bursts experimenting to see how little pressure is needed to support the rod.