Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spending the Winter Downtime Wisely: Repairing Busted Rods

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I have been accused of being hard on a lot of my things and there is a lot of truth to it. But, despite being the quintessential "bull in the china shop", I have to be fair to myself and say that I do a good job and fixing my screwups. Many of you have read about my exploits in keeping my cars and boat running. But, today I want to talk about fishing rods.

How many dollars do you think you have wrapped up in your rods? No, that's a serious question. If I do my math correctly, in the rods that I commonly use, I have:
  • 3 custom rods (1 of which is down)
  • 1 St. Croix Premier (which is down)
  • 1 St. Croix Triumph
  • 2 Wright&McGill Skeet Reese Rods
  • 3 Dick's Sporting Goods house brand rods
  • 1 Quantum Guide Series
  • 1 Boyd Duckett
  • 1 BPS
I don't know how much is invested in those rods, but it's a lot. It's a sizeable investment. Now, as you can see, I have listed that I have at least 2 rods that are down for the count. Of the 13 other rods listed, at least two of these have been repaired before.

Now, is it that I have been too hard on my stuff? Maybe. In the last year, I have lost 1 additional Duckett and 1 Dick's Sporting Goods house brand. So, that certainly the case. Additionally, I am fortunate enough to fish back boat with a lot of people pretty often. Which means that I have to ferry my stuff back and forth and while I try to use my BPS Rod Caddys, it isn't always possible to avoid slapping and banging them around.

But, I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you are the same way. It doesn't take much to destroy a rod. Close it in a rod locker, step on it, etc. But, what about the most common of problems? Even if you don't loose it and break it in half, normal wear and tear will happen. What am I talking about? How about rod tips that fall off, guides that come unraveled, or simply have the teflon inserts fall out. These things happen to everyone at some point.

Doesn't it always seem to happen right after the warranty expires? And even if it hasn't, most places can be a hassle to deal with. Or, they want you to send the rod off and be repaired, which commonly takes a lot of time. If you are like me, you have special rod and reel combos that do very specific things and being without them makes your fishing feel vulnerable. I know that sounds silly, but...in the case of the St. Croix Premier...it's the only 6'6'' MHF I have. It is and incredible Pop-R/Sammy top water rod and jig rod. Really, it's the only one that I use anymore for those two things. Now, if you buy those store warranty plans, you can just take it to the store and swap it out. But only for the 1st 90 days. After that, you have to send it off.

So, I avoid having to send it off if at all possible.

What then? Well, you have a few options.
  • Send it off and be without it for who knows how long
  • Trash it
  • Pay someone else to repair it
  • Repair it yourself
All of these options have validity to them. If you are fortunate to have a lot of rods, sending it off may not be a problem. If you have a lot of money, trashing it may be perfectly acceptable. You may also be fortunate enough to know someone that repairs them. But, that can cost both money and time.

So, let's discuss the last option. Believe it or not, repairing rods isn't that hard. I won't lie to you, though. It requires some upfront cash, some reading, fine eye and hand coordination, some free room and time, and a lot of patients.

First off, go and buy some literature on the subject. Here is a list from Amazon. Personally, I own and use "Advanced Custom Rod Building" by Clemens. It's a good book and covers enough beginner material to get you started.

Next, you will need a rod wrapper. Though it's not necessary, I would make a good argument that it is. Mudhole has a list of some, which you can find here. Now, I admit that I cheaped out and bought one off of eBay. It looked good in pictures, but it was an absolute travesty of manufacturing. I paid $100 for it and would give anything to have that money towards a real one. So, buy wisely.

Of course, you will need supplies. I use Mudhole almost exclusively for both buying parts to build new rods and for repairing old ones. Though, if I am in a hurry, places like Gander Mountain frequently have repair kits. While not perfect, it can get you back to working quickly. For a order for basic repairs, you will need thread...black is always a good one, rod tip glue, and epoxy. I would go ahead and buy several rod tips in different sizes and guides in various sizes.

When you receive the rod wrapper, you will notice that you will need a lot of space. Now, back when I had just 1 kid, this wasn't a big deal. Now, it is. you will need at least 8 horizontal feet. At least. Make it 10, really. You will need a table to sit the wrapper on and a chair to sit in.

When you decide to repair your rod, you will need at least an hour of your own time and the rod will need at least 24 hours for the rod to cure, depending on the work you are doing.

So, let's talk about a real example. About a week ago, I was throwing a jig with my St. Croix Premier. I noticed that one of the guides was missing a teflon insert, which was shredding my line. Now, in the past, I have simply cut off that guide entirely and go about my trip. But, the busted guide was right in front of another guide that I had cut off. Meaning, there was 8 inches of rod without a guide.

So, I found myself with a little time on Saturday with some spare time and space, since I recently cleaned up and started organizing better. After all, with 3 kids, space is at a premium in our little house and rod repair doesn't have much weight.
I moved some stuff off the table and set up the wrapper and chalked the Premier up. I used black thread, which is what comes on it. I admit that I didn't tie a very tight wrap on the guides. It's one of those things that you have to practice and learn...and stay in practice....and remember all the little tricks. So, I say to you, READ UP and PRACTICE!

I have built a few rods and repaired even more, and it took me 3 times to wrap those guides. Why? Well, those little tricks.
  1. I didn't clean off the old wrap and epoxy very well and it makes it difficult to make uniform wraps
  2. I forgot how to start the wrap. There is a special way of starting a wrap, which I forgot. So, after I was done wrapping, the beginning came unraveled.
  3. I forgot to "bury" a piece of fishing line under the wrap so that I can pull the tag in through to tie off the end. Again, had to redo it all. Ugh.
So, I wrapped the guides and applied flex coat. I turned the rotisserie on and let it cure. 24 hours later, the rod is back in action.

I won't lie to you all and tell you it's easy and quick. But, it's a valuable skill to have and can prolong the life of your rods. I don't have to tell you how much time and money you can save. I hope you all attempt to repair rather than trash. And if you decide to trash, send it to me :0)