So what goes into making a carp rod?

If you read the adverts and brochures you would be forgiven for thinking that almost every rod out there shares the same characteristics for effortless casting to the horizon combined with an unerring ability to steer every hard fighting fish you hook straight into a waiting net.

In the first instance let just say that not all rods are equal and with a few exceptions you usually get what you pay for… The quality of rod blanks made in Korea & China is now remarkable and it should not be a surprise to know that many rods while ‘made’ in the USA actually use these imported blanks. So how do you choose which rod to buy when faced with so many choices and prices ranging from as little as $50 to well over $500?

In most cases the price you pay for a rod is determined by the quality of the blank, and then the fixtures and fittings such as rod rings and reel seat, graphics etc. However if you then add in a brand name or a well know anglers name & reputation it can add to the price significantly!

However it is the quality and construction of the blank that ultimately determines the performance characteristics of a rod. The position, number and size of rod rings can influence how the finished rod performs but they can’t make a poor blank into a good one.

So let’s first look at blank construction and what it means. The majority of carp rods are now made with carbon fibre although at the cheaper end of the price range ($50 – $100) many still use glass fibres or a glass/carbon mix. In some cases people talk about ‘graphite’ rods which is an incorrect term since graphite is a quite different form of carbon (characterized by its form of thin sheets or layers) and more commonly used as a lubricant additive.

 

Almost all carbon fiber is made from a common industrial fiber called polyacrylanitrile fiber, also known as PAN. This PAN fiber is heated to ultra high temperatures to remove all other elements except the carbon. The resulting “Low Modulus” carbon fibers, if seen up close, look a bit like a redwood tree trunk, with deep fissured bark. If processed further, the “bark” is gradually stripped off, leaving a progressively smoother round fiber that is smaller in diameter. These ‘thinner’ fibers can be packed into a smaller space, resulting in a Higher Modulus with greater stiffness per cross sectional area. As with most things not all carbon fibres are created equal. The quality and price can vary enormously so when a rod company says that their rods are made with a certain manufacturers fibres or prepreg material it’s a bit like saying Michelin makes tires. At one end of the scale you have a cheap, economy model and the other a complex, high performance race tire.

 

Carbon fibres are quantified by their tensile properties and the costs generally go up with the increase in tensile strength or modulus. Tensile strength is the force required to break a fibre when pulled along its length while tensile modulus is a measure of its stiffness. For years some companies claimed to offer higher modulus rods with impressive numbers like IM7 or IM8. This was simply marketing speak and had little to do with the actual construction since a higher modulus rod would result in an increasingly stiff action with more fragility. This then becomes an important determination for rod construction since no one fibre property will cover all the needs for strength and flex etc. The choice of carbon fibres with differing tensile and modulus properties is therefore critical to the overall performance & characteristics of the rod.

Once the key fibre properties have been chosen they are usually bundled into ‘thousands’ of fibres hence the designation 1K, 3K, 25K etc. These fibre bundless are then spun or woven into different formats to suit the intended application. In rod construction a woven cloth like material is used and a higher density ‘cloth’ uses more1K fibres (like a high thread count in clothing) and is therefore more expensive than a cheaper 3K material. Since a higher density weave not only has more strength it also requires less resin material to fill in the ‘spaces’ between the fibres. This offers advantages in creating a lighter rod construction as well as better durability in repeated flexing of the rod when casting or playing fish.

 

 

 

 

 

While on the subject of resin it is important to understand that not all resins are equal… maybe you already guessed that by now! A top quality epoxy resin will allow repeated flexing without cracking, offers superior UV resistance and will have a deep, clear appearance (allowing the attractive carbon weave to be seen if desired). While many top quality rods have a distinctive color finish it is also worth noting that cheaper rods will often use an inferior resin mixed with colored dyes to create a uniform coating so that it covers up and hides any imperfections in the rod construction!

So let’s make a rod!

First of all we need to buy in our Carbon Prepreg. This is simply a roll of carbon fibre cloth or woven material that is already ‘impregnated’ with resin. The resin is only partly cured to make handling easy and ensure product consistency. The choice of the fibre content and weave of this prepreg cloth is critical in determining the desired rod characteristics as well as its overall cost. The carbon prepreg is usually cut into a long, thin triangular shape known as a ‘flag’ and wrapped around a steel mandrel which determines the shape, taper and length of the rod. However it is the design and combination of different types of carbon fibre in the prepreg material that make up this ‘flag’ that will determine how the rod performs, its durability and ultimately its cost.

 

 

 

So far the carbon fibres are typically aligned lengthways along the length of the rod. The next stage is to add a ‘scrim’ which is designed to give ‘hoop’ strength around the rod and prevent the rod deforming or breaking under compression. This scrim material can be carbon fibre or even fibre glass depending on cost and performance requirements. Once the required materials have been wrapped around the mandrel it is placed in an oven and heated under vacuum to cure and harden the resins. The resulting ‘blank’ is then sanded and cleaned ready for fitting out with rings, reel seats etc. Alternatively it can go through an intermediate coating process to add a desired colored epoxy coating instead of a natural carbon finish.

When it comes to rod fittings (rings and reel seats) there is again a significant range of quality, price and performance to consider. Top of the range guides can easily add over $100 to the price of a rod. Add in the reel seat, handle material, whippings, graphics etc and each is another component cost. If a lower cost rod appears to be using ‘brand name’ fittings then they are invariably the cheapest available and their added cost will invariably be recovered by mounting them on a cheaper blank construction. The number and size of guides will also influence rod performance. Bigger, heavier guides will add more weight and slow or soften the rod action while more guides will actually reduce friction when playing fish.

So there you have it. While this is a relatively simplistic overview of carbon fibre and its use in rod construction it will hopefully give you a better understanding of why some rods are more expensive than others. If you want a rod that not only performs well but will do so for more than a couple of seasons without losing its action then you really do get what you pay for…

http://saxontackle.com

Saxon tackle rods can be purchased at big carp tackle by clicking on the following link…. http://www.bigcarptackle.com/store/product.php?productid=18951&cat=363&page=2

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