Building a custom fishing rod

Posted at 9:30 AM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 09:30:52-05

One of the things I got into a couple years ago was building my own lures. It gave me something to do during the winter months when the water is frozen. Plus it opened a whole new way to customize baits to my waters, not to mention the fact it costs pennies on the dollar to build your own which is a big cost savings when it comes to jigs. Some areas I fish eat those things like candy.

That hobby expanded into soft plastics a bit later. It's something I'm still working to perfect.  Getting the plastisol to the proper temperature and adding just the right amount of colorant is an art form.

This year I wanted to take it a step farther. Thanks to my wife and brother, the expansion came in the form of a Christmas gift.  They went in together and got me a custom rod building kit from Mud Hole Custom Tackle.

Its turnkey kits come with everything you need to get started, including the rod blank, line guides, handle, reel seat and thread.  Mud Hole also throws in Tom Kirkman's book, "Rod-Building Guide" and provides a start-to-finish video tutorial on its YouTube page.


After watching the video tutorials and reading through most of Kirkman's book, I got to work. The first night consisted of me finding the spine of the rod, then gluing the handle, butt cap, reel seat and foregrip into place. None of this was overly daunting.  The only thing I came close to screwing up was getting the handle on. Instead of going in one swift motion, I stopped 3/4 of the way down and nearly got stuck with the handle in the wrong place.

I then set the rod aside for the night to let the epoxy set.

The next day it was time to place the line guides, wrap them, and apply the epoxy. Placing the guides and wrapping them were easily the most daunting tasks in the entire process. Now, you can buy measurement books to help you figure out where to place the guides, However, Kirkman says this step is the one that separates the rod assemblers from the rod builders. "What the heck," I thought, "I'm here to build."

So I followed his guidelines on figuring out where to place the guides and in the end, used one less guide then Mud Hole provided, saving me some weight.

After taping them in place, it was time to start wrapping. This involves using what is essentially sewing thread to wrap the line guides to the blank. No joke, the first wrap took me 45 minutes because the thread kept slipping, wasn't packed down just right and when I got to the end, I messed up the tie-off and watched the entire thing unravel. Frustrating to say the least.

The good news, by the time I got to the last guide, it was taking me 7 - 10 minutes per guide. The bad news, I decided I had gotten good enough that I needed to go back and redo the first guide.

Finally, nearly three hours after first starting the wrapping process it was time to apply the epoxy finish. That went exceedingly well, except for one part. I put epoxy on the decal which screwed that up royally. It wasn't till the next day I learned no epoxy is needed on the decal. Lesson learned.

In all, it took two days and the better part of six hours to build my first custom fishing rod. Since then, I've taken it out a few times. It casts just like my store-bought rods and retrieves line just like them. I'm still waiting to see what it's like to fight a fish with it, but after January's historic storm it may be a while.

Building my own rod was a blast. Now I'm learning how to add custom designs like tigers, olive branches, and diamond patterns. I'm even thinking about buying a weaving jig to add custom weave pictures to the rod. We'll see. What I do know is I'm looking forward to building my next one, and the one after that, and the one after that...