Part I: Choosing the Proper BlankThe most important step in designing and building a custom rod is the selection of the proper blank. The rod builder must design the rod to function as part of a "balanced" outfit, and then build the rod correctly. All three factors play a direct role in the completed rod and the ability of the rod to perform at its optimal level.
The Right Tool For The Job - Some Basic Questions to Answer
Choosing the right blank requires that you have a complete understanding of the requirements of the rod, such as:
- Casting distance required
- Depth of water and structure of area being fished
- Primary target species and average weight, trophy weight and by-catch.
- Fishing method: surf, boat, casting, jigging, etc.
- Type of reel, line and line test
- Lure or sinker weight range
- Skill of the fisherman
- Physical capability of the fisherman
You need to know the price range you will be working with. If you are on a restricted budget, go with the best blank you can afford and save some dollars by using Fuji hardaloy guides instead of SICs.
Knowing the Different Blank Materials
Once these questions are answered and a budget is established, you can look at different blanks that could potentially do the job. These blanks can be made of fiberglass, graphite or composite. Each material has its positives and negatives. In addition, a blank's action is a function of three factors: the material used; the taper of the blank; and the thickness of the wall of the blank.
There is a lot of marketing hype by manufacturers on higher modulus blank materials and improved casting performance. However, there is a tradeoff between performance and durability to consider. Similarly rated blanks from different manufacturers having a wide disparity in cost reflect differences in blank material, taper, wall thickness and quality of the
manufacturing process. Here is a short review of the blank materials currently available:
- E Glass - the original rod building material introduced in the early 1950's. The e glass rods of today are vastly different due to new resin bonding systems and improved manufacturing processes. Where toughness, durability and cost are factors to consider, e glass may be your answer.
- S Glass - a step up from e glass, but now in limited production. S glass blanks are lighter in weight and crisper in action then e glass. They make super casting rods for light line and lures. A favorite of mine is the Lamiglas SMB963M.
- Graphite - the next step up from s glass. Graphite blanks are super light in weight, and greatly improve casting performance. However, graphite blanks are less durable then fiberglass, and prone to break if not handled with care. They are significantly higher in price then fiberglass. In addition, there are different grades of graphite material being used, different resin bonding systems and different levels of quality control in the blank manufacturing process. These differences are reflected in the cost of similarly rated blanks from different manufacturers.
- Composite - Composite blanks are a combination of glass and graphite combining many of the good traits of both materials. They are an excellent choice to consider when fishing with the synthetic braided lines. Composite blanks can be made of different combinations of graphite, E glass or S glass. These differences are usually reflected in the cost of the blank. In my experience the best of the composites are made by Calstar, Loomis and Lamiglas.
It's a Fishing Tool First
However beautiful it may be, the rod will not bring complete satisfaction to the user unless it functions correctly as a fishing tool.
The rod should also be matched closely to the physical size, strength and skill level of the fisherman.The following are the key questions that need to be answered to select the proper blank:
- Fishing experience or ability, physical size and condition of the fisherman. This is extremely important in building the right surf rod since the ability to properly load the rod to achieve the casting distance required. An 11 foot rod in the hands of a 5 ½ foot tall fisherman is probably not the right match to be able to properly load the rod for maximum casting performance.
- Rod type - surf, boat, fly, etc.
- Fishing method - conventional or spinning, trolling, casting, or baitfishing.
- Fish being sought - average weight vs. trophy weight, potential by-catch.
- Type of line and weight (breaking strength).
- Lure or sinker weight
- The reel that will be used with the rod
- Fishing conditions in primary area being fished
- Overall budget for the completed rod.
Key Tips To Remember:
- Stick with name brand blanks. You get what you pay for.
- Have a complete understanding of the fishing requirements of the rod.
- Determine the proper length, action and blank material based on the skill level, application and physical size of the fisherman
- Remember that graphite, composite and E-glass each has their advantages in certain applications. Know the strengths and drawbacks of each.
As a final thought, really get to understand the detailed rod performance requirements for specific fishing applications in your area. You must have a thorough, detailed knowledge of a rod's intended use in order to build the "Better Mousetrap".
Some of My Favorite Toys and Their Application:High Surf
Boat Casting - Lamiglas GLB901M, MB1083M, SMB963M. Loomis L904 and 905.
Boat Chunking, Eeling and Heavy Bottom Fishing - Lamiglas CGBT841M, GCF78H, BT857S. Loomis Hybrid HB66H and 70H.
Medium Boat Rods for Jigging and Bottom Fishing up to 8 ounces - Seeker CLB708 and CBW658. Lamiglas GFC84MH.
Light Bucktailing and Plugging from a boat for Schoolie Bass, Blues and Weakfish - Lamiglas GLB841L and M, SW78MH. Loomis SW84-16. Seeker CLB706.
The next article will cover spining the blank, guide selection and preparation, grip materials and handle assembly.