- Rod length, sensitivity, power, flex…all these factors matter
- Setting the hook, it’s the best feeling with a rod you helped design
- Rattlesnake skin and other custom handles personalize rods to the individual
By Bob Holzhei
“The sensitivity in any fishing rod can be determined by placing the tip of the rod against your throat while another person holds the other end of the rod. At that point, the person who has the tip of the rod against their throat begins to talk and at the other end, the vibration can be felt,” says expert angler and custom fishing rod-maker, Tom Marks, who vacations and fishes in Florida during the winter months.
Marks has been building custom rods for the past six years. “It usually takes me about 48 hours or three days to build a rod,” says Marks.
“I ask the perspective customer which type of rod they want me to build for them, whether it’s a spin casting rod, an all-purpose rod, and also ask if they are throwing crankbaits, need a worm rod, like to drop shot, if they are skipping docks, tossing jerk baits, Carolina rigs, need a bottom-bouncer for walleye, jig-flipping and pitching, or if they use a frog topwater bait or other top water bait. They’re all slightly different,” stated Marks.
“The purpose for which the rod will be used helps me decide on the power and speed of the rod. The power, which is how stiff the rod needs to be and the speed, which refers to how much flex is in the tip, both affect the style efficiency. Flex is the amount of bend in the upper 1/3 of the rod. The faster the rod, the more sensitive it will feel. For crankbaits, or moving baits which are trolled, a slower rod is sufficient because the strike or bite is much harder. The slower rod helps absorb some of the initial shock of the bite and also keeps the fish from throwing the hook,” added Marks.
Marks custom decorates his precision fishing rods according to customer wishes. Nylon and metallic threads can be used on the guide wraps, and many other variations. Marks also uses real rattlesnake skin on the handle and other decorative skins and wraps in the split grip and fore grip.
“I place a decorative thread band 12 inches from the front edge of the handle. Decorative work might include thread work cross-weaved with multiple colored threads or chevron patterns. Occasionally I marbleize the colors,” added Marks.
Marks began purchasing his rod building materials after he saw a Mudhole display at an outdoor show, located in Oviedo, Florida. Mudhole is a Rod Building and Tackle Crafting Company that can provide helpful process instructions and all the supplies for rod building. Visit www.mudhole.com or call 866-790-RODS.
Marks explained the steps in building a rod. “After the materials are ordered and arrive, I first take the order out of the package,” Marks replied while laughing. “First the spline in the rod is found, this is the backbone of the rod. I take the rod and put tension on it, while rolling the rod. The area of the spine will snap or hop. The spline is the heaviest part of the rod. The theory is the spline is found in one spot, it provides a keyway for guide location and better angler control later,” stated Marks.
Second, Marks determines what kind of rod he will make. The handle or grip is put on the rod. He reams out the handle to fit the blank. Then Pro-epoxy paste is put on to secure the handle.
Third, the guides are put on after measuring and marking the rod blank for the spacing between the guides. Mudhole provides suggestions on where to place the guides. Marks runs a line up and down the tip to insure the guides are lined up. He also uses a laser beam to insure the guides are correctly aligned. After the guide are mounted, protective clear epoxy is added.
Fourth, two additional coats of clear epoxy are put on and then 400 grit sandpaper removes any imperfections. Marks then field tests the rod to assure quality.
“If I catch a big fish while testing, I know that particular rod is a real good one,” kidded Marks with a grin.
“Building fishing rods is a great hobby and I never stop learning. I began fishing with my dad when I was 4 years old, and when I was 10, I really got into fishing and loved it. I learned from my father how to fish for walleye, since we lived within walking distance of Lake Erie near Derby, New York,” stated Marks.
I tagged along with Marks as he fished with the rod and learned as I watched his fishing strategy from a distance.
“The presentation is the key. The bite is what keeps me interested. When I set the hook – it’s a great feeling. There’s a rush of adrenaline! I could fish all day for the bite,” concluded Marks.
For more information: e-mail address – firstname.lastname@example.org; 716-997-6919.