GET A GRIP (aka. Chose your grip)!
How could something so simple get so complicated?!
Well, next to the blank, this is the most important component of
your rod? Why? Because it's the part of the rod that you are holding,
day in, day out. For may people, the grip can make or break the
rod! You have several choices:
Grip Shape -
The first two are the most common, and what you'd
normally expect to pick from:
Reverse Half Wells
These next options are definitely doable, although
they may not be commercially available:
Reverse Fine Half Wells
Grip Sizing -
most grips on a fly rod are around 6.5" to 7.5" in length.
Grips should NEVER be "custom shaped" to an individuals
hand. Throughout a day of casting, you subconciously move your hand
up and down on the grip to prevent fatigue and change your cast.
With a grip that has truly been custom fit, you won't do that, and
your day will end with a cramped up, tired hand! When selecting
a grips shape, you primarily want to be comfortable with it. On
most grips you want the diameter at it's largest to allow you to
bring your fingertips back around to the ball of your thumb when
gripping loosely in your regular casting.
Grip Materials - Grips can be
made out of much more than you'd think. The most common materials
are CORK and FOAM. In custom rods, you can also find grips made
partially or entirely out of wood.
Traditional Cork - Most all production rods have grips of cork.
Regular cork is graded; the most common grade is A, but it goes
up to "FLOR" grade cork. The difference in the grades?
It all comes down to the amount of "pits" in the cork.
Look at a cork grip; it has horizontal groves and pits that may
or may not be filled in...those are the pits. A grip in a higher
grade will have less of those. A grip made out of higher grade cork
will be considerably more expensive. Grips that are "filled
in" are generally low grade cork in which the manufacturer
is trying to improve the appearance of the grip.
Burl Cork - not "burnt" cork as some
folks call it, burl cork is a compressed composite cork - think
of it like plywood. It is stronger, tougher, and harder than regular
cork, but also weighs at least twice as much. Burl cork is available
in natural brown, as well as dyed green, red and blue. Green and
Red definitely look it - BLUE pretty much looks like brown.
Rubberized Cork - I've encountered 2 different
types of this stuff. Both types consist of cork chips mixed with
black rubber to form a ring. It's the particle board of cork, but
is actually the most durable of the types. The difference I've encountered
is the density and size of the cork chips within the rubber. However
I have not been able to determine if this cork is otherwise any
different. Rubberized Cork is most often utilized to make any custom
Crosscut Cork - from what I've been able to gather,
this new cork is simply a cork ring that is crosscut. It is marketed
by Pacific Bay as Bamboo Cork, and Mudhole Tackle as "Knotty
Cork" I have not been able to locate rings of this material.
FOAM - Foam grips are light! Some folks feel they
are not very durable; personally I have not experienced this. Foam
grips are available in a multitude of colors, by far the most common
is black. Foam feels good in the hand as well. However, because
it is so inexpensive and because it is percieved to be not as durable,
cork is almost always favored over foam.
Graphite Rings - Dave
@ Creekside Outfitters has come up with the ingeniuos "Sensor
Grip" - this grip is comprised of both cork and graphite
rings. The graphite is light but dense, allowing for excellent transmission
of vibrations from the rod blank into your hand.
Wood - Wood of all kinds can be used in making
grips. The upside is entirely aesthetic. Wood has a number of downsides,
the primary one being it's weight. The other main problem is the
rigidity of the material - an inflexible grip can cause the rod
blank to snap at the top of the grip when under a heavy load. Additionally,
it's not exactly pleasant to hold all day. Even more so, some folks
truly dislike wood as it becomes very slippery when wet. Finally,
it is expensive. The BEST wood grips are not actually solid wood
at all, but wood which has been bored out and then filled in with
cork. The cork provides the necessary cushioning for the blank and
reduces weight considerably. Wooden grips, while simply stunning,
are probably not going to suite the needs of most people.
Commercial or Custom?
This is where it gets interesting. The MAIN differences
here are as follows:
Commerical Grips - Commercial grips are commonly
made of only one material, usually cork. There is no pattern, color
etc. They are available in grades from A to FINE, some may even
offer a FLOR grade grip. Additionally, the crosscut cork grips are
currently only available through commercial sources. If the grips
on commercial rods usually feel like a pencil to you, in other words
they're far too thin, then a commercial grip is definitely not for
Custom Grips - First and foremost, the custom grip
is all about bringing character to your custom rod. In every case,
if I show someone a custom rod with a custom grip, it is invariably
the first thing they see and comment on. You can chose your materials
and work in concert with me to create a one-of-a-kind grip. The
best part about a custom grip is that you can relay your preferences
and, if you like, even try it out before it's on the rod. If there's
a problem with it, it can be adjusted until it's right! The only
downside is that a custom grip can cost as much as 3 times the price
of a standard A-grade commerical grip.
Fighting Butts for all rods!
Many larger rods have fighting butts and there are several ways
to go. First, you have to consider what the fighting butt does.
The main purpose of the fighting butt is to allow you to place the
butt of the rod against your body when fighting a fish. The butt
keeps the reel up and away from your body. Also, the fighting butt
makes your rod "just a bit" longer when fighting a fish....it
can provide you with additional leverage, although it should be
remembered that this also places more stress on the rod blank.
The fighting butt also serves as the contact point between the
rod and the ground should you stand it up or lean it against something.
Again, this prevents damage to the end of the rod as well as the
reel. So, should every rod have a fighting butt? No, they don't
need it...but it's a nice plus!
Removeable Fighting Butts - Pac Bay makes great hardware for removeable
fighting butts...I prefer it over all others I've tried. Commerically
available butts come in 2" and 5" lengths. Additionally,
custom butts can be made to match your custom grip!
Fixed Fighting Butts - The only type of fixed butt you will see
with any regularity are the wooden butts available through Winslow
Rods. These wooden butts match the reel seat insert and can
be made for both larger and smaller rods. On small rods they are
definitely more for aesthetics than function, but again it's definitely
not something you will see on ANY commercial rod. Fixed butts can
also be made custom made from cork and other materials, although
generally it's preferable to have these butts set up in a removeable
Where should I look?
My Custom Grips
& Hackle American
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