True Temper Ad May 1949 Sports Afield

Bass rods haven’t changed much in the last 30 years.  If you really want to be picky, they haven’t changed much since the mid-1980s when the pistol grip was relegated to the garage.  Today, in The Rods of 1949, we’re going to look at a period in time where technology was booming and changes to the rod industry were setting new standards for years to come.

Post war in the United States was a time of great prosperity, technological advancements, and leisure.  New scientific developments that helped win the war were now being utilized in the private sector for commodities and fishing tackle benefited greatly.

One example of this was the advent of composite materials, like resin impregnated glass, also know as fiberglass.  Plastics had been around since the late 1920s but big developments took place between the 1920s and the end of the war.  One of these examples was polyester resin.

Polyester resin was developed during World War II and was used to bind fiberglass to make stiff boards, replacing the use of plywood.  Resin impregnated fiberglass wouldn’t rot and was invisible to radar.

Known as Fiber Reinforced Polymer, or FRP, its use expanded after the war as a light, durable material to make boats and other consumer products.

Then in 1946, a researcher by the name of DR. Arthur Howald needed to repair the tip of his broken bamboo fly rod.  Using a fiberglass and resin matrix, he fashioned a tip section and the Howald process for making hollow rods was born.

Prior to the late 1940s, most rods were made from either split bamboo or allows of steel.  There were even companies that experimented with beryllium-copper alloys.  But fiberglass would take control of the industry from the early 1950s through the early 1970s.  It produced a light, sturdy rod that provided consistency in action and power.  Traits that bamboo and steel couldn’t compete with.

Let’s move on to the ads.

American Fork and Hoe Company True Temper Rods

When people today think of True Temper, they invariably think of shovels and hoes.  Rightfully so.  But in early to mid-part of the 20th century, True Temper was also one of the leading producers of fishing tackle worldwide.

The lead-in image to this post provides a typical True Temper ad of the day.  This ad was recovered from the May 1949 issue of Sports Afield and presents a leaping musky along with a standard steel pistol grip casting rod and one of their lures, the Speed Shad.

The ad states that every world record musky since 1927, except one, had been subdued with a True Temper rod.  It goes on to say that each rod shaft is made from rapier (sword) steel and tempered according to True Temper’s process.

They also say that the tempering process not only produces a powerful rod but also a rod with superior action and the ability to use light line without fear of breaking off.

Priced at $21.95 in 1949, $278.15 in 2023 dollars, this was not a cheap rod by any stretch of the imagination.  To say fishing used to be affordable is a misnomer.  Tackle in the 1940s and 50s was expensive.


Orchard Industries was another big company at the time and produced what was known as their Actionrod series of rods.  If you read any book or magazine from the period, you’ll find that many of the day’s expert anglers fished with Actionrods.

In the 1940s, Orchard Industries was still committed to producing steel alloy rods, but reading this ad you’ll see at the bottom in small fine print, they were delving into the use of fiberglass.  Not much is said about their Actionglas rod, so it’s hard to discuss those rods, even in general terms.

What I like about the ad is it appears they are poking fun at American Fork and Hoe (True Temper) in the artist’s drawing.  The drawing features an angler in the back of the boat attempting a cast with a pitch fork.  I assume this is meant to be a True Temper Rod.  The angler gets tangled on the forward cast and dumps his tackle box overboard while getting the line wrapped around his leg and oar.  I wonder what True Temper thought about this and if they retaliated.

Action Rod Ad May 1949 Sports Afield

Gephart MFG

In Bass Rods 1945, we introduced Gephart MFG and their ads.  Those ads featured renderings of a guy and a gal in a boat fishing with the main slogan, Get Hep with Gep.  In this ad from 1949, it’s all serious business with an image of H. M. Gephart receiving the Fishing and Hunting Hall of Fame Medal of Honor from Joe Godfrey.

The ad discusses GEP’s steel rods had been voted tops in performance by the Sportsman’s Club of America, America’s leading outdoor writers and 1,000 club members.  It also states that their actionizing technique produces the “life” in the rod and their patented Nu-Grip handle provides a no-twist solution in rod handles.

It seems GEP hasn’t embraced fiberglass technology at this point in time, at least it’s not mentioned in the ad.

Gephart MFG Ad May 1949 Sports Afield

Ocean City – Montague Rods

This next ad is a bit confusing in that it represents what I thought were two different companies, Ocean City and Montague.  We mentioned Montague rods in the 1945 version of this series and at that time there was no mention of an affiliation with Ocean City.

Montague started manufacturing high-end split bamboo rods in the 1800s and continued through the 1940s.  They also made a series of reels, both fly and casting.  Based out of Montague City, Massachusetts, the company was privately owned through 1931, after which they went public.  Sometime in the late 1940s, the company became a division of Ocean City.

Looking on the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club (NFLCC) website, I found a few old catalogs and was impressed with the number of rods and reels they offered.  Prices ranged from $1.25 on up to the $50 price point.  Although they manufactured rods and reels for every budget, they were best known for making some of the highest quality rods ever made.

Montague rod and reel company, as big as they were, folded in 1955.  It’s hard to imagine a company this big and this important to the rod industry would go out of business the way they did.  I wonder if it had to do with the popularity of the new fiberglass rod market.

Ocean City Ad May 1949 Sports Afield

Richardson Rods

Here’s another rod company that I’d never heard of until I found this ad in the May 1949 issue of Sports Afield.  The Richardson Rod and Reel company was based out of Chicago, Illinois and specialized in steel rods.

Again, I went to the NFLCC website and checked out some of the catalogs they have in their archives to learn more about the company.  There I found three catalogs from 1950 to 1953.  The 1950 catalog featured their entire collection of solid and tubular steel rods.  Richardson made rods for the fly fisherman, baitcaster and ocean angler.  They made no mention of fiberglass until the 1953 catalog.

The ad presented here talks of Richardson’s commitment to producing a quality rod but they fail to mention what made their rods so good.  They do mention their pistol grip handle, which is designed so the reel attaches at an angle.  This lowers the back of the reel so the thumb doesn’t have to reach as far for the spool.  An ergonomic trait not seen in other rods at the time.

Richardson Rod Ad May 1949 Sports Afield


The final ad in the series was again taken from the May 1949 issue of Sports Afield.  This Shakespeare ad features Shakespeare’s new Howald Process glass Wonderod.  Shakespeare was never a company to rest on its laurels and let technology pass them by.

William Shakespeare Jr. invented the levelwind mechanism in the late 1800s but when their employee Walter Marhoff left and started his own reel company and improved on the levelwind, Shakespeare was quick to license the new invention for their own use.

The same can be said of the Howald process for making tubular glass rod blanks.

Shakespeare saw the writing on the wall and jumped to associate themselves with Dr. Howald.  Together they began producing some of the first fiberglass composite rods for sale in the world.  These rods quickly became the standard of the rod industry and would have a deleterious effect on the steel and bamboo rod industry.

The ad presented here features fames bass fishing writer Robert Page Lincoln and his Florida guide Tom Flowers with a quartet of big Florida bass all caught on the new Wonderod.

Lincoln says in the ad that, “it handles with extreme ease, casts flawlessly, has the right amount of backbone for good casting…not too stiff, yet not too limber.”

Having Lincoln say that about the rod did “wonders” for sales and placed Shakespeare at the top of the board when it came to rod sales and technology.

Shakespeare Ad 2 May 1949 Sports Afield

That about ends this look at some of the rods from the year 1949.  If you’d like to read more about the tackle of the day, you can check out Retro Ads in the sidebar under Categories or use the search bar to search for whatever you’d like.  You’ll be surprised what we have in our archives.