Components for Technique-specific Rods

More and more tackle-savvy anglers are drawing up the blueprints for “dream rods” designed to optimize success with their favorite techniques, yet are tailored to their own style and preferences. I had tournament angler and rod builder, Chris Adams, of Mud Hole Custom Tackle, walk me through the logic behind the swim-jig rod he built recently. His approach serves as a model for any angler out to build the best rod for his favorite technique.

Fishermen ask Adams all the time why he started building custom fishing rods.

“The reasons were simple: I used to have three to five rods that I would use for a given technique. Rod A had the guides I liked; Rod B had a reel seat that was more comfortable to my hand and added to the rod’s sensitivity, but I didn’t think it had the backbone or action I wanted; and Rod C was the right power and action for the task, but it lacked the other components I liked. And so on.”

Adams realized four years ago that the easiest way for him to get everything he wanted into one rod was to build the rod himself.

“I knew that not all manufacturers had the same idea of what a 7-foot, heavy-power, fast-action blank should bend like, but hey, there was nothing stopping me from selecting the blank I wanted based on the feel,” Adams said.

Swim-jig rods
For blanks, Adams prefers the Mud Hole MHX Mag Bass, 7-foot, 4-power, heavy fast-action model for a reason.

“I chose this blank based on the way that I fish a swim-jig—very fast and typically close to the surface with the rod tip held high, at least at the two o’clock position. This rod is light and nimble despite its power listing.”

He adds that when fishing swim jigs near cover he wants to make a quiet entry.

“If I can underhand roll-cast with a flip of the wrist, I can deliver that bait softly.”

Many guys throw swim jigs on longer rods because they like to make long cast, but he generally fishes swim jigs around specific cover: pads, vegetation and docks.

“I fish them around lily pads more than anything else. Pads create points, pockets and edges, and those are the spots I want to hit. Long casts alone aren’t effective; I’m likely to miss the spots the bass sit on.”

He says accuracy is key.

“In the areas I am fishing you can’t give the fish a fighting chance. You want him out of that cover as quickly as possible. That Mag Taper blank is fast and light, but it has a lot of muscle.”

He uses braid or heavy fluorocarbon line most of the time and prefers a specific rod.

“I don’t like an extra-fast rod for this kind of fishing. X-fast and 40- to 50-pound-test braid just don’t go well together. Unlike the finesse swim jigs used in open water. The swim jigs I fish in heavy cover with heavy braid is designed to hit the fish hard and get him in before he can wrap you up. They feature a heavy hook, and I need a rod to match.”

Split Grip Handle 2-piece
Adams uses a rear grip MHX Winn Rear Split Grip or Winn Swell and a butt grip MHX Fighting Butt or Winn 250 Butt Grip in 2 1/2 inches.

“For the rod, I opt for split grips from the MHX Winn Grips series. The patented WinnDry polymer stays tacky and secures to the touch no matter how wet or cold or sweaty the conditions. They relieve stress on my arm joints and give me better control over my casts.”

Mud Hole worked with Winn to develop this proprietary grip series. The rear grip—the grip behind the reel seat—has a slight bulge. It’s the most popular grip shape Mud Hole sells today and is comfortable for many hands.

“I also like the new Swell-designed grips that Winn added to its split-grip selection recently for the same reason. I used to get the Winn Straight Taper grip to bulge similarly by strategically adding tape beneath the grip, but the Swell design captures the right contour.”

He said he uses two hands for longer casts, and likes the thicker dimensions of the MHX Winn fighting butt.

Adams prefers split grips for most bass rods.

“Full-length grips serve me better on my flipping and crankbait rods that I typically lay against the side of my body. But for most of my other bass rods, I employ split grips.”

Guide choice
For guides, he uses Fuji BLNAG and BLAG Alconite Casting Guides.

“Fuji Alconite guides have a ceramic ring and a 316 stainless steel frame so I can use the same rods in saltwater for redfish, too. The BLNAG guide, size 6, is double-footed and I use it as a stripper guide closest to the reel.”

Adams runs BLAG single-foot guides in a size 5 out to the tip.

“These guides bridge that gap between very small micro-guides and traditional guides,” he said. “Though I don’t tie a fluorocarbon leader to my braid when fishing swim jigs, the size 5 guides give me the flexibility to do so.”

Alconite can withstand the punishment of braid and works with fluorocarbon or monofilament lines.

“They can take considerable abuse without splitting or cracking. Line lasts longer with them, too; braid doesn’t wear or fade as quickly.”

He says with the stainless steel frames, these guides have a little “forgiveness,” so if they bend or get stepped on they usually can be bent back into their shape.

Reel Seats
“Fuji ECSM Graphite Blank-Exposed Reel Seats boil down primarily to personal preference. I like a reel seat that exposes the blank for better feel, but I’m not totally comfortable with a skeletal reel seat design.”

With this seat, Adams says he gets a full-body reel seat that still exposes a small section of the rod blank.

“I am not against a skeletal reel seat. This is solely a personal preference, based on the way I hold the reel. “

He goes with the same reel seat with every rod these days.

“The reel seat size will vary with the blank and handle length. The latter determines where I position the reel seat. I want all my rods to feel the same in my hand when I pick them up. No matter what the power and action of that rod is, I want the same feel in my hand.”

That was the thinking that went into their rod design.

“I try to take a similar approach with every rod I build today. Upfront thinking and research is critical to unlocking the formula for a rod made to the task—made just for you.”