DO IT YOURSELF

Custom Fishing Rods: Performance Rods for The Passionate Angler

Customized Rods for fishing
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

The right equipment makes all the difference in fishing, as with any other sport. Although commercially produced rods are good enough for both the novice angler and seasoned veteran, nothing says optimum performance like building your own custom fishing rods from scratch.

Manufacturers have a wide selection of rods to offer. The variations in length, size, line capacity, power and responsiveness can lead you to believe that there is at least one factory manufactured rod that could meet your fishing needs. The truth of the matter is that only a custom rod can be perfectly tweaked to suit your fishing style!

Why Do You Need to Customize Your Fishing Rod?

You may have some experience fishing with a factory-made rod. The quality, power, action, and accuracy of your rod may be enough for you, since you’ve had no problems catching fish. Why, then would a customized rod be any better than what you already have?

Customize Your Fishing Rod

Having a rod built to fit your fishing style and needs has its advantages:

  • Performance: A customized fishing rod performs better than a factory-made rod in more ways than one! Building your own rod gives you the freedom to add as many line guides as you need, ensuring better accuracy and equal dispersion of tension along the line. Proper guide placement prevents line slaps. Straight alignment of guides with minimal windings while retaining a perfectly balanced rod is possible through rod customization. All of these features together will give you a powerful, top performing rod.
  • Comfort: Customizing your rod means you get to try it and design the pieces for comfort. Say, for example, that you want a casting rod with a short handle without decreasing its performance level. You will not be able to find one in the stores easily. If you are able to come across one, a few of its specifications or features may not be to your liking. Customizing your fishing rod will offer you the comfort you seek without compromising the performance of your rod.
  • Weight: It is no secret that anglers want the strongest yet lightest rod available. Making your own rod means you get to decide what accessories and components can go with your blank, which can significantly reduce the weight while maintaining your desired strength. Sensitivity can be manipulated by the ratio of the stiffness of the rod to its weight. By using only the lightest and most durable materials in combining the blank and the handle, a strong yet sensitive rod can be produced.
  • Balance: Fishing for hours using an unbalanced rod can cause a lot of discomfort for the angler. It will result in a lot of strain on the hands and the shoulders. Energy is wasted in maintaining the rod’s position. Customized rods offer the best balance without changing the preferred reel of the angler.
  • Options: Custom building your rod gives you options. If you want a component that is commercially unavailable, a rod builder can make it for you. Rod building can accommodate almost all of the desires of a fisher. You can use your best reel and attach it in just the right place to balance your rod. You can also deviate from the standard lengths provided by rod manufacturers and choose a rod that is convenient to transport.
    The fun part is you get to choose the color of the wraps and windings, giving your rod an extra hint at uniqueness that will separate it from the others, especially if you’re fishing with other people.
  • Pricing: Customizing a rod would not break the bank, but it would cost a little more than a factory-made rod. A custom rod can vary in price depending on the conditions you want, making some custom rods cheaper than others. Customizing is a long process and does not necessarily have to be complete in one visit to the rod builder.
  • Hobby: A fishing rod is an integral part of the sport. Focusing your time on developing a good quality fishing rod can be a hobby during off season part of the year. If you get the hang of it, you can eventually become a rod builder yourself.

Differentiating Fishing Rods from Fishing Poles

A fellow angler may have called you out once for referring to a fishing rod as a fishing pole. Fishing rods and fishing poles are not the same and the terms should not be used interchangeably.

Fishing Rods

Rods and poles are different in two aspects:

  1. The material used in making the blanks. Fishing pole blanks are recognized as wood, cane, reed or bamboo. This makes the poles lightweight and flexible. On the other hand, fishing rods have blanks made of manmade composites such as graphite, fiberglass, boron or a combination of such, making rods more durable compared to poles.
  2. Presence of gears. A fishing pole is a simple fishing device. It lacks reels, thus it does not have a casting feature. Fishing rods have reels. The reels allow casting, thereby increasing distance and accuracy of the placement of baits.

How to Build A Fishing Rod

Rod building is a step-by-step process that requires a lot of patience. The customization of your rod depends entirely upon you, your fishing style and generally what you want to achieve with your rod.

Blank selection

The blank is the core of your rod. The features and characteristics of your rod will be built around your blank. Your blank should be suited for the type of fishing style you use and your target catch. You can also consider the following factors when selecting your blank.

Factors to considerOptions
What material shall the rod blank be made of?Graphite rods are light and sensitive. These rods are also pricey.

Fiberglass rods are a little heavy but durable. Ideal for beginners.

Composite rods are made from a combination of materials. This is the common choice among anglers.

ReelSpincasting – easiest to cast; ideal for beginners.

Spinning – has better accuracy compared to spincasting reels.

Baitcasting – difficult to cast; suitable for many types of fishing.

Length of the rodThe length of the rod depends on the location of your fishing grounds. Fishing in wide lakes and in the sea requires long rods for greater casting distance. Shorter rods are ideal for narrow rivers or for fishing on a small boat.

Assembling the handle

The handle material, style and length should be compatible with the blank you choose. The handle is composed of several pieces: the reel seat, the grip and the butt cap.

  • Reel seats are usually made of aluminum or graphite. A good quality reel seat is one that does not rust easily.
  • The grip is usually made of cork or foam. Cork grips are durable. They have small inside diameters but they can be custom fitted by enlarging the inside diameter with the use of a cork reamer.  Rods with large butt diameters are best fitted with a foam grip.
  • The butt cap is made of cork or rubber. It is located near the rear end of your rod. Its role is to protect the handle from too much dirt and damage.

Assembly of the handle begins by test-fitting all of its components. The reel seat should be securely fastened to prevent it from wobbling during casting.

Use a rattail file to ream the interior sections of each cork piece and around the arbour of the reel seat. Remove only a small amount at a time, just enough for the parts to fit snugly into place. Once the pieces fit perfectly, glue them together using rod epoxy.

Custom Fishing rod handle

Guide placement

Aside from selecting the number of guides you can place on your rod, custom rod building also allows you to choose the frames as well as the material for your line guides!

For frames there is a choice between single foot frames and double foot frames. Single foot guides are lightweight with good performance while the double foot guides are strong and durable.

There are two types of line guides, the ringed guides and the wired guides. Wired guides are very lightweight but they wear easily. The more popular choice is the ringed guides. There is a wide array of choices for ringed guides, the most commonly used materials are Alconite and Hialoy, both forms of aluminum oxide. These materials have long lasting surfaces. Carbide composites, like silicon carbide and titanium carbide, are also used for guides, as they offer premium performance but cost a bit more.

After selecting your line guides, you can now align your guides. Guide placement or guide alignment is very crucial in rod building. One must assure correct spacing between the guides and ensure its compatibility with the reel and blank. The positioning of your line guides will determine the performance of your rod during casting of the line and reeling in of your catch.

Testing the Guides

Once you have identified the placement and spacing of your guides, you must test it for balance and proper function. Place the guides in the identified location and tape them firmly with a regular masking tape.

Put the reel in its seat and try out your rod to determine its overall performance. If a problem is detected just move your guides and tape them securely again. Continuously testing and realigning your guides until you feel no line slap and achieve accurate casting.

Fishing rod

Wrapping

Secure your guides by wrapping them in thread. When wrapping using nylon threads, follow these guidelines:

Thread SizeUtilization
Size A
  • Freshwater spinning, casting and fly rods
  • Light saltwater rods
Size D
  • Saltwater spinning, casting and flyrods
  • Heavy freshwater rods

Aesthetic appearance is important to a rod builder. The reel seats, the guides and the blank must complement each other both in performance and appearance.

Once the line guides have been securely wrapped, finish customizing your rod by coating the threads with a clear rod epoxy. Make sure to cover all of the body of your fishing rod, but don’t use too much.

Additional Tips

Less is more when it comes to rod building. Although it is important to fasten the line guides securely using threads, a minimal amount of threads should be used. More threads mean more epoxy for clearcoating. This will result to a heavier rod, which is counterproductive. The goal of rod building is to give you the lightest rod achievable with the characteristics you desire.

Customized rods are not all equal in performance. Some are better than others, depending on the quality of the craftsmanship. Any angler can personally customize their rod or they can go to a rod builder for assistance. Each rod builder has their strong points, so choose a builder based on what you want to improve with your rod.

How to Build A Fishing Pole

Earlier in the article, we established the difference between a fishing rod and a fishing pole. The fishing pole is a simple device as compared to the fishing rod, thus it is relatively easier to use and cheaper to make.

Cane for Building a Fishing Pole

Having a fishing pole can come in handy when teaching kids the basics of fishing or when you just want to pass the time.

  1. Blank selection. Rod and Pole building both begin with blank selection. Blanks can be made of reed, wood or bamboo. Bamboo poles or reeds are recommended for use because of their flexibility and tolerance to strain. Bigger does not equate to better when choosing a suitable pole. Poles with bigger diameters are awkward to hold and difficult to transport. Choose the straightest bamboo pole you can find and cut it at the base.
  2. Cleaning the blank. Level the pole with a small knife. Remove parts that may cause your line to tangle. Use sandpaper to smooth the pole of any rough patches or bumps. Select a rigid portion for the butt of a pole. Find a joint and cut the pole near this part, ensuring that the butt of the pole is a closed end.
  3. Drying. It is important to dry out the pole to guarantee that its shape and form will not change as you use it for fishing. Drying out the pole increases its durability and minimizes the chances of it breaking. When drying the pole, do not expose it to direct sunlight. It is best dried by hanging it until its color becomes brown. Poles should be as straight as possible and should not break or bend when you swing it. The drying process can last from a few weeks to a few months depending on the weather conditions. To be on the safe side, dry out multiple poles at the same time so that when one pole is not suitable for use, you have others to choose from.
  4. Installing the line. A 20 pound Dacron line is highly recommended for pole fishing. The length of the line is totally up to you. Run the line through the whole length of the dried pole. Tie the running line along several points on the pole, especially on the tip. In tying the line, allow for small movement along the line so you shorten or lengthen your line with just a pull of the string.
  5. Completing the pole. Attach the hook, bobber and sinker to finish your pole. Once these are installed, you are ready to fish with your home-made custom fishing pole!

Fishing poles are good substitutes when you forgot your fishing rods, or when you randomly come across a good spot for fishing. Poles can be made of basically anything. If the urge to fish strikes and you are not prepared, here are some tips on making an instant makeshift fishing pole.

  1. Find a good, sturdy stick. Clean it by removing the branches.
  2. Attach a string at the narrow end of the stick. Make a tight knot to guarantee that it does not come off when you pull in a fish.
  3. Tie a fishing line at the end of your string so you can add a hook.
  4. Add a hook and you are ready to fish!

For baits one can use insects or dig up a worm nearby. This pole is recommended only for catching small fish and may break under the weight and pull of bigger ones.

Poles, Factory Rods or Customized Rods?

Fishing is for everyone who wants to take part in the sport. It does not matter if you fish with a pole, a factory-made rod or a customized fishing rod. Fishing poles are ideal as start-up gears for children or as makeshift fishing gears when rods are not available.

Factory–made rods are manufactured in an assortment of specifications and designs that can be matched to a certain fishing style. These rods are good enough for everybody.

Customized Rods

Customized rods are for the anglers who not only value performance, but also craftsmanship. The making of customized rods requires the use of top -of- the line technology and tested materials, resulting in a strong, optimum –performing lightweight rod.

Wrap Up

A custom rod will cost just a little over a factory-made rod. The greater level of performance and quality of the rod is worth more than the few extra bucks. Imagination is the only limit, (aside from your budget).

Not only can you choose what goes with your rod, you can also choose the designs and color of your wraps. Take fishing to a whole new level by leveling up your gear. Go fishing with pride and passion using a rod that is truly your own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Ryan Freeman

    I’ve got a couple of custom fishing rods myself. Whilst I get that people might not understand the need to pay extra for a customized rod, trust me, it’s worth it. Until you’ve owned one you probably won’t get it. And therein lies the issue! My thinking is that the rod is the most important thing. A boat, of course, will get you on the water but the rod is the only thing you will always have in your hand whether on land or sea. I don’t understand, therefore, why you wouldn’t want the best for your fishing!

  • Mark Foster

    Speaking like a true fisherman! Hi there Ryan, I think we’re on the same boat! Of course custom fishing rods are the best, no doubt about it. You might be paying a little bit more, but the benefits to your “fishing performance” is priceless!

  • Greg Abbot

    My fishing habit is pretty casual. I am wondering whether there are specific types of fishing that lend themselves well to having a customized fishing rod? Also, when considering how to customize, should I be taking into account the kind of craft I am using? I am much more likely to fish out of a canoe or a kayak than a boat, are there any major differences that I should be considering?

  • Mark Foster

    If you want to go farther to sea, then fishing on a big boat is your best option. There are a lot of people going deep-sea fishing but for those with “casual” fishing habits, simpler rods are just fine and will fit with your own fishing style.

  • Rebecca Jones

    I guess I never knew I was using a fishing rod vs a fishing pole. I just assumed they were always the same! So then my question in, in what situations would I need to use a pole vs a rod? What are the benefits of using a pole vs a rod? I used to fish quite often and I never even thought of these questions until I read this article.

  • Mark Foster

    Well, it depends on the materials used – poles are usually made of bamboo, reed, wood or cane, while fishing rods are made of graphite, fiberglass, boron or a mixture. Also rods are more durable than poles. Got gears? Then those are fishing rods. Fishing poles are simpler.

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