Rod Building Is Easy

There’s a fine line between utility and art. Most of us settle for utility in our fishing rods, while others truly find art in them. Still others use their fishing rod to make a personal statement.

For the outdoor crowd, winter is the season for staying connected to fishing, often through a little craftsmanship. One way to while away a little winter (even rainy days in the summer) is to enjoy projects, and making your own fishing rod is a great one. 

Building a custom fishing rod is a bit time consuming, but it is possible to build a fly rod, spinning rod, or baitcasting rod which you can be proud of using. The great thing about the outcome is that unlike an “off the rack” rod, the builder can pick the grip he or she wants, choose the type of rod guides, and customize the rod to their individual tastes, right down to the color of the wrapping thread.

You Can Build A Unique Rod
For more experienced rod builders, even more custom features are available, like decorative rod wrapping, or maybe a ruler on the butt section of the rod. Once you learn the basics of building a rod, the possibilities are endless.

One friend of mine, John Prokrym (jjpflytyer@yahoo.com or call 518-869-7563), is in the business of building custom rods for anglers, and his creations are incredible, from tiny fly rods for small streams, all the way up to rods that will tackle a sailfish. Prokrym’s rods will last a lifetime and many people go to him because he can produce something that can’t be bought “off the rack” at a dealer or through a catalog.

John Prokrym builds quality rods for all types of fishing.

Another thing a guy like Prokrym can do is repair a rod, including vintage rods and collectables.

For the do-it-yourselfer, most of the major catalog outfits specializing in fishing tackle offer either the parts to make fishing rods, or complete kits for individual rods. Depending on the rod style you are choosing, the basic parts needed include a rod blank, a cork or other sort of hand grip, guides, some epoxy for gluing the handle up, finish for the rod wrapping, and heavy thread for the guides. 

These same catalogs also feature equipment for building rods including rod wrapping jigs ranging from inexpensive models all the way up to professional quality models. If it is your first time up to the rod building plate, a cardboard box with two notches cut in it for the rod to ride in will work reasonably well. 

The tools for this type of work can easily be found around most households, with the possible exception of a thread tensioning device. The idea is that when wrapping the rod guides, the thread should be put on with an even tension. The folks who sell rod building materials will also have these simple thread tools available, and it is worth buying as the wrapping will be much smoother.

Rod builders also use a mechanical turner that keeps rotating the rod as the finish dries to keep it from settling on one side, for a smooth, even finish around the guides. These are a little pricey, but the same thing can be accomplished by sitting in front of the television and manually rotating the rod blank until the finish dries, preferably while watching a good fishing show. 

Finding Rod’s Spine Is Key
The toughest part of putting a rod together is establishing where the spine of the rod blank is. This “spine” is the stiffest part of the blank, and the guides have to be installed on each section of the rod in the same relation to this spine. It is found by bending the small diameter section of each piece of the rod on a table (or the tip on a kitchen floor) and slowly rotating the blank to see where the spine is evident. 

The rod guides are installed at specific intervals along the blank, and are temporarily held in place with masking tape until they are wrapped with the thread. The spacing intervals vary with each rod style. 

Building your own custom rod is a pretty simple process, and believe it or not, most people are capable of building a rod that will look good, and last a lifetime. I’m still catching trout with the first fly rod I ever built, and while there are a couple of things I would do differently in terms of the guides I selected, the rod still looks great. 

If you want to be on the water with something no one else has, give rod building a try. It’s a great way to pass the time while waiting for the start of fishing season. 

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