Fishing rod blanks can vary wildly, and the main decisions you’ll have to make when choosing yours are power, taper, materials and length.
The power of a blank refers to how much pulling power the rod has. Power is described in different ways by different manufacturers, sometimes with words, like light, medium, or heavy, and sometimes with numbers reflected by the suggested line strength. When describing rods as heavy, medium or light, keep in mind that these terms are relative. A “heavy” rod designed for largemouth bass is considerably lighter than a “heavy” rod for striped bass. Recommended lure weights will also give you an idea of a rod’s power. Manufacturer’s specs often vary, so try to get your hands on a blank or built rod to see how it feels before you make the purchase. The listed ratings are not always exact.
When picking out a fishing rod blank, look for one where the weights you intend to throw most often fall in the middle of the rod’s rating. When building a rod for pulling fish from rocks and heavy cover, you may want to choose a blank that is more powerful than the line you intend to use, in order to give you extra pulling power. Conversely, you may want to use a lighter rod to present small baits to bigger fish. A light rod and heavy line will allow you to present a small bait and still be able to control a big fish.
The action of a blank refers to where the blank flexes under load, which is a result of the rod’s taper. Action is usually described as slow, moderate, fast and extra fast. Slow rods flex from tip almost to the butt, moderate rods flex about to the middle, fast rods flex in the top third, and extra-fast rods flex mostly at the tip of the rod.
The action of a blank should be a major consideration in blank selection. The action should match your personal preferences and the fishing situations where you plan to use the rod.
In general, faster-action rods put more force into the cast and send baits and lure farther. This same force may also be enough to cast off delicate live baits, like bunker, eels, mackerel or shiners. For lobbing live baits, moderate or slow-action rod is best.
Fast rods tend to be more sensitive and are better at picking up a lure’s action or subtle bites. Moderate or slow rods are the best choice when trying to protect light lines and leaders while fighting a fish. The forgiving rod takes some of the strain off of the line, cutting down on break-offs.
Jigging applications with heavy lures typically use moderate- to slow-action blanks, but casting light lures like small soft plastics and swimming plugs usually calls for a faster blank. Many fishermen prefer a moderate blank when working pencil poppers and unweighted plastics because the less flexible mid-section of the rod helps impart extra action to the lure. Before you select fishing rod blanks, consider what lures or bait you will be fishing on it and select the most appropriate action.
The choice of rod materials will be driven by needs and budget. High-end, high-modulus graphite rods can be very expensive. They are light and powerful tools, but they are usually more fragile than composite or fiberglass rods. Graphite blanks are perfect for building lightweight rods that are extremely sensitive. There are some anglers who prefer the slower action of fiberglass, and with braided line, fiberglass rods can still provide plenty of sensitivity. For some styles of bait fishing or trolling, glass rods may be easier on the budget and perform as well or better than a graphite rod. If you goal is to make a light and sensitive rod, go for graphite, if you are looking for durability and toughness, a composite or fiberglass blank is often the way to go.
Rod length matters in many situations – there is a reason surfcasters prefer rods around 10 feet while boaters prefer rods around 7 feet. Longer rods provide more casting distance while shorter rods apply more force against a hooked fish with less strain on the angler. But don’t get stuck in a pattern where you think that all surf rods or boat rods have to be a certain size! An 8 ½-foot rod is a great tool for boat anglers tossing plugs into rocky shorelines. The nice part about a custom rod,is that you can customize even the length of a rod. Rods can be shortened from the butt to make them a better fit for angling applications. Rods can even be shortened from the tip if an angler wished to both shorten their rod and give it a different action. Just be forewarned that cutting down a rod blank will often void the manufacturer’s warranty (if there is one).