Last week we talked about Fenwick and how they were the gold standard of rods back in the 60s and 70s. We’ve also mentioned that they developed the graphite rod and Flippin’ Stik – both key breakthroughs in rod technology and technique-specific rods. What we’ve failed to mention, though, is arguably the most popular rod from 1972 through easily 1976 possibly even the early 1980s – the Fenwick LUNKERSTIK.
Debuted in 1972, I would hate to try and guess the number of LUNKERSTIKS that were produced and sold. At a cost of $40, they were an expensive choice, but the best money could buy. Today, though, if you frequent the online auctions, you’ll find they range anywhere from $80 to over $250 depending on year made and model. I wish I would have kept all of mine.
At the time it was the lightest factory-rod made available and had a new collet system that did away with that nasty handle rattle. The original rods came with the best guides of the time, made of carboloy, and were made of Fenwick’s new glass, Fenglass. The rods, with handle, weighed about 10 ounces. Put a ABU 5000 on the rod, at roughly 12 ounces, and you had roughly 1-1/2 pounds of rod and reel in your hand. It’s hard to imagine what today’s angler would do if all the new fancy rods and reels were outlawed today.
The ad shown at the top of this article is actually Fenwick’s first ad introducing the LUNKERSTIK. A great rod that changed a lot of the way we looked at rods. Fortunately, a couple years later, Fenwick came out with a much better rod, the one that really changed the game – the HMG graphite rod.
Today what we’re going to do is look through the life of the LUNKERSTIK, starting with 1972 and moving on through 1979. And for completeness we’ll talk about the revolutionary HMG rods too. I just happen to have a couple Fenwick Rod catalogs that will help.
So, let’s start off with 1972.
1972 – Introduction of the LUNKERSTIK
Fenwick introduced the LUNKERSTIK 1200-series of rods in 1972 with eight different options as shown in the table below. The handles had been redesigned with a patented collet system that would eliminate rattle. Guides on the rod were all carboloy – technology that was state-of -the-art back in 1972.
What set Fenwick’s rod apart from the others, though, was their Fenglass fiberglass. This glass was stronger and lighter than any glass on the market allowing them to make thinner blanks than their competition. Coupled with their new handle and premium guides, it was no wonder serious anglers wanted to fish the LUNKERSTIK. Unfortunately, I don’t have a 1972 catalog to share with you. If anyone out there does, please contact us or leave a comment below.
1976 – Competition On The Horizon
In 1976, Fenwick redesigned their Lunkerstik line of rods and renamed it the 1400 series, for the most part. The difference between these and the 1200-series was the use of alconite guides in place of the carboloy. This was, without a doubt, a reaction from Lew Childre’s introduction of Fuji guides to the U.S. market back in 1974. One thing about Fenwick, if a competitor was using something better than them, they jumped on the new technology.
Childre’s Speed Stick line of rods was creeping in on Fenwick’s territory, not just with the new guide, but his new composite Fuji Speed Handle. Unfortunately, Fenwick was still using a metal handle. You know the designers at Fenwick were working overtime to obtain an answer to the handle problem.
What kept Fenwick in the game, though, was their breakthrough with graphite in 1974. Even with the metal handle, their HMG graphite line or rods was head-over-heels better than any of the glass rods on the market, theirs included. The only downfall was the price point.
Still, Fenwick had its loyal customers and no matter what, they wouldn’t be swayed from using the LUNKERSTIK. In 1977 they would be rewarded with the new Fenwick Fenglass pistol grip and the introduction of the LUNKERSTIK 2000 series of rods.
Another event that kept Fenwick at the leading edge of the rod market was their introduction of the FLIPPIN’ STIK in 1976. What began as an R&D project between Dave Myers and Dee Thomas in 1974/75, the FLIPPIN’ STIK became a necessity for every serious angler by 1977. The rod was specially designed like no other rod and there was no substitute.
The tables below represent the LUNKERSTIK models available to the angler in 1976 and includes the HMG graphite line of rods too. Notice that the FLIPPIN’ STIK this first production year was a one-piece rod. It wouldn’t be until 1979 that Fenwick would offer the collapsible handle.
FLIPPIN STIK weight is the rod weight not the shaft weight.
1979 – Lunkerstiks Begin to Fade
By 1979, Fenwick had pretty much put themselves out of the fiberglass casting rod business due to graphite. A material they introduced in 1973/74, by now, every serious rod company was producing a graphite rod, while several companies started business solely to build graphite rods.
Fenwick was still producing the LUNKERSTIK 2000 rod series and for a glass rod, they were considered one of the best on the market. The handle they’d designed for the 1977 rods mentioned above was still in use and the collet-less method in which to attach the rod to the handle was still a breakthrough.
Unfortunately, they were fiberglass and that word had become a joke amongst serious bass anglers at the time. By the early 80s, you were hard pressed to find a LUNKERSTIK in a boat let alone a tackle shop. Most had been relegated to the corner of the garage to act as housing for local spiders and mice.
What kept Fenwick relevant in the market wasn’t the LUNKERSTIK, though. Their HMG graphite rods were arguably the best graphite rods on the market. The FLIPPIN’ STIK was another feather in their cap. Because of its design, there was no competition. Yes, other companies produced what they called a flipping stick, but they were not the same, and still to this day they aren’t the same as what Fenwick made in that era.
To seal their place in the market, Fenwick came out with two advances in 1979 dealing with the long rod.
One, Dave Myers took stock in the ultra-light 12-foot rods Japanese anglers were using. These rods collapsed on themselves so they were easier to transport and store. Myers decided to design the FLIPPIN’ STIK in this manner due to the number of complaints by anglers that the rod wouldn’t fit in the rod lockers of the day.
The second thing Fenwick did was design the rod in their HMG graphite. This shaved four ounces of weight off the rod. Fenwick’s FLIPPIN’ STIK and HMG graphite was keeping them in the game.
The tables below show what Fenwick had to offer for their Lunkerstik and HMG graphite lines of rods for 1979.
FLIPPIN STIK weight is the rod weight not the shaft weight.
HMG Graphite and the Competition
Fenwick’s development of the Fenglass handle made a bold triumph in 1977 and its use on the HMG rods finally fit the rod with a complimentary handle. The rods became lighter and that helped tremendously with feel. At this point, rod companies trying to compete with Fenwick were behind the curve. That is except for Lew Childre. Childre’s graphite Speed Sticks and composite handles felt as good as any Fenwick produced and were less money.
About that same time, you also had Skyline, who produced a great blank but their handle left a bit to be desired, at least to the western anglers. Western anglers at the time, didn’t hold the rod during the retrieve by the pistol grip. They placed their left hand in front of the reel and held the line between thumb and forefinger during the retrieve. This way of handling the rod allowed them better feel and more leverage when fishing a bass on a 5-foot 6-inch rod. Because Skyline’s foregrip was so small in diameter, it would tend to cramp the hand after a few hours fishing. Skyline soon capitulated and started using Lew’s Fuji Handles on their rods.
Another competitor in the mix was Johnny Morris and his Graphite 96 line of rods. These rods didn’t have the high-end components that the Fenwick and Lew’s rods had but what they did offer was a cost savings of over 50%. That was significant.
Fenwick continued to put out great rods through the 80s but after a couple of different acquisitions their quality started to decline and they became overshadowed by Gary Loomis, Lamiglass, St. Croix and other companies. But for that period of the early to late 1970s, though, if you weren’t fishing a Fenwick Lunkerstik, you were just fishing.