Luderick specialist JOHN NEWBERY details how to cast a centrepin reel. Learn to cast these cool old-school reels via our step-by-step photos and a how-to vid on the Fisho website. Pictures AND ONLINE VIDEO by SCOTT THOMAS.
BEFORE the advent of truly salt-resistant threadline reels, nearly all blackfish (luderick) anglers used “centrepins” of one type or another. The term is used to describe three similar styles of reel which share the common characteristic of being direct drive with the spool always remaining parallel to the rod. These are the Nottingham, where the spool runs on a straight spindle like standard Alvey sidecasts use; the ball bearing reel, where the spool has ball races set into it for smoother running; and the true centrepin, where the spool runs on a tapered, hardened steel spindle and is retained with a clip. Unlike a sidecast, they don’t turn to allow easy casting. Both the ball bearing and true centrepin models lend themselves to direct distance casting.
So how do you cast your float rig to pick up a drift or land on top of a distant reef, weed bed or school of fish? And why use this type of reel these days anyhow?
In answer to the first question, if you haven’t learnt how to cast with a centrepin, you have to strip off the length of line you want to cast first. This is messy and tangle prone at best, and almost impossible on a rock ledge if waves are coming over, and you’ll soon get sick of it. So you need to learn to cast straight off the spool, using a technique the British coarse fisherman have named the “Wallis cast”, presumably to honour its inventor. The technique is hard to put into unillustrated words, so Fisho assistant editor Scott Thomas has shot still and video sequences to demonstrate how it works, and I’ve provided explanations to the still shots which follow.
Why use it? Because it provides a measure of control and satisfaction that no other type of float reel does. You don’t get line twist from constant casting and thus minimise tangles. You use your hand to provide “drag” to the spool when fighting fish. In rocky, reefy situations this allows you to instantly brake fish heading for barnacles, oysters and snags, which means far more blackfish landed … and, if you’re skilled and a bit lucky, plenty of pigs (rock blackfish) and silver drummer as well. In next month’s Fisho I’ll share some tips and tricks on how to do this, but first you’ve got to be able to cast your rig.
Imagine (or remember) casting with an old fashioned baitcast or overhead reel that has no internal braking system … hard to visualise for younger readers, I guess. To avoid backlash you had to use an “educated thumb” to slow the rotation of the spool and stop it completely when the lure or rig hit the water. That’s what you’re doing with a Wallis cast: setting a free-running spool in motion and using part of your hand to control the spool’s speed of rotation. Take a look at the following photos and captions and, if you can, go to fishingworld.com.au to view a video demonstration.
As I’m right handed, I’m using my right hand to provide power to the cast and my right little finger to control the reel and the spool rotation, and my left hand to set the spool spinning by pulling on the line as the cast commences. This is a backhand cast … you can also forehand cast in tight or crowded situations. The float rig is in the air behind me and I’m dragging the rod across my body to my right to where I want the float rig to land.
Power is now being applied. The float rig is in the air above and on its way, and the spool is in a controlled rotation. The amount of power put into the casting action will determine how far the float rig travels. You might want it to go five or 15m, so adjust the power accordingly. Once you’ve practised a bit, this becomes almost instinctive.
The rod is at about 45 degrees with the cast at full power. Both hands have a role in keeping the line coming off the reel at the perfect, controlled speed. The float rig is two thirds of the way to its target.
With the rod at the horizontal the float rig has hit the water and the spinning spool has been stopped with the fingers of my right hand with no backlash or tangles. This sounds simple but takes practice. Don’t be discouraged by a few goofs first up and some over runs or tangled rigs. Half a day and you’ll have the basics, but it’ll always be challenging in strong wind, like any casting, and you may need to sacrifice distance for control.
Buying a reel
You’ll still pick up centrepin reels at garage sales, brik-a-brak shops and on eBay if you’re a persistent hunter! Some will be well known brands like Avon, JW Young (English aluminium) and Steelite (Australian bakelite), while others might be from small workshops or be home made, often out of wood or something exotic like Perspex. They might need TLC to get them going though.
Centrepin fishing has had a big revival in the US, Canada and the UK in recent years, and there are several websites with various makes of specialist reels listed. Here we’ve currently got the choice of three quality reels: Alvey’s Luderick Special, ball bearing, which comes as a straight reel or with a sidecast variation for super long casts; Shakespeare’s Eagle centrepin (essentially a re-tooled 1960s Avon Royal); and Okuma’s Aventa ball bearing model. There are also some hand-made “specials” still available in selected tackle shops.
These reels should be matched with a specialist blackfish rod. Read more about rod selection in next month’s article.