Is Fishing Rod Building Something Anyone Can Do?
Information about how to build fishing rods is readily available. Books, articles and tutorials abound. You could choose to start from scratch or turn to rod building kits offered from numerous companies. So some would quickly say yes, no problem. But let's think about that for a second. There are probably many things anyone can do or make. The question is how many can do or make them well.
If you're thinking about purchasing one, maybe even a couple of new fishing rods, you have several options. Purchase over-the- counter name brands, make them yourself or go the way of custom made rods.
Building a Fishing Rod
We're talking about bass fishing rods here. Not rods for panfish, alligator gar or saltwater fish. While each type requires rod blanks and other parts to become a fishing rod, the specific characteristics of the necessary components is different. The quality of the blanks, reel seats, guides, wrapping thread, glues, sealers and other fishing rod parts, and just as importantly the manufacturing processes and skill of the person combining them, is what creates the best fishing rods or the not so good.
Fishing Rod Components
The following items are the primary building blocks of a fishing rod, whether a spinning rod or a casting rod and whether made by a traditional manufacturer, a custom rod building company or you make it. Don't let this short list fool you. There is much more to it than this.
Fishing Rod Manufacturers
Building fishing rods is the core competency of the many rod companies in the U.S. Their products are the choice of the overwhelming number of bass fishermen. Not a bad choice either. I own forty-nine rods. None are custom made rods nor have any been made by me. I have Shimano fishing rods, G. Loomis rods, ABU Garcia rods, St. Croix fishing rods and rods from Duckett, Fenwick, Element 21, Bass Pro Shop, Quantum and Wright & McGill. All are 'finished goods' purchased over the counter.
All of these are good rods and come from a wide price point spread ($89-$365). Some are better quality (different blank and component quality) than others and some perform better than others when judged by my standards. Interestingly, quality doesn't always translate into the best performance. I couldn't prove it scientifically but I firmly believe that the performance of a fishing rod depends on, to a not insignificant extent, the size and skill of the angler, despite its intrinsic quality. I'm 6' 3" tall, weigh 250 pounds and I have big hands. The way I handle any specific rod will differ from that of someone smaller or even larger. Could be better, could be worse.
Do mass produced rods from traditional manufacturers accommodate the average angler or the distinct and many differences of individual bass anglers? Clearly, understandably and reasonably it's the average angler. It's smart business to produce your product to appeal to the bulk of potential customers. Nothing wrong with this approach to fishing rod building. However, doing so requires a degree of component standardization by the company in order to meet price points the average angler can afford and still realize acceptable profits.
Fishing rod building includes numerous steps. Some are not essential to simply creating a rod but are important to the creation of a truly fine fishing rod. These are steps best performed by a skilled specialist applying the handiwork of craftsmanship rather than by passing through an assembly line. Large mass production rod companies may in some cases skip them in the interest of efficiency and cost. Nevertheless, you can likely find a rod to your liking from the large manufacturers. However, if you are in the market for a more custom rod created to your specifications what do you do? You could give DIY fishing rod building a try.
DIY From Scratch or Fishing Rod Kits
Another alternative to acquiring a new fishing rod is to make them yourself. The companies that sell fishing rod building kits and fishing rod building supplies will tell you it's a breeze to build your own. Though there are those that could build a rod with ease that's a pretty broad statement. Don't know about you, but even though I make some of my own lures, making a rod seems a bit more technically challenging.
If you go the DIY route you can buy a kit or gather the various components yourself. In both cases your first, maybe even your second, third or fourth attempt at building a fishing rod will be a process of 'trial and error'. Like anything in life, the more you do it the better you get. Just keep that in mind. Don't expect perfection out of the gate and understand that each attempt costs money.
Also bear in mind that in addition to a fishing rod kit or self gathered rod building materials you will also need some tools and rod building equipment. Such things as rod supports, wrapping devices, drying stands and rod supports. Either store bought or made yourself. Sure, some say all you need is no more than a pocket knife and all the rod building materials. If you have these you're good to go they say.
If there is one truth in life it's that no matter what you do 'it's all about the tools'. No tools or the wrong tools will likely mean frustration, increased cost and a less than satisfactory final project. Ever tried to remove a tightly sunk Phillips head screw with something other than the right size bit? Or a pocket knife? If so, you know what I mean.
I point these things out not to discourage those of you who are drawn to fishing rod building. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction derived from producing something with your own hands. It nurtures the soul, clears the mind and builds confidence. But, realize that if your goal is to save money by building your own rod you will likely be disappointed. Blanks and components are expensive if you're not positioned to purchase them wholesale you can't expect to save any money.
Oh, and remember. Break your home made rod and "who you gonna call"? Take warranty and return policy out of your vocabulary.
Custom Fishing Rod Building
Not many of us, other than the pros, own a truly custom made fishing rod. The obvious reasons are cost, lack of access and the fact that what is available off the shelf meets the needs of most of us. However, there are those who want the very best they can get in terms of quality and performance. Plus they want a one-of a-kind that has been created for their specific needs and which no one else will have. For those folks, custom made rods is what they will seek.
True custom rod building is to be found at custom rod shops such as Cajun Custom Rods in Omaha, Nebraska. These craftsmen will be more likely to select the very best fishing rod blanks (there are some 1,800 to 2,000 from which to choose) and components for their customers. Not the norm of large mass produced rod companies. These specialized shops will in fact take those steps mentioned above that the large companies may skip.
A rod acquired from a custom rod shop is one made to "fit" the angler. It takes into consideration the specifics of the individual and is fishing rod building at its best. Of course a custom rod is not going to be cheap. But just as in building your own rod there is much satisfaction to be gained from having that one-of-a-kind rod made just for you.
Additionally, custom made fishing rods are usually works of art that are esthetically pleasing to the eye. Beauty in whatever form always nurtures the soul.
Future pages will discuss in more detail fishing rod building by large
manufacturers, DIY processes and custom fishing rod shops.
Fishing Rod Blank - A hollow conical tube that is tapered and a defined length that is a composite of carbon, graphite, fiberglass, resin or other hybrid materials. It is the component upon which all other fishing rod parts such as guides and grips are placed.
Scrim - A fiber sheet that is most often woven from graphite, carbon or fiberglass that is soaked with a liquid plastic resin.
Resin - An adhesive that's combined with a scrim to create a prepeg.
Prepreg - Graphite material that is pre-impregnated with resin. Thus the name, "pre-preg".
Mandrel - A tapered steel shaft around which the cut prepeg pattern is wrapped to form a rod blank.
Guides - Rings of various sizes that are placed on the rod blank through which the fishing line flows. They are generally made from steel, chrome plated stainless steel, ceramics, brass or titanium. Some are compounds of carbide or nitride.
Reel Seat - A design feature of the rod that serves to hold the reel to the rod.