Rods come in all shapes and sizes these days. What’s even cooler is that a rod can come in exactly your shape and size. There is a growing segment of custom rod makers using widely available components and building rods on their own. I wanted to do a bit different fishing rod review and review a rod made from custom components from Batson Enterprises’ brands: RainShadow, ALPS and ForeCast.
Many folks aren’t familiar with Batson, so here is the 15-second rundown: they are the largest American rod component company that makes many of the rod components you see on a lot of the popular rods on the market today. They make everything from blanks, reel seats, grips, guides, tips, handles and a lot more to completely spec out and build your own custom rod or have someone make one for you.
If you go to their batsonenterprises.com site you could spend hours looking at components, studying technology, and reading the forums on building your own rods. But we asked Karry Batson and CEO Bill Batson to build us a rod with their blanks, components and everything in the action and power of our choosing so we could put it to the test and see how we liked the fit and finish of each individual part in one custom-made rod.
The following are things to consider when piecing together your rod with Batson components:
- Types of blanks
- Choice of guides and inserts
- What handle do you prefer
- Accents set off a custom rod
More than just blanks
I always hated the word blanks for hollow graphite construction of rods. Because the beauty of a rod’s design and performance is in the blank – a lack luster word to describe what truly sets a rod apart from others. Batson’s Rainshadow line of blanks begins with Eternity2 and Immortal, which is one step below.
My rod test was with a RainShadow Immortal blank. These blanks use an RX8 material that was the top Toray blanks available until last year when RainShadow released RX9 materials. But these RX8 are a beautiful blend of lightweight, sensitivity and strength. The RX9 blanks are in fact a bit lighter but you give up a little backbone and strength to achieve that lighter weight and increase in sensitivity. So the RX8 in my opinion was a better test for a 7-foot, 2-inch medium-heavy jig rod blank.
These blanks incorporate a ton of technologies. I won’t bore you with the jargon, but you can read it here if you so desire. But the quick run down means these rods feature a 7-layer blend that melds advances in resin technology, carbon fiber and ultra high modulus graphite construction and design to make rods that are light, sensitive and reinforced.
The offer 30 different blanks to choose from in the Immortal line alone.
Guides and inserts top of the line
I tested the ALPS Medium XN Guides transitioning to the ALPS F guide with SS316 Stainless Steel guides with Zirconium inserts in the concept style. They frames feel strong and the inserts are smooth for easy casting. The frames won’t bend or break and they have increased surface area for good adhesion of the inserts. The rod was spec’ed with 11 guides and charted at specific distances from the tip (3.5, 7.25, 11, 14.75, 18.75, 23.125, 27.625, 32.5, 37.625, 44.250, 52.5 inches).
There is a forum at guidespacing.com where you can learn more about guide spacing and general rod building questions.
Every handle imaginable
My rod came equipped with ALPS Aluminum Barrel Split Casting reel seats with CNC machined 6061-T6 double locking nuts so there is absolutely no slippage once you lock your reel into the rod seat. The brushed bright aluminum looks awesome on the dark gunmetal colored rod. But I love that you have so much contact with the blank.
The grips and butt caps were high density cork composite (HDCC) and EVA foam combinations for comfort as well as a great grip even when my hands were wet and slippery and extremely cold from handling fish.
Aesthetics to set rods apart
The other items on the rod were chrome winding checks and shims which are just rings for aesthetics as well as giving the rod balance and rigidity where they handles, reel seats and butt caps meet the blanks. There are several good looking options from Batson so you could have a blue rod blank with blue winding checks or set them off with lime green rings if you desire to give your rod a really custom look. Or you can use a dark blank with dark rings to give it a more classic look.
I’ve fished the rod now on Kentucky Lake and Dale Hollow catching some big smallmouths, largemouths and even a few other non-gamefish that gave the rod a nice test. The rod is not as light as my lightest rods but it’s not much heavier either. And I really like that locking nut for securing a reel to the rod.
The rod feels and looks like a $300 rod in your hand. These components are some of the best I’ve seen on a rod, including the blank. And they assure me you won’t pay near that to make the rod yourself. Or if you know a custom rod builder who will do it for you.
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at building my own rod. I might break down and do it now after fishing with these blanks and components.
Most of the components from this rod are highlighted in this article so if you want to build one just like it, just click on the component and it will take you to it on the BatsonEnterprises.com website. The forum site guidespacing.com will give you instructions and suggestions for building custom rods from Batson and other rod makers using their components.
You can build a rod with the best components for a much better price than top of the line retail rods. But you have to be willing to build it yourself or find someone who can. Keith Combs and Anthony Gagliardi just signed with Batson to build their own signature lines of rods. So the word is getting out on their components and their quality.