Collectively, the custom rod building craft has always had an impact upon commercial rod manufacturing. They watch the custom building craft for new methods, techniques, trends and ideas. Almost every single commercial rod building operation in North America subscribes to RodMaker Magazine. The reason should be obvious.
Individually, however, few custom builders can claim to have much influence over what the commercial makers churn out. There is one exception, however – Rich Forhan. In fact, if you study the current bass rod offerings from nearly every commercial maker in that field, you will find that the vast majority of those rods mimic what Rich Forhan was doing some 15 or more years ago.
Rich didnâ€™t invent â€œsplit-gripsâ€ – surf rods had been built that way for decades. Nor was the idea of not using a fore-grip unique to Rich – many old time wooden rods were sold without anything forward of the reel seat. And of course, the spiral wrap didnâ€™t originate with Rich either – that goes back to the early 1900s. What Rich did, however, was take a handful of existing ideas, add few new ones of his own (the RF-Lite Reel Seat for instance) and incorporate and refine them into a package that greatly reduced weight and increased sensitivity. If you take a look at one of Richâ€™s rods you immediately notice the minimalist concept that pervades every aspect involved. Whatâ€™s there is needed and whatâ€™s needed is there. Nothing more, nothing less. For the purpose at hand, a more simple rod; a no-nonsense rod, proved to be a better fishing tool. Any yet, until Rich came along, no one had bothered to build them this way. Now, almost everyone does.
Rich outlined the concept in his 1997 book, Powerhand Baitcasting. Further refinements were unveiled in RodMaker Magazine. The concept found favor with bass tournament professionals and today nearly every commercial rod company in the bass rod business, along with some inshore and light saltwater rod manufacturers, is building a near clone of Richâ€™s rods from 15 years ago.
I got a call from Rich just this morning. He said he was thinking about doing a new series of articles for RodMaker on the legacy of his bass rod concept – why he did what he did, what worked, what didnâ€™t and what additional revelations heâ€™s had in the ensuing years. Of course, I was only too happy to take him up on his offer.Â The new column will be called, appropriately enough, â€œLegacyâ€ and will detail the thoughts of the most influential custom rod builder of the past 100 years. I hope you look forward to it as much as I do.