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Chose your rod blank!

First, let me say I'm talking FLY RODS here. Still, many of the principles apply to spinning and drift rods. There are MANY, MANY blanks out there. Here are some things to consider:

Length - you may have a length already in mind...if not I'll be glad to help you figure out what best suits your needs. As a general rule, the size of the water you're fishing will determine the length blank you want - small water=shorter rod. However, sometimes you might go against that general rule, i.e. you plan on using a rod for fishing tiny streams that have TALL grass behind that situation a longer rod may be beneficial.

Weight - The weight of your blank depends on a few factors. First, what species are you targeting? Second, what types of offerings do you want to throw? Third, what type of WIND will you most often encounter? As the size of the fish or flies increase, or as wind becomes more of a factor, you'll go up in rod weight.

Some general rules on what I PERSONALLY like to use:

Brushy/Overgrown TINY Creeks (bushwhacking) - 6'6" 2wt.
Spring Creek Trout, Pond Panfish - 7' to 7'6" 3-4wt.
Larger Trout Rivers - 9' 4wt. to 6wt.
Lake Michigan / Erie Tributary Steelhead - 9' to 11' 6wt. or 7wt.
Lake Michigan Chinook Salmon - 9' to 9'6" 7wt. to 9wt.
Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike - 9' 7wt.
Muskie - 9'-9'6" 9-10wt.

An overview of a 5 piece 4wt 7'6" Forecast fly rod.
An overview of this 2 piece 4wt 7'6" Forecast fly rod.

Pieces - This is something you may struggle with. Overall, a 2 piece has fewer weak spots and will generally cast better and therefore in most cases folks opt for a 2 piece. The cost of a 2 piece blank is always considerably less than the cost of a 3, 4, 5 or more piece version. Additionally, a 2 piece blank of the same model, weight and length will cast and feel differently than the multi-piece versions. Furthermore, multiple-piece blanks can weigh more than a standard 2 piece. Of course, with a multiple piece blank you have added easy of transport. Additionally, some multiple piece blanks have not really noticable differences to their 2 piece counterparts. In the end, if you foresee doing a lot of traveling, flying with or backpacking of the rod, it's not difficult to find a multiple piece blank that will suit your needs. If not, go with a 2 piece.

Action - "Action" is somewhat the default term to describe how flexible the blank is, but also HOW it flexes. "FAST" action blanks tend to be stiff and flex almost exlusively at the tip. "FAST" blanks can feel like a broomstick; they're designed primarily to cover great distances in your cast.

Conversely, a true "SLOW" action will cover a blank that is delicate and flexes all the way to the butt of the rod. Bamboo Blanks are indeed often the epitome of a "Slow" action. "SLOW" blanks are primarily designed for delicate presentations.

Most people are actually most comfortable with a blank that falls inbetween those two extremes - I personally enjoy blanks that are moderately fast and have "progressive" actions, meaning they will flex very far down towards the butt, but only when there's a massive load. I find these blanks to be the best because you can feel them load, yet you still have time to react, and yet they will still cast good distance and can be "babied" when a delicate presentation is required.

Graphite - There's a lot to do with graphite. You may have come across modulus - modulus is a measure of weight to strength. MOST manufacturers give you the modulus for a blank in millions, i.e 33 million etc. There are also IM ratings, i.e. IM6 (41-43 mil. mod.), IM7 and so forth. Here's the jist: a blank manufactured with higher modulus grahpite will be stiffer, may weigh considerably less, will be more sensitive, and can be more brittle. The higher you get in modulus, the higher the price you'll pay for the blank. Often (but not always) a higher modulus rod will have a faster action as well.

Let me just say this; I only own one truly HIGH modulus rod; most are in the low to mid range. A further thing I dislike about the ultra-high modulus blanks; due to the fact that they are often very light, you'll have to spend an arm and a leg on a very light REEL in order to balance the rod properly. So, from my presonal viewpoint, I feel that since most of the high-modulus rods are built with very fast actions and cast like a broomstick - they are probably not the best rod for the casual angler.

Warranties - Warranties vary, and generally the only time I've personally broken a rod is due to a bad blank OR misuse. Misuse happens much more often. If you're GOOD to the rod, you will pretty much never have to worry about the blank breaking. Another note, some companies offer different warranties on different blank models, so don't just assume that your blank has a lifetime warranty!

Gloss Brown Blank - Cabela's PT Gloss Blue Blank - Forecast
Gloss Green Blank - Rainshadow RX7 Matte Black Blank - Rainshadow Rx7

Color - yes, of course, the blanks come in different colors! Most common now is matte black, probably because it looks good with everything. The next most common are gloss or matte green, gloss blue and gloss brown. I don't suggest that COLOR be the first thing you look for in picking your blank, although I'm fully aware it's often a deciding factor!

So how do you decide? - If you already have a rod that you really, really love, start there. If not, check out every rod you can. Ask your angling buddies to cast their rods a couple times and note the ones you like. Stop in at the shops. You may already have a brand preference or you may not give a hoot.

Once you know what you're looking for, I can help you with some options, or you can feel free to look through the manufacture's information and pick one for yourself. Most ALL manufacturers offer blanks of the same rods they offer in their production line, so if you've fallen in love with a production rod it's still doable to get it custom built to your exact tastes.

I've included links to the manufacturers I use most often. I'm happy to work on others too, it's just that time and again, these two seem to be where we end up at!

St. Croix Rod Blanks - Imperial (SCII) and Avid (SCIII) are my two prefered lines.
Batson Enterprises - offering Rainshadow and Forecast Rod Blanks

Next - Chose your Reel Seat


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