International Custom Rod Builder’s Expo

The 2009 International Rod Builder’s Expo (ICRBE) is only a few weeks away. This annual event, held in High Point, North Carolina, features all the newest and best from manufacturers, suppliers, and builders from all over the world. It truly is international, with regular attenders from Japan, Italy, and Australia, as well as from all over the USA.

If you have considered or even slightly thought about building your own rod, this show will put you over the top. Mark your calendar for February 21 & 22, and plan to spend both days there. Along with dozens of exhibitors, there are two full days of free seminars scheduled covering everything from beginning rod building to the most advanced concepts in custom rod creation.

For more info on this event, click on the link in the first paragraph of this post, and make your plans now. You won’t be sorry you did!

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New Custom Rodbuilding Opportunities!

I just received my 2009 catalog from my primary supplier of rodbuilding components, and found some exciting additions to their offering. Primary among those is the addition of three well-respected fly rod and blank manufacturers. I am happy to tell you that I can now source blanks from Orvis, R.L. Winston, and Thomas & Thomas. Add these fine components to the existing list of St. Croix, G. Loomis, Sage, and Temple Fork Outfitters, as well as American Tackle’s blanks, and more.

Also new for 2009 is the availability of some custom components to feed your artistic side, such as snake skin, marbling kits, and even colored anodized aluminum winding checks! Options for the creative builder are growing wider all the time.

If you have interest in a custom rod, or a Build Your Own Rod Class, email me and we can discuss your needs and wants.

Build Your Own Rod Class Scheduled

If you’ve been thinking about building your own fly rod, or a bass rod for that matter, January may be your next best opportunity. Madison River Outfitters in Cornelius is hosting another rod building class in January. There are already three students, and room for a few more. Email me or call me for more information. You can have a quality fly rod you built yourself in three evenings over a three week period.

Lake Norman Report

I have updated the Lake Norman Report Page with recent water level conditions, as wel as an update on fishing from Captain Gus Gustafson.

The gist of the update is that while we Duke Power continues to tag the area with Level Three Drought Conditions, the lake has been at or above the target level relative to full pond for at least the last three months. It has rained here for the last two days straight. 

I rank the drought right up there with global warming, having just endured the coldest November I can remember in North Carolina.

Sanibel Island, Florida

I had the opportunity this week to visit this island on the Gulf Coast of Florida for a few days, and spend a little time fishing from the beach. As with any new destination, I needed to get the scoop on where, when, and how to fish down here. So I headed to the local bait shop, called The Bait Box. The folks there were as you would hope them to be; helpful and eager to share their knowledge of the area with folks new in town. They spent several minutes showing me on the map where to fish, and then set me up with the appropriate tackle rigs and bait to get started. If you’re heading to Sanibel and plan on fishing, drive past the WalMart in Ft. Meyers and get your tackle at The Bait Box.

One other thing you can get at The Bait Box you can’t get at Wally World is one of Whitney Jones’ Tarpon Bay custom fishing rods. Whitney has been building rods for quite a few years, first in his own shop in Kitty Hawk, NC, and now in Sanibel at The Bait Box. His boat rods are some of the nicest I’ve seen. He can build anything from a bass rod to a tuna stick, and he also guides on the local waters. Check them out if you get there.

Spiral Wrap

I just finished the spiral wrapped St. Croix crankbait rod I mentioned in an earlier post. It is turning in the dryer as I write this. By the time I return home this afternoon, the finish on the wraps will be cured, and by tomorrow, the rod will be fishable.

By spiral wrapped I mean that the butt guide is on top of the rod, but the rest of the guides are 180° from the butt guide. There is a bumper guide at 90° to aid in the transition of the line from top to bottom. This in effect gives the casting rod the stability you would normally only get from a spinning rod, because having the guides on the underside of the rod eliminates having to resist any torque being applied while fighting a fish. Only guides on the bottom, like on a spinner or fly rod, eliminate this torque.

The first thing I will do when I get home is photograph the rod and post some pictures. There are a few other innovations built into this rod that you don’t find on most production rods. Stay tuned.

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It’s Repair Season

After a lull this past summer, it seems as though my rod repair business has gotten busy all of a sudden. I have received four rods in various states of disrepair in just the last week.  Problems varying from a loose snake guide to a twelve inch length broken off of the tip section of a two-piece fly rod.

The loose guide is an easy fix, and can usually be completed overnight. Replacing a tip broken off depends on how much of the tip the rod will lose. Even if the section breaks off just below the tip itself, you may lose an additional inch or more because of splintering of the blank at the breakpoint.  As long as I have the new tip in stock, this is a quick repair as well, although in some cases it requires that I remove and reposition the first guide after the tip, to make sure there is even spacing between guides. Fortunately, most rod manufacturers seem to put about one or even two less guides on a rod than I would recommend, so there is room to move a few guides closer together and maybe even improve performance.

The case of the twelve inch section broken off the rod is a different story. The rod can still be repaired, and may still perform almost as well as it did originally, but some action may be lost. If you have a rod like that, and it is relatively new, my first suggestion would be to contact the manufacturer to see if they may cover the damage under warranty, or if not, be able to get you a replacement tip section. If the rod is older, or the manufacturer is no help, then you may want to explore putting the two pieces back together. If that’s what you decied, I can help with that.

This may be the time most anglers decide to get their gear in working order after a summer of fishing, or maybe they are getting ready for the fall bite. Either way, if you need repair work done, call or email me. If you’re in the Lake Norman area, we can get it done. If you live somewhere else, I can help you find a qualified rodbuilder to meet your needs just about anywhere in the country.

Jimmy Houston

My son and I had the pleasure today of meeting Jimmy Houston. For those who don’t recognize the name, he has been a TV fishing personality for about 30 years, is a successful BASS tournament winner, and an author of several books. He is always laughing on his TV show, and he’s the one that kisses the bass he catches before he releases them (just the females, he says).

Jimmy was making an appearance at our local Concord Bass Pro Shop for their Fall Fishing Classic sale. As I mentioned, he is an author, and I have one of his books, a Christian daily devotional called “Catch of the Day.”  It was a Father’s Day gift from my wife a few years ago, and I read it all the time. It has lots of fishng tips, and some very good messages about having a relationship with Christ. I recommend the book to anyone. Now, this blog isn’t a religious forum, but one of the things I admire most about Jimmy Houston is he is not ashamed to say he is a Christian. In Matthew 10:33 Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”  Jimmy will get a personal introduction to the Father when he gets to Heaven.

Jimmy gave a 30 minute seminar on jig fishing and  crankbait fishing that was very informative. He demonstrated why when fishng a jig you need to keep the rod tip high and just move the jig slightly. Your rod sensitivity to a strike diminishes as you lower the tip. Your rod is most sensitive when the tip is up. Just be sure to reel down before you set the hook. More rods are broken “high-sticking” than any other way, with the possible exception of car doors.  As for crankbaits, Jimmy’s best tip was to make sure you tune the lure to run straight. That’s the best way to achieve maximum depth from the bait.  But the best advice he gave all afternoon was to get very accustomed to what your lure feels like when it doesn’t have a fish on it. Then, when you feel anything different than that, set the hook. Most guys try to learn to know the feel when a fish is biting their lure, but that happens far less often than not biting, and we fish today with so many different lures, it has to be easier to learn what it feels like with no fish on it.

Jig fishing and crankbait fishing are two very good presentations for bass, but they really work best with two different types of rod. A soft tip and a good backbone for hooksets works great for that jig fishing, but for throwing crankbaits all day you should have a moderate action rod, graphite, about seven feet long. That’s my preference. You could go with glass, but they are heavier, and will tire you out faster. Have both rods rigged and in the boat. If you need help determining a good choice for either of these baits, email me and I’ll be glad to help.

We’re coming into crankbait season now. Are you ready?

Crankbait Season!

I walked into the local Bass Pro Shop the other day and wandered back to the fishing department, and caught the last part of a demonstration of a rod/reel combo by a staff member using the big fish tank. At first I thought it was a seminar on different types of presentations for bass, but then the staff pro tied on a topwater plug similar to a Zara Spook, and started talking about “walking the dog.”

It turns out he was really demonstrating a Daiwa baitcasting reel made with a built-in “twitching bar.”  Anyone who has thrown a Spook for any length of time knows how tiring it can be to twitch that rod all day long. Boy, this Daiwa Megaforce reel is slick. All you need to do to walk the dog is tap the twitching bar, and you are on your way to some great topwater action. I was so impressed with the concept I bought one for my son and one for myself. My son prefers a left hand retrieve, and Bass Pro had them as well.

As you can see from the link above, it’s a nice looking reel. I am going to build a rod just for this reel, and just for crankbaits. Although, this reel will also work for carolina rigging. Just touch the twitchin bar a little lighter, and it will work the worm slowly along the bottom.

Anyway, I have a St. Croix SCIV blank I’ve been saving for just such an application. It is a 7′, one-piece medium power, moderate action blank that I will build using a custom turned burl cork handle assembly, Fuji reel seat, and Fuji Alconite guides, spiral wrapped. Candy Apple Red and Silver threads by Gudebrod will match up perfectly with the reel. I only hope I can find the time to get this rod done while it’s still topwater season!

You can find a lot of the manufacturers’ websites on my blogroll on the left side of the homepage if you want more info on any of them. Watch for future posts as I get this rod going.

Understanding Fly Line Weights

A lot of people ask me about what weight fly rod they should build. Many of my students already have the obligatory 9′ 5wt rod, and want to know what do build next. I think a good choice is a shorter, lighter rod, unless you have a bonefish trip planned for the keys, or a Northern Pike trip planned for Minnesota. My personal favorite is the 7’6″ 3wt St. Croix 2-piece I built for throwing a Wooly Bugger around docks on Lake Norman. The bluegills love it, and it’s a hoot to fish with.

5wt? 3wt? What does that designate? Obviously, there are a lot of resources online that will tell you what kind of fish, or what size of fish you can fish for with a specific weight rod. But what does “5wt” really mean? Fly line sizes are determined by the weight, in grains, of the first 30 feet of the line. Below is a chart that shows the weights, and the acceptable tolerance for ach weight line. It is copied from FlyfishUSA, who copied it from Cortland Fly Line Company.

Number Designation Standard Weight Margin For Error
1-Weight 60 54-66
2-Weight 80 74-86
3-Weight 100 94-106
4-Weight 120 114-126
5-Weight 140 134-146
6-Weight 160 152-168
7-Weight 185 177-193
8-Weight 210 202-218
9-Weight 240 230-250
10-Weight 280 270-290
11-Weight 330 318-342
12-Weight 380 368-392
13-Weight 450  
14-Weight 500  
15-Weight 550  

  Now, unless you are so expert at flyfishing that you are able to tell the difference in lines by the way they feel in your hand when casting, you really are better off determining what size rod will be your next build based on the intended use. If you need something to get into some tighter casting situations, that shorter rod could be right for you. If you want to fish for striped bass around lighted docks at night, a bigger stick is in order.

Anyway, isn’t it a good feeling to now know when someone says “3wt,” or “4wt” what exactly that means? One of these days I’ll write a post about Dr. Hanneman’s Common Cents System for detemining a rod or a blank’s optimum line weight for peak casting performance. That will really have you scratching your head!