Although guide selection can seem like an intimidating task considering all the options available, it really can be quite simple and can really make a custom rod a joy to fish. This article is designed to get you started on the road to determining which guides are right for your build.
Over the last 10 years, the technology in casting guides has grown leaps and bounds. Where years ago a lightweight casting rod was built with all double footed guides, you now tend to see them only on heavier application rods. The trend has steered manufactures to maintain one or two double-footed guides, or stripper guide as it is typically referred to, closest to the reel but then change to single footed guides as it moves towards the tip of the rod.Double Footed Stripping Guide
Typically, the first one or two guides on a modern casting rod are double footed and are called The Stripping Guide. This guide(s) is typically larger than the running guides and helps create a type of funnel as the guides decrease in size moving towards the tip.
There are a few guide setups where there are no stripping guides and it starts out with micro single foot guides and those are carried out all the way to the end. The double footer is used as a transition from the reel to the running guides as its stance of the blank is higher than a single foot running guide.
The benefit of your custom rod is that you are the builder and end user, so it can be built exactly to your likes and specifications.
Selecting a Running Guide
The Running Guides come after your stripping guides and can continue to taper in size out to the tip or maintain a constant size that typically matches the tip top. As mentioned before, your dad or grandfather's rods always had double footed running guides but new technology and the understanding of rod dynamics have brought the single footed running guide to the forefront.
The size in single footed running guides can vary to match some double footed guides or be as small as a "micro" guide. The ideal situation in rod building would be to find a balance between form and function. Using the smallest possible guide for the job not only reduces weight but increases sensitivity.
Keep in mind when choosing smaller guides, if you are using leaders make sure to purchase running guides that will allow the leader knot to pass cleanly.
When in Doubt Buy a Kit
Companies like Mud Hole Custom Tackle have really shortened the learning curve on guide selection and placement by creating rod kits with specific guides and spacing. Their new CRB Casting Guide sets have three different options in grade; Standard, Performance, and Elite.
The Standard guides are a basic all around guide that comes with a stainless steel frame and Aluminum Oxide rings to hold up to all line types. The next step up is the Performance set. They feature a stainless steel frame with deep pressed Titanium oxide rings that have a concept style layout, which improves castability.
Finally, the Elite set has all the features of top tier guides. The ELITE guides are also offered in "Concept" style layouts but they feature diamond-polished Zirconia Oxide rings. ELITE guides offer the highest tensile strength, braid proof Zirconia rings with rounded ID's and a new PVD Titanium Nitride or Titanium Oxide coating.
During the process of guide selection there are benefits to selecting guides individually as well as choosing a guide set for your custom build. For our custom builds we referr to Mud Hole Custom Tackle's resources tab on their website to give us general guide spacing or recommended spacing for specific models. As technology and trends change so do the products and components for rod building.
The New CRB guide sets are a perfect example. You can see on their packaging CRB has recommended spacing based off the length of the rod you are working with. These guides and spacing have been created by the experts at Mud Hole to help take the guess work out of guide spacing.
Here is an example of the guide spacing that comes with all of the CRB Guide Kits (these kits are also offered in spinning models too). Keep in mind the measurements always start from the tip of the rod and move down towards the butt end.
CRB guide spacing example from packaging:
Putting It All Together
When finalizing your guide choice, you need to take into account the amount of guides on the rod you will build. If you select to use smaller guides, you will need to add more guides to take into account their shorter height and their ability to keep the line off the blank while under load. Starting your guide placement by using a basic guide layout is recommended before moving to the optimal static load placement.
Use tape or guide tubing to temporarily place the guides and give your rod a test cast.