When one thinks of the first graphite rods, the name Fenwick should come to mind. That’s because Fenwick was the first rod company to use the space-age material for rod production. Today, in Skyline Rods 1976/77, we’re going to look into the second company to embrace the new material.
Fenwick released their new line of rods at the 1973 American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association (AFTMA) show and was met with as much excitement as astonishment. The rods were a minimum 50% lighter than a comparable glass rod, and their sensitivity was magnitudes of order higher.
When Fenwick released their first line of graphite rods to the public in 1974. When they hit the tackle stores, anglers were dumbfounded by the high price tag. I remember going into the local sporting goods store with my mom in 1974 and seeing four of the new rods hanging on the wall, out of reach of customers. My mom asked to see one and when the clerk handed it to her, she looked at the price tag and instantly handed it back.
This was when a custom Fenwick rod could be had for $40.
As with all things, competition, supply, and demand dictate prices. By 1976, carbon fiber rods had dropped well below $75, and another company had joined the market, Skyline Industries out of Fort Worth, Texas.
Skyline’s rods were completely different than the rods made by Fenwick. So different they received a patent in 1975 on the construction of the blank. Skylines rods were 100% carbon fiber, no fiberglass scrim or outer layer, as with the Fenwick rods.
Fenwick’s rods were bigger in diameter compared to Skyline’s. The Skyline rod felt different in the hand and on the cast too.
Where Skyline really went ahead of Fenwick, though, was in their use of professional anglers right out of the gate. Fenwick, at the time, had Dee Thomas, and he was primarily pushing the Flippin’ Stik. Because they were located in southern California, they also had several local anglers on their staff.
Skyline, on the other hand, had a prostaff of no less than 33 top-shelf tournament anglers in 1976. All these anglers were common names on the Bassmaster, American Angler, American Bass Fisherman Trails. The biggest, though, being Al Lindner.
The two advertisements shown in this post reflect the position Lindner had with Skyline. The lead-in ad was placed in every bass magazine I’ve seen from 1977. The second ad, complete with their prostaff, was found in the August 1976 issue of In’Fisherman.
Reading the second ad they state that they were making casting, spinning, fly and doodle soc’n rods. I found that last rod type a bit strange since I know they were talking about a flipping rod. I’m not sure they named it that way because Fenwick would have been a tough company to go against with respect to a trademark or copyright infringement, or if they flat refused to accept Thomas’ new technique as new.
In any event, what we see here is the first carbon fiber flipping stick, as Fenwick didn’t come out with theirs until 1978.
This prompted me to look in more of my early In’Fisherman magazines for something related to flipping. In the April/May 1977 issue I found a complete article on flipping, which will be posted tomorrow.
But let’s go back to the prostaff. There are a lot of names here older fans of the sport should recognize. Ted Capra, Dick Busby, Emmett Chiles, Jerry Crowell, Woo Daves, John Fox, Guy Eaker, Larry Hill, Sonny Lee, Walt Sawicki, and Glin Wells were all standouts in the early days of competitive bass fishing.
I wonder how long Skyline was able to maintain this size prostaff. I also wonder if these were paid sponsorships or if the majority got highly discounted or free gear. In any event, it was a big prostaff, one of the biggest I’ve seen, except for Trilene’s staff of the same era.
That about does it for today’s post. I hope you enjoyed this look back into the early days of graphite rods.