In recent years, fiberglass rods have emerged as an invaluable tool in the arsenal of bass anglers. Or perhaps I should say, fiberglass rods have re-emerged, because in reality, glass is not a newcomer to the rod market. In fact, glass rods have been around for nearly 70 years.
Let’s take a moment to explore the history of fishing rods. Before the advent of modern mass production techniques, rods were typically built by hand from entirely natural materials, dominated by bamboo. A long cane of bamboo would be split lengthwise in up to 12 tapered sections, and these would be glued together, shaped, sanded and finished to form a bamboo rod blank. In the years after the second World War, fiberglass began to be introduced into commercial rod building, first as a covering or laminate over a bamboo or wood core, and then as a stand-alone material used to make solid or hollow fiberglass rod blanks. Glass rods began to fall out of favor in the inland, bass-dominated marketplace by the 1970’s, when carbon fiber, or graphite, rods were introduced. At that time, graphite rods were lighter, stiffer and more sensitive than their glass counterparts, and offered many advantages to bass anglers who were developing the common techniques that we all rely upon today.
Fiberglass rods never disappeared from our collective angling consciousness, however, because of the innate advantages that the material and its rods have over carbon fiber. First of all, fiberglass is tough – far more resilient than graphite. I’m certain that most anglers remember the classic television commercials of rods being bent into the shape of a circle, smashed in car doors, and run through garbage disposals. The reason that those rods emerged unscathed, ready to fish another day, is that they are made, largely, from fiberglass. The flex or bend of fiberglass rods tends to extend farther down the rod blank, which is to say that glass rods have slower action than comparable graphite rods. For these two reasons, glass rods are frequently associated with saltwater fishing, where fish measured in the 100s of pounds provide exceptional tests for anglers and equipment alike. For example, the PENN International Casting VI rod is a premium offshore trolling rod that features one-piece, tubular fiberglass construction, while the PENN Carnage II spinning rods incorporate glass cores, reinforced on the outside and inside with carbon fiber, to deliver rods with an exceptional blend of durability and sensitivity.
Advances in raw materials and manufacturing techniques now provide a path for re-entry of fiberglass rods back into the freshwater arena, where bass anglers stand to benefit from the advantages that glass provides. Note that the fiberglass used to engineer a contemporary fishing rod is not the woven fabric found in a fiberglass boat. Rather, the glass used for rods is composed of thin, linear fibers in one of two varieties: E-glass and S-glass. E-Glass is the less expensive of the two glass fibers, and is commonly used for super-bendy, budget-conscious rods. S-Glass provides several advantages, including higher strength (up to 30%) and stiffness (up to 15%) compared to E-Glass. Using S-Glass to build a fiberglass rod yields a comparatively strong, lightweight blank that has little in common with the heavy, noodle-like glass rods of the past.
The moderate action and robust nature of fiberglass rods makes them exceptional choices for bass presentations that create significant rod load, even in the absence of a hooked fish. For example, think about the emergence of super-deep diving crankbaits, big-billed hard baits that might dive to 30 feet or more on the retrieve. Fiberglass rods very effectively manage the stress of cranking deep divers and can also act as efficient shock absorbers when a hooked fish makes a powerful run boatside. In fact, glass rods – and glass-carbon composites – are exceptional choices whenever crankbaits, including squarebills and lipless rattlebaits, are on the agenda. Several rod manufacturers now offer fiberglass, or glass-carbon composite, rods that speak to the needs of bass anglers. St. Croix Rod company, which traces its northern Wisconsin roots back to the post-war days of fiberglass rods, hand-crafts Legend Glass casting and spinning rods in their Park Falls, Wisconsin facility, and also offers more budget-conscious Mojo Bass Glass rods that are also made from premium, 100% linear S-Glass.
Glass rods have a place in your bass fishing arsenal. They are not general-purpose rods; indeed; stick with all-graphite rods when sensitivity or stiffness is at a premium. But for crankbaits – especially the big ones – and other presentations that pull back, presenting those lures with a glass rod will help deliver the success on the water that you’re casting for.