bluefin tuna

Taming Tuna with Rasta Rocket

Taming Tuna with Rasta Rocket

Many people may not realize that the tuna fishing underdog team of Rasta Rocket, a commercial fishing crew that battles the denizens of the deep on tv with a 25’ center-console Contender on the Outer Banks, had been using second-hand rods.


That surely says a lot about their skill and tenacity! However, their fortunes changed when Captain Zack Shackleton, Daniel Blanks, and their faithful Jack Russel Terrier (appropriately named “Minnie the Tuna Tamer”) bumped into the Mud Hole team at ICAST 2021. A few friendly conversations walking the trade show floor led to a great relationship and the development of the Rasta Rocket Project to create next generation, custom tuna rods for the whole Rasta Rocket team!

The Rasta Rocket Project

Admittedly, Captain Zack had never really thought about building custom rods. As far as the Rasta Rocket team knew, their pre-owned finds were handling their needs. After some more in-depth conversations with Buzz Butters, Mud Hole Rod Building Instructor, and Todd Vivian, Mud Hole Product Development and Lead Instructor, the Rasta team realized there was so much potential on the water that they were missing.

The Rasta Rocket team, with Minnie in tow, visited the Mud Hole headquarters in the fall of 2021 to provide the necessary input to assist with the design of their new rods, to pick their desired components with the guidance of the Mud Hole experts, to get some quick rod building lessons, and even to wrap some guides.

Selecting the Blank, Guides, and Handle Design

Since Captain Zack had a comfort level with their existing rods, the Mud Hole team developed the new Rasta Rocket Project rods based on the feel of the aging poles the guys were using. In addition, the Mud Hole team had to take into consideration that these rods need to handle the demands of commercial fishermen, who put food on their table based on the fish they bring in day after day, year after year. This is not the seasoned ultralight rod that you keep in your truck bed for weekend crappie fishing. And for the Mud Hole team, this was a new way to look at custom rod building.

todd-deflectingThe first step was to take the existing rods and put them against the CRB Deflection Chart to get a true gauge of the rod blank power and action that the Rasta team were used to. This led to the selection of the MHX 5’6” Heavy E-Glass Tuna IGFA Regulation Trolling Blank as the perfect improvement to their current rods. The team also used the static line deflection test to line-up the perfect positioning of the roller guides.

When it comes to handling big, powerful, pelagic species when they’re miles away from shore, Captain Zack needed guides that are up to such a challenge.  Collaboratively, the team chose the Winthrop Tackle X-Caliber 130# Roller Guides & Top. These heavy-duty guides are engineered to flex with the action of the rod blank without sacrificing any frame strength, which is exactly what Captain Zack and Daniel were looking for.

Designing the handle grip was very important to the Rasta Rocket team. EVA was a must, given the heavy saltwater conditions the team experiences daily. But the unique 10” length of the foregrip and the positioning of the handle was vital to Captain Zack, given his experience fighting 500 pound monsters. They also chose Winthrop Tackle components for the reel seat assembly and unibutt for their strength and high-quality craftsmanship.

The Build & The Reveal

With the perfect combination of blank and components selected, Captain Zack and crew left it up to the experienced Mud Hole Class Instructors to build the Rasta Rocket Project rods. The team of professional rod builders (Todd Vivian, Buzz Butters, Mike Kosiba, Cindy McKay, Curt Baker, Derwood Roberts and Jesus Peña) collaborated to create four identical tuna rods that matched the exact specifications that the Rasta Rocket team required. They even added a touch of color with some decorative wraps to match the Rasta Rocket vibe!

When Captain Zack, Daniel, and Minnie returned to the Mud Hole headquarters for the reveal of the completed rods, there was much anticipation and some trepidation in the minds of both parties. What would the rods look like? Would they perform like the old ones? What would Minnie think?

Being a reserved and understated personality, it was initially hard to get a read on Captain Zack’s reaction to the new rods. He and Daniel were very still and very quiet as they gazed at the new members of their arsenal. Finally, when prompted by an anxious Buzz Butters, Zack explained “they’re way beyond anything we expected” – which was followed by an audible sigh of relief from the Mud Hole team.

After handling the rods and getting a true feel in the studio, the only possible next step was to get them out on the water. Captain Zack stated that these were like nothing they had used before, and they were ready to get out there and “fish these rods hard.”

Check out the full recap of their trip to Mud Hole Custom Tackle!

On the Water to Tame Tuna

Early in 2022, Buzz Butters headed up to Nags Head, North Carolina to meet up with the Rasta Rocket team to do some true on-the-water testing and chase some Tuna. The guys had already relayed to him that the new rods did “everything we needed them to do for big fish,” so Buzz already knew that the rods had performed for Rasta Rocket. But here was his chance to join Captain Zack and Daniel for a true OBX tuna experience.


Buzz is from Wisconsin, and among his many fishing passions, he loves pulling in prized walleye for the Friday night fish fry. He’s an experienced angler and rod builder, but this was an entirely new adventure. Heading out at full throttle for 90 minutes, fifteen miles from shore, in five- to ten-foot seas to the perfect drop off shelf is a little different than casting to shore on Lake Winnebago at dusk. But Buzz was up for the challenge.

shocka-brahExpertly, Captain Zack assessed the environment and spotted the appropriate bird and whale activity to target their prized tuna. Over two days offshore, the Rasta Rocket Project rods performed flawlessly, pulling in two bluefin beasts among their catch. The first was 101 inches and the second was 105 inches in length, with an estimated dressed weight of over 500 pounds – proving the strength and abilities of the MHX E-Glass Tuna blank. It was the thrill of a lifetime for Buzz and a great catch for Rasta Rocket, thanks to their angling expertise and their new rods, which proved to be true tuna tamers (not to take anything away from Minnie). When they returned to shore, the guys were able to enjoy few frothy beverages to celebrate a successful partnership, share some experiences with baits and fishing techniques, and tell some tall tales.

The Rasta Rocket Rod Recipe

Want to build your own tuna tamer? Follow this rod recipe and you'll be fishing the same powerful rods used by serious commercial anglers & TV stars, Rasta Rocket!

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