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Bamboo

"Stradivarius or Yamaha; Tool or Treasure"

by Ralph Moon (Part 2)

The second factor must inevitably be tied in to the nature of the material itself. As Gingrich rather pungently pointed out , plastic just does not cut it. A dear friend of mine, Walton Powell, expressed his feeling about impregnated rods to me once, by stating, "Hell, if I wanted a plastic rod, I'd have gotten a plastic rod."

There is something about natural materials that attracts the true enthusiast. Would you rather go hunting with a plastic stocked J.C. Higgins shotgun or a Purdy? Would you rather use a b eautifully finished rosewood and brass T-square or one stamped from sheet metal? Would you rather fish with a Jim Payne rod or a Sage? If you answer by selecting the first choice in these examples read on.

Vincent Marinaro is perhaps better known for his theories on presentation than as a rod builder, but the fact remains that his stature would forever stand secure on his expertise as a rod builder. His theories on rod building are based on the proper application of the principals of length, materials, and taper.

On materials Marinaro says without reservation "it was apparent to me that the only suitable material was bamboo." He goes further and makes the comment that bamboo is still the great standard against which all other materials are measured.

The major difference between bamboo rods and modern composite rods, be they fiberglass, graphite or boron, lies in the structural differences. On the one hand you have a solid structure composed of fibers of various densities, on the other hand a hollow tube of homogeneous material.

The difference manifests itself in a couple of different ways. Most anglers (although not all) will agree that vibrations are more readily discerned through a solid structure than throu gh a hollow one. The increased sensitivity of the rod in detecting the action of the terminal tackle, including the take of fish, is a decided advantage that might in and of itself be sufficient cause for advancing the merits of the bamboo rod over the sy nthetics.

There is however, an even more important reason the bamboo rod is superior to the tubular rod. Most anglers are aware that present day bamboo rod construction is marked primarily by six strips of bamboo laminated together. Each strip is a tapering equilateral triangular solid that is characterized by long, hard fibers on the surface of the strip and a softer underlayer of pith in the center.

The assembled section then has a very dense hard layer of power fibers covering a softer pithy interior. Many who are aware of this construction understand that the stretching and compr ession of the outer surfaces when the rod is flexed are cushioned and strengthened by the softer interior. This is true, and again if for no other reason this might be construed as further evidence that the bamboo rod has superior characteristics. The fla ttening and deformation of a tube under stress may lead (as many have found to their consternation) to catastrophic failure of the structure.

There is another factor that is governed by the composite structure of the bamboo rod and that is a dampening and cushioning action. As the rod flexes and bends the dampening effect of the pithy center serves to slow down and delay the transmission of unwanted vibrations. While extreme sine waves may sometimes be seen in bamboo rods, either because of poor design or of improper casting, they are far less prevalent then in graphite and f iberglass rods.

Marinaro states that this dampening effect is the closest thing he has seen to a repeal of Newton's Second Law of Motion. (Ed. note: the law mentioned is that a body in motion tends to remain in motion, while a body at rest tends to stay at rest.) The subjective aspect of this effect is to be in comments that bamboo is smoother, closer to natural action, less tiring.

I'd conclude by saying that this is in no way an indictment of modern synthetic rods. They have many advantages and even superiority in some aspects. They are lighter (for the most part), they present a smaller profile in the casting stroke allowing for some increase in speed, and today they are cheaper to purchase.

Still, I think that bamboo richly deserves the nickname "the lovely reed." - Ralph Moon



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