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An Update to Midwest finesse tackle: rods, reels and lines, according to Dwight Keefer

An Update to Midwest finesse tackle: rods, reels and lines, according to Dwight Keefer

Dwight Keefer received a number of questions from readers of his initial blog about the best spinning tackle  to use when anglers are wielding finesse baits such as a Z-Man Fishing Products' Finesse ShadZ affixed to Gopher Tackle's Mushroom Head Jig.

Here's his response to the questions:

"I would like to thank the readers for the positive feedback on my first finesse spinning rod blog. Several readers have asked questions and requested a response. I will do my best to answer those questions.

My history with the finesse spinning rod began in the early 1960s with the Fenwick fiberglass blanks. Prior to the introduction of the Fenwick blank, Ray Fincke's tackle store in the Rosedale section of Kansas City was using Sila-Flex blanks to make rods. Fenwick produced freshwater casting, spinning and fly rod blanks but the action of their spinning rods was too light.  Therefore, Fincke used the Fenwick casting rod blanks to make the spinning rods we used, and as I best remember those casting rod blanks were two-, three- and four-power rods. Fincke's original custom-made finesse spinning rods were five feet, four inches long. It was a one-piece rod.  Many years later, Fincke created a similar spinning rod that he called The Stinger. That rod is now the G. Loomis SJR 6400. The six-foot G. Loomis models are the SJR 720 and SJR 721.

We used one Fenwick custom spinning rod to fish all of our baits, ranging in size from a 1/32-ounce Beetle to a 3/8-ounce Bass Buster Lure Company's Scorpion. A Shakespeare 2062 spinning reel spooled with eight-pound-test Shakespeare 7000 monofilament line was attached with tape to a Tennessee-style cork handle.

When Fincke created a rod, he would use what I would call the TE&E method of manufacturing, which stands for trial, error and experience. Fincke would mark the rod blanks for proper guide spacing, and we

had a choice of using Foul Proof guides, Carboloy guides or chrome-plated-stainless-steel guides. Ray Fincke, Chuck Woods, Drew Reese and I preferred the chrome-plated-stainless guides because they were somewhat durable and balanced the rod better. Carboloy was too heavy, and the monofilament line quickly created grooves in the Foul Proof guides. The chrome-plated-stainless guides would eventually become grooved; so, we would replace them about once a year.

According to Fincke's instructions, we wrapped the five-foot, four-inch one-piece Fenwick blank with a No. 25, No. 16, No. 12, and No.10 chrome-plated-stainless guides with a No.8 Carboloy tip top.

In September of 1967, Ray Fincke's rod-building genius blossomed once again, and it had a dramatic impact on my personal life and fishing career. It unfolded across two days while I was at his tackle shop.  I was there getting my tackle ready to compete in the 1967 Kansas Open Fishing Tournament at Norton Lake, Kansas. When I was working on my tackle, Fincke asked me to watch the store. Then he would disappear into the workroom in the back of his store for several hours each time. When I was loading my car on the second day, Fincke came out of the back room with a brand new custom-made Fenwick spinning rod. It had a Feather Weight spinning handle attached to the butt ferrule of the blank. This medium-action Fenwick blank was wrapped with large spinning guides. The first guide was a No. 30, which was followed by a No. 25, No. 16, No. 12, and two No.10 guides with a No.8 Carboloy tip top.  The rod was over six feet long, which was considered extremely long in those days for the type of bass fishing we were accustomed too.

When he handed me the rod, he said, You're going to need this on your trip."  I paired the rod with another Shakespeare 2062 reel spooled with eight-pound-test Shakespeare 7000 monofilament line.

The new longer rod allowed me to cast a 3/8-ounce Bass Buster Scorpion further than my competitors could throw with their level-wind casting reels. That rod played a significant role in helping me win the 1967 Kansas Open and 1967 World Series of Sport Fishing at Long Lake, Wisconsin, and those wins helped me to garner a job with the Shakespeare Fishing Tackle Company in 1970 after I graduated from college.


In the early 1970s, I visited the Shakespeare rod and line manufacturing plant in Columbia, South Carolina. I met Jim Butler, an executive vice president of Shakespeare, and when he took me on my first guided tour of the plant I was awed by their Howald rod manufacturing process that was used to build the Shakespeare Wonderrod. I was also surprised to learn that 50% of the rod manufacturing plant was devoted to building Shakespeare Marine antennas and 75% of the line manufacturing plant was devoted to the manufacturing of very small diameter clear sewing thread used by manufactures in the garment industry. It was my first insight to how very small the fishing tackle business is in relation to our economy.

This was also the first time I had ever seen a rod-flex chart. The flex chart was made of peg board with wooden dowels. They would pull the rods and rod blanks off production lines and put them on the flex chart to insure quality control of the proper flexibility of the rods

If we fast forward to today, the high-modulus graphite rods are engineered with very exact specifications. Consequently, I discovered that every modification I made to a factory manufactured high-modulus rod could result in less sensitivity and/or a lack of balance, which could result in a loss of accuracy and/or physical fatigue -- even if the rods would execute longer casts. It became clear to me that St. Croix, G. Loomis, Shimano and Bass Pro Shops had done very extensive testing, and that they  manufactured those rods with specific guides and spacing requirements.

There was, however, one constant and notable factor. That was that American Tackle's Titanium Framed Zircon guides would properly balance the rod and would always execute notably longer casts if I used exactly the same size guides and spacing that the original manufacturer used.

Therefore, if I were custom building any high-modulus spinning rod blank from Phenix, St. Croix, American Tackle or any other source, I would only use their recommended spacing and guide specifications. If I were stripping any high-modulus factory rod from any manufacture, I would only re-build the rod with exactly the same spacing and be very cautious as to weight comparison between the factory installed guides and the replacement guides. You can go down in weight of the replacement guide but not up in weight without negative affects on balance and performance -- even if it casts longer. You can also consult the flex and guide spacing charts provided by Anglers Resource, and here's  their Web site address:

If anglers use fluorocarbon line on these high-modulus spinning rods, it's necessary to use a large-spool spinning reel like the Daiwa Fuego 2500 size. The Shakespeare 2062 had a very large spool for its frame size compared to today's reels, and in fact, it was similar to a Daiwa 2500, but the 2062's spool was the size of a Daiwa 3000 series size spool. Bass Pro Shops makes a Carbonlite spinning reel (No. JCL750), which is eerily similar in its frame and spool size to the Shakespeare 2062. I have been unable to purchase the BPS reel because they have been on backorder for some time. The smaller size 2000 series Daiwa Fuego reel provided no additional casting distance. What's more, its smaller spool was a constant source of line fowling problems with seven-pound-test Sunline Sniper.

Thanks again for the positive feedback and I hope this blog will make your fishing more fun.   I will be pleased to answer more questions. Please do not hesitate to post them."

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