Find out what habits the best rod builders use to keep their custom rods at the cutting edge.
A Review of the Best Rod Building Practices
For most rod builders, the rod’s personalized appearance is just as important as its customized performance. Whether building for decades or just starting out, rod builders across the board know there is always room for growth and improvement in their own process.
Although there is a learning curve in this craft, the best part of rod building is the community of knowledge it creates and how easy it is to find solutions to any questions, problems, or even mistakes.
Custom Rod building is a rewarding craft geared for performance, but it’s also a skill that takes plenty of practice to get to perfect. In other words, a little advice goes a long way to improve both the rod builder’s abilities and likewise, their overall rod building experience.
From the most common questions to overlooked answers and helpful hints, we assembled this list of the top tips to benefit all rod builders.
1. Start with Preparation and Organization
Preparation is one of the most crucial aspects in setting yourself up for success in custom rod building.
For rod building, preparation helps in every phase. Most often, it’s mapping out handles, prepping guide feet, getting ready for thread wraps, or even just mixing epoxy.
And sometimes, it’s having the right tools closeby that can make all the difference. Being prepared with the right tools, supplies, and techniques, is a great way to ensure you are ready to build a better fishing rod.
For instance, the burnishing tool is often overlooked, but this tool is actually very valuable to custom rod builders. Used to pack in thread wraps, the burnishing tool erases gaps to produce smooth, clean, and consistent thread wraps.
The burnishing tool also works great in combo with the blank extension tool for tighter thread wraps that go right up to the ferrule's edge on multi-piece rod blanks.
Organize Rod Building Equipment
Since preparation leads to having many tools and finishing supplies nearby, organization becomes just as crucial once you begin building. You would be surprised just how easy it is to stick your elbow in epoxy... but there's a solution.
These trays not only keep everything you need organized, but with the added rolling feature, the trays slide with you while working along the RBS Aluminum Base Station.
2. Rod Builders Always Ask Questions
Like fishing, the rod building community is one that is always willing to share helpful tips and tricks. Whether it be with fellow beginners or seasoned builders, communication is the easiest way to shorten the learning curve and improve your rod building skills.
Take advantage of this community's vast knowledge and experience by assembling a reliable network of rod builders. Networking and consulting with local rod builders helps a ton, but don’t be afraid to dive into the immense resources online as well.
Find Rod Building Resources Online
Many rod builders look to digital publications, like Mud Hole Facebook page and The Mud Hole Live's Rod Builders Workshop, in addition to the Mud Hole Youtube Channel, to collectively solve the intricacies of this incredible craft.
Between discussing questions, watching demos, and cycling through pictures of finished rods, learning from a network of custom rod builders is as helpful as it is easy.
3. Take Rod Building Classes and Teach Others
When it comes to rod building, there’s no experience that compares to the hands-on learning of a custom rod building class.
Have you ever wanted to build your own fishing rod but don’t know where to start?
From the basics of rod building to the more advanced levels of customization, these classes provide step by step instruction in cities across the country. Whether you are just beginning to build or want to sharpen up your skills, each class is perfect for anyone interested in rod building.
Our rod building classes are taught by top professional rod builders with extensive knowledge of all the state of the art techniques and components that build today’s top-performing custom rods.
Check out a Custom Rod Building Class near you!
Besides taking a class and practicing, a great way to improve your rod building skills is to teach your friends and family. You will be surprised how much easier rod building becomes after you teach someone else.
That way, not only are you building and getting better, but also enjoying it with the people you care about enough to teach. Learning and improving are important to custom rod building and teaching others is an awesome way to do both simultaneously.
4. Digital Calipers = Lifesaver
All rod blanks are tapered from the butt to the tip. This tapered feature is important for performance, but it also makes accurate blank measurements harder to find.
For example, winding checks require the exact size of the location where you intend to install it. Since winding checks serve as decorative and professional accents, you want each one to fit on the rod blank with precision.
Digital calipers are the perfect tool to get pinpoint measurements on tapered rod blanks. The precision of digital calipers are a lifesaver because it allows rod builders to plan out rods with the ultimate accuracy.
Pick up your Digital Calipers at Mud Hole!
5. Wrap Thread Up to Tip Top Guide
No this isn’t a myth, it’s actually more of a suggestion that's been proven to work in certain applications. In particular, spinning, casting, and fly applications, where the tips are much lighter than tops like offshore rollers, wrapping the tip top will ensure it stays in place.
Especially if you’re using a tip cement or other glue formula with a lower melting point, wrapping thread up to the tip top is a common way rod builders improve the security of the tip top on the rod blank.
Let’s rewind and think about why this wrap can help. The tip top is first glued in place and this is enough to secure the tip top most of the time, however, there are certain conditions that can cause the bond’s adhesion to loosen and fail.
For instance, if you’re an on-the-go angler and tend to keep your rods in the car, you definitely want add thread wraps to your tip top. The higher temperatures inside a parked car will re-heat the glue bond, undo the adhesive properties, and ultimately, lead to a repair.
Another example, is if you spend a lot of time on the water in tournaments, or as guide, and avid fisherman. Your long days roasting in the sun can also interfere in the tip’s glue bond and cause issues with casting.
Although tip top repair isn’t the end of the world, why not prevent this from the start with a simple thread wrap. By wrapping up to or even a few wraps over the tip top and then adding some epoxy finish, rod builders ensure the tip top will remain in place regardless of outside conditions.
Besides, for blanks where the tip top’s tube doesn’t sit flush on the rod’s tip, a wrap adds a sleek aesthetic that makes the blank and tip top transition more uniform.
6. Avoid Common Epoxy Problems
When it comes to finishing a custom fishing rod, the epoxy you use, as well as how you use it will forecast the strength of the epoxy’s bond and ultimately, the success of the rod itself.
Whether choosing between different epoxy brands and builds, or learning about the many techniques and tips that have stood the test of time, there is no shortage of information surrounding epoxy use.
The most common epoxy problems range from mixing mistakes and application errors, to inconsistent curing times. Since these simple epoxy problems can grow into some huge headaches, it is best to use the following information to ensure your experience is as smooth as the finished epoxy itself.
Watch the latest Mud Hole Live Episode where the Mud Hole guys talk about epoxy. Watch A Fresh Coat originally aired January 24, 2023.
7. Ream Cork Slow and Steady
Most reaming mistakes happen when we rush a build, so consider these helpful reaming reminders before building your handle assembly.
While reaming a hole in a piece of cork may not be rocket science, there are a few tips that will keep you from having to buy replacement parts if things go wrong during this process.
If you get a cork handle and are going to use it on a heavy action bass rod, you know you are going to be going through some cork. There is a natural tendency, especially if you are building several ‘like’ rods at the same time, to jump right to the larger reamer size.
This will most likely lead to cracking the cork wall, and having to start over again. This doesn’t exactly ruin your rod build, but why waste the time and material.
For instance, if you use the CRB Extreme Reamers, they come in the following sizes:
- EXR-S 14″ 0.215″ – 0.360″
- EXR-M 14″ 0.340″ – 0.475″
- EXR-L 14″ 0.495″ – 0.575″
- EXR-XL 14″ 0.550″ – 0.700″
If you know the EXR-XL size is the last reamer size you need for a fore grip, start with the smallest reamer – even though it only takes off a small amount of cork material. Then go on to each size until desired size is reached.
Note: If you happen to be using material that has no pre-cut hole, then use a small drill bit to create a starter hole.
8. Build More Rods to Learn More About Fishing
One key to becoming a successful rod builder is to keep it simple, especially in the beginning. Beginners find that their comfort and abilities with the craft improve drastically after each finished rod.
So build away and watch as your equipment goes from rookie rods to complete masterpieces on the water.
Get your start to rod building with Rod Building Kits from MHX and CRB.
9. If You Can Build a Rod, You Can Repair It
Rod repair is a crucial aspect of custom rod building and Mud Hole offers plenty of resources to help. For many rod builders, the lessons learned while building apply equally to repair work.
So, if you can build a rod then you can certainly repair almost anything that happens to it.
Fixing your favorite fishing rod is the only way to return the proven performance you know and love.
See more with Mud Hole's Rod Repair Kits.
10. Be Patient and Enjoy Building each Rod
Though practice and experience are crucial, your mindset while building is just as important. Keeping an open mind and being creative often leads to awesome fishing rods as well as a better overall experience while building them.
Patience is also crucial in building the best fishing rod possible.
For instance, a multi-piece rod requires builders to find the spine of each section. Without identifying the spine, certain sections could work against the rod and tamper the custom rod’s ultimate performance, which is the most important part.
Don’t forget it’s your fishing rod, so customize it how you want and bring that dream rod to life right before your eyes.
When it comes to rod building, remember there are no rules, just custom... so don’t complicate it and have fun!