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Rod Review

Can't Find Exactly What You Need in a New Fishing Rod? Maybe It's Time You Considered Custom!

Date: 11/13/08
Tackle type: Rod
Manufacturer: Custom
Reviewer: Cal






Introduction: Despite the overwhelming selection of manufactured rods in today's market and e-market place, there comes a time in most every serious tackle enthusiast's maturation where the available product is just not enough. Oh sure, they can find something, but not that one product to satisfy every need. Inevitably, one requirement or even two will have to be sacrificed. When compromise is not an option, the next logical step is to go custom, but to the uninitiated, this route can be a daunting path and one where the question of worth will always surface. What do you think? Are you ready to go custom?

Welcome to the world of custom rods...

How Much? The first question that pops into most new custom rod clients has to do with cost. How much is this stick going to run me? Trouble is, without relaying exactly what you want in your stick, it's difficult for any reputable builder to give an accurate price. Variables such as blank, components, detailing, and grip composition and configuration all have a profound influence on what the final product will be. Imagine trying to estimate any custom order product without performance and design parameters regarding materials and construction - it's impossible!


... where clean detailing is the norm...

Custom vs Factory: The one aspect you can count on, with regards to cost is a custom rod will more than likely end up being more than a similarly built factory stick. The order of magnitude difference, again relies on the components chosen, but can be estimated anywhere between twenty to one hundred percent or even more. Comparing apples to apples specifications, there are no cost savings in going custom.

... and convention is boring.

The Requirements: But before you even consider going down this path and choosing your component specifications, sit down and think hard about what you want to do with this new rod and why you cannot find what you want from a factory stick because you will need to communicate this information to your builder.

This custom colored seat is almost an exact match for the 2005 Airy Red Pixy

Another look at this handsome combo.

From that point, it should be an open line of communication with a lot of back and forth questions and answers to help you both narrow down the components, set expectations, and work on a price and timeline. The more information you can provide and the more decisions you can make, right down to what reel is going to sit on this rod, the better your final product will be.

A split carbon rear grip?

What kind of questions should you expect? Well, it starts with how you intend to use the rod and ranges to what kind of guides do you want. What material do you want for the grip? Do you want a standard grip configuration or do you not want a foregrip? Maybe split the rear grip? Would you like to add a balancing kit at the end of your rod? What style of reel seat - exposed blank, non-exposed blank, split, skeletal, or other? Do you have a brand preference for the reel seat? Do you want any winding checks? Where, how many, and what color? Do you want your winding checks smooth or gnarled? Oh, and what blank are you thinking of? Or would you like a suggestion? Do you know what reel will you be mounting on this new stick? Do you want the ultimate in light weight, or are you looking for something highly detailed? Something in between? Maybe you have some photographs or links to the look you wish to achieve.

Maybe you prefer something a bit more conventional...

These are but a sample of the questions that need to be answered before your journey with a custom rod can even begin. A reputable builder will ask you all of these questions and more, so be prepared to think this through. You can literally spend weeks specifying every aspect of your new stick before a single part is ordered and all this takes a tremendous amount of time and foresight by your builder of choice, so be wary of this time investment and do not venture down this path if you are not serious about your needs.

With just a hint of refinement - note the silver winding check.

Options: In some cases, it needn't be this complicated. Maybe you want a simple factory-style wrap but executed by a custom builder so you can be sure guide placement and quality of the actual build is carefully controlled. Even a rod built in this manner can be noticeably more crisp and responsive than a factory stick. But on the other end of the spectrum, what are some of the options a custom builder can bring to the table? Let's take a look concentrating on some of the available options when deciding on the specifications for a custom casting rod.

A split reelseat is made by cutting away the entire center section.

The Reel Seat: You might be surprised to learn the many options that are available with just the reel seat alone. Custom builders can offer you anything from the standard, off the shelf available product, to custom cut creations like a split or skeletal reel seats where either the middle section of the reel seat is cut away entirely (split seat), or the bottom half of the seat is shaved away leaving the flat platform upon which your reel rests (skeletal). These two, minimalist seats provide the user more contact with the blank while palming the reel which some feel afford more sensitivity while fishing.

This is a sample of a skeletal reel seat as found on the first generation Berkley Series One production rods.


This model even had a cut away trigger.


Spiral vs Conventional Wrap: Of course, the most confusing option for those unaccustomed to specifying their own sticks is the debate over conventional or spiral wrapped guides. Most builders recommend a spiral wrap for casting rods because it minimizes twisting loads on the rod blank which will eventually equate to a final product that should last you longer. Contrary to some beliefs, there are no affects one way or the other in terms of casting distance, but a spiral wrapped rod does allow for the use of fewer guides and less double footed guides which will eventually result in a lighter and better balanced stick overall.


The spiral wrap might not be for everyone, but this eccentric guide arrangement does serve a purpose.

We may only be discussing a few grams of overall weight at this point, but when cantilevered over the length of the rod, these few grams will have a greater effect on balance than you might think.

Matt Davis of Otterods wrapped this rod for me on a Shikari SHX blank.


Of course, the difficulty most have with spiral wrapped rods is getting over their unconventional appearance. This is an obstacle only you can decide if you can overcome. There should be no cost difference in going from a conventional wrap to spiral or vice versa during the specification of your custom rod.


Understated thread highlights vs...

... something a bit more daring.

Next Section: Let's talk grips









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