There are choices beyond one’s wildest imagination when looking at and testing all the rods on the rack at a sporting good store. Which one is the best? Which one will work for me? What makes that one different from all the others? These are questions we should ask. The manufacturers of fishing rods are aware of these questions too and thus the mass display of merchandise to get us excited.
Custom-built fishing rods have a lot more to offer an angler than they did 30 years ago. Once a custom-built rod was little more than a sign of affluence; now it has more to do with function. Component technology has outpaced commercial rod design and continues to do so on a regular basis.
A couple of years ago Ginny and I ventured to the St. Paul Sportshow and we met Kris Kristufek. Kris builds award winning functional custom fishing rods “As Individual As You Are.” At LakeLady Custom Rods, he offers handcrafted fishing tools that are custom-fitted to your individual measurements. Using premium blanks and components, each rod is crafted with care, distinction and attention to detail, creating a unique fishing rod for the discriminating fisherperson. Check out LakeLady Rods at www.lakeladyrods.com
According to Kris, “every fishing rod built will catch fish, provided it is equipped with the terminal tackle to hook the fish. When I was a kid we used willow branches with line and a hook, stuck the branch into the creek bank, baited the hook and waited for Mr. Catfish to take the stink bait. It worked. My son and daughter started fishing with a Snoopy pole, simply because it was cheap and if dropped into the water, not a big loss. They caught buckets and buckets of panfish off the dock, and then dad would clean them for fish and chips.”
Kris explained that, “as we gain in fishing experience, becoming technique-specific in our attack on the species of choice, the choices seem to blur. Short rods for jigging, longer ones for live bait, swim baits, crankbaits, bottom bouncers, trolling, and the list goes on. Fifteen years ago, one rod did it all.
My next question to Kris was “how much?” The correct answer is, “It depends.” “You see, there are many variables that weigh in on the final price. Components such as blanks and the materials in them, guides, handles and grip materials, guide placement configuration, and embellishments will have a great influence on the final price.
There is no question that a true custom fishing rod will likely cost more than an off-the-shelf factory rod. After all, it is going to be a custom rod for you, not just the average fisherman.
When considering all the options available, the customer must determine what he wants the finished product to look like, and what he wants in terms of performance. An interactive conversation between builder and customer is vital in regard to answering any questions.
If this is true I asked Kris what kind of questions should be asked of the rod builder? His reply, “Let’s start with what is the intended use of the rod? What would be the desirable length, action and power of the blank? What style and type of guides would be chosen? What handle grip materials would be desired? Reel seats and inserts come in many different styles and shapes. Only custom builders can really fashion something unique in this area. Thread colors and other embellishments add aesthic choices beyond the wildest imagination. What reel will you be using on this new rod? What are your hand and arm measurements? The professional rod builder can be ergonomically correct! Or would you like some suggestions at this point?
I decided to enroll in one of Kris’s rod building classes. As the class began Kris explained to the class, “options abound with anything custom, and this is certainly the case for fishing rods too. There is more to a custom rod than just wrapping guides onto the blank. Finding the spine or backbone of the blank begins the process, so the rod will track and hold within the built-in torque when fully loaded fighting a fish. The correct number and placement of guides is very important, so the rod performs to its maximum potential. Handle materials, shape and sizes are unlimited in scope, so that the handle is ergonomically fitted to your hand and arm like a glove. Full handles to split grips to no fore grip are available to lighten the finished weight of the outfit. The fishing experience should be comfortable without fatigue in your hand after a day on the water.” If I am going to make a custom rod or have you make me a custom rod, where do start? At the rod blank, Kris said, “rod blanks come in many sizes, actions and power. Be sure to explain to your builder exactly what you expect in this area, as he cannot guess or see inside your head. There are over 1,800 blanks from which to choose. A professional builder will have several blanks for you to try before starting the building process. Even the color of the blank can be a subject for discussion. Painting them to some exact color match with automotive paints can be accomplished with ease and some additional cost.”
I then asked Kris, if you have determined your rod “type” in a blank and decided on what handle you would like what is your next step. Kris’, reply was, “that is easy, it is reel seats. “Reel seats come in many configurations from exposed blanks to skeleton seats with fancy inserts turned from wood, bone, acrylic or other materials. In a casting rod, you may also consider whether the line guides should be conventionally wrapped or spiral around the blank to resist torque or twisting when the “big one” is on the other end. Spiral wrapping is a technique used only by custom builders because of the geometry and physics necessary for the set-up. It takes additional time that is unavailable in a factory rod. The technique is nearly 100 years old but is now coming back into vogue and is favored by fisherman because of its benefits.”
Great, I responded. If grips and handles really make the visual appearance of the rod truly different, will it be a traditional full grip or a split grip? Kris said, “split grips are becoming very popular; however, balancing the rod to the reel becomes more difficult as the tips become “heavy.” Materials abound for grips, from conventional cork to burl cork, wood, foam, graphite tubing, fabric covered foam, and more. Colors can even come into play in grips and handles to match boat colors, for example.”
Now that I have an idea about what to look for what other things should I be concerned with? According to Mr. Kristufek, “form or function is a steep slope for discussion and debate as to which takes priority. Only a good professional builder will present arguments for both sides during the design discussions so you can make an informed decision. The rod that is going to be built is for you, nobody else. You should be pleased beyond expectation when the rod arrives ready to take fishing.”
How long will it take to get my rod? “This is a good question, and one that needs to be answered so there are no misunderstandings. Six to eight weeks for completion is normal in slow periods. For some really exotic plan of action to build the rod of your dreams, up to three months may be required. If the choice is bamboo, plan on a year or more before you get the rod in your hands! Quality should never be sacrificed.” “Warranty is another aspect often overlooked until too late. Be sure to find out what your builder’s warranty or guarantee plan is up-front as things do happen.”
Ask your builder for pictures of his work or, better yet, go to his shop and touch and feel his samples. Be sure your goals and his experience match your needs.
I can honestly say that after 17 hours of building my own rod, I learned more about rods, than all 22 years of professional fishing. You owe it to yourself to contact Kris Kristufek at LakeLady Custom-Crafted Fishing Rods 29297 Piney Way Breezy Point, MN 56472 Phone: 218.562.4512 Email: [email protected].
|Kris Kristufek puts his rod building skills to work on the water to catch trophy fish. Photo Submitted by Kris Kristufek|
Midwest Outdoors, November 2013
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