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Rod Review

 

Testing a Phenix Blank - A Simple Build, Potential for Lore, Phenix's Ultra Swimbait B-USB-C 790H (continued)

 

Handle Design: Where my usual preference with a swimbait rod is for a full rear grip, I could only find a split grip option within CFX's catalogue to fit the SKTS casting seat. See, the outside diameter of this seat is smaller than that of Fuji's standard seats. So since I was set on the SKTS, for the B-USB-C 790H I settled upon CFX's CSKG3 grip (made specifically to fit behind that reel seat) and a split rear grip configuration for my first build with this blank. Additionally, when using this material for a full handle installation, you're limited in the lengths you can achieve. Not normally an issue with conventional builds, but it can be when wanting an extra-long handle on a swimbait stick. A split rear grip strategy frees you from those restrictions.


Not all reel seats and handle parts are created to match. When ordering handle parts, pay attention to which reel seats are recommended with each handle part option - diameters at the transition points vary

Guide Configuration: Despite several articles addressing the issue, I continue to see confusion and perhaps some misconceptions over the practice of laying out the guides in spiral configuration. There are two primary reasons I, personally, choose this layout. The first is to reduce or eliminate that twisting force on the blank as load is applied to the tip. Whether you feel it or not, if the guides on a casting rod sit on top of the blank, when force is applied to the tip, that force will pull to one side of the rod or the other resulting in a force that makes the rod want to twist in your hand. Most, including me, probably don't feel it. But just because you cannot feel it, does not mean it is not there. Do you feel the tread wearing down on the tires of your car or soles of your shoes as it happens? No, but you know it happens because you eventually see it. Now, I've not had a rod fail on me due to this twisting force, but if I can eliminate that potential and make my rod perform more efficiently because of it, why not do so?

 

Highlighted in red is the path of fishing line through the guides of this conventionally wrapped rod. It's a 7'5" stick featuring 11 guides plus the tip top, so a couple more guides than usual but the line easily comes in contact with the blank under load
 

The second reason is two fold. When you layout guides on top of the rod, whichever guideline you follow for placement of the guides, one of the goals is to minimize contact between your fishing line and the blank when the rod is under load. You can do this with placement of the guides and also increasing the number of guides toward the tip. Conversely, when you wrap the running guides on the underside of the rod, the concern over your line touching the blank is eliminated. The strategy also allows you to use fewer guides. Fewer guides on your rod means less weight towards the tip. Less weight on the blank is good, but towards the tip in particular allows the top of your rod to perform more efficiently in transmitting energy into the cast. There's simply less burden on its back. That same efficiency is carried over to the task of delivering contact information at the end of your line. Less mass to weigh that tip down equates better performance. It's like wearing ankle weights as you're training on a run. When you take those ankle weights off, you feel like you can fly. Less weight on the blank allows your fishing rod to fly.


Highlighted in red is the path of fishing line through the guides of the Phenix USB-C 790H I built. There are eight guides plus the tip top on this 7'-9" stick, and they are wrapped in spiral configuration - longer stick, fewer guides, no contact between the line and the blank under load.

That's about it. Another benefit I've read is better casting distance. I see no reason for this other than your blank is more efficient due to less weight. Arguments against the layout are it looks funny and tangles the rod locker. Yes it looks funny. Nothing can be done about that. If your rods are getting tangled because of loose line in your locker, wrap your line around the guides when not in use and/or use some sleeves like those made by Rod Glove. It's really not that difficult to manage. Lastly most detractors will simply argue for bass fishing, the strategy is not necessary. This is true, but since when is that argument a deterrent? Are titanium framed SiC guides necessary? Is a $300 fishing reel necessary? Is that high end fluorocarbon like Seaguar Tatsu necessary? What about that $25 jerkbait or $300 garage built swimbait? Do you really need twelve different combos on the deck of your $90K bass boat? Isn't doing things that aren't necessary and considered excessive is part of the fun of bass fishing?


One advantage of the spiral wrap configuration? You need fewer running guides to complete the rod. This reduces weight and allows your blank to be more efficient (conventional wrap is on the bottom/left, spiral wrapped rod is on top/right)

In the end, it simply comes down to whether or not you can stand to look at that eccentric layout. If you can, great, try it. If not, no worries, move on. But in my view, that is the case for spiral wrapped guides. I will continue to wrap my rods in this manner because I enjoy being different and eccentric and like the thought of allowing that blank to perform as efficiently as possible.


In the end, with spiral wraps, it comes down to whether or not you can accept the eccentric appearance of the layout

Final Build: For the actual guides themselves, I chose to build this rod with Phenix's own brand of guides, Essex. There's not much literature on them but I wanted to check them out and felt keeping the build all in the same family might bode well. Because there's no literature on the guides, I later discovered I installed the stripper backwards. Apparently, the guide I selected is supposed to be similar to the Fuji K-Series Reverse Double foot guides. But because there is no literature on the guides, I had no way of knowing this and by the time I found out, the rod was built and I didn't have the energy to correct it. In fact, I was already thinking about my next build project.

 


Phenix's Essex EUCRESG guide is intended to have the single leg side directed towards the reel. Because there is no literature on them, I made the mistake of installing it backwards

 

I've laid out some parts and critical points of measurement for this build in the table below. Once I determined the approximate location of the reel seat, I measured the blank's diameter at each of the points I wanted to use a trim ring, then ordered parts. Once those parts arrived, I dry fit all the pieces to check fit and found the trim ring I had intended to cap off the reel seat was a little tight. I pushed it down as far as it would comfortably go and readjusted the position of my reel seat to follow - a difference of about an inch and a half. I could have taken a Dremel and attempt to grind down the inside of that winding check, but I wasn't feeling that dedicated. Fortunately, my decision to go with a split grip afforded me the flexibility to adjust on the fly. So please note the measurements in the table below are based on a rear handle length (from butt end to back of reel seat) of sixteen and a half inches (16.5"). I was planning on fifteen (15).

 

Phenix Rods B-USB-C 790H Final Build Parts List

Handle Length from Butt to back of Reel Seat 16.5"
Butt Cap Fuji FBC2 Eva
Butt Grip CFX FB150
Trim Ring against Butt Grip 16mm
Trim Ring against Rear Grip 15.5mm
Rear Grip CFX CSKG3
Trim between Rear Grip & Seat Fuji RST19
Reel Seat SKTS16
Trim rings inside Reel Seat 2x 15.5mm
Trim ring at top of Reel Seat 15.5mm
Hook Keeper None - Fuji EzKeeper after build
Number of Guides 8 + Tip Top
Tip Top Essex EUFSLTS6-6 (SS/SiC)
Stripper Essex EUCRESG8 (SS/SiC)
Transition Guides EUMNLSG7 & EUMNLSG6 (SS/SiC)
Running Guides EULSLSG6 (SS/SiC)
Build Weight 5.0oz
Total price for parts (excludes tax, shipping, wrapping thread, epoxy)

$245

Phenix USB-790H Stock Rod Cost $299

 

Once I dry fit all the pieces it was a matter of finding the blank's spine then reaming out the CFX grips to fit over the blank. Those carbon grip options from CFX are extremely easy to ream by the way. A few checks and rechecks on the fit of all associated handle pieces later and it was time to epoxy all the pieces onto the blank. Because of that split reel seat, I performed this assembly over the course of two days to allow the back portion of the reel seat to become fixed before securing the front. In the past, I've installed them together and found keeping the two pieces of a split reel seat aligned with each other and the blank's spine while that epoxy was curing far too challenging.


The split reel seat, split rear grip look of my B-USB-C 790H build

Real World Tests: So when all was said and done, I placed the finish product on a scale and discovered this build weighed a total of five ounces (5.0oz). Quite light for a rod rated up to eight ounces in lure weight! How true was that rating? The next step was to wrack the rod and find out! What I discovered, according to the numbers is that the 790H blank is indeed quite powerful and likely capable of everything its ratings would suggest. So I paired it with my 2019 Scorpion MGL already spooled with 50lb Seaguar Threadlock Hollow Braid and a top shot of 30lb Seaguar Gold Label, and brought the combo out for some quick tests.


It wasn't intentional, but my Scorpion MGL matches perfectly

Next Section: Rod built, time to go fishing

 

   

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