Can't Find Exactly What You Need in a New Fishing Rod? Maybe It's Time You Considered Custom!
The Grip: This one single area of your rod really defines its visual appeal. Do you go with a traditional full rear grip and foregrip or do you want to eliminate the foregrip all together because you never hold the rod at this juncture? Split rear grips area all the fashion today because it reduces the weight of the rod overall, but they also usually result in a rod that is tip heavy. Does balance matter to you?
This custom swimbait stick with a mix hypalon and cork split rear grip was built for us by George Roth on a Loomis Backbounce blank.
Then, once you decide on the grip style you'd prefer, there are the many materials available to accomplish this end goal: cork, graphite tubing, hypalon, eva, to name a few. With cork, you can go with alternating inlays to create a pattern, or just the clean look of one type of cork. The same can be done with foam materials and with graphite tubing there are color options to add some spice to your stick.
Fuscia winding checks really set this rod off.
Time Frame: This is where it gets tricky. The custom rod route is not for those in need of immediate gratification. The typical timeframe for a good builder to produce your custom stick is anywhere from four to six weeks - assuming all the components you want are available. If they need to place a special order for any of your components, the wait is anyone's guess. I've waited as long a full year for a completed rod.
But again, maybe your preferences is for a more understated silver.
Additionally, because most custom builders are one person operations and they are not likely doing this line of work for their primary source of income, priorities in their personal and business lives can affect the timeframe for completion of your stick. These are very important considerations to keep in mind and something that should be delineated clearly when discussing your rod with a custom builder. If time is important, make it clear and be prepared to make some compromises in your specification. If time is not of the essence, all the better.
A nice Clear Lake bass caught on a 22nd Century Triple Trout and a George Roth Custom swimbait stick.
Other Considerations: It's important, when contacting a custom rod builder, to ask for photographs of their past work so you can get a sense of their experience, but it is even more important to make sure your end goals align with their skill level and approach. If they have references from past customers, this might help, but one has to assume any references given by a potential builder to you, will be from a slightly biased perspective.
Silver on silver, quite simple, yet elegant look.
Form or Function: The eternal debate during any kind of design exercise is which aspect takes priority - form or function? Once again, only you can make this ultimate decision but a good builder will present facts on both sides of this discussion during the process so you can make an informed decision.
As opposed to this?
Most builders will have a preference and many tend to seek a compromise between the two sides, so if you do not have an opinion either way this aspect should be of little concern. Just be certain, in case you do have a preference one way or the other, to express this desire to your builder and make sure they can accommodate you because ultimately, this rod is for you.
Check out how this rod and reel compliment each other!
Warranty: Another aspect that often is overlooked when considering a custom built rod is the issue of warranty. Typically, a custom rod's blank is warranted by the manufacturer but this warranty covers the blank only. Should something happen to the blank, in order to replace the rod, someone needs to strip down the components, salvage whatever pieces are salvageable, and rebuild the entire rod. This is an intensive process so unless it is clearly described to you as such prior to your committing to a custom stick, do not expect your builder to repair and replace your rod for no charge.
One of my favorite spinnerbait sticks, an Otterods custom built stick on a G.Loomis MB843 GLX blank.
Warranties cover individual components only and are subject to whatever coverage the original manufacturer might have in place for a non-factory build - it is NOT the responsibility of your builder to add any additional coverage for labor or other costs on top of these coverage and to expect as much would be entirely unreasonable. If you want a factory style warranty, stick to factory rods or find a manufacturer that will customize a rod for you and provide the same kind of coverage you're accustomed to in their production sticks.
The custom wonder shown at the beginning of this article is the work of Mark Janeck and built on a G.Loomis CB843 blank.
Mistakes: Yes, believe it or not, mistakes do happen. Even if you go through the effort with your builder to cross all the t's and dot all the i's, mistakes will still happen - expect them. A good builder will work with you to correct any mistakes or missed expectations that had taken place during the build. Maybe they got the highlight thread color wrong, or put the hook hangar in the wrong place, or forgot you wanted a spiral wrap instead of conventional, or vice versa because you went back and forth so often - stuff happens.
Most builders taper the front portion of the rear grip towards the blank. This subtle squared off treatment gives the grip the appearance of more volume and presents a much more clean and defined line of detail - something that would be overlooked by most.
If you make your exchanges through email, keep a clear record of your discussions surrounding specifications, and any mistakes that do occur can be worked out quickly, and hopefully, with little anxiety on both ends. Keep in mind, it pays to be reasonable with your expectations as well - your builder is only human after all.
I was glad to have a spiral wrapped rod in my hand when this crazy striper hit!
Conclusions: We've but scratched the surface of the experience that is custom rod building and haven't even mentioned the topic of diving in and wrapping one yourself. There are complete websites dedicated to this craft and devotees that will settle for nothing less when it comes to their own sticks. It is an overall process and expense that is not for everyone - especially those seeking immediate gratification for their hard earned cash, yet there are aspects that will fulfill most everyone willing to make the journey. Rest assured, once you sample the possibilities it is difficult to deny the allure and resist coming back for more. Special thanks goes out to Matt Davis, George Roth, and Mark Janeck for their help with the rods shown in this article. A collection that is but a sampling of the rods they've all built for me.