The process of buying a new rod isn’t an easy task – especially for the angler who’s new to the sport. But even for the seasoned angler it can be a daunting task. The rods of 1976 made it a little easier for the consumer, though. Anglers primarily threw a jig, a crank, a worm, and maybe a topwater bait or spinnerbait. Because of this, most bass fishermen only had three or four rods with them.
Rod choice was pretty wide open too. In the casting rod department, you had the choice between a 5 1/2-foot pistol grip and another 5 1/2-foot pistol grip. The spinning rods were even worse, with few designed for effective bass fishing.
Of course you could go into your local Ma-and-Pa tackle shop and get a custom rod made to your liking – and many serious anglers did just that. But what was offered in the racks from manufacturers was bleak.
Then in 1974 Fenwick announced the introduction of graphite – carbon fiber – to the scene. Unfortunately, many anglers couldn’t see spending $150 (that’s roughly $820 in today’s money folks) for one rod when they could buy an entire set for the same money.
By late 1975 we saw not only a decrease in the price of graphite rods, we saw a couple new companies start manufacturing them. Skyline, Shakespeare and Lamiglass were quick to start using the space-age material and 3M started selling graphite rod blanks to the masses. Still, they were far more expensive than glass.
Fenwick also introduced a new concept in bass rods in late 1974 that broke the old short-rod paradigm. They introduced the 7 1/2-foot Flippin’ Stik – but it would take another 10 years for the bass angler to embrace anything over 66 inches in length.
By 1976 the rod market was starting to change – but as the old adage goes, old habits don’t break easy.
Looking through a number of 1976 fishing magazines brought this to my attention. There are three new companies – Skyline, Shakespeare and 3M touting the new graphite material and the old stalwarts Heddon and Browning sitting on their laurels trying to cram the same old story down our throats.
Also in ’76, as if graphite wasn’t enough, a small company in California, Tack’l Mark Corp, the makers of Phenix Boron Rods, started making rods out of a boron/graphite composite. They were great rods for the time but again, they didn’t offer anything but a 5 1/2-foot pistol grip, a 6-foot pistol grip and a couple heinous spinning rods that came with that old Fuji club of a handle.
Anyway, I thought you might like this look back in time at some rods from the year 1976. Would any of you fish them today?
When those of a certain age see this reprise of marketing those earlier rods–without the bias of knowing what we had later–I know I would be excited to use many of them. I fished Quick’s first graphite baitcasting rod (and reel) at Sam Rayburn in the early 80’s and really never got use to that lighter material. With the weight in the reel and the handle, you felt like the rod should be a foot or two longer. Had rod makers gone to longer handles sooner rather than sticking with pistol grips, graphite, boron or graphite/glass might have been slower in coming. With the “type” so entrenched, I don’t think rod makers or anglers were thinking in terms of weight or balance for quite some time.