Ready For A New Level Of Satisfaction? Build Your Own Fishing Rod
Fishing gear can seem like its own hobby and addiction, separate from fishing at times. We love our gear, from fishing reels, to fishing rods, even that lucky hat. A lot of fishermen take it to the next level by handcrafting their own fishing lures or flies, even making their own fly leaders. But did you know you can even build your own fishing rod?
Designing your own rod from the ground up can seem like a daunting task, but by keeping it simple, even a beginner is capable of fantastic results. Of course, rod building is like any other hobby, and the fishing tools and supplies can go from bare bones to fancy and expensive.
So, where do you start after you’ve decided to build your next favorite rod on your own? Well, you’ll need the basic supplies first. Every hand built rod starts with what is called a blank. A blank is the “pole” part of your fishing rod. When you are building your own, it does indeed start out completely “blank”, meaning it’s just that long, tapered section of graphite. Or if you so choose, you can build your own rod out of other blank materials, like fiberglass, bamboo, or a composite (both fiberglass and graphite). Blanks come in every configuration and length imaginable, so picking out the perfect length, action and even color shouldn’t be a problem.
Once you have selected your blank, it’s time to get the other supplies you need. This is where you need to start thinking ahead to the overall design of the finished rod. I like to build on “themes”. Whether it’s a certain color combination, a favorite sports team, anything really. But think ahead to what you want the finished rod to look like. At the very least, you’ll need a grip (or grips), a reel seat, a guide set, a tip top (most guide sets do not come with tip tops), and at least one spool of thread. In addition to those hard components, you’ll need epoxy and some sort of arbor for mounting the grips and reel seat, finish for the thread, and tip top glue for mounting the tip top. You’ll also need something to ream out the grips to the size of the blank, as most grips are sold with a small inner diameter. There are specialty reamers available, but a simple round file in an electric drill also works well.
Once you’ve made up your mind on the design, and ordered all your components and supplies, it’s time to start building! First, you need some sort of stand to hold and rotate the blank while applying thread and finish. There are stands available from rod building suppliers, or you can make your own. It can be as simple as a cut up cardboard box, to extravagant handmade stands from nice hardwoods. My first rod was built using a cut up cardboard box, they do work! You’ll also need something to keep and control tension while winding the thread. If you’ve purchased a stand, they should usually have the tension devices built in. If you are going the cardboard box route, a simple fly tying bobbin, or even placing the thread through some pages of a stack of books will work.
The first step in building a rod is mounting the grips and reel seat. Like anything else, there’s and endless list of options for both. Grip materials, colors, and shapes can all be chosen buy you. There’s more out than just cork and foam! Carbon fiber, and grippy rubber are some other options for grips. Get creative, but try to stick to your “theme” so everything meshes well. Just like the grips, there’s an almost endless variety of reel seats. Plastic, metals, carbon, exotic woods, even bone and antler have been used in reel seats, and all of those options are available in many colors. You can even apply your own custom work to things like grips and reel seats, like this pyrography work done on cork:
Once you’ve gotten the grips and reel seat mounted, and the epoxy has dried, it’s time to mount the tip top. Tip tops are mounted with a type of hot glue. Simply put the glue in the tip top, heat it up, and slide it on the tip of the blank. Make sure to have it perfectly aligned with the reel seat before it cools down and the glue hardens! Unlike the epoxy for the grips and reel seat that takes time to dry, the tip top will be set and the blank can be handled as soon as it cools off.
Once the tip top has cooled, you’re ready for the most time consuming, important, and fun part of building a rod; mounting the guides and laying down thread! Guides are held on to the blank using thread, which is wound around both the guide foot and the blank. These wraps can be anything from simple single colored wraps, to intricate wraps consisting of various designs and colors. This is usually one of the most frustrating steps for beginners, but have patience. Get it just the way you want, and don’t be afraid to cut it off and start again if you are not happy!
Here’s a simple black wrap with some red and silver trim :
And a much more complex wrap, featuring multiple colors and designs:
Once you’ve finished mounting all of the guides, you could be done… Or not! There’s a lot more you can do with the fishing rods to really set it of. The area above the top grip, and the area between rear split grips are both open areas begging for some work. The options are many. Thread wrap designs, paint, marbling, and custom stickers are just a few options.
If sticking with thread, you have many things you can work with. There’s an almost endless list of wraps and weaves to give you an awesome look using nothing more than thread. One popular option is called a tiger wrap, which uses two layers of thread and finish to give a marbled, swirled holographic effect. It looks like paint, but it’s created using nothing but thread!
Another option is a decorative wrap. There are many, many choices, some simple, others more complex, that can all be created with as many of any colors you like. This chevron wrap is an example:
And if you’ve just grown tired of wrapping all that thread, you have other choices too. Stickers are common. They go on the blank, and finish is applied over that, so they last the life of the rod, won’t peel off, and after the finish is applied, you often can’t tell it’s a sticker. Another option is marbling. In marbling, a pigment powder is added to the finish, creating colored epoxy finish, which is swirled over the rod blank, as seen here:
And when you’re all finished with your rod, don’t forget to select the perfect reel to match up with your masterpiece! Piscifun offers fishing reels in many styles and colors to match your fishing rod. This Piscifun Honor spinning reel was a perfect fit for this red, white and black themed spinning fishing rod:
And that’s it! Not only is it satisfying to have built your own fishing rod, the feeling you get when you catch fish on a rod you built is near indescribable! Fishing rod building is just another dimension into the joy and work we love as anglers.
- Alice Wang