Custom Fishing Rods: Buy or Build?
Anyone interested in getting their hands on custom fishing rods has likely wondered if building themselves was a viable option. Here’s a brief list of questions and answers that may help you reach a decision.
Q: Are you handy?
A: Rod building requires the mastery of some special skills but it’s not rocket science. If you have limited tools and enjoy “tinkering”, you can probably build a custom fishing rod. Most importantly, a custom rod that does just what you want does not have to be a “work of art”. There are great rods in service that are wrapped in black thread with no frills of any kind. Think of them as “tools”. If you want your portrait woven into the butt wrap and your signature reproduced on the rod…maybe a custom fishing rod is the way to go.
Q: Is there an initial investment in equipment?
A: The cost of equipment can be a deal breaker for someone who wants to see if they have what it takes. What if the answer after one custom fishing rod is “no”. The good news is your first effort can be cobbled together with items around the house right now. A rod turning lathe, for example, can be as simple as a cardboard box with “V”-shaped cutouts on either end to hold the rod while you wrap guides. Or maybe some old skateboard wheels bolted to a piece of plywood.
Thread to wrap guides can be passed through a book to create proper tension while doing your custom fishing guide wraps. A few plastic cups, a razor blade, cork reamers, throw-away brushes, sandpaper and some denatured alcohol for clean-up and you’re off and running. Here’s a “fancy” box wrapper.
You can build this one or use it as a springboard for your own ideas.
Q: How will I ever figure out what to buy?
A: This is where most people give up when they should press ahead. There is a long list of retail dealers out there that would love to get your call. Rods require a sizable list of individual parts but on your first rod, think about prepackaged offerings. A handle “kit” will include the reel seat and matching cork or EVA grip set – all the parts for a handle. A guide “kit” will give you all of the CORRECT guides for your rod.
Then, all you need is a blank. Try a few of these sites and browse around. You’ll start to realize what your options are and be much more informed when you make the call. Also keep in mind that a custom rod builder has been down this road many times and will know exactly what to order based on the rods purpose and budget – that alone may be worth the money.
There are many more retail dealers but these will get you started. As mentioned, a dealer will be happy to help but you should at least be able to provide a starting point. For example, tell them you want to build a 7ft carbon fiber spinning rod for 15lb test braid to fish for bass. Most component dealers will instantly know what questions to ask to pull your order together. So will a custom rod builder.
Q: How much will I save?
A: Custom rod builders get paid for time and expertise. The $500 rod you so desperately covet is still going to cost $225 to $275 if you build it yourself with premium components and may cost more than a premium factory rod if a custom fishing rod builder takes the project. So, going at it alone is not as expensive as a premium factory rod, but it’s not going to result in a $500 rod for $50. Ask yourself some basic questions.
- Do you currently fish “expensive” rods and understand the subtle advantages of a lightweight, sensitive, 100% carbon fiber blank with titanium guides and the latest carbon handle?
- Have you been wanting to make that leap but just can’t see spending $500 on a rod?
If you answer yes to such questions you should try building your own rod. You will not match the skill of a custom builder on your first attempt but you will be on your way to high-functioning equipment at substantial savings.
Q: Okay, I’m in. What now?
A: The best course of action (with any hobby) is to begin by reading and watching videos. There is a wealth of information available. Below are a few spots to visit on your journey.
Mudhole maintains the most complete selection of educational tools on the internet, basics to advanced rod techniques.
Anglers Workshop has a collection of videos from Flex Coat, the leading maker of rod finish. Roger Seiders is one of the best teachers in the industry and his videos are a pleasure to watch.
Here is a paperback written by Flex Coat that covers the entire process. Maybe the best $7 investment you can make.
Here’s a broader overview from Terry Scroggins, pro bass fisherman.
For a broader understanding of guides and how to use them, Anglers Resource, the North American agent for Fuji Rod Components has an in depth review of all sorts of guides as well as unique software to help you position guides on your blank.
At the end of the day, some fishermen are cut-out for this sort of custom fishing rod project, some are not. If the information here has stirred some thought, perhaps you are a fisherman who will value and appreciate the satisfaction of setting the hook and landing a fish on a rod you built yourself. If not, find a good custom fishing rods builder and share your idea of the “perfect” rod. Either way, it will make your day on the water a little more special.