Back in the 70s and even the 80s, if you wanted a rod for a certain technique, you were essentially at the mercy of the rod companies and what they made at the factory. Back then, especially in the 70s, all rod companies offered was 5 1/2-foot casting rods with pistol grips. Spinning rods were a little better in that you could find rods in the 6-foot category but often times they didn’t have the backbone for bass fishing.
If you were a serious angler, though, you either had your local tackle shop custom make you a rod or you built one yourself.
Many anglers back then learned to build rods with one of two booklets – the “Fenwick Rod Builder’s Blank and Components Catalog” or the “How To Wrap a Rod with Gudebrod” booklet. I learned to wrap rods from both of these booklets when I was 10 years old and the skill has helped me and my fishing ever since.
As stated earlier, rod companies did little to offer the fisherman what he or she really needed. If you wanted a 6-foot casting rod – good luck. If you wanted a 6 1/2-foot casting rod with a straight handle and trigger you might as well wait for water to freeze at 212 ºF – it wasn’t gonna happen.
Building a custom rod, though, you could do whatever you wanted. Do you like a spinning blank so much you think it’ll make a great casting rod? How about that 6-foot casting blank? It has all the power in the butt but the tip is too soft. Well cut it down an inch and you have your own custom worm rod that’ll pull stumps off the bottom. Tired of losing fish in 50 feet of water on spoons because you can’t set the hook properly? Well that 7-foot blank has all the attributes you’d need and no one offers anything like that in their lines of rods.
Today there are so many great rod companies out there the angler really doesn’t have to worry about building rods anymore. Most of the smaller companies that stick only to rod building started as custom shops so they know what they’re building, who they’re building it for and what they require. Their custom rod lines have become factory rod lines.
Still even with all the great rods available out there for the angler today, there’s nothing like designing a rod to your specifications and catching a fish on it. I’ll never regret learning the task and I’m thankful for Fenwick and Gudebrod for printing these great little booklets.