How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Muskie Rod Basics

By: Robert H. Jones

The folks who write advertising copy for rod manufacturers are challenged constantly to describe the latest advances in rod blank construction. Likewise, those shopping for new rods are challenged to decipher what all of these glowing terms mean.

Most manufacturers also offer rods fashioned from medium-priced graphite, more modestly priced composites of graphite and fibreglass, and economical grades of fibreglass, including E-glass, S-Glass, and solid fibreglass. These latter materials are also modified and improved upon as time passes, for manufacturers simply can't rest on their laurels if they wish to attract new customers and maintain brand loyalty.

A few years ago there were more than 50 types of graphite used in rod construction, starting with standard (entry-level) graphite, then progressing up through various levels. There are probably twice that number now, but, generally, unless the type of graphite is specified by the manufacturer, it's probably of standard quality.

Top quality cork is generally preferred for rod handles, but many quides pick neoprene for trolling rods used in rod holders. These two Frontier muskie rods are no longer available, although other species-specific models in the more moderately priced specialty line by G. Loomis Canada are still being produced.
An important consideration is a rod shaft's linear strength, which affects its reaction/recovery time -- the speed with which it flexes into a straining curve without twisting or buckling, its speed in straightening during a cast forward, and the amount of extraneous movement of the rod tip after a lure is cast and the pressure is released. Higher grades of graphite always produce shafts with the fastest, crispest reaction/recovery characteristics.

Another important point is tensile strength -- the ability to withstand breakage. Standard graphite has good linear strength, but only so-so tensile strength. This is why manufacturers are constantly seeking improvements (and achieving them). In comparison with graphite, fibreglass has much less linear strength, but excellent tensile strength. Composites, at least the good ones, offer a compromise which, considering their cost and performance, often make them a best buy for muskie rods. That said, when it comes to increased casting distance and the ultimate in fast hook-setting speed, you simply can't beat graphite.

There's also an elusive characteristic called sensitivity, which enables you to detect what's happening while retrieving or trolling a lure. The truth is, once you get used to a rod and learn how it feels or reacts during use, you can usually tell if your lure has picked up a weed. However, due to the sheer density of graphite, it's by far the most sensitive, which can be a definite plus at detecting problems if hand-holding your rod while trolling.

Performance is based on action and power. Both relate to the quality of material used in a rod blank's construction, its wall thickness, diameter, and degree of taper.

Action describes how quickly a rod shaft flexes, then returns to normal.
EXTRA FAST: Fairly stiff tip tapering quickly toward the upper midsection, then a gradual taper through a stiff butt section.
FAST: Fairly stiff tip tapering quickly toward the central midsection, then a gradual taper through a moderately stiff butt section.
MEDIUM: Somewhat more flexible tip tapering through the lower midsection to a moderately stiff butt section.
MEDIUM-SLOW: Flexible tip and midsection tapering to a moderately stiff butt section.
SLOW: Limber throughout, flexes evenly from tip to butt. Power describes a blank's stiffness -- where and how much it bends under a load. Most manufacturers use numbers or letters to rate power:

  • 1/UL = Ultralight
  • 2/UL+ = Ultralight +
  • 3/L = Light
  • 4/ML = Medium Light
  • 5/M = Medium
  • 6/MH = Medium Heavy
  • 7/H = Heavy
  • 8/EH = Extra Heavy
  • 9/EH+ = Extra Heavy +

For heavy-duty trolling, where a rod is placed in a holder while cordwood-sized plugs are towed around all day, consider solid fibreglass. There's considerable stress from pulling large plugs, and the added shock of a big fish hitting the lure might shatter lesser materials. Solid fibreglass rods have been around for more than 50 years, and for good reason -- they can take the abuse.

Most modern reel seats are graphite composites, athough stainless steel is still available on trolling rods. The former is lighter, more sensitive, and warmer to the touch during fall fishing, while stainless steel is colder, less sensitive, but as tough as steel.

Look for high-quality guides, usually aluminum oxide, that are aligned and spread properly to prevent flat spots when the rod is flexed. Guides for wire-line trolling rods, which are often used by river anglers on the Ottawa, St. Lawrence, and Niagara, should be carbide, while tips should be springs or rollers.

After doing your homework and narrowing down the selection, buy the best you can afford. When the cost is spread out over a decade or more, it's a good investment.



Post a Comment

<< Home