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Skeeter

High End Fishing Rods

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High End Fishing Rods

About two years ago I fell and broke my right wrist. It was a really bad break. When the doctors finished reconstructing it, I became the proud owner of brass plates, brass screws, and some dead guy?s bones that were installed into my wrist. I shattered it so badly that it took me almost a year to be able to squeeze a staple into a piece of paper with a staple gun. Getting back to throwing baits again was a real lesson in pain. The first thing that I noticed was the weight of my rod and reel combinations when I was holding them one handed. I never really noticed this before, but now the pain brought my attention to it. At that point I realized that I had to go to lighter equipment.

One of the pleasures in life that I enjoy is buying a new fishing rod. I have been buying rods for over 20 years and I have never lost the excitement. I wanted to find the lightest and best constructed fishing rods possible. So the hunt began. I searched tons of places and looked at everything I could find. When I finished it came down to several brands of rods. Kistler, St. Croix, Quantum Tour Edition, GLoomis, Diawa Light and Tough series, and the Bass Pro Shops Rick Clunn Signature Series were the rods that I was able to physically lay my hands on. These were the lightest among all of the choices.

Then it was off to the internet. Boy, did I ever find a wealth of stuff there. Megabass, Evergreen, Diawa, Shimano, and Daiko were just some of the sites that I visited. As far as Diawa and Shimano go, there are several models made by these companies that are exclusive to Japan. Megabass, Daiko, and Evergreen were exclusive to Japan at the time, but Megabass now has an American extension of the company here in the states. I had to find ways to interpret the Japanese language so that I could read what these companies had to say about their rods. The one thing that the majority of these rods had in common was one hefty price tag. Some of the rods were priced in excess of $550.00. I just couldn?t understand how anyone could justify charging that kind of money for a fishing rod. So I began a long and intense study to find out what the deal was. I spent months reading all that I could get my hands on and got one heck of an education in rod action, components, blank materials, and construction. I even went to the sites of different component manufactures to compare the differences between rod guides, different types of graphite and fiberglass, handle manufacturers, and even the different types of glues and coatings that are used in rod construction. The amount of information was overwhelming, but I read everything.

The majority of rods are made of a base material that is either graphite or fiberglass. Graphite is rated by modulus. This is the number of graphite strands that are laid next to each other to make up the graphite sheeting. The graphite sheet is shaped around a mandrel and held together with resin. What the majority of us are use to is the IM rating i.e. ( IM6, IM7, IM8?.. etc.). IM6 is around 33 million modulus where IM8 is around 45 million modulus. The higher the modulus the lighter, stiffer, more sensitive, and more brittle it is. There are two distinctive type of fiberglass, S Glass and E Glass. S Glass is the type of fiberglass that the old rods our grandfathers owned. They were usually solid tipped and heavy. E Glass rods are made hollow with thin walled construction like most graphite rods. The reason that E Glass can be constructed this is due to advanced production techniques, along with advancements in fiberglass and resin materials. E Glass rods, when constructed properly, are extremely light. Along with the two basic materials, innovative companies are starting to use different materials and different ways of ?weaving or wrapping? those materials within the blank to change the action and strength of high end rods. So I thought that in order to reduce the weight of my fishing rods, I had to go to either higher modulus graphite or E Glass.

Components such as the handle, guides, and coating on the rod had to be a consideration for weight reduction also. As far as handles go, Fuji is the deal. I won?t go into it, but it is. Diawa designs their own handles and helps Megabass design their own exclusive line also. A ton of thought has gone into their design and they are first rate. As far as guides, stick with Fuji. Again, I won?t go into it, just trust me. Guides can and do add weight to a rod. Most of you may probably think that the weight of a guide is insignificant. But frame and ring material along with construction methods can make more of a difference than you think. The next little weight adder is the rod clearcoat. Many manufactures have quit using the standard coatings that so many of us were use to seeing. The reason is to reduce weight. Many blanks appear to be raw and not coated at all. St. Croix told me that their blanks are coated, but with a much different material than the epoxy type coatings of old. That may be, but there doesn?t seem to be much protection for the blank in my book. The thing that got to me was that GLoomis coats their crankbait rods and they are extremely light. Diawa?s light and tough silver and purple blank rods have a pretty good coating on them. They were lighter than 98% of the rods that I looked at. They are an IM6 blank, so how can they be lighter than so many of the IM7 and even IM10 rods that I looked at that had no coating on them? The L&T series even has the added weight of Power Mesh. This is an added amount of graphite that is weaved in a diamond pattern around the graphite blank to increase the strength of the rod. What?s the deal?

The answer is something that you may have never even thought about. GLUE! That?s right?? GLUE! Through our lively discussions on this site about clearcoats, if there is one thing that we have learned, it is that resin based epoxies and glues add weight. The majority of glues that are used in rod manufacturing are either epoxy or hot resin based glues. Many crankbait fishermen out there know that a wooden crankbait made by a skillful hand is much more accurate and better performing bait than massed produced, machine turned crankbaits. A skilled crankbait maker will take the needed time to ensure that his baits are made with the best components and that they fit together perfectly. Rod manufacturers have to do the same thing. The problem is that many fishing rods are mass produced and care is not given to their component tolerances and assembly. Many rod components are not made with close tolerances. When the glue is put on these parts and the parts are assembled, the glue will fill voids causing excess weight. On the other hand there at times not enough glue is used. You can tell that the components are not fitted properly and that not enough glue is used. If you grab a rod by the end of the handle and shake it, at times you can hear a popping noise that gives this fault away. It is just simply poor construction and assembly. I found these problems on some very expensive rods. You would think that laying out a lot of money for a rod would eliminate this, but it doesn?t. So before you part with your hard earned money, make sure that you check these things out.

Another consideration is balance. It was a big deal when this subject started years ago. Simply put, the ?Point of Balance? is where the center of balance is on a rod. Ideally the point of balance will be at the center of the reel seat. Very few rods are like this. Some manufacturers will put a counter balance at the end of the handle. A balanced rod will allow you to control the rod with your wrist almost effortlessly. Many times just the added weight of your reel will come close to balancing out a rod. Take your favorite rod and lay it across your finger until the rod lays level. This is the point of balance. Now, put your reel on the rod and do the procedure again. Normally you will find that the point of balance moves 2 or 3 inches closer toward the reel seat. Personally this is the way I like to check things. If you add a counter balance you are adding to the weight of the rod. It may feel lighter but it isn?t. As long as your point of balance is close to the reel seat, then you will be able to control your outfit just fine.

So with all of this said, let me share some of my findings with you. For flipping sticks Team Diawa Light and Tough silver blank was the lightest. Shimano Crucial and G Loomis IMX were right there also in that order. For rods in the 7ft. range, G Loomis,Team Diawa Light and Tough silver blank, Bass Pro Rick Clunn series, and St. Croix both Avid and Premier series, and Kistler were the lightest. The G Loomis crankbait rods were incredibly light. Also, the Team Diawa 7ft. medium action worm and jig rod was real sweet. As far as 6 ? ft. on down, all of these brands had very light rods. You would need a scale to separate them. The Team Diawa S green handle rods would be a good candidate in this category also.

The one thing that really disappoints me is that I was not able to get my hands on any of the Japanese rods. Why they won?t export them to the U.S. really has me scratching my head. Diawa has many of different series of rods that appear to be excellent. Among them is the U.S. Tour series. Takahiro Omori uses these. Shimano follows suit with Diawa. Some excellent rods from what I have read. I would like to see the Shimano V rods and Heartland series. They are available in the states, but they are mainly found on the west coast. Shimano also has some very expensive rod series that are exclusive to Japan. I know nothing of Daiko. But reviews on the Japanese sites are excellent. Then there is Megabass. Ahhh Megabass, these are the most expensive rods of all. Starting price for their rods are around $300.00 and can run to $600.00. They appear to be the most innovative in their rod construction than anyone. They are the cutting edge of thought, materials, and construction. I won?t go into it but you can check out the following links below if you really want an education.

http://www.megabassusa.com/

http://www.tackletour.com/reviewmegabasspreview05.html http://tackletour.com/reviewsupercastpre06pg2.html http://tackletour.com/reviewsuperdestroyer.html

For the fiberglass rods, St. Croix had everyone beat. They were as light as the best of the graphite rods. Team Diawa Light and Tough silver and Team Diawa S green series were light as well. Kistler has a crankbait rod that is a composite, (part graphite and part glass). I didn?t get a chance to see one of these, but I would have loved to.

Now I want to clarify that I am not implying that if you want the best of equipment that you have to get a second mortgage on your house to do so. I have some ABU Garcia rods that I bought 9 years ago for less than $60.00 that are excellent and I wouldn?t take anything for them. They have small guides, they are spaced close like the fuji concept system, and they balance well with my reels. But they aren?t the lightest of rods by any means. Also, check anything over before you buy it. I found crooked blanks and guides that weren?t tied in a straight line or were out of line with the reel seat on all of the brands that I checked. Expensive does not mean better. As far as the U.S. manufacturers I feel that Kistler is the cutting edge of the American rods. They are really making strides in an effort to go outside of the box in materials and construction. Warrantees are much better with American manufacturers than companies across the pond. Megabass only has a 1 year warrantee. If you decide to try one of the Japanese rods, shipping is very expensive. It will run you about $80.00 to $100.00 to have one of these shipped to you. With Megabass, you can order through the Megabassusa site and get the rod without paying that high shipping fee.

I hope that next time you are in the market for a rod, some of these points will help you make your decision. Either way, shopping for a new rod is always fun.

Skeeter

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While you touched on balancing it is more involved than just adding a weight to the rod. With a properly balanced rod forethought has been given to the components so added weight is not necessary. One catch is

that you can`t have a balanced setup without the reel that is going to be used on the rod. Balancing a rod without the reel and line means nothing.

Part of the criteria for designing factory rods today is to make the lightest rod possible often with the result of too small handles and reel seats and

too small guides and tips. It may feel great at the store but what happens

when you add the reel and line. Many times it will require several ounces of added weight to achieve balance. a rod that has a chance of balancing

with a reel is going to be tip heavy by itself. In a situation like yours

where physical discomfort ( Pain ) is an issue I w ould recommend getting

together with a custom rodbuilder and combining your needs and his expertise to come up with something that would fit your needs and pocketbook. Remember real custom rods are built to the customers specs

( physical needs included ) first. The fancy wraps and sparkle are are

optional add ons.

Tom Cooney

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Skeeter,

Although I didn't injure myself like you, I got carpel tunnel and decided to go on a quest.

When shopping for rods I reallized I needed to perform surgury on them to make them work for me. (I'm a picky SOB). At about the $150 level, I couldn't see buying one and hacking it up, so I decided to learn how to build one.

First, I'm a plain Jane minimalist type - so the quest was the lightest weight, most sensitive spinning rod I could find.

I posted on a river smallmouth board and got a variety of guys helping. Most helpful was Mattman and now am building myself.

You're right, glue is heavy. In fact I use the minimal amount that I can. The only place where I add a luxury is the glue (well, really flexcoat) on a small mounth bass sticker). Other than that, no hook holder, split TN handles, blank, light weight guides, no flashing, marbleing, thread work, etc. and only 1/4" of thread flashing on each guide.

Luckily high modulus blanks are the lightest, but the price is they're fragile. I beat my gear up on the water, but as soon as I'm off baby it.

My lightest so far has been an elite at about 2.8oz.

Also buy light reels for it too.

I learned one other trick, but not ready to go for it. Graphite piece to tape the reel on with size A thread and flexcoat to hold the reel on the graphite.

I'm not a fan of that because I use a product called RodWrap to 'tape' the reel seat onto the rod. Stuff's awesome, no slip when wet, grips well, and feels good in the hand. When winter fishing it also doesnt act like dry ice and stick to the hand.

Good luck in your venture and good article.

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Couldn't edit, so I'll add on.

To buy top end blanks and guides for weight savings and adding weight to balance, IMHO, is a sin.

When I build the rod, I build it so that the reel seat is positioned to balance the rod while fishing.

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I have a medium-heavy BPS rod with a Shimano Spirex reel and the BPS counter weight system. My rod is perfectly balanced, and even though it's a heavy set up it feel so light and casts so far. I love it.

Great read, taught me some stuff that I didn't know. Thanks.

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Skeeter, I think you got it backward as far as the weight of E versus S glass.  S glass is a little lighter and stiffer than E glass.  A few years ago, a rod builder named Rick Forhan came up with a spiral wrapped S Glass rod built on a Seeker tubular BS706 S glass blank that was stiffer and lighter than just about any other glass rod available at the time.  That blank became very popular among custom rod builders.  I bought a Forhan designed rod and later built several of them myself.  Once, I ordered the wrong blank from Seeker and got the E glass version of the same blank by mistake.  It was considerably heavier and softer tipped than the S glass version.  There is also T glass, which I haven't tried or heard much about.  Of course there are also "composite" blanks.  They typically use a glass tip section grafted onto a graphite butt section.  I have a Shimano Voltaeus composite rod like that.  I stripped its heavy finish off to lighten the rod and was surprised to find a solid 2' white E glass tip wedded to a black graphite butt section.  Looks weird without the finish but fishes better and lighter than the original blank. 

 

I think it's just about impossible to pre-judge a rod's weight and action versus other brands these days.  The real differences can't be boiled down to a simple "IM6 versus IM10, etc" in graphite modulus because you also have different pre-preg materials, adhesives, nano fabrics, and other new materials being used in blank construction that make big differences in the end product.

 

I built a 7' St Croix MH Legend Elite SCV rod with titanium REC guides that weighs 5 oz.  Nice heavy duty jig rod.  But my favorite rod blanks come from Rogue.  My Rogue MB705 MH 7' rod with exactly the same handle construction, but with heavier Fuji Alconite guides weighs only 4 oz.  The rods have the same nomenclature - 7' MH bass rods with fast tips, but the Rogue is 20% lighter and has a noticeably softer tip action which I love.  That underlines the fact that you should only use manufacturer's model descriptions to compare rods within their own product line, not with the rods of other manufacturers except in a very loose, general sense.

 

I loaded 1 1/2 oz of lead into the butt of my 7'6" flipping stick when I built it.  Balance is just as important as overall weight.  Yes, it's a heavy rod but you can fish with it all day and it never feels heavy - and never tires you out like a tip heavy flipping stick will.

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rhahn, you're right, high end graphite rods do tend to be more fragile than other rods.  But I think the manufacturers are using newer blank components to solve some of that problem.  There are guys who tend to abuse rods and should never have high end graphite put into their hands.  But with normal use, high end graphite does just fine.  I've owned my lightest Rogue rods for more than 10 yrs with no damage whatever, and I'm an average user.  I don't baby them but I don't smack them against the sides of the boat or throw them around either.

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