Tiger Woods continues to rack up more honors, cups and
victories, the Williams sisters dominate ladies' tennis
with a ho-hum consistency, and Pete Sampras's comeback
at the U.S. Open was incredible, but, in my opinion, the
best individual athletic accomplishment may have taken
place in Bled, Slovenia.
While Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and the other
giants focused their myopic lenses and total attention on the
more popular stateside events (you know, basketball, football
and how many times Benito Santiago spits with runners on first
and third), Ms. Jana Maisel of Germany quietly delivered one
of the greatest competitive sports-related accomplishments not
only for 2002 but in recent years.
The event was the World Casting Championship, sponsored by the
International Casting Federation (ICF), September 3 to 8, 2002.
Casters from all over the world congregated on this picturesque
city by the lake, to compete in a series of casting disciplines
that would determine the crème de la crème champions. They came
from Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden,
Germany, Spain, USA and many other countries.
Competitive casting is a big thing in Europe. But not in the
United States. In many European countries, tournaments are
televised on a regular basis. The tournament results are even
flashed on electronic scoreboards.
The events encompass both distance and accuracy with fly casting,
spinning and revolving spool (plug casting) tackle.
Back to Jana Maisel.
She cast perfect scores (100) in three events–fly accuracy,
spinning, and 5/8 oz. plug casting–and a fantastic 96 in
what is known as the Arenberg Event in which the caster
must make underhand, sidearm, backhand and other intricate
casts. Her total score for the four accuracy events was
396 out of a possible 400.
Let's put this in the proper perspective: She beat the men's
highest total score (381) for the four accuracy events by 15
points! And the men who competed, include the best casters ever.
It's probably not fair to equate her accomplishments to other
sports, but I suppose her achievement might be like rolling
three consecutive 300 games in bowling and maybe missing a
couple of pins in the fourth. Actually, I think it's even
harder, because Ms. Maisel did her thing in four different
types of casting events using different tackle (fly, spinning,
plug casting). And remember, she did this in the prestigious
World Casting Championship, the "Olympics" of casting
so to speak. Nerve racking? You bet!
"Now," you say, "okay, she's very good at the accuracy games,
and obviously she has great dexterity. But is that really
Let's move over to the distance casting field. See that woman
double hauling with that single-handed fly rod? That's Jana.
She just unleashed a long cast of 170 feet. That's 20 feet
longer than half a football field!
That, my friends, not only takes tremendous strength but
split-second coordination. Ted Williams–considered by many
the greatest baseball hitter of all time–loved fishing as
much as baseball. Maybe more. He spent many years fishing
the Keys where double-haul fly casting is a must, not an
option, and he was so good at it that, years ago, Ted gave
distance fly-casting demonstrations at sport shows. He was
a very good fly caster. But even in his prime, he would not
have been able to come close to Jana's distance.
Jack Nicklaus is easily one of the all-time best golfers.
Right? Tremendous coordination and physical ability. Like
Ted did, Jack loves to fly fish and does it often. He is a
good caster, knows the double-haul. No way could he come
close to Jana's distance.
Jack and Ted. We're talking about two of the world's most
gifted athletes. Ever.
But despite her tremendous cast, Jana didn't win the single-handed
distance fly casting event in the women's division. She placed
fourth! The winner was Czech's Julie Koblihova who delivered
an even more fantastic cast of 176 feet!
Jana won the distance single-handed spinning with a cast of 193
feet, barely beating Julie Koblihova' 191-foot cast. She also
won the two-handed plug casting distance event with a cast of
Jana and Julie are not the only good casters in the women's
division. There are many. For example, in the fly accuracy
when Jana shot a perfect score? So did Alena Zinner, of Austria.
When there is a tie there is a shoot-off. Alena shot a second
perfect score to beat Jana's 95. Shoot-offs are a timed event
and if there is a second tie, whoever cast the 20 targets in
the fastest time is declared the winner. Talk about pressure.
Alena cast at the 20 targets in less than three minutes, while
Jana completed her targets in two minutes. In this event, you
have to false cast at least once during the "dry fly" portion,
which is the first ten targets. On the "wet fly" false casting
is not allowed as you go from target to target.
Steve Rajeff–in my personal opinion the greatest all-round caster
of all time–was the only competitor from the USA to win a medal.
He won the single-handed distance fly event with a cast of
199 feet. He also won the 5/8 oz. accuracy plug casting event
with a 95 and then cast a perfect score in a shoot-off. Steve
came in 5th in the all-round, only one-half point from placing 4th.
In the qualifying two-handed "salmon" fly distance event, Steve
cast 233 feet (average of his two longest casts). Very impressive,
right? That earned him 15th place which was not good enough to
qualify for the finals since they only take the top eight scores.
You don't think those Europeans can cast far? The winner in
the qualifying round was Czech Miloslav Krejci with an average
of 270 feet! Ten yards short of a football field. The final
round however was won by Czech Patrik Lexa with a cast of
The other Americans who participated were Henry Mittel (5th
place in the two handed spinning), Bobby Spear, Tony Yap and
These are some of the highlights at the ICF World Casting
Championship. If you want to check the detailed box scores
"The tournament was excellent and the location was fantastic,"
Rajeff reports. "The town of Bled is on the shore of a lake,
which has a castle on top of a cliff that overlooks the town.
The water is a deep blue color, from snow melt from surrounding
mountain glaciers and snow fields. It was very scenic, to say
the least, and nearby are beautiful rivers with trout species,
some not found in North America that can grow to more than 36
This writer can attest to the beauty of the land, because
I fished Yugoslavia back in the early 1960s. Slovenia was,
of course, one of the republics that made up Yugoslavia.
And yes, they do have yard-long trout (known as zubatec
trout), and the streams are gorgeous, but this trip belongs
to tournament casting. Hopefully our electronic and print
media will wake up one day, and say, "You know what, J. B?
We should cover this tournament casting...it's looks like
it could be one heckuva sport if we promote it."
Yeah, one day this will happen.
In the meantime, Z-z-z-z-z-z. ~ Jim C. Chapralis
Jim Chapralis is a world traveler, a pioneer in the international fishing
travel business, and author, most recently of Fishing Passion,
reviewed in our Book Review section. He is an avid angler - and caster.
Currently involved with the 94th Annual National Casting
Tournament July 29 to August 3, 2002. You can reach Jim via his