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Custom fishing rod building – Part 2, building a rod for cobia/stripers

Custom rod building is a growing trend among anglers. It is all about making your own rod to fit your own preferences and fishing style. Components are getting easier to obtain and rod-building classes are available, including online, to guide you through each step of building your own custom rod. This is the second of a three part series on building custom fishing rods.

Guides are fastened to the rod blank by wrapping with colored thread and then be coated with epoxy.
Guides are fastened to the rod blank by wrapping with colored thread and then be coated with epoxy.
Ron Presley

Building a Specialty Rod for Cobia/Stripers

One of the most appealing benefits to custom rod building is the ability to tailor your fishing rods to your specific needs. Alternatives range from building a rod to suit a distinctive technique to targeting a specific species of fish.

As described in Part 1, one of the main elements of rod building is finding the spine and building your custom rod on the spine.

Ryan Dangel, an instructor in the class, says a custom rod performs better than a store-bought rod because it is built on the spine. “Building on the spine keeps the rod from twisting in your hands when fighting a big fish.” In other words, building on the spine results in the best performance possible from your custom rod.

Assuming the spine has already been found and marked, and leaving out the decorative options available, Mud Hole instructor Brook Oliva described his thoughts on building a species-specific rod. “There are several factors and options to consider when setting up any rod, for any style, skill set or targeted fish. Let’s take cobia (or striper or similar sized fish) for example. I fish from a 22-foot bay boat, so I automatically have a height disadvantage to contend with. This means that when I’m choosing a rod blank I focus on options from 7-foot 6-inches to 8-foot.” These lengths are chosen for better casting range and an ability to reach cobia or other fish at a distance.

For action and power Brook prefers a fast action rod blank. He explains that this means the majority of the flex in the rod is in the top 1/3 while delivering medium to medium-heavy power. “I usually keep my choice in the 20- to 40-pound weight class for cobia. I feel that this range yields a light enough tip to cast well, but still provide the backbone to fight a heavy cobia.” His personal choice is the SW80M-MHX blanks. These are what you would call a West Coast style blank. They are of thin diameter with lots of power and very light compared to other alternatives.”

Having settled on the blank the rest of the choices are aimed at a particular style of fishing and fit for the angler’s body type. “I prefer split grip rods,” states Brook. “However, using them offshore results in a bit of a beating in rod holders, as they usually don’t fit as well as one piece grips. I’m tall and have long arms so I like to go with a longer rear grip, usually 12 to 14 inches. I generally install aluminum reel seats on any thing going offshore. Aluminum is more expensive and generally a bit heavier but the added durability is worth it.”

Brook chooses an 8-inch fore grip. “I generally want enough grip in front of the seat to grab with two hands, it’s just my style.”

Because cobias are taken in saltwater, Brook recommends titanium guide trains like the American Tackle Titan Series. He says the weight is far less than stainless and the corrosion resistance is worth the price.

His guide size is based on the reel he will be using. “I always like to have the reel on hand that I intend to use on the rod I’m building. I feel that creating the rod around the reel produces a better piece of equipment, not to mention I like to match my colors. Typically I would be using a 6000-size reel for cobia.”

Spacing of the guides is important to transfer the work of landing a big fish from the blank, to the guide and finally to the line. Brook typically starts with a #40 guide and transitions down to 10s or 8s at the tip. “The rule of thumb for rods of that nature would be one guide per foot, so an 8-foot rod would have 8 guides spaced to the action of the rod. It may be necessary to add 1 or 2 additional guides so that the line makes a nice smooth transition from guide to guide, especially at the tip.”

A final choice on guide size relates to the knots you tie. The larger size guides allow for better knot clearance and the ability to wind in a leader knot in preparation for landing a fish.

Brook used cobia as an example in this description, but points out that this style of build is pretty versatile and could ultimately be used for a number of offshore species. Schoolie dolphin, AJ’s and even tarpon come to mind, not to mention big stripers. “My likings may be completely opposite to what the guy on the next boat prefers, but one of the beauties of custom rod building is that there are no real rules. Build it as you want it!”

Note: This is Part 2 of a three part series on rod building. Part 1 described the basics of rod building and Part 3 describes the process of building lighter rod such as would be use on trout, redfish and other smaller fish.