What are Fishing Rod Blanks? And How to Choose Them

It’s still surprising to me that so many anglers are unfamiliar with the term rod blank.

You can ask the average angler about their rod blank, and a blank stare is the likely response.

For the most part, it’s simply a terminology thing. Anglers call the flexible pole component of a fishing rod, a rod. They are unaware it has a special name.

All anglers know that fishing rods are made of components such as line guides, grips, and reel seats, and a ‘long flexi thing’ to which the guides etc connect.

The long flexible bit, usually made from graphite or fiberglass or a composite of these materials, is called a blank.

The name is kind of literal. It’s a fishing rod without any of the components attached to it – it’s ‘blank’.

This article is an introduction to the rod blank. We’ll define key terminology, technology, components, and processes.

It should be noted that the art and science of blank/rod construction is worthy of a library full of knowledge and reference.

Countless books have been written. There is a tremendous amount to know and learn that could never be covered in a brief article.

However, this article will allow you to head off to your next fishing rod purchase armed with everything you need to know about the rod you have your eye on.

Importantly, you will be able to speak and understand fishing rod language.

You will be able to talk to angling retailers and experts and understand their advice.

This will ensure the blank of the rod you are purchasing is well suited for the fishing applications you intend.

What Are Blanks On A Fishing Rod?

A fishing rod blank is the long flexible pole component of a fishing rod. Essentially, it is a fishing rod before the grips, handles, reel seats and guides are attached.

It is the foundation of your fishing rod.

How Are Fishing Rod Blanks Made And Constructed?

Modern fishing rod blanks are constructed from graphite, fiberglass or a combination of fiberglass and graphite.

Rod blanks were traditionally (and still are) made from bamboo. They are called split cane rods.

Split cane rods have been made by skilled artisans for centuries, long before the modern materials of fiberglass and graphite.

A new material technology has hit the blank manufacturing market called Curran. Essentially, it is the fiber from carrots.

This new fiber is now being included in blank manufacture, yet it is still composite. There are no 100% carrot (curran) fiber rods.

Further Reading: The 7 Strongest Fishing Rods

What Is The Best Material For A Fishing Rod?

There are several blank features to consider when looking for a fishing rod. There are 4 critical features, however, that will determine your rod choice.

The 4 critical features are length, power, construction material, and action.

Other less critical features include blank weight, diameter, number of pieces and aesthetics.

A picture of a man fishing from a boat

Taper is a term you may have heard or read when researching fishing rods. Taper is a term quite specific to rod blanks.

The term taper confuses many anglers, and the term is often used inappropriately.

Without explanation, the term taper can be misleading. We’ll address this shortly.

First, let’s define the key features.

Length

No prizes for guessing what length means but it is probably the most important decision relative to your fishing application.

However, it’s an easy decision to make. A great rule of thumb is longer blanks cast longer.

If you are fishing the ocean rocks, surf fishing, or require great casting distances to get to the strike zone longer is best, say 12 to 14 foot.

A shorter blank is better for close quarters fighting, such as on a boat. A blank anywhere from 5 to 9 foot.

A 9-foot blank sits in the general-purpose category and can be deployed successfully just about anywhere.

Another rule of thumb is that shorter blanks cast more accurately. Keep in mind, short blanks such as game fishing blanks are not made for casting at all – they are exceptionally stiff and very powerful.

Power

Power is the amount of force required to bend a blank. The heavier line, lure and weight you are casting, the more powerful the blank needs to be.

The bigger the fish you are targeting, the more powerful the blank should be. Power is measured in terms of heavy through to ultra-light.

Diagram showing the power of a fishing rod blank

Action

The action of a blank is determined by the point where it bends. Blanks come in slow medium and fast actions.

Of course, there are degrees in between this such as medium fast, medium slow and extra fast. In many blanks, the variations can be subtle.

The difference between fast and extra fast is a prime example. As is the difference between medium and medium fast.

Fast Action Blanks:

Extra fast blanks are very sensitive, and the bend is very close to the tip. You can feel everything.

They are ideal for fast hook setting but don’t load up as well and can give a fish a chance to shake the hook.

Ideal for fishing single hooks where fast, deep penetration is advantageous.

Medium Action Blanks:

Theses blanks will bend midway down the shaft as the name suggests.

They load up well for casting, and provide reasonable sensitivity and hook setting power. They are ideal for creating a balanced rig when braid fishing lines.

Slow action Blanks:

These blanks bend in a parabolic fashion all the way to the butt, and sometimes through the butt.

These blanks can be very forgiving. They’re great for smaller fish.

Picture of a man fishing with his son

They soak up the lunges, however, with a big fish, they soon run out of power reaching their limit quickly.

Ideal for fishing with treble hooks. It’s harder for a fish to throw hooks on a loaded slow action blank.

Also Read: Top 7 Baitcasting Rods

An Important Note about Power and Action

There are no industry standard measurements for blank power and action. Because of this, there will be variations between different blank manufacturers.

One brand’s extra -fast will be another brand’s fast. In some cases, variations may be subtle, in other cases, the differences are quite marked.

Blank Construction Materials Explained

As we stated earlier there are three common blank construction materials.

There are 100% graphite, 100% fiberglass and a composite of graphite and fiberglass.

Composite percentages will vary depending on the manufacturer and blank purpose.

Graphite Rod Blanks

Graphite blanks are incredibly sensitive. They are much lighter and stiffer and allow you to detect the slightest of bites.

Graphite is brilliant for hook-setting but can be less forgiving. Less experienced anglers are prone to dropping fish using graphite.

The stiffness and incredible lightweight feel have the disadvantage that they can be brittle and break more readily when mistreated.

With graphite, you will hear a term called modulus. Modulus refers to the stiffness of the graphite used in the blank construction.

High modulus means high stiffness. Again, this term can be misleading and confusing. For most anglers, this term is often best ignored when thinking about your blank.

Stiffness, i.e., action and power, is a result of a combination of factors and not just the modulus rating of the graphite raw materials.

Fiberglass Rod Blanks

Fiberglass rods are incredibly robust. In many ways, they are very forgiving but lack the sensitivity of graphite. They are also much heavier than graphite.

Anglers looking for medium and slow actions that ideal for fishing such lures as crankbaits will often select fiberglass.

Fiberglass can be good for the beginner and rough and tumble angler as they can take significant punishment.

Composite Blanks

Chances are this is what you are using. The brilliance of a composite rod is that you can get the perfect balance of sensitivity, strength, and endurance in a broad range of actions.

When you want to use the same rod for several different applications a composite blank provides you with the greatest versatility.

Again, there is no industry standard that indicates the percentage of either graphite or fiberglass.

A picture of a fishing rod standing up on the beach

This is a manufacturers decision and is dictated by the application for which the blank is intended.

There is a new fiber called curran which is now being integrated into composite rods.

The fiber comes from carrots and other vegetables such as sugar beets. Expect to see more of this into the future.

A fishing rod made with a curran composite

Split Cane Blanks (Bamboo)

Split cane blanks are still manufactured today but they are quite rare relative to the modern blanks.

We’ll not be addressing split cane blanks in this article; they are a topic all unto themselves.

However, a video of the split cane construction process has been included to provide a comparison to modern construction processes.

The split cane blank construction process bears no resemblance to modern blank materials and processes.

A Note About the Term ‘Taper’

Taper means to get progressively narrower. All fishing rods taper. They start off thick at the butt and the diameter gets progressively thinner towards the tip.

Often you will hear taper described as fast or slow, just as action is. This can be misleading.

Taper does indeed impact power and action. However, it’s better to use the term action over taper.

Blank Weight and Diameter

With advances in materials technology, rod blanks have got much lighter and diameters have also shrunk out of sight.

This is without any loss in power and performance. In fact, power and performance have increased.

The weight of a blank impacts the feel. The lighter the rod, the greater the sensitivity. Sensitivity is desirable for all but heavy targets.

Another drawback of a heavy blank is fatigue. Holding and continuously casting a heavy rod can bring on tiredness pretty quickly.

Modern blanks are often so light, you can cast aggressively for hours without a hint of fatigue.

Not so long ago a thin diameter would indicate a low power rod. Not anymore. Blanks destined to become light jigging rods, for example, have diameters like that of a blank designed for pan size fish.

Blanks destined to become light jigging rods, for example, have diameters like that of a blank designed for pan size fish.

However, they are deployed against the likes of serious blue water species. Check out the video above for an example. Notice the thin diameter of the blank relative to the size of the fish.

Blank Construction Process

Believe it or not you rod blank starts as a flat piece of material cut on a template. That’s just the beginning.

Instead of writing out the long list of procedures, the video links below will take you through the process.

There are 5 videos in all. The first two are graphite and fiberglass.

The reason for providing several videos is that each video has a better focus on the different processes.

The second two show the construction of split cane rods. You will note the contrast in process and materials.

The G. Loomis Fishing Rods (Graphite)

Blackfin Rods (Graphite)

Seeker Rods (Fiberglass)

The Man From Le Sieci: (Split Cane)

Making a Bamboo Blank (Split Cane)

Conclusion

With the basic introductory information presented here, you should feel clued in enough to be able to talk blanks with your local rod supplier.

Familiarity with the terminology goes a very long way. When you’re rod shopping, understanding the properties of a rod blank ensures you have the right blank for your intended application.

Ultimately, the right rod blank means the right rod, and the right rod means you catch more fish more often.

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Sean Ward

Sean Ward

Hey there, my name is Sean – OnTrack Fishing is my site. I’m based in the UK yet I’ve been fortunate enough to catch bass in the States, barramundi in Australia, trout here at home and carp on the Danube delta. If I’m not fishing, or talking about fishing, then….I’m probably asleep.

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