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