Custom rods used to be the only way anglers could buy a quality rod for their region. Today there are an endless number of rod builders and most of the larger companies offer some really nice rods at competitive prices for every application/technique. If you are on a budget the best bet is the tackle shop. For those of us that break a favorite rod, want a rod very specific action, or want one personalized to match their style, custom rod building is the way to go.
The sky is the limit when it comes to rod building and the best bet is picking up different blanks and feeling the difference first hand. After you have decided what type of rod you want and the way you want it to look, its time to decide whether to build it yourself or let someone with experience do it. Anyone can do it, basic building kits can be bought relatively cheap and the concepts and principles are easy to grasp. The hard part is making it look perfect and match the look to the quality of the rod components. It would be a shame to spend $250 on parts and it looks horrible. Experience is the best teacher and if your willing to learn its a very useful skill. If its not something you have interest in its best to let a professional builder build your custom rod.
Rod building can be done on a budget and places like The Rod Room in Orange Beach and Mudhole.com offer kits in the $100 range. For most people a quality custom rod is what they are after. The majority of the money should be spent on the blank. The blank is essentially the rod and the better the blank the better the rod. A good inshore blank will generally run from $150-300. Offshore things get a little more expensive and the price for a good blank is $200-500. Quality will not only benefit the angler in the a hard fight but will also last longer over time. Quality blanks are often a lot lighter then the cheaper ones making long days on the water easier on the body. Just like cars a higher quality fishing rod blank will perform better.
Once you have decided on a blank, guides, grips, reel seat, and color its time to assemble. Taking your time and doing things right is crucial for having a professional result in the end. Builders with lots of experience can build rods quickly, but only because they have built hundreds prior too yours. The first part of the process is finding the “spine” of the blank or where the blank wants to naturally bend. The rod will work best if run along the spine and finding the spine can take experience. After the spine is found the next step is assembling the grips and reel seat. The rod should be built from the butt to the tip. This helps grips make a better fit with the rod. Usuing a 24hr cure grip bonding glue will help the rod last longer then a fast set glue. Guides are then places along the spine usually in proportional amount to the natural bend of the rod. For those not sure about where to place the guides a quick search on the internet should result in measurements.
Wrapping guides can be tricky but those willing to spend some time with it will find it very similar to sewing. Entire books have been written on thread work, the best bet for the rookie wrapper is to keep things simple and remember there are NO rules to rod building. After the guides are attached the rod is basically finished except for flex coating the threads. Flex coat keeps everything in place, creates a stronger bind between the guides and blank, and keeps everything looking good. Take time to read a few articles written just on flex coating its usually well worth it. Also keep in mind the outside weather humid rainy days can reek havoc on flex coat and high highs and low lows will also affect the finish. Stable dry weather in the 70s and 80s is ideal. Keeping a small blow-tourch handy will also help when trying to remove bubbles. Keep your building area clean, go slow, and remember its supposed to be fun!