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Rod Preview : First Impressions


Fenwick is Back! A First Look at the Completely Refreshed Lineup from Eagle to World Class (continued)


Building a team to re-invent the new Fenwick rods: Two ICAST shows ago I learned that Pure Fishing was starting to build a new team of rod engineers and product managers to help usher in a new generation of rods. I did not know that they would be developing the Fenwick Series at the time, but I immediately became interested when I heard that the company had brought on two very recognizable names, Justin Poe and Dave Brinkerhoff.


Justin and Dave walk us through the changes to the Fenwick line


Well known in the industry, both of these individuals have worked on some of the most important rod launches in history. Long time readers of TackleTour may recognize Justin Poe as he was the Global Brand Manager at G.Loomis that gave us the scoop on the first NRX launch back in 2011. On the development side, David Brinkerhoff has done just about every job at G.Loomis, everything from customer support through product design and manufacturing. We have been talking to Dave about rods since 2007 from the first G.Loomis swimbait specific rods to the more recent launch of NRX plus.


The new Fenwick rods will focus on Bass and Walleye species and applications


The wealth of rod design and manufacturing knowledge between the two of them spans decades and I was interested to see what they had planned. At the beginning of the year, I learned that the team had built a new rod lab at the company’s headquarters in Sprit Lake. In this lab Dave and his team can experiment with new graphite and resins and even prototype complete rods prior to mass production. This ability to iterate on designs allows for fine-tuning on everything from dialing in the mandrels to the components, and even exploring new approaches to manufacturing.


The day before we hit the water Justin shows us the high-end World Class rods which feature 40 and 36 ton graphite and proprietary reinforcing resin


This past week I finally got a firsthand look, and feel, for the upcoming Fenwick rods as we put them to the test against both Smallmouth Bass and Walleye on Oneida Lake in New York.


Dave handed me a swimbait rod and I was able to make a few casts before dark


A “New” Fenwick: This upcoming ICAST will probably be the biggest Fenwick launch in the company’s history. This is not just the launch of one new series of rods, but a complete refresh of the entire Fenwick line of Bass and Walleye rods. The team had the challenging task of honoring the history of the brand while making drastic improvements in design and performance.


On the water at Oneida Lake and getting a feel for the different rods


After fishing with them for a few days I have several takeaways about these new rods regarding their design, craftsmanship, performance, and consistency.


Design: All the new rods feature a cleaner look and feel in comparison to recent generations of Fenwick rods. Each of the lines is distinguished from one another with varying blends of graphite, with 40 ton graphite at the high end on World Class, and all with the company’s proprietary reinforcing resin which has been used previously on high-end Abu Garcia rods. The result is the crispest feeling Fenwick rods that I’ve ever fished. I was able to discern whether I was getting strikes from smallmouth or bluegill immediately, and even subtle pickups on the spinning rods is considerably better than previous generation rods.


Fenwick wanted to design a better more ergonomic reel seat and studied how seats fit in the crux of angler's hands and even turned to medical tool manufacturers for input


A huge blank through design with reinforced sides and soft touch surfaces


While there is a lot that went into the blank design, there was an equal amount of emphasis placed on the new proprietary reel seat shapes. A tailored foregrip with reduced length and added taper allows for forward finger placement and enhanced feel. The new handle grips look unique, provide exceptional access to the blank, while still feeling natural in hand. Some minimalist reel seat designs provide complete access to the blank but at the expense of ergonomics.


The Eagle rods feature a similar design but with different cork handle connections


I asked Dave how they created the new ergonomics and he explained that they engineered many different designs and ultimately even worked with surgical tool manufacturers to better understand human hand and grip dynamics to engineer a better handle. What they came up with is a new sculpted reel seat that transitions into an hourglass shaped cork handle. The profile of both the casting and spinning reel grips are designed to fill the crux of angler’s hands naturally for better control and less fatigue. I found both grips very good, and the learning curve was minimal on the casting seat especially, as it felt natural from the moment that I gripped the rod.


MLF Pro Angler Ronnie McCoy putting the bend on a smallmouth


The spinning reel seat took a little longer but once I battled a smallmouth I immediately got it. The same cutouts in the handle that allow you to put your fingers on the blank on top of the reel stem acts like a spine that anchors in your hand so there is no rotation of the rod during the battle. The design offers a strong combination of both sensitivity and control.


The new Fenwick spinning reel seat is very interesting and features a blank through design in the middle of the seat where your fingers can rest and a spine to better fit in your hand


Across the entire rod lineup the handles are similar, and consist of both solid and split grip designs, depending on the rod and application. All the handles have a sculpted cork main handle with a combination of EVA and composite cork butt sections. The combination of these materials varies in each series and are more than just visual distinguishing characteristics but functional components in the overall rod design.


Ronnie landing a smallmouth with a Fenwick Elite rod


As an example, each of the different series rods have varying blank weights and to optimize balance Dave used different combinations of cork, EVA, and composite cork material in the rear grip to fine tune the balance on each rod.


Notice how the new Fenwick World Class rod has more EVA in the back...


...versus the Eagle rod which has more composite cork. This is because the Eagle's 24 and 30 Ton blanks are heavier and the denser and heavier composite cork balances out the rod. Each rod was fine tuned this way to optimize balance and feel


The effect is noticeable and after fishing many of the rods that Dave has had a hand designing over the last few decades, I could feel a similar level of balance and crispness that I haven’t found in Fenwick rods for years.


Ronnie with a healthy NY smallie landed on the new Elite

Next : A Unified Product Line and Feeling the Difference









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