Fishing Rod Blanks

A Rod's Blank Is Its Foundation
Weak Foundation, Weak Rod

 I doubt many would argue that fishing rod blanks are the most important of the several fishing rod components which make up a completed bass fishing rod.


Fishing rods are an assemblage of several different parts

So what are the parts of a fishing rod? The blank for one, the very foundation if you will. But there are also grips, handles, reel seats, guides, wrapping thread and even epoxy. How these elements are combined to make a rod determine the rod's power and action. Every fishing rod manufacturer has their own "formula" of how to build fishing rods upon which they place their name, and reputation. They may buy ready "rolled" blanks or order the carbon (graphite) sheets and roll their own blanks. Some have the graphite prepreg (pre-impregnated with resin) fishing rod blanks made to their own specifications. Others may buy domestically or import already formed rod blanks from China or other overseas sources.

But they all must start with fishing rod blanks. With bass rods these blanks are usually graphite or fiberglass or more commonly, a combination of the two. There are strengths and weaknesses to both materials which can be partly remedied by a composite construction.

Listen, a person can get so confused trying to fully understand the terminology of fishing rod components, especially fishing rod blanks, their head can explode. So I'm going to try and keep it simple with minimal technical explanation. I have to, otherwise I won't understand it myself!

But it is important to have a basic understanding of what goes into rod construction and that all fishing rod components are not created equal so all rods are not equal in quality and performance.


Fishing Rod Components

Blanks, Scrims and Resin - The Stuff From Which Rods Are Made


Blank

At the risk of over simplifying, it can be said that there are three primary "ingredients" that go into the cake mix that ends up being the fiber matrix from which fishing rod blanks are made. Of course graphite (carbon fiber) is the main ingredient and the most abundant of the ingredients, in a graphite fishing rod. In the case of fiberglass fishing rods the main ingredient is, surprise, surprise, fiberglass. Fiberglass rod blanks are sheets just like graphite blanks.

Scrim

Next, there is a substance called "scrim" that is either a thin fiberglass or graphite mesh, like a fabric. Because graphite fibers resist bending and do so to a greater extent the higher its modulus, it becomes necessary to place a thin layer of woven scrim (either graphite or usually, fiberglass) over a graphite blank (sheet). Why? This coating gives the graphite "hoop" strength. OK, what's hoop strength? It's what helps maintain the circular shape of the finished rod shaft when it's bending. When a rod bends under load the underside is compressed while the top side stretches or elongates. The scrim is what prevents the rod from breaking. It also is what enables the rod to return to its round shape when the load is removed.

Resin

Lastly, there is resin, which can be considered the glue or binder that holds the blank and scrim together. The type and quantity used has significant effect on the ultimate action of a rod. Today, in fact, resins are the most manipulated by technology of the three ingredients.

Because of this, resins offer the greatest range of current and future performance modifying alternatives for fishing rod blanks of the rod companies.


Graphite Fishing Rods - Lightweight, Highly Sensitive

Graphite (actually carbon) is the material from which fishing rods have been made for some time. The material is very light and extremely sensitive. The material is also flexible and possessed of inordinate strength. Graphite fibers are identified as having various measures of modulus. Modu-what??

  • Modulus, as relates to graphite fishing rods, is a term that relates to the degree of stiffness or resistance to bending. The higher the modulus, the stiffer the material by weight. What this means is, the higher the modulus the thinner the material can be with which to make a rod possessing strength equal to or greater than one using cheaper materials. The higher the modulus, which is described in measure of millions of msi such as 24 million modulus, 33 million modulus, 50 million modulus etc., the stronger the material for its weight. This translates into a stronger but "lighter, more sensitive smaller diameter" rod. Something all bass fisherman want, right?. Unfortunately, the higher the modulus of the graphite fibers used to make a rod, the more expensive and the more brittle is the graphite rod. Because of this brittleness it's easier to break more these more expensive rods, though not through use, but through careless handling. They will rarely fail when doing what they were designed to do. But they do not stand up to careless handling. So, considering the preceding, don't base your rod decision solely on its modulus rating. For really high performance rods, factors such as amount of fiber, fiber strength, resin toughness, and overlapping number of graphite layers are equally, if not more important, than the modulus rating of the graphite fibers used. Engineering, design and materials, in addition to graphite fiber modulus, is what enables a company to create rods that are characterized as light weight, high modulus and with a high strain-rate.
  • Tensile strength or "strain rate", is also an important part of the equation. It's the kissing cousin of modulus. This is the ability of a material to stretch, elongate. The tensile strength of your rod is the amount of stretch it can endure without breaking and then snap back to it's original shape. An important feature for a fishing rod wouldn't you agree?
  • IM-6 What is the significance of IM6, IM7 or any IM designation relative to graphite fishing rods? Not much really, despite the fact rod companies are always throwing it in your face. While modulus rating is important relative to strength and weight of a rod, these numbers themselves mean nothing. These are merely identifying names originally assigned by the Hexel Corporation to its different graphite fishing rod blanks. They are not industry wide indicators of standards of quality! One company's IM6 may be another companies IM8. Don't get hung up on these identifiers.


Fiberglass Fishing Rods - Soft Action and Tough

Fiberglass is another material from which rods are made and in fact, have been for many years. Many bass fishermen complain that fiberglass rods lack sensitivity, a most important trait you don't want missing from your bass fishing rods. Fiberglass rods usually have a modulus in the range of 6-13 million so are less stiff and less brittle than graphite. A positive for some clutzy or clumsy footed bass anglers. However, fiberglass rods are heavier than comparable graphite rods.

  • E Glass has been around for over 60 years. It is the "glass" used in over over 90% of fiberglass rod blanks on the market. It is characterized as a material of strength and durability. Compared to other rod materials it can be considered heavy.
  • S Glass is an improved material over E Glass. This material produces very light, very sensitive blanks used in rods designed for light line and light lures. Unfortunately, to obtain light weight, these fishing rod blanks must be made extremely thin, as fiberglass is a heavy material and the only way to lighten it is to remove material. The thin walls make the rods quite susceptible to breaking.



Most Likely Your Rod Is A Composite

Composites are manufactured from blends of both graphite and fiberglass. In fact, the greatest number of bass fishing rods on the market today are composites. They tend to be very light but are amazingly durable even when abused. Rods that are composite construction are often found with modulus ratings between 33 million to 42 million. Along with this they have high strain rates of 680,000, 700,000 or higher. These measures translate into rods that are sensitive and responsive but without outrageous costs to we anglers.


A Carrot You Can't Eat



Curran is, no kidding, carrot fiber (think Bugs Bunny) and new to the world of fishing rod blanks. It's alleged to be lighter than graphite while having the same degree of stiffness. The manufacturer (E-21 Carrot Stix) claims rods made from this material have the same strength and toughness of fiberglass rods and are as light and sensitive as comparable graphite rods.

These rods are not currently 100% carrot fiber. They are manufactured with graphite core. So the rods are a somewhere around 20-30% carbon fiber and 70% carrot fiber.

I have one of these carrot fiber rods. It's a spinning rod item number CL TX671M-MF-S, 6'7", lure weight 3/16-5/8oz, line weight 2-8lbs. I've been satisfied but not overwhelmed with it's performance. I do find it a bit stiffer than a comparable graphite rod like my Shimano Cumara CUS-68M, 6'8", medium-fast, lure weight 1/8-3/8oz, line weight 6-12lbs, for example. For me, the jury is still out on curran rods.



Is A "Quality" Rod Always A "GOOD" Rod?

Fishing rod blanks, where do they come from? As with so many other things these days fishing rod blank sheets, to a large extent, come from overseas. There are still some companies that make theirs from pre-preg fishing rod blanks ordered to their unique specifications, at least for their "top end" high modulus rods. G. Loomis and St. Croix are two for sure and Lamiglas may do so as well. There may be others.

But be aware that it's not just fishing rod blanks that make a quality rod. A good rod is the sum of its parts and how they're combined. It's the extra steps and/or proprietary materials a company uses to make their rods "better" that set them apart. It is quite simply, engineering and design.

So what you have read above is information about the composition of fishing rod blanks. An important consideration, no doubt, in the manufacturing of fishing rods. But it is not to be taken as the "single" most important consideration when choosing which bass fishing rod to purchase.

High modulus graphite rods are desirable if you want the highest performance rod you can get. The trade off, besides high cost, is the increased demand for special care to avoid breaking the rod. If you're a 'shuffle footed" clutz you may want to drop down to a lower modulus rod or one made from "composite" blank material. Of course some degree of performance will be sacrificed in doing this but the greatest number of fishing rods today are made from composite material, a mixture of carbon fiber (what we call graphite) and fiberglass.

Remember, more goes into making a "good" rod than its specific carbon fiber's modulus rating. Action, taper, power, handle configuration, guide number, placement and quality, wrapping thread and correct application to a given fishing situation, plus modulus, combine to make a "good" rod.

So what is a "good" rod? One that performs well under a given set of conditions for a particular bass angler.

Whew! That's all I want to say on this topic. Otherwise I'm going to need a chemist and an engineer.




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