How to

Off The Shelf Rod Components

MANY anglers pick up a rod in a tackle store, flick it around, put a bend through the blank and check for action without closely considering the components used in the rods manufacture. Guides, reel seats, handles, and grips along with gimbals and butt caps are all important features of a fishing rod that not only impact the performance of the rod but may also influence knots, casting, and comfort. Having a better understanding of the components and design of the rod can greatly assist in choosing a rod that is optimally suited to your fishing style and gives a better overall user experience when out on the water.

Guide frame materials

The guides on a fishing rod for the critical interface between the rod and the line. The frame material used along with the size and shape can all have a bearing on the performance. Similarly, the ring material, diameter and shape can also impact performance and rigging options. Guide frames that sit at an angle closer to the blank are less prone to tangles when fishing in a cross wind. A good example of this a Fuji K-guide which are angled towards the blank also have the frame supports extending out from the side of the guide which helps the line disentangle more freely than traditional Y shaped guides during casting. The frame material can also impact performance and longevity as more expensive materials such as titanium offering superior corrosion resistance whilst being significantly lighter and stronger than stainless steel. It pays to choose a rod with components from reputable brand such as Fuji.

Number and size of guides

Increasing the number of guides helps the line to track more closely to the curvature of the blank, improving transfer of stored energy from the bent blank to the line. They also help distribute the stresses on the rod and line more evenly. Having more guides will add to the cost of the rod and there is a trade off as every guide diminishes the performance of the rod ever so slightly. Smaller guides, often termed micro guides, allow the line spiralling off a thread line reel to be more restrained by channelling the line through a discrete path. This restricts unnecessary movement of the line, improving casting distance. Smaller guides also occupy less of a footprint on the rod blank which allows the rod to bend as intended. The challenge with micro guides however is that you need braid to leader knots that are ultra slim, and this generally also means a restriction on leader thickness to avoid bulky knots.

Reel seats

Reel seats come in a variety of styles and materials with the sole purpose of securing the reel to the rod. The key differences between reel seats are in how snug and securely the reel is held and ergonomics or comfort when cradling the seat in your hand. When selecting an off the shelf rod you should ideally take the reel you intend to use, load it with line and screw it into the reel seat of the rod. You should then palm or grab the reel and feel how comfortable it is in hand. Better quality reel seats on light casting rods are contoured to provide more of an ergonomic grip which becomes increasingly important if casting all day. If fishing heavier tackle, more robust reel seats should be considered which utilise thicker materials, reinforced hoods and deep cut threads with heavy duty locking nuts to securely hold the reel under extreme loads.

Handles and grips

There are many grip materials available for fishing rods with EVA foam and cork being the two most popular and likely that you will see on a production fishing rod. Cork is a relatively light weight yet firm material that will provide a solid grip and is better at transmitting bites and vibration from the blank to your hand. Cork grips can however become slippery when wet and potentially chip or crack so require periodic care and maintenance to keep in optimal shape. EVA on the other hand is a more durable yet softer material that is more comfortable when holding for extended periods and stands up well to being thrown around in rod holders and rod racks. Another important consideration is the grip length. Shorter rear grips that do not extend beyond your elbow will be relatively light and will not catch on clothing or get in the way of single-handed casting but do place more emphasis on the angler’s wrist so offer little in the way of leverage. Longer butt lengths offer more leverage for casting but feel somewhat cumbersome. The increased leverage of longer butts gives a mechanical advantage when fighting fish however if the butt is too long you may need to lean over to grab the foregrip making it uncomfortable for extended battles and negating any advantage so loading up a rod and testing it out with the assistance of shop staff is vital. Split style grips have become quite popular over the last decade and offer some cost savings due to reduced materials being used along with pleasing aesthetics however the exposed butt section can become scratched and damaged in unforgiving rod holders.

Capping it off

Butt caps are an important consideration because they will ultimately be the point of contact between the rod and your body when fighting a fish. On heavier rods however a rounded cap is more comfortable with the more bulbous versions helping spread the load. Slotted gimbals on heavy tackle rods are great for allowing the rod to lock into slotted rod holders and should always be used with an appropriate fighting belt with a gimbal pin, alternatively you can slide on a butt cap to cover the harsh ends of a gimbal if you want to fight your fish without using a belt! Finally, weighted butt caps are a novel innovation that allow you to add weights to the butt of the rod to help balance the outfit. When holding a balanced outfit, the weight above your hand and below your hand are in equilibrium resulting in greater comfort and reduced fatigue.

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