Why Choose a Custom Fishing Rod?
Do you really think the pro-anglers are fishing the Classic and winning tournaments with factory-made fishing rods? Or that other sportsmen/women use «off-the-shelf» sporting equipment in their professions? No way. Whether a professional angler or professional sportsman/woman, you can rest assured the gear and equipment they’re using to compete at the highest levels of competition is not only specialized, but handcrafted, tuned, custom-fit, balanced, and leveraging the very best premium components that technology can muster. So, technology in the fishing industry, especially the fishing rod business, is truly «the mistress» – that fishing rod might «look» like it’s store-bought, but it’s been crafted by a custom builder to ensure maximum performance and therefore, that fishing rod is custom and hand-tuned… handcrafted to fit precise, specific, and extreme angling requirements.
True, there are not too many anglers who own custom fishing rods. There’s a simple reason for this: they’re not mass-produced and therefore not available to the public in general, or at least not to the point that an angler has the opportunity to make a retail purchase at their local tackle or fishing store. However, with the advent of improved technologies, and the availability to meet a myriad of new potential customers via the Internet, many more anglers are leveraging the opportunity to design and purchase their own customized fishing gear.
Production fishing rods are typically designed and made for the average person with average skills and are manufactured using average components, all of which will provide reasonable performance. However, those who demand more from their fishing arsenal turn to custom rod builders to acquire that specific tool they require for the style of fishing they prefer and the performance they expect.
Let’s walk through a brief example: Pick up the exact two casting rods from a local retailer, place the same reel on each of the two rods, and then place them into their respective «optimum» parabolic shapes by pulling the tips using the line. Now, note where the fishing line touches the blank and note the tip twist (or torque). If they were the same, the line will touch at the same points and the twist (or hopefully, lack of twist) would be equivalent as well. Now cast. Distance and accuracy should be equivalent, however, in every case, this will never happen with an «off-the-shelf» fishing rod because they are manufactured using guide placements in the exact same spot of every blank being constructed (i.e., they are not made of homogenous or equivalent materials and will never be the same). Currently, I know of no company that mass-produces and also takes the time to individually tune every guide under both a static and dynamic load prior to wrapping guides… both of which are required to achieve optimum guide placement and ultimately rod performance (not to mention a few critical requirements that are never performed before guide placement… such as ‘splining,’ balancing of the handle system, tuning guide systems, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, there are companies that take the time to complete a step or two of the overall process, but there are none that perform all of the required steps. A professional custom builder strives to ensure that component integration is accomplished to elicit the very best performance from each fishing rod. If a customer takes the time to identify and choose those premium components that compliment their angling style, technique, and specifications… then you can rest assured that the custom builder works to ensure their finished sport-fishing equipment performs the way they expected it to… and then some.
Although it is true that most manufacturers today do produce some great high quality products, you simply cannot ignore the fact that they are made with the average angler in mind. Do you know who the average angler is? I sure don’t! Taking a look at all of my friend who fish, not one of us is similar in size, casting style, or grip preference to name just a few variables. Yet, the manufacturers would want us to believe that each of their off-the-shelf products will match our angling styles and us perfectly.
When you decide to fish a custom-built rod you are adding another dimension to your sport and enjoyment. There is nothing quite like the thrill of making perfect casts, hooking and landing a fish on a honed surgical tool that has been handcrafted for you. You don’t have to depend upon whether some individual was having a good day at the factory or not when they wrapped the guides on your fishing rod, if they chose the best pieces of cork for the handle system’s grip, if the time was taken to ensure that the components were placed on the rod for optimum performance, and that the best quality components were used.
Another great reason for choosing a custom-built rod is that you have so many choices of premium components! Perhaps you have found the an ‘action’ that is suited for you, but you’re not satisfied with the type of guides, the quality of cork, the thread wraps or perhaps you want to move up to a better quality reel seat. You don’t have this type of choice unless you decide an opt for the custom choice.
The overall properties of the «Off-The-Shelf (OTS)» fishing rod is extremely dependent on the components attached to the blank, and more importantly the process by which those components are attached to the blank. Thus, the number, type, and placement of guides; the wrapping; and the choice and placement of handle material/components totally affect the end use. When it comes to the overall quality and performance, we all know that not all fishing rods are created equal.
The good news, smaller manufacturing companies, called custom rod builders exist. While many of these custom builders have the skill and talent to custom tailor to an angler’s requirements, large manufacturers often lack the «attention to detail» to truly design and fabricate a fishing rod that is balanced, tuned, and ultimately the very best sport-fishing tool for the angler, leveraging the very best components, and at the «right» price. This simple fact in and of itself is the defining difference between a custom and a production fishing rod; the difference is ultimately the performance characteristics of the final product. Let’s come back to this after we’ve identified exactly what a custom builder «is» and «does.»
Custom Rod Builders.
For the most part, custom rod builders are and have been the foundation of the sport-fishing (i.e., fishing rod) industry for many years. However, it is important to note that both the custom builders and the major manufacturers are reliant upon each other to some degree – i.e., both drive new technologies and the application of innovative processes and construction for the industry as a whole. New material and component development is usually a manufacturing derivative whereas the innovation of fishing rod construction continues to be developed from the small cadre of professional custom builders. This stated, the custom builders in some form are all considered «hobbyists,» however our discussion will focus on the custom fishing rods crafted by professional craftsmen and builders, many of whom own and operate as small businesses, routinely producing finished performance products and equipment to the general public.
Custom builders are those individuals who learned the «art» of fishing rod construction and have refined the process of engineering the angler’s preferred equipment from individual components. Though they do not run industry-sized rod-making machines and normally do not fabricate the individual components, they do have an intimate knowledge of what «works»… and for «what reasons,» as well as what does not when it comes to building a custom fishing rod. More importantly, the custom builder is a «master» of ensuring those various components are configured in such a way to derive maximum performance from the finished fishing rod: sensitivity, durability, action, power, comfort, and yes, aesthetics. They also have the «time» from start to finish (i.e., «right the first time») to truly attain maximum performance. Another important consideration of the custom rod-building company is that of technique or application specialization for their products. For instance, the custom builder is able to accurately meet the exacting technical specifications and requirements set forth by an angler whereas an OTS fishing rod is a «what you see is what you get» product.
Quality is by far the biggest difference between a custom and OTS fishing rod. A company that mass-produces needs to create the largest profit margin and unfortunately, some (not all) manufacturers also cut corners on components.
Blanks and guides are not tested to determine the optimum positioning (nor can they mate a particular reel and line combination to them); instead, an average spacing is determined despite the fact that no two fishing rods (even within a production run) are exactly the same. A professional, custom builder ensures that both static (for stress distribution) and dynamic (for best casting performance) testing occurs.
Smaller and fewer numbers of guides are often used to save a few cents. A two-cent savings adds up over a production run. Others use components that may look like their name-brand counterparts, but are of considerably less quality. When it comes to a custom fishing rod, you will always know the exact components because you select the components for the build. Additionally, a custom builder can assist you with your selection… again, an OTS manufacturer only provides you what «they want you to have (seems backwards, huh?).» Example: you go to dinner at a local restaurant and soon after sitting down at your assigned table, the waiter delivers your food… without asking your meal preference.
Several advantages are offered by the use of quality components and materials. First, through advanced technology, the corrosive and destructive properties of both fresh and saltwater no longer pose a viable threat to your custom-built fishing rod. Second, the use of more durable and scratch resistant materials will significantly extend the useful life of a custom fishing rod, as well as ensure peak-performance.
Handcrafted fishing rods are tailored, designed, and custom-fit to meet the individual’s specific aesthetic, environmental, and angling performance requirements. Because each one is built «one at a time,» quality control is ensured and certain to meet the unique criteria set forth by the angler. No two custom fishing rods are identical, but each one incorporates state-of-the-art components and careful hand design that facilitates the ultimate fish-catching equipment that is sure to be treasured for generations.
If you’re seeking better performance from your equipment, and ultimately, your overall experience while out on the water, then this is where a custom rod builder can really help you out. A fishing rod is tuned for performance in much the same way an automobile is tuned for driving comfort and performance… or the way a golf club is tuned to suit your personal style and physical size. Blank selection, length, guide selection, guide spacing, guide location, handle construction and reel seat choice are only a few of the factors that must be considered when designing and crafting the perfect angling tool of your choice… made just for you, your quarry, your style, and your technique.
So does a custom fishing rod help you to catch more fish than one manufactured and sold OTS? Absolutely. First, if you have confidence in your equipment then that confidence will be displayed in your choices while on the water. If you know that your fishing rod has been built right, that fact alone will give you the edge you’re seeking. Further, when built properly, it will be optimized for your casting style, and the components will have been placed in such a way that will experience a far greater degree of accuracy as well as much better fish fighting ability. Once the fish are hooked, a well-built custom rod can provide tremendous advantages in fighting the fish and can help you control it better. This of course means less break offs and more landed fish! Not only will you catch more fish with a custom rod, your angling pleasure will certainly be heightened every moment you are on the water!
Now that you know that the core of custom rod-building is the unique selection, customization, design, quality, comfort, aesthetics, performance, and assembly of components into a finished angling «system-of-systems, let’s discuss «cost.» A common myth is that a «more expensive fishing rod means it’s better.» This statement is disproved with every angler’s design that a custom rod builder creates, at reasonable prices compared to similar competitors or the misleading quality of the mass-produced «off-the-shelf variant.»
Custom builders provide competitive cost advantages by building their fishing rods «one at a time,» rendering obsolete the need for exhaustive inventory, labor costs, and material waste. This permits excess capital for the use of top quality components and materials. Additionally, custom builders routinely do not require capital investment and expenditure for overhead business expenses such as: advertising, showrooms, galleries, etc. Another advantage of «one at a time» builds is that high-end components equate to non-corrosive, scratch resistant, and a more durable final product thereby eliminating the need for reinforcing materials, additional assembly processes, and warranty repair.
Any angler serious about catching fish and who routinely invests hard-earned money (entry fees, travel expenses, maintenance, tackle, equipment, etc.) cannot afford to purchase fishing rods that are anything but the best. After all, when you are on the water, executing everything within your power to fill the live well, then it is paramount to take advantage of any opportunity available (i.e., control what you can). So, it only makes sense to leverage the very best technology and craftsmanship for your primary equipment, your fishing rod.
Another advantage of not working at a large company, is that a custom builder is actually assembling and crafting your and only your custom fishing rod. So, in this example, focus does equate to quality of construction. Unlike the factory product, the custom option is built to accommodate your requirements and desires.
A custom fishing rod says many things about its owner. It marks the person as an angler who takes his or her sport seriously. It also says that one places quality and craftsmanship at the top of their list and appreciates the best; demonstrating not just pride of ownership for the individual angler, but more importantly pride of performance in their equipment.
Freedom of Choice.
In the game of fishing, sensitivity and confidence are the name of the game and that fishing rod is the primary instrument that provides both. When it comes to enhancing this sense, the only two things that have any effect on it is the line you’re using and the rod you are holding.
Ultimately, choice is a personal decision, but knowing how to make selections can save you money even if you spend more than you originally planned. This is simply because if you don’t get what will do the job right or don’t get a quality product, you’ll just have to make another purchase a lot sooner.
The casual angler will probably get along just fine with production fishing rods. The more serious the angler becomes about the art and sport of fishing, the more demanding and targeted his or her needs become in terms of equipment and performance. The serious angler will appreciate the benefits of a custom-crafted-rod for its optimum performance, targeted action for specific needs, superior construction, durability, and aesthetic appeal. These are the reasons many have become custom builders and the reasons why their products are becoming more and more popular. In my humble opinion, as an avid angler, there is no better choice of equipment than that of a custom fishing rod. Here’s simple rationale on why to choose custom versus the OTS, mass-produced fishing rod:
1. You get more «bang» for your hard-earned «buck.»
2. You get better components: a) that actually match, b) are more durable, c) are of premium construction (i.e., no short cuts), d) that add to the overall performance due to quality of construction, and e) compliment the aesthetics.
3. You have «Freedom of Choice,» meaning: a) you have a better selection of components, and b) ultimately, the choice of components are yours… not someone else’s idea of the «perfect» for you.
4. Generally, custom builders offer a warranty that is «what a warranty is meant to be» – satisfaction guaranteed… and without expiration or additional «fine print»… i.e., up-front or back-end costs for those warranties that are so common for factory-made fishing rods.
5. The custom fishing rod is custom-designed (by you) and handcrafted by an expert… not a machine to ensure you receive a personalized, hand-tuned, custom-fit, and built one at-a-time. Without a doubt, many of the custom fishing rod builders construct the finest hand-tailored custom rods that are as unique as the anglers who fish them…. so the quality is through and through superior to any manufactured competitor.
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