Mackellow won the world casting championship three times. He was the United Kingdom Surfcasting Federation champion seven times and has placed in the top three in UKSF national competitions 64 times, including 36 victories. His cast of nearly 290 yards remains the longest cast recorded for 14 years - from 1983 to 1997.
As an aside, he also once won a bet by casting on a regulation baseball on a rod and reel from home plate over the center-field fence at Camden Yards in Baltimore - 410 feet - at an Orioles game.
Competition casting and fishing sound like they'd require separate skill sets, but Mackellow says that's rarely the case.
"I was just a fisherman who discovered a natural talent for hurling a weight a long way," he said. Most distance casters are fishermen first, he said, not the other way around.
The need to cast farther has received more attention overseas than here, mainly because it's so often necessary to get to the fish there.
Mackellow has a Web page where he demonstrates it in both still shots and a short video. The site also includes tips on tuning reels for maximum efficiency, products, knots and other technical topics. Go to neilmackellow.sea-angler.org
The equipment Mackellow uses is absolutely high-tech. But it's not anything an angler here can't duplicate with a little searching and some capital outlay. If you want to have some fun, go to www.veals.co.uk
, an British online retailer, for reels, rods, line and accessories you've never seen before.
Mackellow uses a Penn 525 Mag reel that is similar to the ones sold in the U.S, but all the reels sold in Europe are shipped first to a plant in Scotland where, under his guidance, they get a little special attention - turbo-charging if you will - before going on the retail shelves. While the vast majority of serious casters in Europe use the baitcaster-style reel - called "multiplying reels" over there - Mackellow says a good spinning reel on the right rod blank is a deadly, long-distance tool.
"The multiplier reel only becomes more effective once you're past about 450 feet," he says - or a football field and-a-half.
Every element of the rod-and-reel system plays an important role in achieving distance in the cast.
The components must be matched. The blank should be at least 12 feet and stiff enough on the tip to cast 6 ounces of lead. The guides need to be of quality and properly spaced to prevent line slap on the blank. The reel needs just the right amount of line on it and the correct pound test.
He prefers 16-pound test, but it carries about 25 feet of 80-pound leader at the terminal end - needed to withstand the force of the cast. But the real key to getting more out of your casts is learning how to "load" the rod during the cast.
That's the arc you see (or try to see) in a caster's rod that unleashes the energy needed to fire the weight great distances.
"A rod," Mackellow will tell you, "is like a longbow. It's no good 'til it's almost busted."
But Mackellow cautions that a big mistakes a caster can make is trying too hard. Casting should be smooth and look effortless, with both feet planted firmly on the sand. And he says that a majority of surf fishermen, once they become practiced at distance casting, will usually pass the majority of fish on the beach. He says you aim for the sloughs and breaks wherever they are In surf fishing, long distance casting is a tool - not an outcome - used to catch more fish.
Jim Sutton, The Times-Union Jacksonville.com