November 8th, 2004

Build Your Own?
By James Castwell


I guess we have all had ideas like that. From the first 'fixer-upper' we started on to where ever we are today. There is also the fun of having a good rod builder produce your new rod from the components you select. Or you could have him pick out what he thinks you should have for the type of fishing you intend to do and use the rod for. I once thought I would like to have a certain rod done in all black and silver. I could just see it in my mind. Silver windings, silver handle, silver butt cap and silver guides. Everything else jet black.

I held that picture in my mind for some time, even asked a few questions about availability. Until, that is, one day I saw one done exactly like that. Now, no offense to the thousands who have rods just like that; it is not my choice. Glad you like yours. Glad I didn't build one.

Some say you can, or can have made for you, a rod using a blank from a major company that is superior to one made by the factory. No offense to you custom rod builders out there, but, remember, these guys make rods all day long, they get pretty good at it. If not, they get a pink slip. I have been to the two major makers and a few lessors, they take their jobs darn seriously. The folks producing these sticks take a great deal of pride in their workmanship, at least the ones I watched and met.

I suppose if you are really great at it, you might fiddle with the spine of the rod to suite some fancy you have in mind. Perhaps some type of coating on the wraps that you feel superior. Maybe some other things I have left out, but for me and a whole lot of guys I know, the factory rod is the way to go. The savings often are not that remarkable from the factory rod to the custom one when you get to the end numbers. Might it be possible to make a rod that is even better than a factory one? I have to say I guess it is possible.

And don't forget the guarantee. Do they both have the same one? Chances are they do not, in fact, probably not. That has to count for something. How about when you break the tip of a two piece rod? You can not send it back to the company that made the blank for repair. Will the guy who made it for you still be in business? At home? Alive? How long will it take him to get a new tip section and make it up for you? Worth anything?

This sounds like I am against buying anything but a factory rod. Not. Just wanted you to have a fair idea of some of the things you may be getting into by doing so. Whether you build it yourself or have one built up for you, there are limitations.

Then, of course, there are neat things on the plus side. You may have the only stick in the world like it. There is a certain pride in things like that. A feeling of satisfaction when fishing with a rod you basically created, heady stuff indeed. But there are a few things on the down side too.

Let's say you buy a factory stick and after one day decide you are not quite as happy with it as you thought you were going to be. Will your fly shop try to work with you on a different rod? I think many would. Worse yet.

The rod stinks. Putting the small shaft inside the butt section seems to have been a dumb idea. How were you to know if you didn't try it? Oversized guides and three extra to make the fly line run smoother has made the rod heavy and clunky when you cast. Who would think that those extra coats of finish over the wraps would hurt any thing, shucks, you were only trying to cover up the first coats that were a little rough and never quite dried like they should have. Bad things do happen to good people, often when they are building up their first rods.

The biggest thing to me is the resale, or lack thereof. Remember, for instance, a custom build Sage 9ft 9wt XYZ is not the same as a factory one when it comes to resale. Unless the builder is a bit more than world famous, you will not get anywhere near the same price. Here is an example I pulled from the bulletin board just recently.

"Haven't had much luck selling this very nice Sage Xi2 custom 6 weight so am looking for a possible trade for a comparable 8 weight. The components on the Xi2 are great - Struble U22 (titanium) reel seat, TiC guides and tip-top, abalone winding check, flor grade full wells grip - really a nice light duty saltwater rod. If anyone might be interested in trading for an 8 weight of similar qualities, please give me a shout. Thanks all."

I am sure the rod is fine, I have two of the Xi2 and love them, but the market shrinks when the rod is not factory made. ~ JC


Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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