July 21, 2020
By Dr. Todd A. Kuhn
Admittedly, I’ve never built a fishing rod. For me, it seems like rod building is best left to the professionals, like Fenwick, Abu Garcia, Lew’s and the like — the folks who do this for a living.
I have a couple buddies, however, who have built their own rods. On occasion I’ve fished with those rods and have been impressed. But impressed enough to motivate me to give rod-building a go? Uh, no.
Recently, during the shutdown (with time on my hands and suddenly divinely touched with a sense of rod-building curiosity) I waded into the world of custom rod building.
The Mud Hole website served as my starting point. You see, Mud Hole is the world’s largest rod-building supply house. And—though divinely inspired—I still had plenty of anxiety and trepidation.
Mud Hole rod blanks come in a dizzying array of styles and sizes. You can build just about any rod your mind can conjure up. Their selection of blanks and components is second to none. I choose an MHX flip/pitch/punch-style rod kit since I fish a lot of thick stuff here in Florida.
My kit came with all the components needed to put together a new rod. Guides, rod blank, handle set, thread to wrap the guides, epoxy, etc. The first thing I noticed when laying out my components was that they are all high quality—nothing cheap here.
The rod blank, the thing that anchors the build, was a 7-foot, 9-inch extra-heavy model with a moderate/fast taper. Rated for 15- to 30-pound-test line, it’s capable of handling 3/4- to 2-ounce baits—perfect for flipping, pitching and punching!
Being a rod-building newbie (and petrified of making a mess of my new rod), I watched all of the Mud Hole rod-building videos online. They expertly led me step-by-step through the process and left absolutely nothing to chance.
Those same Mud Hole videos offer plenty of bonus information about rods in general. It’s stuff you don’t need to put a rod together, but it made the process more interesting and taught me more about fishing rods than I would ever have learned elsewhere. It made the build not only a creative endeavor, but an educational one as well.
All-in-all, the rod building process was more straightforward and simpler than I expected. The most challenging part turned out to be the guide wrapping, and even that’s relatively easy once you watch the videos.
Once built, I took my handmade rod out for a spin. The big flipper is nimble and handles a wide range of bait weights without fuss. I matched the rod with an old baitcaster I had laying around and spooled it up with 65-pound Berkley X5 braid. While designed as a pitching/punching rod, I debuted it with a couple of heavy swimbaits. I was surprised to find the rod so light that I could throw these big baits for extended periods without tiring.
And when pitching and punching, the blank is so sensitive that I could feel the type of bottom I was on and detect the slightest pick-up. The proprietary MHX grip is the best I’ve used. I love the tactile handle that doesn’t get slippery, even when wet.
Plus, there was something else I had never experienced with a “store-bought” rod — a sense of accomplishment when I caught my first fish on it (see picture). That rod is now my favorite and a staple in my arsenal. It’s the best pitching/punching rod I’ve ever used, and I’m already planning to order more components from Mud Hole so I can start my next project. Once you’ve gone tailor-made, it’s tough to buy off the rack. Production model rods are great — and I’ll always have plenty with me — but if I can design and build my own rod for the tactics and techniques I use the most, well, why not? Besides, that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment I got when catching fish on a rod I built myself is almost as powerful as the surge of a big bass.
Visit mudhole.com for more information