A little about fishing rods
There are basically 3 materials used in to make fishing rod blanks, fiberglass, graphite and composites (combination of graphite and fiberglass).
Fiberglass is much more flexible and can take a lot of abuse compared to graphite. Graphite, depending on the type, is much denser, harder and had less elasticity.
Graphite is rated by “modulus of elasticity”. The higher the modulus, the less elasticity it will have. The good news is, the higher the modulus the more sensitive, lighter and more efficient the rod is going to be. The lightness and sensitivity is a result of not having to use as much material making the blank walls much thinner. The down side of this is that the rod is much easier to break.
This is mainly due to the angler not taking the proper precautions on how to treat the rod. Around 80% of rod damage comes while transporting the rod. Examples are, throwing it in the back of a truck, letting it hit the side of a boat. Even tapping it on something that is hard will cause damage. If rods are treated properly they will last a long time and lessen you chances of having a bad day on the river.
We have all heard the term “High Sticking”. “Modulus of Elasticity” is the key word here. When you break a rod you have reached the elasticity limits. “High Sticking” is a common word used because a large percentage of breaks happen when your tip is too high in the air and there is to much strain on the blank. The angle is too much and the rod breaks. I see over and over where people get snagged and start loading up the rod trying to get the snag out. A little tugging will not hurt, but ultimately you want to point the rod right at the snag and pull it out using the line.
It does not take much impact on a high module blank to damage it. Eventually the blank construction will be compromised (sometimes called bruised) and the blank will fail when enough strain is put on the rod.
Here is something to remember. If a rod blank fails (breaks) do to a manufacturer defect it almost always happens in the first couple of fishing trips.
Fishing rod blanks are still made by hand. This is done by wrapping the rod material, such as graphite, around a mandrel. A mandrel is a long tapered steel tube that comes in many lengths and tapers. It is very similar to when we were kids and used to roll paper into cone shapes.
You hear about all of these blanks called, IM6, IM7, RX7, RX6, GLX, IMX, and so on. What does all this mean? Much of it is marketing. It does, in cases, indicate the quality of rod as far as identification in the higher end rod manufacturers.
Something else to think about is keeping your rods clean. Egg cures have a ton of salt in them which, as you may know, is a corrosive not to mention the other chemicals involved in cures. Do your best to clean this stuff off. In the long run it will dry your cork out, damage blank finishes and corrode your metal components. By simply soaking your rod in warm water then using dish soap with a soft rag will do the trick. It may not get all of the dye out of your cork if you wait to long but it will help. Using a tooth brush on your guides and reel seat work well as well. Drying off your rods after the day is over is also a good idea especially after fishing in salt water.
The last thing I want to do when I come home from a long day on the river with little sleep is clean my rods “BUT!” If you rinse off your rods and dry them after every use, it will extend the life of your rod.
Some people ask why they should pay all this money for a rod when they can get a rod for this much. Well, in most cases, as a consumer, you get what you pay for. Here are some things you might want to look at when selecting a rod even if you are not going for the highest quality rod on the shelf.
I was at a really nice fly rod shop in Eastern Oregon. I was checking out the factory fly rods ranging from two hundred to one thousand dollars. I picked up a fly rod that had a price tag on it of about $750.00. As I admired the craftsmanship of the finish and the reel seat/handle assembly I was surprised to find that the first stripping guide was backwards. I politely pointed this out to the store owner and he was baffled. He thanked me for catching that and took the rod off of the rack and put it behind the counter. As we talked about custom rods and building them we both noticed that 17 other rods had the same thing wrong. Needless to say he was not happy.
Inspect the rod. Start from the handle and work your way up. Some of the best cork is hand picked by vendors and comes from Portugal at a very high price. What you want to look for in a high end rod is filler. You will see a color variation where they filled the pits. Take a high end St. Croix over to a lower end rod and you will see what I am talking about. Feel for soft spots in the cork by squeezing it with your fingers up and down each grip. When they ream the cork out to fit the blank they may over ream it creating gaps between the cork and blank. This is not a common problem, but I have repaired a couple of factory rods with cracked, indented cork.
Check the reel seat. Again, not a common problem, but it does happen. Apply a fair amount of pressure on the seat and try and turn it. I have fixed factory rods because the seat came lose. This is due to improper mounting and not enough bonding material. Check for gaps between the reel seat, cork grip, and butt grip. Also, check the butt cap to ensure it is bonded properly and not loose.
The most popular guides on the market today are Fuji, Pac Bay, American Tackle, and Forecast to name some common ones. You will mainly find Fuji and Pac Bay on your middle to upper end rods. They are the most popular because they have been around a long time and are pretty much the norm even in the custom rod building world. This does not mean the other mentioned makers are bad and in some cases they are better.
One of the most popular guides wanted on an upper end rod is Sic guides. I will use these as an example. What they are referring to is the ring and the material it is made of. Sic is short for “Silicon Carbide” and are rated on the “Vickers Hardness Scale” at about 2150 compared to the standard hard ring which is rated at 1000. You do not need SiC guides to use tuff line. You will see that question asked a lot. SiC guides are recommended if you are fishing in water that contains abrasive silt that can collect in braided line however for around here it is not necessary. SiC guides are a little lighter but it is in fractions of weight. Because SiC guides are so hard it has been my experience that the rings have a tendency to break more easily. This is not to say they are bad guides. I use them in some cases however this has been my experience. I have repaired more SiC guides than any other guide on the market due to the rings cracking or coming out of the guide frame. My self and other builders have discussed this and they have experienced the same thing. We all think it comes down to the ring being so hard that instead of having a little flex to it the ring breaks after it hits something. This would be similar to a high module graphite blank impacting an object.
Inspecting guides, guide wraps, and finish. Check the alignment of the guides. Un aligned guides will effect the flow of the line while casting causing additional line friction and less casting distance. Also check for guide spacing. Rod manufacturers tend to have a set spacing on factory rods unlike custom rods where some builders like my self use a system called “Static Guide Placement”. I will not go into that at this point. Make sure the guides are evenly spaced. The guides will get closer together toward the tip of the rod. Count the guides. Rod manufacturers will go as cheap as possible in lower end rods and even some of the upper end rods. An 8’6” – 9’ casting rod should have no less than 10 guides including the tip top guide is an example.
Look at each guide to make sure it is not bent. Check each ring in the guide frame very closely to make sure it is not loose or cracked and the ring is mounted straight. Check the guide wraps and finish. Make sure there are no deeps scratches. One very important thing to look for is directly under the guide ring between the feet. This is referred to the guide tunnel in some cases. Make sure the epoxy covers where the wrap stops. If the whole wrap is not covered with finish it will cause problems down the road due to moisture getting in there. There should be finish where the guide foot bends under the ring.
Hold the rod up with the guides facing down. Look down the blank to see if it is straight. I recommend you also check the Ferrule for any damage and to make sure it has not been jammed together where it will not come apart easily.