Custom Rods

by Shug Clawson

I was asked the other day by a new customer, “Why buy a custom fishing rod over XYZ’s top of the line rod?’  I sat for a minute and thought, what does make a custom rod better?  Is it the rod blank used? Is it the guides? The reel seat? Or maybe it’s the thread wraps?  What is it that makes the rods better?

Let me explain the multiple aspects of how a factory built fishing rod is built.  First the parts are all pulled together and then the reel handle and reel seat are added to the rod.  Next, the guides are laid out according to a sheet of distances from the tip with each and every guide placed where it should be according to a standard format. The guides are then wrapped onto the rod blank with varying levels of skill and uniformity. Lastly stickers are added and a layer of thread finish is applied and allowed to dry onto the rod.  These steps vary very little, in that it is the basic essence of building a fishing rod.

Now a factory rod is good, some are even very good, but they still have a couple flaws that keep them from being great.  First of all, they are not always built on a high-quality rod blank.  Over the years, companies have come and gone.  Some have gotten better, some worse and some tragically destroyed a once great name in the need to make the all mighty dollar.   I use United Composites, Calstar, St. Croix and others on occasion, but the running theme is these companies have extremely high quality controls in place to ensure a great product.

These high-end American made rod blanks, coupled with proper assembly on the spine of the rod, using Dynamic loading to place the guides in the optimal spots will produce a rod that is lightweight, beautiful to look at and capable of handling whatever fishing situation you had it built for. This is one of the secrets to having a custom rod built.


What length do you prefer? Are you casting, trolling, or dropping baits to bottom fish?  What is your preferred line weight to be fishing? Do you prefer an EVA Handle or Cork handle? Do you like old school ideas or are you wanting to try the cutting-edge technology?  And the two biggest questions you should ask yourself before you contact a rod builder about a custom rod:  1) What is your budget for having a rod built? 2) Are you willing to wait for the rod to be built? (This could be a couple weeks to a couple months depending on time of year, demand on the builders’ time and availability of the parts to be used.)  Once you have decided it’s time to consider a custom rod; swing by and have a chat with a custom rod builder and see if they are the one to build your dream rod.