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Rod (Blank Build) Review


Time for Another Build or Two: Point Blank Rods's PB731HXF


Date: 12/22/22
Tackle Type: Rod
Manufacturer: Point Blank Rods
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 7.67 - GOOD

Over the course of my nearly twenty years with TackleTour, to say fishing rods are of a particular interest of mine would be similar to pitching your jig into a coffee cup from thirty feet away. They fascinate me. The number of ways in which they can be assembled, and the different materials used to build the blanks represent a world of intrigue and mystery that never ceases to intrigue. The very core of a fishing rod, it's soul - that blank, is where it all begins yet it is often shrouded in a build that makes the task of extracting its character difficult. A bare blank is different. Holding a bare blank in hand and imagining the different possibilities has grown into one of my new favorite hobbies.


Holding a bare blank in hand and imagining the different possibilities has grown into one of my new favorite hobbies


Over the last couple of years, that hobby has seen me purchasing a blank here and a blank there to sample the product and assess the potential for building a set of rods to have for my boat when I go out on non-testing adventures (which, by the way, is virtually never). Really, it's simply the process of discovery that fuels me. Over the course of this search, I revisited a series of blanks that kind of, sort of, started this whole building obsession of mine. I ordered a new blank from this manufacturer for a fun build. What I discovered in the ensuing labels and tags that accompanied the blank was a detail I missed when writing up that first build in 2020. Point Blank Rods's limited sku of blanks are manufactured without the use of a scrim.


Point Blank Rods PB731HXF Build Specifications

Material Blend of Toray & Mitsubishi carbon fiber material
Length 7'-3"
Line Wt. 17-30lb
Lure Wt. 1-2oz
Pieces One
Power Rating Heavy
Taper Extra-Fast
Blank Weight 2.3oz
MSRP $184


Background: Several seasons ago, North Fork Composites introduced us to a very interesting rod design, a blank rolled without a scrim. The scrim material, as Gary Loomis explained to us in 2013, helps hold the vertical running graphite fibers together when the blank is bending. Without the scrim, blanks would not stay round under tip load and eventually fail or crush in on themselves. The scrim provides what is referred to as hoop strength so a blank can bend without crushing. Historically, this paper thin, fabric-like material was often fiberglass, but in some higher end blanks it can be carbon fiber. That's what made the original G.Loomis GLX blanks so special - the use of a carbon scrim. From what I understand, with scrimless blanks, instead of that layer of fabric-like material reinforcing the linear fibers, layers of additional carbon fiber are used in a criss cross orientation. This strategy creates additional layers of structural integrity resulting in a blank with better hoop strength, resistance to ovalization, and better resistance to twisting. All factors that contribute to the power, strength, and resilience of your fishing rod.


Raw carbon fiber material (bottom) and paper thin, fabric like, fiberglass scrim (top)


What I didn't realize was, the tech or design or methodology - however you refer to it - is implemented in a variety of ways by multiple manufacturers. North Fork does it very well on their X-Ray Blanks and there are others that advertise bias construction (layering of composite materials in thirty to forty five degree angles to the centerline of the primary object). These include Daiwa's X-45 and Shimano's Spiral X which may not be identical but build using similar concepts and some may also be made without that scrim material. They don't use the term bias, but there are a variety of products from Megabass and Evergreen International that come to mind where a similar cross weave technologies have also been discussed.


Point Blank Rods is one of the few in the industry manufacturing their blanks without use of a scrim

Point Blank Rods has been offering blanks with their spin on this technology since 2015, but we've fished and reviewed rods as far back as 2008 built on blanks featuring bias construction. Daiwa's original TD Zillion sticks come to mind, but so do the Steez rods introduced a year or two prior to the Zillion. Shimano's collaboration with Jackall, the Poison Glorious series, and G.Loomis Conquest Series, features Spiral X. Evergreen's Temujin Balista and Kaleido Super Stallion were made with an interwoven graphite blank. Megabass's original Orochi series is described as using "DNA" graphite. If these are all similar technologies, then it appears the adage of what's old is new again applies here.

If "Bias Construction" is indeed a scrimless tech, then we've been fishing scrimless blanks for some time now

Impressions: The trouble is, without factory tours at each source, it's difficult to know what really is happening any time a new buzzword is introduced to the fishing world. The best I can do is fish the final product and share my thoughts. With that in mind, blanks are not available from Daiwa, Shimano, G.Loomis, Megabass or Evergreen International. If you want to build your own rod based off a blank rolled with the latest tech available, you only have a couple of real choices. That objective brings us back full circle.


The PB731HXF blank's weight on our scale


For this build, I chose the PB731HXF from Point Blank Rods (PBR). This is a seven foot, three inch (7'-3") blank originally rated from one to two ounces (1-2oz) in lure weight but a subsequent update now has it rated at one half to one and a quarter ounces (1/2-1 1/4oz). It is specified with an extra-fast taper. My original idea for the build was a sort of finesse punching stick to probe grass beds.


Nothing on the surface of the blank


The opportunity to hold another bare blank in hand and let it inspire configuration options was also just welcome therapy. The PB31HXF blank has the same crisp, lively feel in hand as the PB761XXHMF I wrapped in 2020. I went into that build with preconceived notions and pretty conservative goals of a simple build for big baits. That meant a full rear grip, standard seat, and spiral wrapped guides. For this build, my inspiration was an NRX+ MBR904C. While the PB731HXF is a little shorter, it will likely suit my intended application better than the NRX+ MBR904C. I wanted this build as light as possible, so I went with a split rear grip and seat, and then borrowed from NRX+ by installing a spiral wrapped, hybrid guide train featuring Fuji Ti/SiC stripper, transitions, and tip top, and REC black pearl Recoil runners.

Fuji's SKTS16 split seat requires minimal arbor work to fit on the PBR731HXF blank

Handle Length: One of the reasons I've come to enjoy building my own sticks is the ability to control aspects like handle length. On swimbait rods, that means a minimum of fifteen inches (15") behind the reel seat, but even on a stick like this, I want longer than the usual eight to ten inches (8-10") most stock rods seem to come with today. Moving the reel seat up further along the blank also helps with balance. This is especially true with rods over seven feet in length. I've found twelve inches (12") to be long enough to make two handed casts comfortable (with conventional baits) while still being short enough to not get in the way during pitching presentations.

After my original order arrived, I quickly purchased another PB731HXF for a second build. This time with a full reel seat just to feel the difference


Reel Seat: Because that cutaway in "exposed blank" seats doesn't always give you access to the actual blank, I'm slowly moving away from full reel seats. PBR's blanks, with their thicker diameter butt ends actually minimize potential gaps inside these cutaways. But for true blank contact, the simplest solution is still the split reel seat. Fuji's SKTS16 split seat requires minimal arbor work to fit on these PBR blanks. Additionally their low profile triggers are small enough to keep me from going to my no-trigger strategy and really messing with people's minds.


I didn't like the texture of these CFX Composite Grips at first, but I've now come to prefer them


Handle Material: Having already decided I was going to install a split rear grip, the next question for that part of the rod was what material. There's little doubt cork is still the top choice amongst anglers today for its light weight and relative ease of maintenance. For me, EVA foam is more comfortable, but the trade off in weight has me moving away from that choice. No, for my own personal builds, I am now full into the choice of carbon handle materials and specifically the product by CFX Composite Grips. I've always found carbon grips to be a good choice, but some implementations are a little slick. That slick surface can be problematic at times and become hot to the touch if left sitting the sun.


Minimal handle parts means minimal weight


CFX makes their grips with a texture that initially did not appeal to me, but the more I fished them, the more I came to appreciate it. Because of that texture, they're easier to grip and not as hot to handle. The gaps created by that texture make a difference. Inside the grips is a rigid foam that's easy to ream for a nice snug fit on your blank. That foam bonds to epoxy very well and provides just enough structure to help that carbon sleeve hold up to the rigors of your fishing applications. On top of all that, the many grip options and configurations are all very light! The two pieces I need to complete the grip for this build weigh a total of 10 grams (0.3oz) before reaming. The fourteen inch (14") one-piece casting grip is 28 grams (1.0oz) before reaming.


CFX Composite Grips are very easy to ream to fit though care must be taken at the tenons (the extensions shown here provided to help line up the reel seat and/or butt end) to keep from breaking them off


Next Section: Selecting the guides and some bling









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