Tips and Tricks to Building a Custom Rod

Post by : 
Joe Allan
Thursday, April 27, 2017

There is no doubt that in the last couple of years there has been a spike in custom rod building. It’s funny because 10 years ago many tournament anglers used custom rods because there was a limited amount of top end rods to choose from. Most would say that there was only G Loomis or top end Daiwa to choose from straight off the shelf. The last decade has seen a boom in quality tournament style lure casting rods at many different levels. You can pay anywhere from about $180 for a 

There is no doubt that in the last couple of years there has been a spike in custom rod building. It’s funny because 10 years ago many tournament anglers used custom rods because there was a limited amount of top end rods to choose from. Most would say that there was only G Loomis or top end Daiwa to choose from straight off the shelf. The last decade has seen a boom in quality tournament style lure casting rods at many different levels. You can pay anywhere from about $180 for a cheaper alternative rod to $900-$1000 for top end rods and for almost every style or application. Fisherman are never satisfied with anything though and most love something special and a little different from the next guy. That special lure or fly rod made from a weird and wonderful new material that only you can get your hands on. It’s that exact reason that fisherman love a custom built rod. It’s the rod that even your most trusted fishing companion will never have exactly the same as you. Your own colour scheme, your own length (I prefer shorter rods then the standard 7ft as I’m a little vertically challenged) and your own personal touch like name tags, logo’s and trick patterns.

If you’re thinking that sounds pretty awesome, but I don’t have the set up at home to do a custom build, you might be surprised at how cheap you can purchase the necessary equipment to get the job done properly. If you’re only building a few rods you do not need a professional lathe set up which can set you back anywhere from $600-$1500.

The first step in fishing rod building is choosing the rod components that will suit your style of fishing and the species you're after. Here are a few things to consider when selecting fishing rod parts.

Blanks:

Graphite is the most common material used in building tournament style rods. It is produced using extremely high temperatures in a two-part process, one to create tensile strength and one for stiffness. Generally, the hotter the furnace in each process the more tensile strength and stiffness the fibres will have, which means you need less material to build a rod, and the rods you do build can be lighter and more sensitive.

The best rods get their specific actions by using a variety of materials, and by using layers of different graphite and/or fiberglass.

There are many blanks that you can buy off the shelf from many tackle shop. Samurai blanks produced by Frogleys Offshore have been used by some of the countries most respected custom rod builders for almost 20 years. There is a huge range of lengths, strengths, tapers and weights available. Remember though, you can customise this to exactly what you’re after. If you like a shorter rod, chop some off. If you like a longer rod, there are rod blanks as long as 7ft 6inch. 

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Grips and Reel Seats:

Handle style, material, and length will depend on the fishing rod blank you choose, the manner in which the rod is to be used as well as personal preference. Grips are typically made of cork or EVA/foam. Cork grips have a high performance look and feel unmatched by other materials. Foam grips will absorb more punishment than cork. Cork grips usually have small inside diameters so they can be used on a variety of different blanks. Most cork grips will require enlarging the inside diameter to custom fit the blank. This can be done with a cork reamer or carefully with a drill and the correct size drill bit. Care needs to be taken if using a drill as to not split the cork. Foam grips are made from EVA rubber. These days they come in many different sizes, styles and colours from black to grey, and many styles and colours of camouflage.

Reel seats also have evolved in leaps and bounds over recent years. There are many combinations for seats including exposed reel seats with carbon fibre inserts, skeleton, deluxe honey soft, front hood, no hood, fore grip, no fore grip, locking nut, no locking nut to choose from. It’s pretty much mix and match until you have what you’re after. It seems to be the trend of less is best so the exposed and skeleton reel seats are very popular.

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Guides and Tips:

There are many styles of guides to choose from when building a custom rod. Couple that with five or six different ring materials and then throw in different colour frames and you might just be asking yourself what guides should I put on my custom rod?

Keep it simple! First, pick a frame style. Double foot guides are chosen for extra strength. Single foot guides are chosen for light weight and performance.

Choose a ring material. Alconite, Fuji ‘O’ Ring are the most commonly used ring materials in every day rods. Both provide a smooth, long lasting surface. Other ring materials such as Torzite and Silicon carbide provide premium performance and appearance and are more suited to most tournament style lure casting rods.  These do come at an increased cost.

Consider using Torzite or Silicon carbide ringed guides if you use abrasive lines like braid or if you're fishing for species that make long, fast runs. Wire guides are cheaper and lightweight but tend to wear more than ringed guides. Cosmetics are important to most custom rod builders so try to match your frame colour to the reel seat hardware and winding checks.

 

Workshop or Rod Building Set Up:

Binding or wrapping is the process of attaching the guides to the blank. A pretty important of the whole process. The use of a lathe can speed this process up however a simple set up of a few rollers specific for this is easy to handle for the novice. Speed Rollers are available from most tackle shops for around $30 a set. One of the most commonly asked questions about rod binding/wrapping is, "What thread should I use?" The size of the thread will depend on what type of finish you are looking for and how experienced a rod builder you are can also come into play here. Thicker thread(C & D grade) is easier to use and much easier to finish. Fine thread (A) grade is better for harder cross binding, very fine finishes and patterns within the bind. Solid colours are generally used for the bulk of the process like black, royal blue, red and green. Metallic colours are generally used for the trim or accent wraps.

Fuji are the world leader in rod building componentry and have been for a long time. They are the innovators within the industry. Fuji have released into the Australian market a drying rotisserie that will retail around the $150-$160 mark. You just need a bench, an electrical wall socket and you’re good to go. Once you have finished all your binding an epoxy or finish needs to be applied to hold everything in place. All rod Epoxy/finishes are self-levelling and require turning while being applied and drying for best results. That’s where the Fuji Rotisserie will come into its own. You must rotate the rod often and long enough to prevent the finish from sagging after it’s applied. Doing this by hand is a long a tedious process.

If you are interested in looking further into the process, there are numerous how to articles and dvd’s now that can help you through. You can ask your local tackle shop for ‘The Rod Builders Guide’ a dvd that features Gary Howard and Ian Miller giving away their knowledge and secrets. The whole process is not that difficult and with a little practice you can produce some pretty cool designs. Maybe get and old broken rod and practice some binding before trying on the blank you eventually choose. People that have custom built their own rod and caught a fish on it will tell you it’s a pretty satisfying feeling.