Custom Rod Component Selection (Part 1)
In last week's article, we took a look at various considerations in choosing the blank for your custom fishing rod. After you have decided upon the blank model, you get to choose what components the rod will be built with. The type of handle you choose and the reel seat can often set off a rod beautifully. It is very important to ensure that the cork you are getting is good quality or you may end up needing to do some handle surgery in a few years.
Although there are different materials available for fishing rods, cork remains the choice of most. Foam handles or grips, while inexpensive, tend to deteriorate faster and are not as comfortable as materials of a higher density. With a foam handle, your hand will have a tendency to squeeze tighter, resulting in hand fatigue, especially after a long day of casting and fishing!
Cork is actually the bark of the cork oak tree, which is primarily grown in Portugal. Over the years, cork has become a commodity in great demand and the quality has deteriorated significantly. Because of its qualities, wine producers favor top quality cork as bottle stoppers and there is not enough good quality cork to go around. The best of each year's crop is very expensive which often translates into higher costs for rodmakers. However, considering that the average rod handle is about 7 to 8 inches, for a single rod, the difference in cost is about $16.00. A small price to pay if your rod is going to have top quality guides and reel seat!
If you are building your rod yourself, you have a choice between purchasing pre-formed cork handles or individual rings, generally 1/2 inch long, with which you make your own grip. Most who are building their first rod generally choose to purchase a pre-formed handle. These are available in high grade cork, but you do have to be certain that it is. There are a lot of standard grips that are made from cork that is in fact of a very poor grade.
If you are having a professional rod maker build your rod for you, he should have the facilities to build the handle using individual cork rings and then shape it for you on some type of lathe. One of the best ways to customize the rod is to fit the handle to the individual who will be casting it. A rod off the rack has a handle that is made for the 'average' hand size. Most women will want a grip that is smaller in diameter. Those with large hands will find a larger diameter grip to be more comfortable and less fatiguing. Stay away from grips that have been made with thumb rest. Supposedly, these fit the hand better, however, when you cast, you will want to be able to move your hand around a bit. Having the thumb rest on a grip does not really help the angler in the long run.
There are a variety of shapes that you can have a grip made into. The most common of course are the cigar, wells, western, and reverse wells. Personally, I find the western style to be the most comfortable.
The next consideration is the type of reel seat you want on your rod. On light rods, many prefer the graphite type of reel seat made by Fuji or Pacific Bay. These come with a plug that you can insert at either end to make the reel seat either up locking or downlocking. There are a wide variety of other types of reel seats as well. Those with nickel silver hardware and wood inserts are very popular on a custom rod. Although quite a bit pricier than a graphite seat, they certainly will add to the classic appearance of a rod. Some popular manufacturers include Bellinger, Struble, REC, and Cortland. Although fairly new and not well known at this time, the Canadian company, D & M Rods produces their own line of Osprey reel seats which are also of very high quality.
One thing you will want to be very careful of when choosing your reel seat is whether or not it will fit the reel you plan on using. There is no standardized reel foot size, and there is a good possibility that the reel you want will not hold your reel. Some reels have feet that are quite wide or have a high curve in them and will not fit the hardware on some seats. Make sure you check this out before shelling out a lot of cash on the seat!
For those of you that are planning on building your own rod, don't forget you will need to epoxy the grip and reel seat to your blank. The most practical epoxy I know of is called Rod Bond, a formula that was developed by Ralph O'Quinn, who was employed in the space industry and knows a great deal about chemistry as well as being a rod builder. His Rod Bond has a consistency that is perfect for rod building. It is not as heavy as other paste type epoxies but has the necessary bond strength to ensure your seat doesn't come loose while fighting that trophy fish! It is available at most custom rod component retailers.
In the next article, we will take a look at what is available for rod guides.