Is your rod spineless?

What I am about to discuss is not a new idea or concept. If you have purchased a custom rod before, odds are that it is built “on spine”. If you purchased a high-end production rod, there is maybe a 75% chance the rod is built on spine. If you purchased China built rod in a big box store, there is a slim chance the rod is on spine.

What is the “Spine” of the Rod

Almost all rod blanks are manufactured by wrapping graphite fabric material around a steel mandrel then use pressure and heat to cure the pre-impregnated fabric to form the rod’s shape around the mandrel. This process, coupled with slight deviations within the graphite, result in slightly stiffer and softer sides of the rod blank. These deviations cause a rod to naturally want to bend easier in a certain direction.

Benefits of Building on Spine

If you have a favorite rod that just feels better than others and you don’t know why, chances are its on spine. The rod will load and unload evenly and more crisply. Under pressure or when bending under load, the rod will not want to twist as much which makes hooksets and fighting fish feel more connected. This is especially true when using braided line where there is less elasticity involved when comparing to monofilament. Most importantly, it helps to dampen the rod tip when casting lessening line slap thus increasing distance.

How to find a rod’s spine

  • Support the rod about a foot from the tip with an open palm.
  • With your other hand, apply a downward force of the rod blank and roll the butt of the rod along a smooth floor.
  • The rod will pop into place and will not roll evenly when under load.
  • Where the rod pops into place is the spine and is where the reel seat and the guides should be aligned when building a rod.

Note – you will need to remove the reel before checking for the spine.

The process is easier to see than describe, so checkout the following video for a more thorough example by the famous Gary Loomis. (FYI we use Gary Loomis’ blanks in our elite series of rods.)


Many times I have walked through sporting goods stores and picked up a $300 rod to find that it isn’t built on spine. I also find cheap guides and low-grade cork, etc., but I’ll save that rant for another day. Will this help you catch more fish? Maybe, but its definitely one of small things that add up to make you an overall better fisherman. 

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