The science of custom fishing rods...

I work closely with my customers to design each rod to meet their specific needs.  Each rod is crafted to the highest standards of quality and workmanship with every detail considered.  Read on to find out about attributes of a custom crafted Reel Rod that you will not find in an off-the-shelf rod, no matter what the price.  

Blanks

Components

Spine

Guide Placement

Spiral Guide Placement... What is it?

Sensitivity

Grip Construction

Casting Distance

Rod Balance

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Rod Blanks

There are a nearly endless variety of rod blanks available to the custom rod builder.  If needed, a blank can be modified (shortened or extended) to suit particular needs if the desired action isn't otherwise available.  I have virtually all brands of blanks available to me, including popular brands such as G. Loomis, St. Croix, All Star, Lamiglas, Calstar, Seeker, Rogue, Graphite USA, Rainshadow & Forecast, Pacific Bay, American Tackle, Gatti, Sage, Winston, Scott, Thomas & Thomas, and many more.

The following is some terminology used to describe rod blanks:

Action

Where most of the initial flex in a rod blank takes place. Fast Action rods will flex mostly in the upper 1/3rd of their length. Moderate Action rods in the upper 1/2 of their length. Slow Action rods flex along their entire length. See Graphic Here.

Modulus

Or with regard to the fibers used to make fishing rods, "Modulus of Elasticity," refers to the relationship between stress and strain. In more simple terms relative to rod building, it usually defines the stiffness to weight ratio of the fibers used to construct the rod blank. Generally speaking, the higher the modulus of the fiber used to make the blank, the lighter the resulting blank can be for any given stiffness because less material is needed to create the desired action (e.g. 57 million modulus graphite is stiffer than 44 million modulus).  Because of this, higher modulus rods may also be less tolerant of abuse than lower modulus rods.

Power

Generally used to describe a rod or blank's stiffness or resistance to bending.  Usually described as Ultralight, Light, Medium, Medium/Heavy, Heavy, etc.  This property is also reflected in the lure and line ratings of the rod.

Spine

Also called the "Effective Spine", this is an effect in the blank that is created by several manufacturing anomalies. The result is that the rod blank will favor bending along a particular axis when load is applied.  When building any rod, I identify the spine and align the guides and reel seat accordingly to create the desired action.

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Component Selection  

I select from the highest quality components available on the market today.  Moreover, I will recommend components that meet your needs (both functionally and aesthetically) at the most reasonable price possible.  Brands include FujiREC, Struble, Aftco, American Tackle, Pacific Bay, Lakeland and more.  Such choices are not an option in commercially made rods. 

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Spine

All rod blanks have a preferred stress curve.  This stress curve (commonly called the spine) can be oriented to provide you with optimum tracking on the cast,  or it may be set up so that you have maximum response and hooks setting power, depending on your needs. Commercial rod manufacturers can't really take the time to do this.  They aren't building rods specific for the individual. 

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Guide Placement   

Each rod blank is unique.   Because of this, I do not use generic guide placement charts to place guides on the rod.  Instead, each guide is carefully selected and placed for maximum rod performance according to established scientific principles to provide optimal stress distribution, maximum casting distance, and maximum sensitivity.    Proper guide placement minimizes the stress on the line as well as the rod blank when battling that trophy fish.

Each guide foot is ground to a fine taper,  polished to a fine finish, and carefully fitted to the rod individually.  This prevents damage to the blank caused by a rough or improperly aligned guide foot.  Under-wrapping the guides is generally not necessary when guide feet are prepared properly.

Stress distribution testing is conducted on each rod to assure stress is distributed uniformly on the blank and the line.  Casting tests are used to fine tune the placement of the guides in the butt section to assure maximum casting distance with the type of reel, line, and lure sizes that will be used.  This is the essence of a custom fishing rod. 

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Spiral Guide Placement  

Spiral wrapped casting rods combine the stability and sensitivity of spinning rods, with the hook setting and fish fighting power of casting rods.  In this configuration, the first three guides (double foot guides) will transition the line to the underside of the rod where it remains out to the tip.  In this orientation, single foot guides can often be used in the tip section, resulting in a lighter, more sensitive tip compared to double foot guides used on most commercial rods.

 Spiral guide placement is physically the best guide placement for casting rods to minimize stress to the line and rod blank and to maximize sensitivity. 

  • It eliminates twisting of the rod under load because the guides are on the underside of the blank.  

  • It eliminates side-to-side stress on the guides that occurs with traditional casting rod guide placement..  

  • It can allow fewer, smaller, and lower frame guides in the tip section.  This results in greater sensitivity and a crisp feel. 

Contrary to what you might think,  there is no loss in casting distance from a properly built spiral wrapped casting rod.  These are only available from custom builders... Try one and you'll never go back.

Spiral wrapping works great on most bait casting, live bait, jigging, mooching, and trolling rods.  Even surf rods and heavy offshore big game rods can benefit from this guide placement method.

Notice, in this photo (click here) how the guides are placed such that, when the rod is stressed, the line only contacts the base or top of the guide ring.  This is an example of a proper spiral guide placement designed for a specific rod and reel... something that you can't get from a mass-produced rod.

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Sensitivity 

Sensitivity is a function of the weight and stiffness of the rod.  The stiffer and lighter the rod, the more sensitive to vibration it will be.  A rod can be made more or less sensitive depending on how it is built.  For instance, lighter guides on the tip section will create a more sensitive tip because of  the weight reduction.  Single foot guides are dramatically lighter than double foot guides on the tip section because they require half the thread and finish that would be required for securing double foot guides.

The grip material plays a significant role in transmitting vibration to the anglers hand.  The lighter and more dense the grip material, the more effective it will be at transmitting vibration.  Also, the method for attaching the reel seat to the blank can make a big difference in the sensitivity of the rod.  When done properly, the reel seat is attached with methods that minimize weight while maximizing the strength of the bond.  Reel seats may have a section of exposed blank to allow the finger to actually contact the blank while fishing.  

While sensitivity is important, it is only one aspect of the overall rod action.  With custom rods, the goal is to design a rod with the action that is most appropriate for its intended use.  For some applications a stiffer blank is not necessarily appropriate.  For example, for sturgeon fishing and other live bait applications, a soft and flexible tip is often preferred so that soft bites can be visually detected and so that there is minimal resistance on the bait.  In this example, the overall rod action becomes more important than sensitivity per se.  These subtle nuances will be considered and discussed when selecting your rod blank to assure a proper fit to your fishing application.

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Grip Construction  

Grips may be designed for specific attributes that the angler is in search of.  These include lightness of weight, durability, sensitivity, comfort, and aesthetic appeal.  Most often, the angler is in search of several of these properties.  Popular grip materials include:

  • Burl Cork - a man-made cork composite that is very light, dense, aesthetically appealing, and economical.

  • Natural Cork - the standard for freshwater rods... light, firm, and supple.  However, high grade natural cork is now in short supply and becoming quite expensive relative to other materials such as burl cork.

  • EVA Foam - Ethylene Vinyle Acetate synthetic foam material. Available in various grades and hardnesses, the more firm variety makes an excellent and lightweight rod grip material. Not as resilient as Hypalon, but considerably lighter in weight.

  • Hypalon -  While it is used in a variety of industrial applications, it has long been used with good results in the form of rod grips. Somewhat heavy and less firm than EVA, but extremely resistant to sunlight, solvents and detergents.

  • Cork Tape - Usually comprised of a composite of cork and rubber.  Primarily used for large diameter surf rods.

  • Quick Grip - A hard vulcanized rubber that is applied as a heavy duty heat shrink, usually on large diameter surf rods.  Much more durable than cork tape.  May be somewhat less aesthetically appealing to some.  

The Rod Photos page shows some examples of many of these types of grip materials.

In my other life I am involved in the field of occupational ergonomics.  I design grips to fit the angler... so the angler doesn't have to fit the grips.  I take into consideration such things as the size of the anglers hand, the length of the forearm, and the type of grasp the angler prefers when holding the rod for casting and reeling.  

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Casting Distance   

Casting distance can be maximized with the proper guide placement.  Whenever possible, I will request that customers provide me with the reel loaded with the line that will be used on the rod being built so that the guides can be placed in the optimum position for maximum performance.  This involves test casting and adjusting guide position and size appropriately so that distance-robbing line slap and bunching is minimized, shock leader knots (if used) are passed easily through the guides, and casting distance is maximized.  Particularly with spinning rods, you will rarely find an off-the shelf rod that performs as well as a properly built custom rod designed in this manner.  The smooth and noiseless efficiency of casting a custom built spinning rod is truly a thing of beauty. 

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Rod Balance   

Depending on the style of fishing, rod balance can play a significant role on the fatigue you feel after a long day's fishing.  By understanding your fishing style, I can do a lot to reduce strain and stress by properly balancing the rod.  A steelhead fisherman, for instance, would gain tremendous benefit from a properly balanced rod, even if it meant adding a bit of weight to the butt to put the rod in proper balance.  The stress on the muscles of the hand and forearm can otherwise become quite significant, possibly even causing one to cut the day short because of fatigue.  


 

 

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Revised: January 19, 2006 .