Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dr. Todd Attends a Casting Tournament, Part II

This is the second of my two-part report on the recent 99th American Casting Association National Tournament.

Dr. Todd Attends a Casting Tournament, Part II

Fujita, Seroczynski, and a number of others were competing in the senior division, but there were many talented younger casters too. Perhaps the greatest of them today is Steve Rajeff. Rajeff is a senior rod designer for G. Loomis, and in fact was utilizing a hand-made 13-foot custom rod he built from a single Loomis blank, which he used with a Shimano Calais 100 with the level-wind removed. He holds a number of American casting records and finished as Grand All-Around Champion at this year’s nationals.

2007 U.S. Grand All Around Champion Steve Rajeff

Another champion caster was Pam Peters, who began casting competitively about fifteen years ago, and is currently the American women’s record holder in eight categories as well as a member of the U.S. National Casting team. Pam is the daughter of ORCA member Bill Peters, who holds the vintage casting tournament at the ORCA nationals. Pam used a stock surf casting rod and ABU Garcia Pro Max 1600 in this competition, both less than a year old.

Pam Peters waiting in the 5/8 Oz. Spinning Spool distance category

Peters showing off textbook form

Being particularly interested in the history of fishing, I was fascinated by the vintage gear still being used by tournament casters today. Rajeff, for example, explained that some casters still like the Langley Lurecast because it is direct-drive, light weight, and has a flanged spool. He explained that casters would remove the level wind, narrow the main drive gear to half its original size, and drill six to eight holes to lighten the weight even further, all in an effort to make the spool turn faster. George McCabe further explained that the tear drop shaped Shakespeare 1973D direct drive model was a very popular reel among tournament casters in its time and could still be found being used even today. Early ABU reels are still widely utilized, and one particular ABU Record model had the level wind removed and a custom magnesium spool installed. I was told that some competitors still use Meek and Talbot reels for accuracy events.

Bill Clement's ABU Tournament Casting Reel

1950s ABU Record Reel with Titanium Spool

Two of the most popular vintage spinning reels used by spinning spool casters are the Mitchell 308 and 408 models. Rajeff explained that their enduring popularity comes from their shorter stem length and narrower spools, which makes feathering the spool with the index finger much easier than with new spinning reels. But not everyone believed in using vintage reels; no less an authority that Richard Fujita declared that “these modern reels are just amazing” and far superior to vintage tackle, even for accuracy events.

The New: "Cajun" Bill Clement's Pflueger 8-Ball Bearing Casting Reel

All of this lead me to discover a completely unexpected controversy in the ACA—whether to allow the use of vintage tackle in ACA tournaments. Some ACA members believe that the use of vintage equipment is a disincentive for tackle manufacturers to promote the sport of casting; remember, the connection between the tackle manufacturing sector and the ACA was once so close that a separate division was created by the ACA just for manufacturer’s representatives. Current ACA members such as John Field seek to reestablish this connection by creating opportunities for manufacturers to use the sport of casting as a proving ground for new equipment and see vintage tackle as a barrier to this goal. Opponents to this view point out that casters like to use equipment that is familiar and functional, and sometimes this equipment is 20, 30 or even 50 years old. Besides, what better advertisement for Shakespeare than to see someone competing at the highest level with a 30 year old Model 1973D? From the opinions on the subject I surveyed, there was little unanimity on the subject.

The Old: Cajun's Classic Shakespeare 1973D Tournament Casting Reel

There were many memorable moments such as interviewing Dick Fujita, but one that stands out in my mind was that I got to be a Pegger for “Cajun” Bill Clements, a powerful 65-year old caster from California competing in the 5/8 oz. two handed revolving spool competition. Cajun was using a vintage ABU 2500C with the level wind removed and a competition Japan spool installed. A Pegger’s job is to watch the entry make his cast and then walk along side them as they wind up the line, making sure to try and point out the direction they should be going so that they do not pick up the slack and inadvertently move the casting weight. When the weight is found, the Pegger sticks a numbered Peg into the ground at the far end, which later is surveyed with a laser distance measuring tool. Cajun let loose an epic cast, and we seemed to walk and talk for about five minutes before finding his weight. Later it was discovered the cast went 344 feet, breaking the existing record by over 20 feet (and only 19 feet short of the Open Men’s Division record held by Rajeff).

"Cajun" Bill Clement's 344-foot record cast

Can you imagine pitching a Jitterbug that far on a moonless night?

Overall, the experience was unforgettable. In addition to the people mentioned, I would like to thank Andy and Beth Statt, Dale Lanser, Gord Deval, and Bill Burke, among others, for their hospitality. I wish I could make the 100th Anniversary Tournament in San Francisco, California!

A more detailed report will appear in the September edition of The Reel News.

-- Dr. Todd

PS For those interested in learning more about the sport of casting, or who wish to join the ACA, Click Here.

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