In Search Of Quality Fishing Rods

D. Sturges

We’ve all at one time or another been faced with disappointment following the purchase a conventional fishing rod. The information overview in this article is being offered in the hope that you can make an educated purchase in the future, walk away completely satisfied and feel you have some of the information that you require to make the purchase.

What often goes through the mind of the purchaser is, do I need a rod for each species, a rod for each type of technique and what rod can I use for a variety of my fishing needs. Then ask the question? am I an occasional angler or is this the sport I want to participate in on an ongoing basis, this will help you decide with the purchase.

The rods vary in length, actions and power ratings an example is the Steelhead rod, a rod that can range from the 10’6” heavy to the light and limber 17’ float rod. The Bass, Musky, Walleye, which are mainly shorter rods and are rated from light to heavy and fly rods that range from the ultra light brook trout rod to the heavy Tarpon fly rods

In today’s markets there are numerous fishing rod manufacturers that supply the North American market, names such as Shimano, Berkley, St Croix are just a few of the brand names. These companies can only compete by mass production and they are consistant with their production and quality standards

There are many components that are involved in the manufacturing of fishing rods and I have listed a brief overview of each of them to try to help you decide and better understand what you are paying for in the way of quality. Handle configurations play a major role in the selection, this is one of the most important factors for comfort as you will discover when you are fishing those long days, the need for comfort is number one.

Steelhead Float Rod

The Steelhead float rod handle, reel seat positioning is vital for comfort due to the length of the rods used.

Bass, Musky Handle

The Bass, Musky and sometimes Walleye handle in this configuration is designed to offer the angler power, the blank exposed reel seat allows the angler to touch the blank at all times for added sensitivity.

General-purpose spinning, Walleye

The general purpose spinning and Walleye handle is built using configurations for shorter rods, therefore the grips are shorter in length.

Fly rod handle

 The fly rod handles incorporate many different thoughts and applications; grip shapes, lengths and reel seats play the major component makeup of this rod.

 Now that we have touched on the subject of comfort we move onto the selection of blanks and components. The blanks originate from all over the world; one point to remember, as the source of the product will dictate the price the rod is retailed for. The actions vary from type to type and this is where the staff you are dealing with in any sporting goods store must be knowledgeable. Take a float rod for Steelhead, a rod that is usually long and limber and may have a line rating for 2-6lb, would you use this rod for Salmon, not recommended. What would you use for Salmon if you wanted to float fish, this is the information that you have to get from the dealer or a professional and you should not settle for any substitutions, you would not be happy.

Guides, reel seats and cork are the remaining components that you need to look at. Some rods come with the foam or Eva foam as it is known for a grip or handle, this usually is a display of a lesser quality rod. A cork handle is more durable, looks better and is more the accepted material. Cork can be graded various ways, the less fill the better the quality and the more costly, it is the higher quality that usually installed on the more expensive rods, such as the rod handles above.

The guides play a major part of the rod and how it works for you; they come in many different types of inserts and frames, for example S.I.C. to Hardloy inserts, Titanium to Stainless steel frames. The float rods have the single foot high frame guides, why, this keeps the line from contacting the rod blank and creating drag on the float and makes it a drag free drift. A casting rod uses the casting type guide, these are built with two supports on the frame, and this guide is used because of the strength. All the casting rods have them, and the guide is used upside down, or so it appears. The spinning guides are usually single foot, this is for lightness and looks and they are much lighter than the older style two-foot models that were once used. A snake guide is for fly rods and come in the traditional style and the single foot model; both are lightweight and have their own advantages and disadvantages.

High frame float rod guide     Single foot spinning guide

Casting guide also

Fly rod stripper

Traditional snake guide

Single foot fly guide

Reel seats vary from the standard graphite to the more expensive and attractive exotic wood inserts, they are built in various ways and incorporate different features. The standard graphite reel seat comes in various sizes, hood colours and fitting types. The one point you should remember is that a graphite reel seat without a cushion is less expensive and also does not lock the reel to the seat smoothly, graphite seats are used mainly on the spin and casting rods. The casting reel seats have evolved from the solid body to the blank exposed, blank exposed being the ultimate for rod sensitivity as the hand is in contact with the rod blank at the point of the reel seat where the hand grips the rod. There are rod builders out there that use some really unique and beautiful looking exotic wood reel seats. With the permission of “The Steelhead Pro Shop” they are featured in this article. These reel seats are used for all the types of rods; such as some shown on the pages throughout this article.


The blank exposed trigger reel seat


   Standard graphite reel seat  

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Custom exotic wood reel seats with matching butt cap

Exotic wood spinning seat, note the shape is designed for comfort on the hand


A very unique float reel seat, note the shape

 The information above is only a fraction of the information that you, the purchaser require, it is dependant on the sales staff having the knowledge to explain the rods and how they are made, the components and the requirements to fit your needs. In the past several years the number of anglers has risen dramatically and this has increased the work load of the custom rod builders, these people know the rod manufacturing process and have the knowledge to custom fit you to the rod that is right for you. The workmanship, knowledge, product information is what makes the custom rod builder a very viable option and one that is being utilized more and more.

The warranty is a very important aspect for the purchaser as this is the insurance policy. Some manufacturers give a lifetime warranty but there are usually hidden costs, shipping and handling being incurred by the purchaser. If you have a problem where do you send the rod, more often than not it is shipped out of Canada and this leads to long waits and very expensive shipping and insurance costs. Most of the rod builders offer warranty, but this is done through the blank supplier and not rod builder directly, with the exception of a few, one being “The Steelhead Pro Shop” they offer their own warranty program.

It is unrealistic to try to compare the custom built rods to the mass produced rods on the market today. The custom builder can build with no time restrictions, therefore more care and attention is paid to detail and quality. A custom rod is built to the specifications and needs of the individual customer and the cost, when compared to the mass-produced product; it does not put a custom rod out of reach by any means

When analyzing a fishing rod there are certain components to look for to see what you are buying. The handle is it uniform and well put together and does it include cork grips. Does the reel seat have a cushion on the hoods for positive reel locking to the reel seat? The guides, are they in line and how is the finish applied, is it bubble free and does it look like glass. These are some very quick observations to do a quick once over.

There are a number of methods to determine the action of the rod and the preferred power in the tip. A casting rod, rotate the rod so the guides are facing up and apply a downward pressure on a carpeted area and you will see the point in the rod where the curve starts, this will give you some indication of the action of the rod. The more the rod bends throughout the entire length the slower the action and therefore the rod dampening or recovery speed will decrease.

All mass produced rods have a label attached to them indicating the line, lure and action rating. For instance a “Backwoods Premium Rod, Bass rod model BS700XH translates to a extra heavy rod with a fast action tip, the label would also include line rating 15-30 lb and lure rating of - 21/2 ounces. This information is very important to determine what your needs are.

Rod manufacturers highly recommend that you have enough knowledge about their rods to avoid breakage, in other words use the right rod for the right condition and fish species. There are some instances you are fishing ultra light and then hook a larger fish, one that is not a match for your rod so you will play the fish accordingly and use the utmost patience and knowledge to land the fish. With today’s new super braided lines we must use more caution as there is no stretch to this line and therefore the rod is taking the full impact on the hook set as apposed to the older mono line that would stretch and give some relief to the rod.

Once you are convinced the rod you have selected is the right one for you and will serve it’s purpose then the reel selection can begin. Each rod should be matched with the type of reel it is designed for, a center pin for the float rod, spinning for the Walleye and baitcaster for the Bass rod. There is a little science in selecting the reel for the rod in respect to balance. The rod should be fitted with the reel that creates a balance so the rod is not a burden but rather an extension of your arm. A spinning rod should have a reel that, when mounted on the rod it will balance at the fore grip or just above the reel seat. A bass rod may vary from this as the rods in most cases are long and the reels are made so small and lightweight that there is no lower balance point. The importance of the matched outfit is for comfort, accuracy and to eliminate fatigue.

I have researched the rod phenomena and have come to the conclusion that my preference is to have my rods built for me. I am sure I will get exactly what I need, be assured of quality service, quality product and the most important to me, support in case of problems. I have been dealing with a new company “ The Steelhead Pro Shop “ which also have a Bass, Walleye and Musky shop called “ Backwoods Premium Rods “ The rods included are for both the shops and cover Steelhead, Float fishing, Fly rods, Bass, Walleye and Musky. This company will custom build your rod, to your needs and to your specifications, also your name will be on each rod you order, this is personalized service to say the least. The warranty they offer is on site, no more sending the rod away for months, they offer the warranty in house. For their U.S. customer’s, and they have quite a following I would like to make one comment, a friend of mine in Pennsylvania broke the tip off the float rod he had made and he sent it back for repair, he paid the shipping to get it to their shop. The rod was repaired within one week and sent back no charge, no shipping charge and enough free balsa floats to cover off the original shipping to get the rod fixed. THAT’S SERVICE.

I also discovered they sell their blanks, components and their own custom reel seats to other rod builders; this is both retail and wholesale. They are also offering Pro Staff sponsorships in Bass, Walleye and Steelhead programs so if you feel you have what it takes to be part of their team check it out at and drop them a line, I did and I am a very satisfied customer.


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Pages Updated On: 16-Mar-2001 - 11:24:20
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