Fishing Rod  Maintenance



This article is not to identify fishing rods, CLICK HERE FOR THAT but to help you maintain them, which could be anything from from simply washing it off after usage, to doing a complete rebuild or anywhere in between.


Most of the rod guides now days are some form of a ceramic inset as compared to the older simple chrome plated steel.  The steel ones over time along with a LOT OF USE will be cut into by the line, creating weakened or abraded line and possible line failure.  The ceramic or carbide are harder by a considerable margin and perform better.


The newer graphite rods are being made with more guides than the fiberglass rods of the past.  This appears to be that many graphite rods are finding themselves being used on downriggers.  In use these rods require a lot of strain on them when in operation.  And if you read the Identifying of Rods by clicking on the link above, you will understand why graphite rods are not the best choice for downrigger rods.  But the manufacturers understand a considerable number will be used for that so they appear to compensate by adding more guides.  With more guides the line excerpts a more even pressure over the entire rod length (especially the tip section).    In reading rod rebuilding websites, the normal current number of guides on a rod, (not counting the tip top) is one guide per foot of rod.   That however does not mean they are spaced equally, (but closer together for better line support and less stress on the rod as they go farther toward the tip).


Inspect Your Rods ;  You need to take care of your gear during your season, as well in the off season.  Inspect the rod for loose guides created by unraveled guide wrappings.  If one comes a bit loose, you could wrap it with electricians tape as a temporary repair.  After each use, wash the rod and reel down with warm soapy water if possible, removing herring scales, smeared on scent or roe cure.  After your season, then do a complete inspection.  Rods will last a long time if taken care of.  I have a number of rods that are over 50 with a couple over 60 years old.   However, some of these may have underwent a repair/rebuild process a time or two, depending on the usage.


Inspect all parts of the rod for anything that is not right.  This could be a removing any stuck on fish scales, loose guides, the cork handle needing cleaned (using acetone) or re-varnished, or the reel seat being cleaned.  Maybe the butt cap needs to be re-cemented or replaced.  Probably the most important is to inspect the guides.  The older metal ones can get rusted or the chrome come undone, which can create abrasion to your line.  The newer guides will have some from of ceramic for the line to go through.  These could become cracked, yet still remain in place.  To check for this use a Que-Tip, and rub in around on the inside of these guide rings.  If there is any resistance, you could have crack or nick.  Replace that guide.


If everything looks OK, then you might want to apply a slight amount of wax to the rod, then wipe it off, leaving just a thin coating.  Do not forget to inspect the ferrules and clean any debris off the joints, both inside or out.


Between seasons remove the reel from the rod, remember "Out of sight-Out of mind".  For the metal reel seats, place a dab of light grease on the threaded parts of the reel clamp and on the clamp collar.   Also put some of the same grease on the base of the reel seat itself (especially the older metal reel seats) to prevent corrosion in the contact points where the reel meets the reel seat on the rod.   Many of the newer reel seats are made of graphite, but cleaning would still be appropriate.   Once you're all lubed up, go ahead and tighten down the reel into place as you normally would.  For those of you that are saltwater fishers, this small step will keep the salt from eating up any metal components in your setup.


I occasionally see a fisherman using a beat up old rod with the parts of the cork handle missing and a guide or two taped in place and bait scales or roe remains on it.  Well maybe it was his dad's favorite that he inherited and he is just paying tribute to dad.  Or he possibly does not care the condition the rod/reel are in as long as they catch fish.  When seeing those guys, I have to wonder, just what condition is the line leader, swivels AND hook?   I would hope that if they loose a nice fish because of their negligence, that they realize the real reason, and not try to place the blame on someone else or something.  I guess what ever the reason for not maintaining a outfit is not my call as long as that fisherman is happy.  Sometimes just being out and enjoying yourself is more than walking to the vehicle with a slimy old fish.


Stuck 2 Piece Rods ; One method of assembly that may help is to start with the pieces at 90 degrees from lined up, lightly push together as you rotate to line up the guides.

Occasionally you may find that your 2 piece rod do not want to readily come apart.  If you try to pull it apart when they are stuck this bad, just the side tension of your grasping hands can put undue side tension on the rod making the problem worse or even breakage of the tip section.    The old time tested method is to slightly squat down and with your legs together, put the rod behind your knees, center the rod joint between your knees, squat farther down securing the rod, grip the rod tightly using one hand on each side outside your knee, then bracing your wrists against the outer sides of your legs, open your stance by moving the legs apart.   This method keeps the rod pretty well aligned and will give a straight pull along with allowing you to maintain a good grip.


Sometimes help from a friend can do the job, and it is best to both use dishwashing or the rubber gardening gloves that have the roughened grip area.  2 guys, 4 hands, maximum surface area for maximum grip.  Here both guys TWIST counter clockwise while exerting some pull, (90% twist 10% pull) usually does it.


Sometimes on a day with a big temp swing if they're a little sticky, a couple two inch squares of cut rug padding carried in the vest pocket does the trick for that extra grip needed.


In the photo below, the squat needs to be slightly more, putting more alignment on the rod as the knees are separated.  But you can see that his alignment still is not perfect.


Squatting method of separating stuck rod sections

The initial problem could be debris on/in the metal ferrule section of older rods.  If you can get some denatured alcohol clean both ends real good, Q-Tips work well inside the ferrule.
Newer rods that use the fiberglass itself as a ferrule are usually not as prone as bad to this sticking problem. 


Clean both the male and female ends.  The cure is to lightly oil these joints.  Many years ago it was common knowledge that you could get a slight amount of oil from rubbing the male rod end behind your ear or along side your nose before connecting the ferrules.   Sometimes the younger generation needs to be taught this simple forgotten trick that your grandfather did not pass along.


Here are some other suggestions on how to prevent the problem.  (1) When it's cool in the morning and heats up during the day things expands, but not in exact ratio to each other.  Put your rod in the river for a few it down, it should come apart easily then.   (2) Or when you get home, try using ice packs at the connection for about 5 minutes, or pour a little boiling water over the upper section, which helps it comes apart.  (3) Half the issue was not being able to get a good grip.  Wrapping a bunch of masking tape wraps around the blank building up it's diameter which allows you to get a good grip and take the two pieces apart.  Or use Latex gloves, and/or one of those rubber pads made for opening a fruit jar also works.  (4) Put wax on the male end of the rod. Some even spry Windex on the ends to prevent it from getting stuck. (5)  What does work is spray dry silicone on the rod joints once in a while. Dry silicone doesn't gather dirt and it lasts a long time.  The downside is if you don't push the ferrules tightly together you might find yourself with half a rod when you cast.  (6) Candle wax or paraffin will work well, or ski wax if you have that.


Tip Guide Replacement ;  The most frequent repair is probably replacing the tip top guide.  This can be the result of the insert falling out or stepping on the rod, breaking off the last inch or so.  Rod tips are held in place by a ferrule cement, which is applied by heating the cement tube's end, (which is a solid material about 1/2" in diameter and a couple of inches long).  To remove a damaged tip, heat it up with a match or Bar-B-Que lighter, then while it is warm, twist it off with a pair of pliers.  You can clean the area, apply new cement, heat the tip then slip it on, allowing it to cool.  If you get it slightly off center, just reheat then twist it until aligned with the other guides.  These tips are made in different size holes, so if you break a short section off, you may not be able to use the old one by setting it back on the rod because the rod's taper may be just enough larger there so that the old tip will not fit.


The one important factor in correctly replacing or putting on a tip top, in order to get the proper bonding, re-scuff or scuff the tip of the blank before installing your new top. Giving that ferrule cement the best bond can be important.  You can use a piece of 220 or 320 to scuff it up gently, without really pressing on it.

Also, the over heating factor here is a NO-NO. A simple lighter does the trick just fine. Two or three quick passes under the top and it should slide right off.  The key thing is you need to heat the glue, which is accomplished by heating the tip top guide, transferring the heat to the glue, but you NEVER, NEVER apply enough heat to ruin the rod blank.


The bad one is if you get a rod that someone unfamiliar to rod repair has super glued the new tip eye on.  Then about the only way to get it off is to cut it off and shorten the tip section the distance that the old part being cut off.  You will not know this is the case until you try heating it to loosen the regular rod cement.  If it does not loosen and get too hot, the fiberglass will start to frazzle at the exposed part just rear of this tip eye shank.


However I have found one well known brand of rod / reel manufacturer apparently uses epoxy to hold their tip top guide on.   In removing this one after I realized this situation, I cut the metal lengthwise with a Dremel tool slotting stone wheel and took it off in pieces, salvaging as much as possible of the rod itself.  The rod was slightly frazzled because of the unintended  overheating at the rear of the metal, but I was able to shorten the rod about 3/16", unwrap the appropriate amount of wrappings and reinstall (properly) the new tip.  This would not have been that bad, but the rod is only 7' long and we have 3 others like it, so my goal was, to shorten it as minimal amount as possible.

The fingernail is the best way to remove any remaining ferrule glue as a knife may score the rod leading to a possible break later on.  Re-scuff, clean with isopropyl or denatured alcohol and re-glue your top on as mentioned above.  Putting a little in the tube helps and heating the tube with the glue in it and then putting it on is a much safer bet when not having done this very much. Once your tip is on, if you have any cement squeeze out, just let the glue set up hard once again and then peel the excess off with your finger nail.

If you are replacing a tip top guide because the rod tip was broken, you may need to purchase the next larger size because the rod is tapered and the old tip top may not fit the shortened rod.


Guide Differences ;  In the photo below you will see the single foot guides on top, the casting rod guides in the middle and spinning rod guides on the bottom.  The largest, which would be for a 8' 6" or 9' salmon spinning rod, is 1 3/16" dia.  There are many different styles of guides depending on the intended usage.   For instance fly rod guides are made of very light wire, and trout or steelhead guides are heavier but lighter than most saltwater guides.


The size of guides is for the inside diameter of the ring in millimeters.


These guides can be simply light formed wire for the fly rods, to a heavier wire for heavier steelhead/salmon rods.  Or they can have the rings made of a carbide.  In the last 30 years or so you will see a ceramic insert placed inside a lighter outer metal ring.  All these improvements were to prolong line life.  I have seen numerous of the older chrome plated wire guides that have been really cut by the line over many years of usage.


Different styles of rod guides


If you intend to do any repairs, you might consider picking up broken rods at garage sales, just to salvage the guides and the old style ferrules.    If you are like me, it is hard to look at a rod/tackle catalog and pick out the right size to match what I need, but used guides can be used as a comparison if nothing else.  It is also a lot easier to take a sample guide to a sporting goods store for comparison when you buy new/replacement guides.


Guide Repair ;  This may not be possible if the ceramics are missing, however I did some miracle work on some rusted guides on an old bottom-fish rod that I recovered from a dumpster at Westport.  The guide base and part of the rings had what appeared to be considerable rust on them.  It did not appear real deep, but unsightly.  I use ordinary table Vinegar and a Que Tip, which cleaned the green vertigo and rust off quite well.  Just be sure to wash this off good and oil the surfaces before you put it away.


Guide Replacement ;  First you will need to locate where you want to place the guide/guides.  If you are just replacing a damaged one, then it is pretty obvious where it needs to be.  If you are replacing all the guides as when doing a complete rebuild and have decided that you would like a higher number of guides similar to the newer models, then it may be best to pattern your placement after a existing newer rod.   Most common method of location would be to mark the location with a felt marker, but a suggestion is to not mark the rod at the center of the guide, but to the rear and far enough away so that the new wrapping will be cover your mark.


Before you get real carried away, take a good look at the feet of the guides.   Check these feet to be sure they will lay flat on the rod blank.  You may have to slightly bend one, or both as they need to be laying so the winding material can lay even, not having a gap at either end.  Also look at the outer top part of these guide feet, as you may need to file this down on the top to a more of a taper so the thread does not slide off as it drops off the end, but allows the thread to lay against the previous wrap as you wind off the foot and onto the rod itself.


You can wrap this guide's foot with about any color of wrapping thread, matching or contrasting the color to the rod.  Then even add a few wraps on the outer ends with another contrasting color.  You could even tape off the area of the rod that will ultimately be under the wrappings, then paint it with a different color.  This could match you main wrapping color which would add color in the center and under the guide's opening.   Years ago, you could purchase a colored tape that could be used for this underlayment, however I have not seen it lately.   Or if you want to get creative, then wrap the foot by wrapping it closely, then do a loose spiraling wrap with the wraps 1/16" apart for 3/8", then do another 1/8" closely together at the end. 


All rod guides are wrapped with a small diameter special Nylon rod wrapping thread.  This thread can be purchased in many different colors and diameters.  These diameters are referenced by letters with "A" being the smallest and "E" being heavy enough for the largest rod.


In wrapping a guide, as mentioned above, you need to locate where you want it to be, then masking tape, or heat glue one end to the rod.  Be sure you have it rotated very close to where you want it to finally be.  There is a heat activated temporary guide cement similar to the tip top cement that is designed to hold the guide's feet in place while wrapping.  If you use this you do not need the taping the guide to the rod.


With a section, maybe 8" of size "E" thread, or 60# braid line, as a "pull thru thread" lay a loop along and next to the untaped guide foot with the loop beyond over the tape holding the guide in place.  Tape both ends in place.  Select how long you want the wrapping, which is usually about  3/16" beyond the tapered end of the foot.  You will start on the rod at this point and wrap up then over the foot, (toward the pull thru thread's loop) stopping at the edge of the guide bow.  Look at the existing wrapping and try to duplicate it.


Lay the end of your wrapping thread along the other side of the foot, bringing it out to where you want to start the wrapping.  Do a couple of initial wraps over the tail which will secure the wrapping that you will next do.  You can adjust the wraps a bit here while they are not totally committed by pushing the wraps, pulling the tail a bit if need be.  Continue wrapping the thread as close to each other by rotating the rod all the while keeping the thread tight.  When you get to the guide bow where you want to stop, pull about 12" then cut the thread.  Now untape the loop and push the thread end thru the looped thread you put down first.  Hold the thread tight, pull the tag line beyond where you started, which will pull the wrapping thread in and under the wrapping you just did.  One thing to remember is to not wrap these wrapping really tight as you may have a hard time pulling the end back thru or even break it before it is out the other end.


If it pulls all the way out OK, if it breaks off inside and under the wrapping OK also.  You only need it to go no more than to the end of the foot, if it comes all the way out, you can very carefully separate 2 wrappings and with a sharp knife or razor blade reach in between the wraps and cut this now inside thread off.


I recommend that if you are replacing more than one guide or rebuilding a rod that you only do one end of all the guides before you wrap the other end.  This is so that you can tweak the guide a bit if need be to align it with the others, but it is hard to do after you wrap both ends.


Once you get one end wrapped you do not need to tape the guide again to hold it in place for the other end.


Once the guide is wrapped, you can decorate it a bit if you want by adding a short band of a different contrasting color next to the outer ends of the wrap.  If you use a smaller dia. thread, don't wrap this as tight as you did the wrapping over the foot, otherwise when trying to pull the end back under the wrapping it may break off before it gets very far under.


The wrapping now needs to be sealed.  You need to initially use a rod wrapping color sealant to preserve the colors before you apply any wrap epoxy or rod varnish, otherwise a red wrapping will become brown.  The final varnish can be done by using a furniture/floor varnish, or rod varnish which may require multiple coats.  Or you can purchase 5 minute clear epoxy to cover the wrappings.   Apply enough to cover the wrapping, but with either the varnish or epoxy, you need to keep rotating the rod until it sets up, otherwise it will run or sag on one side.


In the photo below you will see the guide taped in place using masking tape.  If you look close at this tape you will also see the pull thru thread looped and laying at this tape.  The tape was pulled back to show the loop for the photo.  On the right you can see both ends of the pull thru thread being held in place during by more masking tape during the wrapping.  The black wrapping is at it's stopping point against the guide with the tag end simply taped to the table for photography purposes.  The pull thru loop will be unattached from the tape, the black winding thread threaded thru the loop with the loop pulled thru by pulling the loose ends.  Once the wrapping thread is pulled thru, cut it off close to the other wraps.  If it breaks inside and under the wrapping, fine, just pull out the pull thru thread out anyway.   If the wrapping end gets broken under the wrapping, fine as all you need is it tucked under, you will then just pull the pull thru thread all the way out.   You will note that the pull thru thread is laying close to the guide foot for protection.


You can place the pull thru on either side and wrap toward the ring, or away from it.  However starting on the rod like shown and wrapping toward the foot makes for a better outer edge of the wrap because when you pull the loose end under, it may pull some of the outer wraps back a bit making for a uneven end of the wrap.  If you start on the rod and wrap toward the guide, then the tail that you pull thru will follow the foot easier and not be so noticeable.   Also if you happened to wrap a bit too tight and the tail end you tried to pull thru breaks partly underneath, that is fine, as where you then cut the tail off next to the foot does not show as much as it would on the outer end.  But, try it both ways and decide for yourself.


The initial stages of a rod guide being wrapped

In the photo below you will get a glimpse of the finished guide wrapping.  If you want to dress the wrappings up, pick a different color and wrap a narrow wrap next to the outer ends of the main wrapping.   If you have more than one rod of the same make and size, identifying each with a different color end wrap is a good way of keeping the two parts together, or you can pick a different color for each butt and tip matching section for this identification.


Here the main wrapping was with black size D thread with the burgundy end marking being done with an A size thread.  When all were finished they were coated with a protective coating of 5 minute epoxy.  However this epoxy coating is quite thick and is hard to thin out.  There is a special epoxy rod wrapping finish made by Flex Coat which is made in 2 different thicknesses, a thick version made to be used as a single coating or a thinner version where you can apply 2 or more coatings.  This is a 2 part epoxy which comes in 2 oz. bottles making a total of 4 oz. of material and sells for about $15.00 a set.  Follow the enclosed directions.  I recommend using disposable the cheap disposable acid brushes that are used for commercial soldering.


Here the guides on this rod have been wrapped & a thick 5 minute epoxy coating applied on them


One thing to remember is that if you want the brighter wrapping to stay that color, you will need to coat it with a color preservative, otherwise when using any epoxy coatings, the epoxy coating soaks in and the color is not anywhere near as bright as it was originally.


Here the guides have been wrapped & then coated, BUT the lower section did not have color preserver applied to the wrapping before the final coating.  Note the yellow color wrapping on the butt section is not as bright as the tip section one above it.


Another way to dress up the end of the wrapping instead of wrapping a different color, would be to find a small narrow short bristle artists paint brush and paint a contrasting color there.  However this takes a steady hand and is usually best done while the rod is rotating on a rod lathe shown below.  


One thing to also look for during your winter maintenance is the guide wrapping coatings.  Sometimes this coating over the wrapping may become slightly deteriorated or loose enough to allow water/air to get under this final overcoat.  Winter time would be ideal to do these wrappings another overcoat to preserve them longer.  It is a lot better to make a repair like this than to allow things to deteriorate, then creating an issue where the whole rod needs to have the guides removed, and re-wrapped.

Rebuilding, Repainting ;
 If you are going to do more than just one or two rods, you might consider purchasing, or making a rod turning lathe.  These can be a simple unit that allows the rod to rotate SLOWLY so that the paint/winding varnish does not run before it gets dry.  If you are only going to do a couple, you can hold onto the rod and rotate it by hand for possibly 20 minutes or so until it dries enough to not run.


The well equipped rod builders have a long framework with 2 inward rotatable wheels that the rods lay on with another rotating wheel above to hold the rod in place, with one set of these wheels on each end of this framework as seen in the photo below.  This is driven by a small gear driven slow speed electric motor using a 1/8"  X 4" O-Ring as a drive belt, that when the rod is laid on the wheels in a location as to not molest the new paint.  The wheels have 1/8" X 2" O-Rings stretched and installed giving a tight fit on their outer surfaces, allowing traction from the wheels and for the rod to rotate, eliminating the chance of a paint /guide varnish to run.  When painting a whole rod using one of these jewels, you may have to only paint 1/2 at  a time, overlapping at where a guide will later be located.


Here is a rod lathe in use, curing the re-varnished / epoxied guide windings


If your rod has been used a lot, the paint may have become chipped or worn off.  Before you remove the guides but intend to just replace the existing ones back on the rod, you will need to measure and document these original guide locations.  After you have cut the windings then removed the guides, sand the rod down with a fine sandpaper, like 240 grit or so.


It may be beneficial leaving the tip top guide in place as the rod's guides are placed rotationally according to the rod's "spine", which utilizes any warpage to the best advantage of strength for the rod's arc under stress.  If you do leave it, then use masking tape on it to protect it from being painted.  Even if you intend to replace the tip top guide when doing a complete guide replacement, it is best to leave it on temporarily so you have a reference for rotational location after you reinstall the other guides.  Also you need to tape off the handle section with masking tape.


Select a color paint suiting your fancy.  There is usually enough color choices in the pressurized rattle spray cans to satisfy most fishermen.  For this you will be wasting a lot of paint as you are only getting paint on a small percent of the paint being sprayed out.  Do your painting over a old newspaper to catch the overspray.  It seems best to start at the tip (smallest end) so you can hang onto the ferrule or the handle as you paint rearward.  Do it in lengths of about 6" at a time and rotating for each lengthwise pass until you have that section covered.  Move rearward then do it again.  Do not apply so much that it will run, as a second light coat is preferable to one heavy coat.


Shown in the photo below are 5 rods in various stages of repair.  These are all  8' 6" or 9' salmon type rods.  The two on the left have been stripped of the guides, repainted and then varnished over the paint and new guides will be installed.  The center rod only had some threads on the guide wrappings starting to deteriorate.  It only underwent re-varnishing the original wrappings, then re-varnishing with a clear coat of the whole rod.  The two on the right are new rods that the cork handles were varnished as a protective coating.


The two rods on the left were heavily used commercially years ago (early 1970ish).  The far LH rod was broken about 8" up toward the tip from the ferrule.  It was repaired by removing the metal ferrule then by sliding / fiberglassing a smaller hollow glass rod tip up inside.  The outer area of the break for about 1 1/2" each side was wrapped with heavy rod guide wrapping thread (size E) to help support the juncture of the 2 pieces.   It is now considerably heavier duty, but works great for a sturgeon rod.  The center rod sporting it's original paint job, was a spare at that time that saw little usage during the commercial time, but saw many hours sport-fishing later.  All three of these rods had been setting for 20 + years with a yearning, almost lost begging look on them.  Or, maybe it was me just feeling guilty.  And redoing them gave me something to do during cold/rainy winter months.


Rods in various stages of repair


I have found that using a paint where you hand paint it on with a brush, usually leaves streaks or you get too much on and it runs.  So when I use paint in a can, I also have a automobile body shop painters small touchup air gun that works great.


When the paint is dry, you should now give the rod a final clear protective coating of rod varnish before you wrap the guides.  However do a test on separately painted material to be sure the protective coating does not dissolve or peel the base paint off.   If you can not get compatibility, then forgo this final clear coat and just wax the rod after you are finished.


Spiral Wrapped Rods ;  These are casting style rods where the guides transition from normal up position, then usually in a 3 or more guides do a 180 degree transition so the tip eye guide is on the bottom of the rod.  The purpose of spiral wrapping is to eliminate the torque or roll of the rod that's caused by the line pulling against the guide frames on a casting or boat rod making the rod to want to roll against the spine and roll left to right in your hand, it is usually unnecessary unless your trolling for big game fish.  This wrapping style does have it's advantages if you can get by the hideous look of them.  The advantage really stands out is when your vertically jigging with braid, where it really minimizes the amount of braid becoming wrapped around the tip guide. 


If you want to rewrap a standard casting rod to this style, you will need to check the spine on the assembled rod, if it is pretty true, you could just rotate the tip section 180 degrees, either change, add another guide on the but section or relocate at least the forward 2 by rotating them.   I like to keep the first guide where it is on the lower section of the 2 piece rod, and also have the first guide on the upper section also align with the rear section guide.  This helps  locate the upper section, by alighting both these two.  from there on ourt on the upper section, a TOTAL of 180 degree as the last guide in the lower section.    I like to use the rule of thumb of one guide per foot of rod, as a 9' rod would use 9 guides not counting the tip-top.   More guides are better within reason) than less.


In laying them out, decide the number of guides you want, arc the rod 90 degrees on the upper section, and mark where it looks like guides are needed to not put undue stress on the rod.  Put one guide temporarily at about the 1/2 way point.  Now run some line from the reel through the top guide and again put your 90 degree arc to get a better idea where the other guides need to be.   When done, you want a smooth transition from one to the others, both directions.

It is best if you tape these guides on before doing the actual final winding.   When you get everything taped on where you like them, put a reel on and put 10 or so ounces of weight hanging from the line and adjust the guides to where you have a smooth transition throughout and no steep angles.  CLICK HERE for a link to Rainshadow's website for a formula that may help.


However many rod builders prefer the spiral wrapped rods in a 3 guide transition.  These use a "simple" spiral, with butt guide aligned directly with the reel seat, then the second guide at 90 degrees on the side of the reel handle, and then the third guide at 180 degrees, to align with all the others 180 degrees on out to the tip top.


From a torque standpoint, these are far more beneficial on larger (especially pelagic) fish, but it does feel very comfortable with smaller (salmon/steelhead) fish too.   And for downrigger rods where the rod is placed in a holder and arced considerably, this is preferred by many who use them.


If starting from a new blank or doing a complete strip down, you would also spine both pieces individually, then together to fine tune it.


And it is my opinion that the direction of the rotation will depend on whether you are using a RH or LH crank reel.  This is so the torque (if any) of the line would be counteracted by the opposite side the reel handle is on for cranking.  


Replacing Metal Ferrules ; These are made for a snug fit between the male and female parts, so any debris can bind the two together.  If you need to replace the mid ferrule of a older rod, try to do so using the same style.   You really should replace them as a matched set (male/female).   Ferrules are made and sold in sizes in 64ths of an inch for the inside diameter, therefore a number 21 would equal 21/64.  


These older style ferrules (which are not made anymore) were made of chrome plated brass.  You may also see some made of anodized aluminum with a O-Ring on the male end.


Ferrules are secured in place with the same cement used to secure the tip top section, (heating this cement, applying and slide the ferrule overt the rod, letting it cool). 


New 2 piece rods use a different connecting system between the sections with the upper section  rod material is made so it slips over the butt section's front end for about 3".  This requires the tip section to be made of a faster taper and some makers will wrap the outer part that overlays the connection with rod windings to prevent it from breaking during heavy stress.   This also produces a lighter rod as the but section does not need to be as large a diameter, but a bit stiffer.


Reel Seat Repair ; Occasionally you may have a reel seat come loose.  I have seen sheet metal screws into the base and into the fiberglass butt section.  Not really a good idea as it may weaken the fiberglass rod section underneath.  What I have done in the past is to drill a few small holes (1/8') in the front and rear of the base, around the base.  Then mix up a fiberglass resin, using a hypodermic needle, inject this fiberglass resin into all the holes in the base and into the cavity/packing between the blank and the metal reel seat.  If some resin tends to leak out on the lower holes, cover these with masking tape until curing takes place. 


Newer plastic/Nylon seats may be smaller and show part of the rod blank.  These usually are secured well enough that you do not have them come loose.


Handle Finish / Varnish ; Most new rods come with a factory shrink-wrapped clear plastic protection on the cork handle.  These plastic covers do a good job of protecting the cork.  However many manufacturers only use this for sales as the warranty card may be under the plastic wrap and to get to this information, you have to remove the plastic covering.


If it is naked cork, or even the shrink wrapped handles, many fishermen will remove the wrapping and varnish the cork to protect it.  If this is your plan, recommend a semi-gloss instead of the high gloss, which provides a better non slip surface.  You want a quick dry (2 hours) varnish to help alleviate runs.  I have found that a fast dry (2 hours) polyurethane clear satin finish with a name of ZAR, that is recommended for floors and works great for me.  It says for indoor use, but for our usage style, the rods will not be exposed to the elements any longer than we can withstand, so the indoor use recommendation is of little consequences here.  Minwax of the same polyurethane description is so thin it requires MANY MANY MANY more coats to get the same protection buildup and then not near the protection.



Here is the rod handle finish that I use



Also if it has a naked cork handle that has been used for some time, these will get dirty/grungy over time.  You can clean most of this off by aggressively wiping it down with Acetone.  Then possibly a lightly sanding with a fine 150 grit sandpaper.  If you have holes or chunks of cork missing, fill them with plastic wood in a natural color.  But you may not get a decent color match with plastic wood filler.  If this is the case, after the final sanding, I wipe on a light oak stain.   This colors the plastic wood and does not really darken the cork that much.  Let it set for 1/2 hour and wipe off the excess.  Let it set overnight to dry completely before you apply the final varnish.


Before you start applying an varnish, the use of masking tape is a good idea to keep from covering unwanted parts.  Apply enough coats of the finish to cover and fill all the holes.   Usually about 3 coatings is sufficient on a new rod, more for a used rod as it seems that much of the finer particles have disappeared.   Do not apply so much at a time that it runs unless you use a rotating fixture or you have the time to stand there and manually rotate the rod until it pretty well sets up.  I have found that 3 or 4 coats are enough to do the job on most of my rod handles.


And IF over time the varnish gets damaged, just remove it with Acetone, or fill the holes with Plastic Wood and redo it.


Here is a rod that has had the cork handle preserved with varnish 


The above information is referenced for cork handles and not the newer coated foam type handles currently available on some rods.  


Some fishermen will even wrap the cork with black electricians tape as a protective coating.   Or you can use handlebar wrap obtainable from bike shops.  This helps greatly in preventing cork damage when trying to get a rod out of a rod holder if a large fish is pulling on the other end.  There is also a following of heat shrink tubing being used on the handles.  Recently the manufacturers have been offering fiberglass handles, of which some fishermen like, while others dislike this idea.  Some of us old geezers are hard to change our ways, unless you can give us a very good reason to make the change.


Handle Replacement ; Replacement cork rings are available in many internal sizes.  Select the size to fit your rod blank at the area you need to position the handle.  Try them on the rod to be sure they fit.  Purchase enough to do the handle.  The fore grip corks are made slightly different, so you may need to purchase enough of them to finish the job.  You will need one section of 1/4"All Thread, which is sold in 3' lengths at most hardware stores.  Cut it in two pieces, the 18" rods will be long enough to do any rod.  Also some of 1/4" nuts and washers.  Now make end caps of a good wood with center holes to accommodate the rod blank as shown below.   This is a jig to hold the corks onto the blank at the same time you are gluing them together.  Use a good grade of waterproof glue on all of the edges.  Tighten the nuts enough to hold the corks in place.  Wipe off as much excess glue off the outside of the corks.


Cork compressing & alignment jig.


You may want to put a butt protector on the handle, if so purchase one at the same time that you got the corks and one that is compatible in size.


Or you can purchase rod handle corks already glued together in lengths from 10", 12" or 14" being the most popular.


The guide eyes should not be on the rod yet as since the rod is tapered, you really need to slip the now glued corks on from the smaller end.   Apply glue to the rod in the area where the handle will start, keep applying glue then push the corks rearward until it is where you want it.   Let the glue dry.


The corks can be sanded down to remove any glue, and shaped if wanted by using a vibrator sander, then by hand as a finish sand.  I have not been successful using a band-sander as I can not seem to rotate it equally and it gets worse, going downhill from there.


Next move to the reel seat area.  You will need a filler of some sort between the rod blank and the reel seat.  This can be masking tape, however wood or fiberglass may be better, but heavier.  As seen in the photo below, here was used 2" drywall fiberglass joint tape then wrap it tightly on the blank.  Usually you will need 2 wraps, one to the rear and another at the front, it is suggested that wrap these tightly with both in the same direction so when you slip the seat on you can rotate it on as you twist it rearward.  Then tie the thread in the center to prevent it from unraveling.   You can wrap it with a heavy rod wrapping thread (size E) to hold it in place.  You want a fit just so the seat can be twisted on and in place.  Once you have tested the seat form fit, remove it, tape off the cork handle, soak the glass tape with fiber glass resin then install the reel seat.  Be careful to also tape off the seat and wipe any fiberglass off before it dries.


The fore grip shown below was purchased assembled as a unit so there was no need to use this jig on this rod.   This rod below has been rebuilt and fitted with a second hollow glass tip for better sensitivity, while retaining the original tip section for nostalgia.


Note here the original cork handle could be salvaged, but not the fore grip.  This solid glass Betts steelhead rod was purchased new in 1955.  The reel seat was chromed brass that had split over time.  However the butt's cork was also later replaced during this project.


Install the Guides ; Locate the desired locations of the guides and wrap them as laid out above.

Do Final Finishing Touches ; If you want to replace the name and model, you can print this off on your computer, then cut out this info, locate where you want to place it.   I tried to use varnish as a glue, but had negative results, so now I just glue it on with Elmers Glue.  Usually it is sticky enough that it sticks and the edges stay down even on the rounded rod after a few minutes of pressing it on with your fingers.


When it is dry, varnish over the paper name plates as a protective coating.


Then you can wax the outer parts of the rod (but not the cork handles) as an extra protective coating.


Storing Your Rods;  Most rods over 7' will be 2 piece, or possibly even 3 piece.  When storing, if you have more than one rod, you really need to have the pieces in close proximity to each other.  Some fisherpersons will use large rubber bands, others will utilize a Velcro system.  However there is a product that is really helpful that is named "Fishing Butlers".  These are a essentially elastic band inside a plastic holder, very similar to what you may find on sleeping bag stuff bag closures.   One size fits all from the butt section handle to the smallest tip sections.  On a rod, when the tail elastic is pulled it is wedged into a Vee of the plastic body and held there by the wedge action.   To release, just push the center button away from the wedge and loosen the loop.  There is a center release button and a foam pad to prevent marring.  Price is usually in the $3.50 range for the set.  If you c an not find them in your area contact the manufacturer at 1-866-239-2228.


In using these, I normally do not remove the line, but leave the full line including the swivel and snap, and will flop the tip section around so the tip top eye is at the rear of the cork handle and using these butlers on both ends of the rods, this holds both sections together.   


Fishing Butlers rod holders  


Transporting Your Rods;  Here's a tip that works well if you need a rod case to transport rods during a aircraft flight.  For our Mexico trip the total maximum dimensions for the rod holder was 62". 


Make your own tubes that are better than commercially available and have proven themselves on several flights to Alaska, Canada, Mexico even Australia or even shipped ahead on UPS and FED EX.

Use 3" or 4" Black ABS 1/4" thick round pipe which the 3" will usually accommodate 2 rods where the 4" will hold 3 rods each.  Place the rods together tip to butt and use thin bubble plastic around the first 18" of each tip and eyes.  Then use foam 1" pipe wrap insulation and place it around the 2 rods at 20" to 24" intervals, bottom, top, and 2 places in between to cushion the rods from shock or movement within the tube, then side the package into the tube after putting a foam plug in bottom and another after the rods go in.  You want it to give a fit with about 1/4" of clearance on the sides.


You might check with the airline before you do to find out if there is any restrictions as to length and or total dimensions of girth/length, as Alaska Air has a different for fishing rods with is 115", so 4" ABS was used, accommodating another/spare rod, plus a buddy's rod.

Use ABS glue and glue on an end cap, and another one with a screw plug, making the tube 3" longer than the rods being transported.  After the cap in on before rod insertion take a drill and drilled a 5/16" hole horizontally through the threads and exiting out the threads on the other side, then get a 6" long keyed U bicycle padlock to lock the cap in place.  The one good thing is that this padlock going thru the center of the tube, also keeps this case from rolling off the airline conveyers.


What I also use is a 1/4" nylon rope and tie it around each end with enough slack between to make a sling similar to a rifle carrying strap.   This proves to be one of the best cheap improvements you can make, as if you are dragging your checked baggage, dragging your wheeled cooler and carrying your carry on bag, this strap really helps keep your rod under control.

The ABS ones are indestructible, plus security proof and by far better than any tube sold on the market that you will ever see!!

If you loose the key you can cut the cap off with any hardware saw or large file.


In the photos below you will see two ball bungee cords located near each end.  These are placed so the balls are aligned parallel along the tube so that it prevents them from rolling off the loading conveyer of the airplane.


Or, make up a Redneck tube out of cardboard tubing, telescoping together and duct-taped at the juncture to the outer tube as seen on top in the photo below.  Name ID info is clear taped onto the tubes also. 


One one trip to Alaska, going up was fine, but coming back, those TSA employees must not have really read the rules or had never seen many of the plastic rod tubes (more than likely this large one designed to carry a buddy's rod also), and they really got concerned when it did not meet their Over All standard length of 60", but was well within the OAL for Alaska Air's fishing baggage size.  So once on the plane when we returned, I measured the overhead compartments (60").  But I did notice on some planes, there is a opening between two of these compartments, so if you got on early AND found the right two compartments, you could slide a longer rod holder in one and part of the other. 


Another thing to do is wrap some bright colored surveyor flagging tape on one end to identify your tube.  On these flights to favorite fishing destinations, you will be amazed at the number of rod tubes that are nearly the same as they come off the carousel.


 But I had learned, and the next year I went the Redneck single rod version made of two heavy cardboard tubes, where one just slid inside the other, as seen below on top (which they probably see a lot of) and I never had a problem.  However this next year at the Yakutat Alaska terminal there was a large sign posted, saying 60" maximum length.  If the same sign was posted in Seattle, I never saw it.


Examples of two different styles of rod transporting tubes


 Broken Rods ;   OK, this is something we try not to do, but sometimes $hit happens.  The usual situation is someone knocks a spare rod over and steps it rod during the height of fighting a fish.  Or if the fisher may be somewhat inexperienced during the fight and the fish makes a fast move under the boat (possibly because of a bad attempted netting job) the rod does not have much of a chance if it gets compressed against the side and chine as the fish goes underneath the boat as witnessed by the top rod in the photo below.


The other would be from  "High Sticking", which is at the last few seconds just before the netting, the fisher attempts to hold the rod straight UP to give the netter more of a chance.  However often the fish makes a desperate attempt to flee and with a tight reel drag, plus the high rod, it can not flex enough, breaking the tip section, usually about 6-8" in front of the ferrule.  Both of these rods saw their demise within two weeks of each other.


This can get expensive.


Examples of two broken rods 


Line Breaking with Fish On ;   Here you could have multiple reasons.  (1) Too light a line for the fish/conditions.  (2) Bad reel drags.  (3) Abrasion on line.  (4)  To heavy or a short stout rod.  (5) cracked rod guide ceramic insert.  (6) Bad roller on spinning reel. (7) And finally -- bad, old or abused line.



Copyright 2011 - 2018  LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

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Originally stated 11-17-2011, Last Updated 01-07-2018
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