Almost every new angler has experienced a broken fishing rod. Unfortunately, that plight does not disappear with experience. Almost every angler experiences at least one broken rod during their fishing career. The amazing thing, though, is that fishing rods don’t break more often.
Fishing rods do not break because of the materials they are made of and the care a fisher gives his or her fishing rods. Neglected rods tend to break prematurely. Well cared for rods last a long time. Understanding how a fishing rod works and how to care for it is key to fishing rod longevity.
The key to making your fishing rods last a long time is in the care you give it. Care, though, includes many different things besides how you store your fishing rods. Below, we go through how to care for your fishing rods properly, and tell you how you can fix a broken fishing rod too.
Table of Contents
The Importance Of Good Fishing Rod Care
A broken rod is a great equalizer among anglers. Everyone worries about it, almost all experience it at least once, and just about every broken rod can be avoided if certain precautions are taken. It does not matter if the rod was a store-bought off-the-rack utility rod that retails for 30 bucks or a St. Croix masterpiece that sells for several hundred.
All fishing rods can break and almost all anglers have at least one favorite rod that does. Usually, this happens at the most inopportune times. Maybe when you are fighting to land a giant, or as you pull away from the dock, or as you move equipment around in your vehicle on your way to a fishing adventure.
Since it happens to everyone and is almost impossible to avoid, the key becomes minimizing the risk of a broken rod. That requires a few things:
- Knowledge of how a rod is made and why it is as strong as it is
- Knowledge of your rods’ individual limits
- Willingness to care for your rods in and out of season
- Ability to recognize a danger to a rod and take measures to avoid it
- Skill to repair a rod if necessary
If you understand the first two, are committed to give your rods the best of care, and possess the abilities to address the last two bullet points, you can ensure that your rods will last a long time.
How Do Fishing Rods Not Break More Often?
Fishing rods do not break more often because they are built from strong, durable materials and are usually well taken care of by their owners, at least to some degree. Some rods are stronger than others though, so understanding what fishing rod material is right for you is critical.
The Typical Fishing Trip
The life of a fishing rod, while not torturous, is challenging. It’s worth considering what a poorly cared for rod might go through on the average fishing trip. For many, fishing rods are stored in a garage or shed and exposed to bouts of extreme warmth and cold throughout the year. It might be stored in a basement that is probably a bit damp.
When fishing rods are used, they’re often loaded into the back of a vehicle, stored across a backseat with pressure put on the tip, or just thrown in among other things. Once at the destination they’re pulled out and dropped into a boat or on the bank of a body of water.
Pressure During Fishing And After
When fishing, it is whipped back and forth repeatedly for casting, the tip gets dropped in the water, and the entire rod and reel are cast aside with little thought when a fish is brought up on shore or over the side of a boat. It might get stepped on, have things put on top of it, or get covered with sand or mud.
When the fishing is done, it is loaded back into the vehicle and eventually, stored in the garage or basement, forgotten about until it is needed for another trip. At various times when it is used, there is a risk that its tip will get caught in a car or house door, or stepped on and crushed, or left outside for a few days, exposed to the elements.
Yet, in most cases, barring being crushed or having a tip broken off, a fishing rod can put up with the abuse and provide years of service for the average fisher. Chances are, it will not break unless it is exposed to severe stress at some point. Unfortunately, that point often comes when the angler is trying to land a big fish!
Even if you are not into fishing, you have to wonder how a fishing rod can put up with so much without breaking, shattering, or falling apart.
Fishing Rod Strength
A fishing rod’s strength threshold is determined by its “power rating.” The power rating is how much weight a fishing rod can effectively manage and what its core material is. In most cases, even with ultra-light and fly rods, a well maintained fishing rod can manage much more weight and shock than the average fish can deliver.
The power rating of a fishing rod is broken down into several categories:
- Medium Heavy
- Extra Heavy
Additionally, within those categories, a fishing rod is assigned a poundage rating. This is roughly how much a fishing rod can safely hold, lift and bend before it breaks down structurally. It is also about how much weight it can lift.
How Rods Break
Contrary to what many people think, a fishing rod does not always break in a dramatic fashion. Often, the break starts small and gets worse over time. In some cases, the rod will not break cleanly but rather “unravel,” which is almost always fatal for a fishing rod.
Additionally, if the rod rating threshold is exceeded, it does not mean a fishing rod will immediately break. At that weight, however, it will begin to lose structural integrity. If that pressure is maintained that structural degradation will only serve to further undermine the reliability of the rod.
Eventually, if the weight is heavy enough and applied for long enough, the rod will break. That break can come in multiple forms:
- A clean break at a weak point
- Bending and breaking but not separating
- Unraveling in a spiral manner
- Splitting vertically
How a rod breaks is dependent on the type of break and the spot at which the break occurs. Clean breaks typically only happen towards the two ends. Shattering can happen anywhere on the rod at a pressure point. Splitting vertically starts at the tip and works its way down.
To break like any of those examples, though, a rod must be subjected to some sort of trauma.
Fishing Rod Strength
With so many ways to break, why do rods not break all the time? There are several contributing factors that help preserve fishing rods:
- Rod condition
- Material composition
This depends on how the rod has been maintained and stored. Rods that are well maintained and stored in a friendly environment are usually stronger than rods of the same type that are not. If a rod is kept in a cold garage, for example, the repeated exposure to temperature extremes can weaken it.
For centuries, fishing rods were made of wood or bamboo. As technology improved, new materials were used to make fishing rods. These include fiberglass, graphite and composite material (a mixture of fiberglass and graphite).
Rods also can be engineered for strength. Around the early 1900s, steel rods were used to strengthen fishing rods. Kevlar is now used in several different types of rods. Other strength enhancing materials include stainless steel, silica, resins and woven fibers.
Rod thickness is determined by its power and length. A fishing rod used in the sea will be very thick and have a very high power rating. The type of rod you would use fishing for bluegills in a farm pond will be much thinner and have a much lower power rating. The thicker the rod, the more materials can be used to build its strength.
As mentioned above, the power rating is the rating that determines the threshold a rod can withstand without losing structural integrity.
It is not always the case, but the flexibility or action of a rod can help dictate its strength. An ultra-light rod will have a lot more flexibility than an ultra-heavy rod but will also have a much lower break threshold.
The action of a rod determines its sensitivity, and it determines where a rod will bend when pressure is applied to it. The action of a rod also indicates the materials used to make the rod and its thickness.
Extra Fast Action: This is the most sensitive and will show virtually any movement on your bait. The rod will bend only at the tip, usually within 8 or so inches from the top. The tip is usually resilient but fragile and cannot withstand much pressure.
Fast Action: Fast action is what most anglers will use when they are just starting out. They may also use a fast action rod throughout their fishing career. A fast action rod is sensitive but not overly so, and the rod will bend in the upper third of the rod. The thickness of a fast action rod is more along the lines of what most fishing rods at a department store will look like.
Moderate Action: A fishing rod with moderate action is less sensitive, but more suited for larger fish. It bends in the upper half of the rod. Moderate action rods look thicker and sturdier, and they generally are.
Slow Action: A slower action rod bends in the lower third of the rod. It is used for larger fish or when fishing at greater depths. Slow action rods are stout, usually squat looking even if it is actually longer. It is the thickest type of rod on the market.
The last part of the equation for rod durability is how the rod will be used by its owner. If the rod is neglected or beat on, it will break more often than a rod that is cared for. A rod that is used every day will usually wear out before one that is used only occasionally. That holds true except for rods that are in storage for long periods of time.
9 Reasons Fishing Rods Break
Trauma to a fishing rod is very similar to trauma to a human being. It is a sudden, violent event that severely damages the rod. The most common trauma where fishing rods are concerned is the tip getting slammed in a car door or trunk lid.
Other forms of trauma include:
- Part of the rod being crushed
- The guides of the rod getting bent
- The tip of the rod being jammed into the ground
- Stress from a fish breaking the rod
Other stress causes can include being exposed to extreme heat or cold, being dropped from a height, or being exposed to fire.
2. Wear And Tear
A fishing rod will not last forever. If used enough, something will eventually give out. It might be the tip, or the guides might unravel. Perhaps it will be a nick evolving into a divot and then a break point. Sometimes rods will dry out and start to split. In most cases, if a rod is cared for, its shelf life can be very long, but eventually, it will succumb to age.
3. Improper Storage
Fishing rods are actually exceptionally tough, but like anything, if not cared for they can break. Part of that equation includes being stored properly. Rods that are kept in spaces that are not environmentally controlled can weaken over time and develop vulnerable spots.
Part of the problem is being exposed to extreme temperatures. Extreme temperatures can dry a rod and make it brittle. Another risk is excessive humidity. Humidity can seep into the materials, adhesive and tape on a rod and weaken them. A third risk is excessive dryness. Just like too much humidity can weaken a rod, too much dryness can make it brittle.
Almost none of these causes result in a rod that breaks as soon as it is neglected. Depending on how often you fish, a neglected rod can still last for years. If you use it a lot, however, while it probably will not suddenly fail, it will slowly degrade over time.
The ideal storage environment is in an area of your home that is consistently between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It also should not be excessively humid or dry. Fishing rods should be raised above the floor if possible. Rods that are stored on the floor can have dampness seep into them and develop weak spots.
4. Improper Rod Support
Improper rod support happens when you grasp the rod at the butt end without displacing the pressure put on the rod by your grip. In essence, you create a breaking point just above the hand that is closest to the rod tip. By separating your hands, you displace the grip and the stress put on the rod, making it more difficult to break.
This happens when a heavy fish is lifted dead weight out of the water. If the rod has any weak spot at all, that spot will absorb the stress of the weight. If the rod does not have a weak spot, the rod tip becomes the focal point of any stress. Over time, lots of highsticking can lead to your fishing rod breaking.
6. Stress From Casting
When you cast a lure or bait, you are harnessing the flexibility of your fishing rod and using it to propel that lure or bait. During an afternoon fishing trip, you may do that dozens of times. Each time you do it, your rod bends a significant amount back before being hurled to a point in front of you, bending in the exact opposite direction.
This creates an immense amount of stress on your fishing rod. A rod in good condition can handle that stress well. A neglected rod cannot.
Another casting mishap is if, in your follow-through, you strike the ground, water or an object. This can shatter a rod or create a weak spot. Likely, though, you will not notice the weak spot until you are playing a fish in, or it breaks on another cast.
7. Mismatched Rod
If you are using a lure that is significantly heavier than what you would expect that rod to be able to cast, you can stress the rod on casting to the point it breaks. Large heavy bait rigs or lures can snap a rod at the tip or even break it at the hilt of the rod.
Another mismatch is using a reel that is too heavy for a rod. When this happens, it can weaken the reel platform and holders and eventually they can break. When that happens, if you are hauling in a fish, you lose your reel mount, and the rod becomes useless.
A third way a rod can have a mismatch is when too much stress is put on the rod’s eyes. When this happens, the eyes are loosened and will eventually detach. At that point the only way to fix the rod is by undertaking the significant project of restoring the eyes.
8. Transportation Trauma
This trauma is essentially the same as the trauma discussed above but with more detail. By far, more fishing rods are damaged when being transported than in any other scenario. There are dozens of ways a rod can get damaged in transit.
When you transport your fishing rods, you must use the utmost caution when placing the rods and shutting any doors. Make sure the space is free of other materials (even fishing tackle boxes). Do not jam the rod in place, and instead ease it into the space you want it.
9. Poor Rod Handling
Poor handling is a major contributor to rod damage. A rod left idly on a dock or leaned up against the side of a boat risks damage if anyone trips or falls on it. Setting the hook exceptionally hard can create weak spots. There are lots of ways to handle your rod poorly, and they can all lead to your rod breaking.
How To Prevent Your Fishing Rod From Breaking
Every fishing rod is capable of developing a stress point. A stress point is the place on a rod that stress has weakened. If the right type of pressure is applied, the rod will break. The stress point can be created and break in almost the same instant. When you slam the tip in a car door, the stress point is created in the tip and the tip breaks instantly because of it.
Another type of stress point is created by using a bad fishing technique. You might set the hook too heavily or your cast might violently bend the rod too far. There are lots of ways to create stress points, and also lots of ways to avoid them.
Store Your Rods Properly
Make sure your rods are stored in a climate controlled environment that never gets too hot or too cold. Store them up off the ground if possible. Do not leave lures or weights hanging on the rod when you store them. Clear your storage area of any items that could fall on or against your rods and damage them.
Use The Right Equipment
Your fishing line needs to be in line with the capacity of your rod. If you use braided line that lets you string a lot of very strong line on your reel, and if you hook into a really big fish, your line will hold up, but your rod will start to break.
A line breaking when the rod is being stressed significantly is a good thing, even if it means losing a lure or a trophy fish. This is because it’s much cheaper to replace the fishing line than the rod!
You should also use lures that are a good match for your rod. Do not use lures or rigs that are exceptionally heavy. One test is that, if when you let your lure dangle, your rod tip dips more than an inch or two, the lure you are using is too heavy.
Being aware of your surroundings and always making sure to keep your rods out of harm’s way is probably the easiest way to protect your fishing rods. Be particularly careful when you are indoors or when you are loading or unloading your fishing rods into your vehicle. Take a moment and double check that your rods clear any doors or windows.
Inspect Your Rods Regularly
You can do a lot to identify stress points, abrasions, cracks or breaks in your rods by inspecting them often. Ideally, you should inspect them every time you go out to fish and when you return, but if that is not realistic, inspect them every third or fourth trip.
When inspecting them, look at the eyes and the tip for bending or twisting. Look at how the guides are fastened and check for cracks in the coating, ripping of the ribbon or the mounts of the eyes cutting through both. Look at the shaft of the rod up to the tip to identify any abrasions, cuts, cracks or breaks. Also look for signs of brittleness or shattering.
Inspecting each rod will only take a moment or two, but identifying a problem before it becomes a crisis is invaluable.
How To Fix A Broken Fishing Rod
In many cases, a broken fishing rod is a lost cause. You might be able to patch it back together, but hidden damage might exist that only becomes apparent with use. If the rod is crushed, broken at the hilt, shattered or burnt, the best approach is to strip the rod of its guides and throw the rest out. If you want to create a spooler, you can keep the base and handle.
With less severe damage, however, you might be able to fix it yourself. Below is some general advice on how to fix specific types of fishing rod breaks.
Materials You Need To Fix A Fishing Rod
The materials you need to fix a fishing rod include:
- Spare junk rod
- Two-part coating (Flex Coat is the best)
- Rod winding thread
- Paper towels
How To Fix Snapped Fiberglass Fishing Rods
1. Identify And Mark The Rod Damage
Check around the break and look for cracks, shattering or crushed elements.
2. Place The Two Broken Sections Together
Place the two broken sections together and measure out six inches from the breaking point. Sand the damaged sections until you can get an accurate measurement of how much of the rod needs to be replaced. This will help you determine how much of the spare rod you will need to cut out.
3. Prep The Old Rod For The Insert
Take a measurement of the area you need to replace. Cut that length from approximately the same place on the spare rod. You should plan on using a segment that is approximately 6 to 8 inches long. Your segment should be able to fit inside the broken rod, at the breaking point.
Remember that you are not going for an exact fit in terms of rod width. If you get a perfect fit, it is a bonus, but chances are you will not be able to do so unless your spare rod is an exact match to the rod that is broken. If there is a gap between the spare segment and the broken rod, cut a smaller section of the spare rod to put over the insert until the fit is snug.
When you have the right fit, epoxy the end of the insert and slide the spacer section into place. Let it dry thoroughly.
4. Insert The Slide
Once you have the insert and spacer cut to the right size and bonded together, epoxy the entire length of the insert slide it into the broken section of the rod closest to the handle. Then, slide the other section of the broken rod over the insert. Clean off any excess epoxy and set your rod in a vertical position.
The positioning of the rod is important because it will let the epoxy dry evenly. Wait for about four hours until the epoxy is dry, or however long the epoxy instructions say to wait.
5. Wrap The Broken Section
Once the area is dry, wrap the entire broken section, starting four inches below the break, with the rod thread. Wrap it as tightly and closely as you can. Try not to overlap, but keep in mind tight coverage is the most important aspect of this process. Wrap the entire break up to four inches above the break.
6. Apply The Flex Coat
Upon completing the wrapping of the rod, apply the Flex Coat while rotating the rod. Cover the wrapped area completely. Once the epoxy is applied, continue rotating the rod for another three minutes to prevent running. Let the epoxy dry, and your break should be fixed!
How To Fix Fishing Rod Guides
1. Cut The Thread/Tape
Using a straight razor blade knife, cut the thread or tape around the guide. If the guide is missing, cut out the thread and tape where the new guide will be placed. If a coating makes cutting into the thread difficult, heat the area with a lighter to loosen the epoxy.
Be careful not to overheat or burn the epoxy, thread or rod shaft. Peel off the tape around the guide and remove it. If it is missing, just remove the tape.
2. Sand The Area
Using 120-220 grit sandpaper, sand the area to remove any residual epoxy or adhesives. Sand the area the new guide will set. Also sand the foot of your guide where the foot will rest on the rod.
3. Prepare For Wrapping
Clean the sanded portion and press the new guide foot onto your rod. Line it up with the other guides. Wrap a small piece of tape around the foot of the guide to hold it in place while you thread and epoxy the guide.
4. Wrap The Foot Of The Guide
Using rod thread, wrap the foot of the guide starting about an inch below the lower foot. Wrap the thread tightly, but do not overlap. Cover the entire foot, up to where it starts to bend into the main guide shaft. When the foot is covered, tie a knot to keep the thread in place.
5. Apply Epoxy
Apply two separate coats of epoxy to the foot and one inch below the end of the thread wrapping. Let the first coat thoroughly dry before applying a second coat. Once dry, your guides should be fixed.
How To Fix Broken Fishing Rod Tips
1. Remove Your Rod Tip
Holding your rod tip horizontally, heat it with a lighter until the epoxy is loosened. Remove the rod tip. If the tip is snapped off, skip this step.
2. Sand The Tip
Using 120-220 grit sandpaper, sand down the tip of the rod. Rotate the rod in the sandpaper until all adhesive is ground off.
3. Prepare Rod Cement
Cut strips of rod cement to fit inside the chamber of the rod tip.
4. Slide The Rod Into The Tip
Using pliers, slide the rod into the rod tip. Then heat the rod cement for five seconds. Adjust your rod tip to line up with the rest of the rod guides. Wipe away any excess cement and let the tip dry.
How To Fix Fishing Rod Cork Handles
1. Clean The Handle
Clean the entire cork handle with warm, soapy water. Let it dry completely.
2. Apply Wood Filler
Apply wood filler where there are cracks or gaps.
3. Sand The Filler
Once dry, sand the filler until it is smooth.
4. Apply Cork Sealer
Apply a cork sealer to the cork handle.
Fishing rods don’t break very often because they are designed to handle the stress that fishing puts them under. They are made from strong and durable materials, and as long as you take good care of your fishing rods, they should last for years without breaking or showing major wear.