Innovative Rod Handles – Part I

A 1978 "Bass Handler" advertisement appearing in the pages of Field & Stream magazine.

A 1978 “Bass Handler” advertisement appearing in the pages of Field & Stream magazine.

One of the things you can’t fault about anglers is their creativity, especially when it comes to trying to solve angling problems. These next couple posts will look at creative ways that companies have tried  to solve some of the inherent issues around rod and reel matchups. We’ll start today with a baitcasting solution called “The Bass Handler”.

There are several problems posed by the traditional baitcast rod and reel combination. These include rod twist and torque, line contact with the blank when under heavy pressure, and overall balance and feel. While newer solutions to these problems include things like spiral wrapped guide patterns and Interline blanks, back in the late 70s an instrument fitter named Carl Fontenot from Lake Charles, LA came up with his solution called “Bass Handler-One”. By situating the rod blank into a handle that featured a raised forward section, the line could pass through and travel along the underside of the rod blank via a large opening. The outfit more closely mimicked a spinning setup with the guides wrapped along the bottom of the blank.

The “Bass Handler” was packaged more as a component item, most likely intended for use by custom rod builders. Word is they were designed to hold Lew’s Speed Stick ferrules. Material technology of the era being what it was, the handles were said to be somewhat heavy, and appeared to be made from some type of hard plastic. In the picture, it also sported the ever popular rubber pistol grip of the times, though the ad states that the “handle sold seperately”.

The idea for the handles was supposedly hatched around 1974-75, but the few ads and mentions I’ve found for this system were from around 1978-79. They all state that the handles were “patent pending”, so I’m not certain if they ever fully got recognized there or not. I also haven’t see any further mention of them again from about 1980 on, so they must have never got real popular. The ad shown in the picture though featured John Fox, “The American Angler” and “9 times National Bass Fishing Champion” according to the write-up. The handles sold for $15.95 each.

In Part II tomorrow, we’ll look at another way to solve a similar set of problems, this time in a matching rod and reel combination from a once very popular industry player.

  • I remember these. Never saw one in person, probably because tey never sold any to speak of. I love the claim that it “lowers the center of gravity”, as it clearly does exactly the opposite, while adding a weak link right at the most stressed part of the rod.

    • I saw a couple in person Rich. I was tasked with taking the handles off the rods, rewrapping the rods to put the guides on a normal casting-rod spline and then attaching graphite Lew’s Fuji handles to them. The dang things weighed a ton and were beyond awkward to cast. I think they should be in the Top 10 of all bass fishing Darwin awards. 🙂 Hmm…..that gives me an idea.