It’s 1976 – What Rod do I Buy?

Heddon rod ad circa 1976.

Heddon rod ad circa 1976.

The process of buying a new rod isn’t an easy task – especially for the angler who’s new to the sport. But even for the seasoned angler it can be a daunting task. But back in the mid-70s, purchasing a rod wasn’t that difficult. Anglers primarily threw a jig, a crank, a worm, and maybe a topwater bait or spinnerbait. Most bass fishermen had three or four rods with them and that was it.

Rod choice was pretty wide open too. In the casting rod department, you had the choice between a 5 1/2-foot pistol grip and another 5 1/2-foot pistol grip. The spinning rods were even worse with few designed for bass.

Shakespeare graphite rod ad circa 1976.

Shakespeare graphite rod ad circa 1976.

Of course you could go into your local Ma-and-Pa tackle shop and get a custom rod made to your liking – and many serious anglers did just that. But what was offered in the racks from manufacturers was bleak.

Then in 1974 Fenwick announced the introduction of graphite – carbon fiber – to the scene. Unfortunately, many anglers couldn’t see spending $150 for one rod when they could buy an entire set for the same money.

Skyline ad circa 1976.

Skyline ad circa 1976.

By late 1975 we saw not only a decrease in the price of graphite rods, we saw a couple new companies start manufacturing them. Skyline was the second rod company to start using the space-age material and 3M started selling graphite rod blanks. Still, they were far more expensive than glass.

Fenwick also introduced a new concept in bass rods in late 1974 that broke the old short-rod paradigm. They introduced the 7 1/2-foot Flippin’ Stik.

Browning Silaflex ad circa 1976. Probably one of the most popular rods of its time.

Browning Silaflex ad circa 1976. Probably one of the most popular rods of its time.

By 1976 the rod market was starting to change – but as the old adage goes, old habits don’t break easy.

Looking through a number of 1976 fishing magazines brought this to my attention. There are three new companies – Skyline, Shakespeare and 3M touting the new graphite material and the old stalwarts Heddon and Browning sitting on their laurels trying to cram the same old story down our throats.

Also in ’76, as if graphite wasn’t enough, a small company in California, Phenix, started making rods out of a boron/graphite composite. They were great rods for the time but again, they didn’t offer anything but a 5 1/2-foot pistol grip and a heinous spinning rod that came with that Fuji club of a handle.

Anyway, I thought you might like this look back in time at some rods from the year 1976. Would any of you fish them today?

  • BIG BOB

    I was on the local Skyline fishing team.. I still use those rods to this very day, and I have found few that have the feel of those original Skyline rods.. next to none..

    • No kidding Bob? Man, that’s cool. So, what do you use them for?

  • For the most part, I was building my own rods in those days. Mostly on Fenwick blanks, but a few on Lamiglass blanhks as well. I still own three or four of them.

    • 1976 was the year I made my first custom rod – using the Fenwick Rod Bulders catalog and guide. My first rod was a Fenwick Ferrule Lite FSP661 trout rod. I made two of them then for my birthday I got an HMG GSP531 spinning rod rated 2-8lb. Still have one of the 561s and the 531. I was 12 years old at the time and all I did was think about fishing, read about fishing and fish. 🙂

  • BIG BOB

    these rods were superior for tight in casting to laydowns.. you could put a 1/4oz Fleck or later a Black Jack Spinnerbait into the tightest of holes.. from the first moment that I used these rods, I could immediately tell if just one blade on a tandem spin was turning or two..
    due to an article back in 1969 and then reposted in Bassmaster this past year or so by Homer Circle, I learned to cast a baitcaster lefthand, and early on learned to roll cast with either hand.. these rods made this casting effortless.

    • Bob, I agree with ya 100%. That’s exactly why I carry a 5 1/2-foot rod in the boat all the time. If I get into a position where the fish are in tight to trees and bushes and there’s a ton of it around, the short rod excels every time.

      As for casting left-handed, I never got the hang of that. I did learn how to do a back-handed under-hand cast, though. 🙂