- Choose rod type, length, action
- See a custom rod-building catalog, simplify choices
- Order, sort the parts, prepare the parts, follow the instructions, get it done, and SEE BELOW
By Bob Holzhei
Building a custom fishing rod is much easier and more affordable than many fishermen think! I’m not a rod-builder, but I met a friend that has become a real custom rod building expert, his name is Tom Marks. He says, “I’m still just learning how to do a lot of the details, but I’m a good learner and I’ve put several dozen rods together over the last few years, my friends seem to like them. It’s more a hobby than anything else, it’s certainly not a job for me (yet).” He has taught me how to do what you do to accomplish what might be nearly impossible for me alone. Tom invited me to watch and do, as he went along.
First, you decide the type of rod you want. To keep things simple, I chose between just two rod types: casting rod or spinning rod? After that, will it be a lightweight, medium-weight, heavy-weight, fast action, slow action? How long? Length is a big factor based on your physical size. The number of pieces? The most sensitive rods are always one-piece, but two-piece rods fit so much better in the trunk! You can decide all these rod details on your own, they are all questions you need to answer.
I chose a custom spinning rod and then enjoyed working and (mostly) watching Tom build my fishing rod.
STEPS IN ROD BUILDING:
Select the rod blank and components. Order a kit or talk to a custom rod-builder like Tom.
Tom says, “First, I find and mark the rod spline with a permanent marker. The spline is the backbone of the rod and is located where the internal “heavy section” inside the internal circumference of the rod blank is located, it is actually the strong backbone part of the rod. The spline is the reference plane for where the guides will go, on one side of the spline or directly opposite of the spline. More on that later.
The backbone allows the guides to be placed to provide the greatest rod strength for the blank itself, so the rod will not break when a big fish is on the line. This improves the balance and performance of the rod, also ensuring straighter casts.”
When building a spinning rod, the spline is marked (it runs the entire length of the blank) and the guides are placed opposite the spline. On a casting rod, the guides are placed on top of the rod blank spline.
“There’s nothing like catching a fish with a custom-made rod,” smiled Marks.
The Simple 6-Step How-To:
- Select the rod kit and order it to meet your needs as mentioned earlier. Or see a humble custom rod builder like Tom Marks and ask him questions, then he can design a kit for you and build exactly what you want.
- The physical components need to be prepared. This includes adjusting the rod grip to fit the blank. It might mean using some special tools to ream the internal diameter of the grip as necessary to fit the rod blank, no matter if it’s cork or carbon fiber. The grip will be held in place on the blank using epoxy glue later. The rod blank is then measured and marked to determine the location for the grip, real seat, and rod guides.
- The grip (handle of the rod) is dry-fitted to the blank by attaching the reel seat and aligning the combination with the spline, and when this all looks right, epoxy is used to permanently fasten to the blank.
- The top side of each guide foot is sanded to allow a smooth transition for the thread winding to track onto the foot. The guides are then aligned on the rod blank to the marked, spline-oriented, locations from earlier. The guides are attached temporarily using rubber bands cut from silicone tubing (some builders use masking tape for this step). The thread of your color choice is then used to wrap and hold the guides to their designated place. Again, the guides need to be straight and all in-line on the blank. Before the epoxy is applied, the guides can be moved ever so slightly to assure they are perfectly in line. Tom uses the recommended placement of guides from “Mud Hole,” an online supply company of custom rod building kits.
- A light coat of epoxy glue is placed on the thread wrap and allowed to cure for 24 hours while slowly rotating the blank to assure no runs occur from the epoxy. Marks will use two to three coats of thread wrap epoxy to assure the wraps and guide feet are sealed and impervious to the external environment.
- Lastly, the tip-top is glued in place with hot melt glue.
The rod-build is done.
“The rod is now complete and decorative items can be added including special extra wraps, marbling, decals or really special things such as rattlesnake skin,” added Marks.
“The reasons the custom rods are better than those purchased off the rack is because the rod is crafted to your chosen specifications, your color choice, special highlights with a preference for action, length and all that. Extra care is taken in the building process,” concluded Marks.
Other advantages of a custom-built rod become obvious when you use that rod. Accuracy in casting, heightened sensitivity, best overall performance, including matched balance for rod weight and reel weight, and simple enjoyment.
A wide variety of options are available when designing your custom rod; I selected a rattlesnake skin handle for my custom rod. “I use a power-winder to turn the blank and place the thread on for each guide, though it’s a time-consuming process. It takes from 6-7 hours to place the components (precision alignment), add the handle glue, sand and place the guides, add the thread wraps, tip-top and epoxy coat the final product,” stated Marks.
Discovering a new hobby is an added benefit for the fisherman who wishes to expand his knowledge of fishing and gain a new appreciation for the various learning opportunities that fishing can offer as a recreational sport.
Prices of a custom fishing rod kit can range from $50 and go up to several hundred, depending on the quality of the rod blank, quality and type of guides, and personalized artwork. Turnkey rod kits can be purchased from Mud Hole direct. The finished custom rod is a function of time and materials…and skill. Every builder values his time, and time has a value. If it takes 2 hours or 10 hours, you add that on at the end. Do it yourself? Yes, you can save a lot of money, but it just might not be the same.
Tom Marks is a retired engineer and a discussion with him can help you decide what type of rod, type of action and all the rest, might be best for you. Tom receives satisfaction from designing and making custom fishing rods for others. “I like to see everyone happy with the finished rod. For many, it’s a once-in-lifetime thing, their custom fishing rod is what they’ve been dreaming about,” says Marks.
To review the many rod kit choices or for a free catalog, visit www.mudhole.com or call 1-866-790-7637. They also offer free advice and rod-building classes. To visit Tom Marks, drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll put you in contact.