Could graphene be the long overdue game changer in fishing rod construction? The material, the latest produced carbon structure that boasts strength 100 times that of steel of the same thickness, has started to find its way into a number of fishing rods, delivering lighter, stronger, quicker recovering blanks; the sort of technological advancement that could enhance performance in both casting and fishing capabilities of a rod. Though of course, is it needed?
It’s easy to say, at a point in time, that one is happy with their gear. You may be catching fish, cannot see how a rod made from a new material will catch you more, and therefore deem it development for developments sake. We get plenty of that, and of course economics ends up coming in to play too. It isn’t the first time additional materials have been inter-woven with a standard carbon blank to achieve something of great quality but economically unviable to produce in mass.
The economics point is as pertinent as ever when it comes to graphene. Recent developments have led to a significant reduction in it’s production price, but it is still a costly material. Fortunately, only small amounts are needed within the construction of a rod blank to add distinctive benefits. No doubt the likes of Century, who released as far as we are aware, the first blanks in to the UK market with Graphene technology, will continue to investigate the optimum levels of addition of graphene, and we may see over time rods with an even higher volume, if it is shown to be optimum and economical to do so.
To appreciate why the step towards graphene rods is positive and overdue, we have to look at the history of fishing rods. Ask yourself, would you take one step back in this cycle of rod development, and if not, ask yourself why you would not take one step forward when it comes to the purchase of your next rod.
The very first fishing rods were in use by and probably before 2000BC and consisted of nothing other than a 6ft long hazel shoot, or other flexible reed. It took the best part of 3,500 years before a record of a longer rod appeared – a 2 piece variant where the bottom was hollow to store the tip (guess Fuji hadn’t yet produced a rod guide by that point).
The next few hundred years would see a whole range of different woods, different lengths and different numbers of sections used, but the construction remained consistent of wood/reed material. Though, with an early indication towards modern times, whale bone tips were being used, much like we splice glass into carbon. It wasn’t until the 1700’s, just 300 years or so ago in a timeline spanning over 4000, that bamboo cane made it’s way into the UK and the manufacture of some fishing rods. The mid to late 1800’s saw the growing use of bamboo replacing more traditional, native woods, whilst the introduction of metal joints started to take hold.
By the end of the 1800’s, with bamboo and many other woods still in use, a divergence appeared between the development of bait rods, fly rods and indeed rods of different disciplines for different fish. The qualities of materials for different applications was starting to be truly considered and no longer did everyone have one rod to fit all circumstances.
It was as recently as the 1940’s that glass fibre was first utilised within fishing rods, though with little weight or performance advantage at first, the now most commonly used split cane rods continued their sales for another 20 or so years; though just as glass fibre technology had improved to a position to dominate the market, carbon fibre was discovered, with the first carbon fibre rod delivered to market in the early 1970’s.
Since then, the core basis of our fishing rods has largely stayed unchanged, though the quality and composition of the carbon fibre used within these blanks has improved iteratively over the years. The realisation that the prior dominant material, fibre glass, produced more sensitive and shock absorbing tips led to the development of some rods with different blends of glass in the tip, some being spliced whilst others have proportions of glass interwoven in increasing measures towards the very tip of the blank.
What we have not seen, is a step change in fishing rod construction since the 1970’s. A few materials flirted with it and never took off. Graphene, whilst still a carbon, is lighter and stronger. The two key aspects prior materials needed to succeed over their predecessors. The other element needed to succeed is uptake. Many argue the betamax was a better quality system than VHS, but with no uptake it died a quick death. Graphene could so easily go the same way. The risk is that it is priced out of the market, though by first introducing it in small quantities within the blanks, Century and more recently TronixPro have delivered rods that introduce us to the benefits of this new material without a steep increase in price.
So why is lighter and stronger the secret to step change in fishing rod development? Because it delivers almost every improvement we want and it breaks from the usual theory that to make something stronger you’ll be making it heavier. If we consider rods for the past 40 years, if you’ve wanted a stronger rod for rougher ground, you’ve had to concede it would be heavier and in turn that’s going to make it more difficult to cast and compress for the average angler. If you were told you can have that stronger rod, plus it is going to be lighter, you’re going to take it – and that is what Graphene is offering to us. As a comparison, it’s a bit like when braid emerged as thinner yet stronger than mono.
There are two notable ranges of rods on the UK market with graphene used in their construction. The Century Graphex range, as well as the Tronixpro Competition Match range – you can find out more about each of these via the links below which will launch in a new tab.