Featured Image Credit: Billy Vivona
What may seem like a lost art to some anglers, is merely a way of life for others. Whether it’s custom lures, handmade jigs, or custom fishing rod building, anglers have always found a way to put their own personal touch on fishing gear.
When it comes to building a custom fishing rod, there’s plenty of avenues you can pursue. To help you figure out your path, the guys over at RODgeeks decided to lay it all out for you. Here are some of the most asked questions they have received and the answers they will always provide!
What is Custom Fishing Rod Building?
Rod building is the process of assembling a fishing rod from its main components: a blank (the “stick” part of the rod), grips/handles, a reel seat, and guides. More elaborate rods usually include some type of special decal or a decorative thread wrap right above the foregrip.
Here’s an example of an elaborate saltwater build by Billy Vivona in Staten Island. The pattern you see on the blank is created by literally wrapping threads around the blank and epoxying over them. The grips are made by cutting and gluing EVA blocks and then turning them on a lathe.
What Are the Basic Steps to Build a Rod?
First you need to select the proper blank, which is the most important part of the rod because it will determine how long it will be, how much power it will have, how light and sensitive it will be, and what type of action it will have (i.e. how it will bend). Next you select a reel seat and handles/grips, and fit them snuggly on the blank.
Two-part epoxy is used to glue the grips and the reel seat to the blank. After that comes the hard part: wrapping each guide to the blank using thread (just like the kind you use to sew). A special setup is used to make sure the thread is wrapped with tension so that it lays down neat and strong, but it takes a lot of practice to do this step properly. Once the guides are wrapped and in-line on the blank, a couple coats of flexible epoxy are applied over the thread to seal it down.
Once the epoxy cures overnight, you should have a fishable rod ready to go! Here’s a picture of the basic components you need to build a rod including a 2-piece blank, custom cork handles, casting reel seat, guides, black thread, and 2-part epoxy. The wooden setup is used to hold the blank as you wrap guides to it with the thread.
Why do People Build Rods?
Most people build rods because they enjoy the activity and take pride in catching fish with a rod they made with their own hands. Some people build because they cannot find factory-built rods that meet their needs.
Building your own rod means you can customize a rod to be exactly how you want it.
You can select from thousands of different rod blanks (perhaps even modifying a blank’s action or length), choose your favorite grips and guides, and place those guides precisely where they need to go to optimize the rod for whatever application you need it for.
What Are Decorative Wraps?
Many people consider decorative wraps to be the most exciting part of rod building. They are made by wrapping colored thread around the blank (usually right above the foregrip) to create amazingly intricate patterns, and then applying epoxy over the threads to permanently seal them.
Some even weave thread on the blank to make images. Here are some examples from expert rod builder, Mark Berry. If you look closely you can see the individual threads. Mark is a master at keeping his designs perfectly symmetrical and straight.
What Other Parts of a Rod Can be Customized?
The creativity of rod builders is endless. They make grips out of EVA with intricate patterns and images in them, custom cork and wood handles (birch bark is a favorite building material for these), custom butt caps, special decals, and even special guide wraps. Some rods end up looking so good you don’t even want to fish with them…
What Are the Biggest Differences Between a Factory-built And Custom-built Rod?
Overall, a custom fishing rod by an experienced builder will have more aesthetic features such as decorative thread wraps. Additionally, anglers have a lot more emotional attachment to custom rods. They take a lot of pride in the rods as they pour a lot of work into each piece, which makes sense: if you spend 20 hours creating a decorative thread wrap worthy of placement in an art museum, you’re going to have a special connection with it.
Much like a car or clothing, custom rods are an expression of the angler’s self, with elements that carry meaning.
For example, veterans will often use decals and colors associated with their branch of service. One of our customers built his grandkids surf rods with their names on them. Another built a rod with his father’s wedding band imbedded in the handle right above the reel seat. You can’t get that at Bass Pro Shops!
How Long Does it Take to Build a Custom Fishing Rod?
An experienced builder can knock out a basic rod in a couple days, but it only takes that long because the epoxy has to cure overnight, and it usually take a couple coats to get good coverage. The actual work time is around a few hours. Decorative wraps can easily take 10+ hours to complete, and custom grips made out of EVA can take an equal amount of time.
Where Can I Learn to Build Rods?
Some organizations put on rod building classes around the country, but the offerings are limited. YouTube is a great source for learning, as are forums like rodbuilding.org. Rod builders love what they do and love teaching newbies their tricks.
Can I Buy Everything I Need to Build my First Rod from RODgeeks?
While we have a great selection of blanks, we don’t sell all the equipment and components you need to build a rod. There are a couple full service online retailers where you can do your one-stop shopping. For your first rod it may be a good idea to buy a turn-key kit so that you know you have everything you need.