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Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Mark Talmo (---)
Date: October 14, 2018 01:36AM

The overwhelming majority of questions with their subsequent replies and answers posted on this site concern the physical mechanics of building a rod. I am indebted to the many who have graciously and unselfishly offered assistance to my many newbie questions which has flattened my learning curve immensely. Thank you so much!!! While I still attempt to learn something new with each and every build, I am confident in my ability to mechanically produce very nice custom rods.
But I find one aspect of custom rod building to be very daunting; selecting a proper blank to match the application/desires of the customer. To be honest, I am not certain I could tell or feel the difference between a crank-bait, poppin’ or hot shot blank. I know what I want for mountain trout, offshore tuna or nearshore yellow tail and calico because that is what I fish for, but that may be different from what other anglers’ desire. Presently, a rod builder is only afforded the butt and tip diameter, line and lure weight suggestions, action and rod weight. While certainly helpful, many are subjective expressions of the individual manufacturer or even that of the retail supplier.
Dr. Hannerman graciously and intellectually afforded our entire industry with CCS, AA and CCF. I spent a considerable amount of time fabricating a fixture to precisely and repeatedly (re)produce the Dr.’s numbers. While all well and good, attempting to select a blank which does not offer the “Hannerman numbers” puts one back at square-one; which blank to choose?
So, while confident in my abilities to actually construct the best possible rod from any given blank, selecting the best possible blank to begin with is my concern. How do you veterans select the best possible blank for any given build?

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Tom Kirkman (Moderator)
Date: October 14, 2018 08:29AM

The truth is, there often isn't much difference between various blank "types." Popping blanks have often been used for crank bait blanks, etc. Some manufacturers even list the exact same blank, under a different model number, for different task specific uses.

You just have to do the best you can with what you have to go with. And if you can make it to the ICRBE, you have the opportunity to actually flex and feel thousands of rod blanks, which can help make the selection process easier in the ensuing months.


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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Phil Ewanicki (---.res.spectrum.com)
Date: October 14, 2018 12:12PM

It is difficult to satisfy customers who don't know what they want: economy? portability? versatility? power? light weight? durability? sensitivity? beauty? Many of these qualities are mutually exclusive. No sense in re-inventing the wheel. Perhaps a rod-builder has already developed such a questionnaire for prospective customers and is willing to share it?

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Jay McKnight (---.dhcp.mdsn.wi.charter.com)
Date: October 14, 2018 01:41PM

I fish for steelhead mostly, so 99% of my builds are steelhead rods. I also ice fish, so I build an ice rod here and there. I turn down walleye rods, trout rods, bass rods and fly rods since there are better men for the job than me.

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Donald La Mar (---)
Date: October 14, 2018 01:42PM


Years ago Bob Brister wrote Shotgunning: The Art and Science, which remains an accepted authority and reference. While Mr. Brister did ground breaking research for shotgun ballistics, he acknowledged there was a good measure of art for successful shotgunning.

Similarly, and I argue fortunately, rod building is also an art and a science. Despite all our research, skill, techniques, and materials a rod will sometimes be short of expectations. And sometimes something almost magical happens. And even better, with a bit of experience and luck, the magic's frequency increases enough to over shadow the also rans.

So, you do the research as best you can, well execute the build, and give the magic a chance to happen.

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Spencer Phipps (---)
Date: October 14, 2018 02:58PM

Lots of blank suggestions for different species and techniques in the search function here, bass by far the most popular species.

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Mark Talmo (---)
Date: October 14, 2018 08:33PM

Thank you veterans for responding. All are very credible, honest and very well received answers. I must admit I particularly like Donald’s reply that “with a bit of experience and luck, the magic’s frequency increases enough to overshadow the also rans”. So even though I am pleased with my ability to produce very good functioning rods which are even pleasing to the eye as well, I am envious, if not down-right jealous, of all of your veteran blank pick’n abilities. I want to be just like you guys when I grow up!
As all of you are probably aware, I have become very fond of building rods from NOS Conolon FG blanks, mostly for FW. Beyond the nostalgics of fishing a 50-60 year old blank, I absolutely admire and love the feel over any other CF rod I have owned and have a growing number of customers who agree. I admit using these vintage blanks/rods have become my comfort-zone simply because of the limited supply of lengths and actions versus the almost infinite number of modern-day examples. I suspect people are more willing to accept what they get from a limited, vintage supply rather than being more critical with an unlimited supply of replaceable choices.
I have never been one to take defeat lightly so the “also rans” referred to by Donald will be a big step for me to accept. Yes, I am probably guilty of over-thinking it all but then you are all probably used to my Habitual-Over-Thinking as well.
I suppose my request of a definite method for selecting the best possible blank is similar to asking what the best guide spacing is.
Will any of you hold my hand while I step out of my Conolon Comfort Zone?

Mark Talmo

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Mark Talmo (---)
Date: October 14, 2018 08:54PM

While I accept your honesty, I am confident you are selling-yourself-short.

Mark Talmo

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Nick Lam (---.hsd1.ca.comcast.net)
Date: October 15, 2018 11:26PM

Mark, I truly believe that is the journey for all of us who build rods. Sometimes its after the build I realize I maybe could have chosen a better blank to build upon. The literature available that describes how blanks are made and what rods feature what characteristics certainly help, though I feel like the builders who make the best blank choices are those who fish often and for many different types of fish. In truth I don't really want to open my mouth in the face of so many experienced builders on this board (such as yourself, don't sell yourself short either) but with the chance of a good discussion and learning a few things here goes.

Aside from length, width, brand, and availability, I always ask the angler to clarify and prioritize a few additional things. Weight, cost, and application are some examples.

Fast or slow? In my eyes, this totally depends on the application. Generally speaking, the slower the bait, the faster the rod. I define slow baits as bass jigs, drop shots, dropper loop, cut bait fishing, and anything else that requires you to detect the bite while setting the hook against a mostly stationary fish. I prefer a rod that has sensitivity with a fast tip and a dramatic backbone such as a fast action graphite rod as it helps with the hook set. Phenix, United Composite, Rainshadow RCLB series, and most other mag bass rods are all examples of the fast actions I look for.
Conversely the faster the bait, the slower the rod. I define fast baits as those that are moving through the water column. Trolling lures, crank baits, surface and yoyo iron, and live bait fishing all fit this category. With this style of fishing the baits are already moving and the hook set is occurring while there is already additional energy between the bait and the tip of the rod. For live bait fishing, its the same concept where after a few second count you set the hook against a fish that is actively swimming away from you (thus the added energy). The slower rods incorporate the action with more of the rod involved, absorbing a lot of that extra energy. Thats why typically mono with these techniques also help with successful hooksets, the added action and stretch prevent the bait form simply jerking out of the fishes mouth before the bait is fully committed. For these rods I look for moderate glass and glass/graphite composite rods like Seeker, Calstar, and the Rainshadow RCJB series.

Material. Most of the options I suggest are E or S glass, graphite, or composite rods. E Glass is more durable, heavier, softer, and less sensitive. In order to provide power and the "shut down" these rods require a wider diameter, much like a thick straw has more rigidity than a thinner coffee stirrer straw. S glass share much of the same qualities as E glass, but they have more of a "higher modulus" characteristic than E glass with the advantage of added strength. In other words, S glass is described as more sensitive, with more rigidity, and more strength. Graphite to my understanding is much stronger and much stiffer, allowing a rod to demonstrate its power with both less material and a narrower diameter when compared to glass. Composite rods have the benefit of combining both materials, either with a glass tip graphite bottom configuration like the Black Steels, Super Seekers, Grafighters, and Composite Elites. Other composite rods are rolled with one material inside the other, from tip to bottom, similar to the BTG series from calstar. Either way, the material and visual taper of a blank can often predict its action. A rod with a dramatic taper, with a thin tip and thicker butt will most likely present with a fast action, with the change in power occurring with the change in taper. A rod with a thin butt and thicker tip and very little taper will probably bend fairly evenly throughout the length of the rod, they are usually slower. Generally speaking of course, as graphite rods can still be very fast with very little noticeable taper.

Cost. US made blanks are more expensive, but are worth every penny in my opinion. I wouldn't say better or worse, though I would say it is my personal choice to buy US made blanks. Aside from that higher modulus graphite, multi modulus graphite, and S glass composite rods are typically more expensive. That being said, I firmly believe that price is no indication of how "good" a rod is for any given application. My choices are more to match the blank to the application for what the angler is fishing. An expensive phenix K2 blank wont do as well trolling as a cheaper E glass blank.

Now that I think about it I actually put a lot into how I choose a blank, but even so I don't always make the best choices. Sometimes the angler just likes a certain action and feel contrary to what "theory" suggests should be the "best." It kind of just works out that way. I just try to keep my ears open to experienced builders on boards like these to up my game as much as I can.

Anyway, I might be wrong but I like discussions like these. I always end up learning something.

Best regards,

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Norman Miller (---)
Date: October 16, 2018 12:00AM

Nick, that was a very good synopsis! Thanks

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Re: Blank Selection Criteria
Posted by: Mark Talmo (---)
Date: October 17, 2018 12:31AM

2X, Norman. Thanks Nick!!! While there are those of your rod selection criteria I have also discovered on my own, I appreciate learning a few others which I had not considered. It seems the general consensus is that selecting the precise blank for any given application or desire of the angler is not a definite process or science. COME ON, MAGIC!!!

Mark Talmo

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