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Why we need to practiceGround rules and targetsThe Dry-Fly EventThe Trout-Fly EventThe Bass Bug EventThe Angler's Distance Fly EventThe Single-Handed Distance Fly Casting EventWhy we need to practiceGround rules and targetsThe Dry-Fly eventThe Trout-Fly EventThe Bass Bug EventThe Angler's Distance Fly EventWhy we need to practiceGround rules and targetsThe Dry-Fly eventThe Trout-Fly EventThe Bass Bug Event

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LESSON FIVE: The Bass Bug Event

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The Dry-Fly and Trout-Fly Events (Lessons Three & Four) focus on casting small flies at reasonable distances. How about an event for anglers who like to toss poppers or bigger, air-resistant flies or streamers for bass, pike, muskies and even snook or other saltwater species? Well, we've got just the game for you. The fascinating, challenging Bass-Bug Event.

PLACING THE TARGETS: Remember in Lesson Two when we told you to obtain or make six 30-inch targets? So far we've only used five targets. Here's where we use the sixth target. Use the same setup for the first five targets that we recommended for the Dry-Fly Event (Lesson Three), and place the sixth target 65 to 70 feet from the caster's box. Yeah, you're right! That's going to be a tough cast all right.

THE TACKLE: We'll use heavier gear than what we recommended for the two previous events, because we're going to cast a bass popper, which is a lot more air resistant and heavier than a dry fly. Here are our recommendations for this event:

The Rod: A nine-foot fly rod calibrated to take a No. 8 or a 9 fly line is ideal. If you don't have a nine footer but have an 8½-ft. fly rod that takes a No. 8 line use it.
The Line: A No. 8 or 9 forward tapered floating line is best.
The Reel: Your normal single-action fly reel is fine.
The Leader: At least 6-ft. in length tapered from about .026" to about .013" or less.
The Bug: Use a cork body bass bug. The cork body should be at least ¾ inch in length and no less than ½ inch in diameter. The hair tail should be an inch or longer. The ideal color for visibility is yellow, and, of course, be sure to remove the point and barb to avoid any accidents.

HOW TO CAST THE BASS-BUG EVENT

To start with strip sufficient line from your reel so that it is at least ten feet beyond the far target which is about 65 to 70 feet away. Now strip in all the line (don't reel it in) so that you have about two feet of fly line and leader beyond the rod tip.

Round One: Start your false casting so that the line, leader and bug are moving back and forth in the air, without intentionally striking the surface in front or in back of you. While false casting, as per the two previous lessons, let sufficient line pass through the rod guides, until you think you have enough line out to hit the first target. If you let out too much line, strip some in while false casting. After adjustments are made, and your bass bug seems to hover above the near target on your false cast, make the final forward presentation and allow the bug to settle on the target. Put some force behind the forward cast. You don't have to make a delicate presentation. You want to straighten out that leader.

Let's go to the second target. Lift the bug off the surface (land or water) and begin false casting again over the second target. Let out line through the guides as needed. If you let out too much line, strip some in. When you think the bug will land in the center of the target, make your forward cast (presentation) and drop the popper on the target. Easy, huh? Okay, here's the catch. Except for the first target, you can only make two false casts between the remaining targets. In other words, you have to adjust the amount of line out quickly.

Now proceed to the third target, fourth and fifth target. You'll notice that the distant targets are harder to hit.

Why only two false casts? Suppose you're fishing and you notice a marauding bass chasing some minnows just beyond your popper. If you make a lot of false casts that fish is LG (long gone). You got to deliver the bass bug accurately, decisively and quickly.

After you make your cast to the fifth target you've got the long one! That's a real toughie! Unless you are a very good caster (or very lucky), that last target is a killer. And remember you can only make two false casts between targets!

That takes care of the first round. Now strip in line (don't reel it in) until you have only about two feet of line and the leader beyond the rod tip and the hookless bass bug is in your non-casting hand.

Round Two: You do the same thing as before. Make as many false casts as you'd like to the close target and make your presentation. You're going to cast to the next five targets in the same sequence as in Round One, but on this round you will only make one false cast between the targets. I know it's tough, but these events are designed to improve your casting by challenging your skills to the max.

That sixth target-where you go from 45-50 feet to 65-70 feet with one false cast-is a button buster. You need to know the double haul (or single haul at the minimum).

I said at the beginning this event is a difficult, demanding event. But the purpose of these "games" is to make you the very best caster you can possibly be. If you practice these casting exercises you will see a constant improvement and the rewards are twofold: You will enjoy the effortless casting while fishing, and your angling success will definitely improve. You'll feel an absolute "high" when you deliver that popper next to that stump 70 feet away!

Caution: You must be careful that you don't damage the rod when you lift up the line from the 45-50 ft. target to cast to the far 65- to the 70-ft. target. Yes, it requires some oomph but you have to learn to peel the line from the surface and at the same time accelerate the back cast with the single haul. Again refer to the casting instruction books and videos on single and double haul technique.

If you having trouble reaching the distant targets move them in five to ten feet and adjust the others accordingly. Then as you gain casting skill and confidence move them out. Some fly-casting outfits were not built to cast a bass bug 50 to 70 feet. Don't try to do this event with your No. 5 or 6 trout fishing outfit!

SCORING: There is one demerit for each foot or fraction the bug misses the target for the first five targets, with a maximum of two demerits. See, the people who designed these rules have some compassion after all. Well, not quite, because on the last target, the one that's way out there, they increased the maximum demerits to five for both rounds. Obviously that last target is extremely important. There are other demerits: Each tick gives you one demerit, and if you make more false casts than the allotted number (two false casts in first round and one false cast in second round), you're charged with one demerit for each additional false cast.

YOUR SCORE: As we mentioned previously, it's important to keep track of your scores so that you can see your improvement with casting practice.

As per previous lessons, here's my arbitrary rating for the Bass-Bug Event. (We will not count ticks or demerits for additional false casts here.)

Under 70: Something is wrong here. If you miss every target by the max your score would be 70, since we're not counting ticks and additional false casts here.

71 to 75: Hey, this is a tough event. You'll get the hang of it.
76 to 83: You've got the basics and all you need to do is practice.
84 to 90: You're casting very well! Good eye-and-hand coordination. Terrific!
91 to 95: Superb! You are an excellent caster.
96 to 100 (Super-Elite Class): If you are making the right number of false casts and not ticking, you are definitely ACA National Casting Tournament Championship material! You're among the top 1 percent of fly casters in the world! Very few of the top casting instructors are going to score in this bracket!

HOW DOES THE BASS BUG EVENT HELP YOUR FISHING? If you fish big flies (bass bugs, poppers, large streamers, etc.,) this event will help you immensely. One of the lessons you will learn is that you will have to wait longer on your back cast than when you are casting small trout flies. Being able to pick up a lot of line and deliver a long accurate cast is certainly very helpful in just about any sight saltwater fly-fishing application. Bonefishing. Tarpon. Snook. Redfish. The same applies to sight freshwater fishing: Big northern pike or muskies cruising the shallows. Steelhead. Salmon. Just about every species.

We've all had the experience that no matter how much power we were able to put into the cast, we were six to ten feet short of a feeding fish. Frustrating, right? We eventually find out that it is timing rather than "muscle" that's important.

You'll quickly learn the importance of good back cast, loading a rod, double haul, how to pick up a longer line, how to cast an air resistant large fly or popper with accuracy and many lessons that are so necessary in many fishing presentations.

THE CHAMPS: After you try this event a few times, you will probably wonder what scores win in the ACA National Tournament. Usually, 96 and above, and yes, there have been some perfect scores. Amazingly, Luke Brugnara, when he was an intermediate caster (age 13 to 16), cast a perfect score in a National! And remember, they are doing it under the pressure of competition! -Jim C. Chapralis

Next Lesson: The Angler's Distance Fly Casting Event.

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