What To Look For In Fishing Rod Guides
If you’re of a certain age, you will remember an old automobile tire advertisement which featured the line ”Where the Rubber Meets the Road”. This old ad stressed the point that good tires made for a better and safer ride for our cars. To paraphrase that old tire ad, it might be said that fishing rod guides are where “the line meets the rod.” Just as good tires are safer and more secure for car operators, good line guides are better at protecting fishing line and getting fish back to the angler.
Whether an angler is a rod builder or a rod buyer, those line guides are of crucial importance to the effectiveness of all fishing rods, and the line guides need some attention to ensure long service and good results.
Materials- What Makes up the Guide
When we take time to think about it, rod guides take a lot of abuse. There’s the constant pressure of the line working through the guides, and when a big fish is hooked, the guides absorb a lot of the weight which the fish presents.
Fishing rod guides need to be made of strong, lightweight, corrosion resistant stuff, especially those rods used for saltwater fishing.
It is possible to find “no name” guides which can give good service for a long time. These unadvertised and unnamed guides can be found online and from various rod building suppliers. However, some real junky line guides made of weak, wimpy materials can also be found, and it is very hard for a buyer or builder to be able to tell what kind of guides are on a rod which carries no branding.
However, there are some brands and names which have come to represent good quality line guides at a good price. When it comes to line guides which have a long time reputation for good service and quality build, it’s hard to beat Fuji guides.
According to Jim Ising, marketing director and technical consultant for Angler’s Resource that known brands offer more value in their product selections.
“Many brands of components will get the job done, but the better known the brand, the more likely you will find value in the selections offered,” Ising said. “Top quality polished or stainless frames with SIC rings from Fuji are made in the same molds and built identically to less costly stainless frames with economical aluminum oxide rings. The value of top quality manufacturing is built into every component.”
Wrapping- Attachment to Rod Blank
Even if a rod builder uses the best line guides possible, if the guides are not applied to the rod blank properly with great attention to detail, the rod will not give good service.
Wrapping rod guides is a skill developed over a lot of time and requires a lot of practice. Good guide wrapping requires choosing the right thickness of thread, the right thread material, and very smooth laying down of the line itself on the feet of the guide. Smooth wraps don’t just happen. They are achieved with effort and close attention in ensuring a smooth, non-overlapping uniform wrap which will hold the line guide securely to the blank and give many years of good service.
“Threads do not overlap and there are no gaps in the wrap. Wraps are short to reduce weight overall. The epoxy finish is smooth and level with no ‘football’ shapes or places where thread shows through. The finish should be high-gloss with no runs or drips,” Ising explained.
Construction- How the Guide is Made
How a set of guides is actually put together is a point for rod builders in particular to be on constant awareness. Any time small, precisely machined parts are involved, there is a fair chance that some errors in construction can emerge.
For instance, a set of rod guides I purchased for a fly rod build appeared at first to be fine. However, once the guides were examined closely it was clear that the feet of some of the guides were uneven and did not fit down on the rod blank. Some of the larger guides of this set did not have the feet machined down to a tapering topside, which made wrapping the guides impossible. This set of guides was returned for exchange which delayed the rod build quite some time.
For anglers who buy their rods factory made, line guide construction should not be a major concern, However, guides can get bent and even crushed in shipment and display on store shelves, so anglers purchasing a new rod from any store should closely examine each of the fishing rod eyes to make sure that they are in good shape.
This is particularly important for line guides with ceramic rings. These ceramic rings do reduce friction and can increase casting distance, but when those ceramic rings get cracked, they can be very hard on the fishing line.
“Guides look very similar but a close examination will reveal substantial differences in ‘fit and finish’,” Ising noted. “Look for poorly polished surfaces which contribute to early corrosion and any gaps that appear in the epoxy used to secure the ring to the frame. Feet should be level to ensure a ‘flat’ contact with the blank and frame legs should be square. Check for sharp edges on the feet that can actually gouge the blank and lead to early rod failure.
Recommended Line Guide Brands
“Most rod builders will agree that Fuji brand guides are the number one choice of builders worldwide. Part of the reason is the attention to detail and overall quality, but it also has a lot to do with the fact Fuji is the only company driving innovation in the component industry. Every major advancement in guide technology has come from Fuji for almost 50 years. That builds a lot of trust in the marketplace.” Ising said.