Jim Dillard, a West Monroe, Louisiana native, is a professional fisherman on the FLW and Bassmaster Open tours, and is known by fans and anglers for his consistency and versatility on a number of different bodies of water.
He is also one of a growing number of professional fisherman who build their own custom fishing rods. This is a recent interview with Jim giving his take on rod building and how it has helped him compete as a professional on tour.
Rod Building Choices
We had a chance to talk with Jim recently about how he started building his rods, and here are some highlgihts of that conversation.
When did you start building rods?
I need rods built for each type of lure, and even tailored for different waters we fish. Frankly, I got tired of dealing with the lack of options available from off the shelf rods, and even rods that a company would build for me to use were not customized for me.
The company wanted me to fish with rods they wanted to sell, which is fine, I get they need to make a living, but I need rods that will catch fish. I mean, in the end, as a pro, if I don't catch, I don't make a living.
So, you identified the need for a custom rod, but when did you take action?
I used to be a plumber by trade, so I always worked with my hands and liked building things—so I had the thought for several years that maybe I should build my own rods—just didn't really have time to figure out how to do that.
When I first met the folks at Mud Hole Custom Tackle at the Bassmaster Classic a few years ago—we started talking—and continued talking. I watched their videos and realized that building a custom rod was actually a pretty easy process.
I think the skill (to be learned) seemed to be figuring out what your fishing needs are for the rod (so you pick out the right components)—but those guys have a pretty good staff that answered those questions.
When did you build your first rod?
Well, I was going to be down in Florida for a fishing thing, so I decided to stay a few extra days and went to Mud Hole and sat around with Bob (McKamey) and just did it. I mean I just got the components, and built one. That was in the later part of 2014—maybe October.
That's the best way—you can talk about it and think about this and that—but in the end just build one. Then you know how. After that first rod, I really had alot more confidence in being able to do it—because it isn't as complicated or difficult as I thought. Now I build all the rods I fish with in tournaments.
Did you ever have someone else build rods for you?
Sure, but like I said, it was never designed and built just for my specific needs, there was always something not right. So, I got tired of dealing with the lack of options and customizations needed by professional fisherman.
How many custom rods do you have?
Oh boy. Well, I probably have 35 or 40 rods now—but plan to build some more. I think I need about 50 or so in total—but that includes duplicates just in case I need them during the tournament.
I usually have about 15 rods on my boat at any one time. Give or take depending on needs. I like to build my rods for particular baits, and do not like to change baits. I would much rather just pick up a rod already ready to cast.
The rod is really important. Sounds obvious, but the feel of the rod for the bait you are fishing is really important—as is the overall performance. I would say the rod is the most important thing to start with, then look at the line you are using, then the reel.
So, rod, line then reel — in order of importance?
In my opinion yes—rod, line, reel. Everyone likes the feel of a smooth reel—but I feel that is the order you should consider when looking at performance.
What wrapping thread do you like?
I use ProWrap—lots of choices, always works great.
We heard you like to color code your guide wraps?
Yes, I like to be able to visually identify a rod on the deck—quickly. For example, chartreuse and white are my favorite spinnerbait colors, I use yellow thread for the guides, and white trim wraps.
I like to use old school red rattle traps—so I use red thread with chartreuse trim. For my froggin' rods—I use green thread and yellow trim.
What rod blanks do you use?
I tell you what, I use the MHX blanks, and I love them. High performance. Easy on the wallet. Just really good rod blanks. When I show them to other anglers, they go nuts over them! With so many selections, you can really feel the lure and the bite, then have the performance and power to bring the fish to the boat.
Tell you the truth; I really let the situation dictate what I should fish—from a fish catching strategy. I try not to 'shoe horn' a favorite rod into a fishing application it does not belong in.
That's why I like MHX—they literally have a rod for any application. All that said, I probably do have a few common models—although tweaked a little differently depending on the lure, line and style of fishing.
I have always liked a shorter rod—just feels right to me. I have rods that range in length from 6'2" to 7'9". Because of my preferences—for some of the blanks, I cut them down a little. Again—that's the whole point of custom rods—you do what you want.
Rod Blanks Jim Uses
This is a list of models Jim mentioned to us that he uses most frequently:
MB874-MHX — Which is a 7'3" rod he cuts to about 7'1"
MB843-MHX & MB844-MHX — These are 7 foot rods he cuts down to 6'10"
FP885-MHX — Jim likes this for a big flippin stick
FP937-MHX — 7'9" beast of a rod with XX-Heavy power used for seriously heavy punchin'
Pros Turn To Rod Building
More and more professional fisherman are turning to custom fishing rods, and many of them have started to build their own. They realize each application takes a rod built for that situation in order to maximize the chance of landing more fish.
For the pros that is how they get paid. For us fisherman, that is how we just enjoy catching more fish.