New rod shootout!

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  • #6193
    anonymous
    Member
    #54445
    Zach Matthews
    The Itinerant Angler

    Hmm.  Well, the same manufacturer made two of the top three blanks, so I guess the crowd has expressed their preference…

    You can learn a lot on the internet if you know what to look for.

    #54446
    Jon Conner
    Member

    Zach,
    Don’t you think it’s the brand’s design, rather than who made the blank, be it in their own shop or Korea?
    JC

    #54447
    anonymous
    Member

    My thoughts exactly.   To me, the taper makes the rod.  Graphite is graphite, resins are resins.   All cheese is made from dairy….but they sure don’t taste the same.   How a rod is designed is more important to me than the brand of guides or the source of the carbon…ymmv

    Not saying i agree or disagree with the shootout…rods are far to personal…just thought it made for a good read.

    #54448
    R Black
    Member

    Has to be the Hardy and the Mystic.  $650 vs $550.  
    Hardy too had to change from a rod building company to a marketing company a few years ago.

    #54449
    Gerard SGerard S
    Member

    Zach
    Interesting stuff…thank you.
    I guess it is not surprising and I’m sure there is some x-over of info/design/etc if the rods are produced in the same factory. It is the same problem Apple have struggled with…the factories may say closed on the gate, but the midnight shift keep going ;D

    Ultimately it is all about marketing…. and aspiration. We are suckers for it!
    Was it not Gary Loomis in the podcast who said there isn’t a bad rod out there (maybe it was Lefty).

    #54450
    anonymous
    Member

    Don’t think it’s the mystic…I’ve been told that the only rod they sell sporting a Korean blank is the reaper at $250…up from that there made in Michigan.

    #54451
    anonymous
    Member

    Has to be the Hardy and the Mystic.  $650 vs $550.  
    Hardy too had to change from a rod building company to a marketing company a few years ago.  Too bad, I hope it doesn’t happen to our rodmakers in the US ( those that remain )

    I’m with you though I find it funny this is the first time in many years they have made what’s in my opinion a decent rod

    #54452
    Zach Matthews
    The Itinerant Angler

    The way most of this works, guys, and I’m speaking generically here, is that Company A decides it wants to get into the overseas rod business.

    Now that company may or may not have its own rod designers.  But there are designers and then there are “designers.”  This happens a lot in fly fishing and not just with rods.  Taking an example, someone here noted that Kelly Galloup “designed” the Clacka Craft Flypod drift boat.

    That’s an awesome boat and I am sure Kelly was involved in pointing out the things he would like to have in it, like walk-over side storage.  He probably was instrumental in knowing what the market wanted.  But Kelly is not an engineer and I highly doubt he did any of the CAD rendering or any of the physical building of the molds which turned into that drift boat.  He didn’t have to work with angles, check his math, etc.

    The same thing goes for rods.  A celebrity “designer” can have input into rod design that may be limited to saying, “I like a stiff tip section,” and then that “designer’s” name goes on the rod and the marketing.  The celeb had nothing to do with the selection of prepreg resin, the type of carbon fiber used, whether or not to employ special nano-particles (which by the way are of debatable value in the first place), or the mathematics of taper design, which are very complicated and which vary between every single rod in the series.

    JS Company designs rods.  They provide completed designs to their customers for rebadging and they obviously sell some of their own line now.  Their customers might be limited to saying, “We like this rod from this series and that rod from that series, please try to get close to those.”  Or they might have an actual mathematician on board who can contribute in a meaningful way to the actual design process.

    My sense is that fly rod companies are short on mathematicians.  The American-made rod companies like Sage, Scott and Orvis have engineers on staff and they do math and modeling and things like that.  Certain companies like TFO have an exclusive relationship with a single factory overseas.  (TFO has its own design team who only design TFO rods–yes they are based in Korea, working with American feedback, but they aren’t sharing tapers out the back door to other brands).  Redington is another example with its own design and manufacturing facility on mainland China.

    But a great many “brands” you see are just re-badges of commercially available blanks and tapers.  I have actually been approached myself about “designing” a line of rods, as have most of the bigger fly shops in this country.  Some of those fly shops have gone ahead with house brands.

    The issue with the JS Co. type model is you never know when your proprietary blank design is going to be built out all in black and offered to the next guy down the road.  There’s a really good chance that if you used a micrometer on certain “competing” brands you’d find that they have the EXACT same taper for that reason.  And in fact the rod companies do this themselves. (There is a reason Redington has its own facility–Sage doesn’t want to be back-door designing other companies’ rods for them).

    The irony here is that the JS Co. type of rod quickly gets very very good because of the collective design team they have accidentally assembled.  All these actual designers at different companies have input into the process and the end result is a great, albeit basic stick.  One company introduced a brand new rod line a few years ago and I asked their product design manager how they had done so well right out of the box, with no designers on staff.  He admitted the rods “came that way.”  I’ve since had several friends buy them because I know they are a great deal – a “$700” rod for $200.

    As far as all cheese being made from dairy, there is a hell of a difference between cheese and carbon fiber.  🙂  

    Zach

    #54453
    anonymous
    Member

    That there is…was just a poor attempt at humor.

    #54454

    Interesting rod shootout and perhaps even more interesting cruising around the JS Company web site (particularly some of the translations).  In particular this page http://www.jscompany.net/Page/?pageid=1013

    …mal

    #54455
    Zach Matthews
    The Itinerant Angler

    Well, Joe, I certainly didn’t mean to run you off.

    #54456
    Zach Matthews
    The Itinerant Angler

    Good eye, Malcolm.

    #54457
    R Black
    Member

    I really apreciate a business employing American craftsmanship.  One that you can form somewhat of a relationship with, visit their workshops, speak face to face with the people with whom you are spending your dollars.

    Rods that are made in trout country, by fly fishermen and women, people that are doing what they do because they love fishing as much as I do.
    Not every employee but most of them.

    Who hasn’t seen Chinese copies of American products.  Stolen designs made cheaply, without the expense of development.  And no doubt they are getting better at it.  No EPA or OHSA makes for easier profits.

    Will the next big thing be WalMart fly rods and reels.?
    Not bitter, just sorta sad.  🙁

    #54458
    Jon Conner
    Member

    So Zach, do you think that companies like Orvis and Hardy contract JS without assurances that they’re not going to clone the designs and sell the blanks under someone else’s name, seems like JS would be

    #54459
    Buzz Bryson
    Member

    Generally, or it has certainly been the case in the past, when rod companies outsource production of blanks (or other components, e.g., reel seats), the company and the blank manufacturer have a proprietary agreement.  The blank manufacturer may make blanks for several others, but, under that agreement, sells specific blanks only to the one rod company.

    Typically, that rod company worked with the blank manufacturer to get “just the right rod” (which is usually a combination of material, mandrel, pattern, etc), and then the manufacturer would produce that specific blank (or series, whatever was agreed on in the contract) only for that rod company.

    Whether that same business standard applies now . . . who knows.

    Buzz

    #54460
    Zach Matthews
    The Itinerant Angler

    Guys –

    I am sure those contracts are in place.  I am also sure they are almost completely unenforceable.  I’ve had several cases as an attorney involving products made overseas; those companies are impossible to hail into an American court because you can’t get service and they’re not subject to the local court’s jurisdiction anyway.  The only recourse for a manufacturer who felt its designs were being stolen would be to quit doing business with the supplier, but as long as everyone stays relatively quiet about this kind of thing, it doesn’t hurt the American or European manufacturer if Brand X releases a surprisingly great rod that happens to spec out just like one of theirs.  

    Most fly rod sales are driven by marketing–both paper and salesperson.  One of the major ways that rodmakers influence word of mouth is to adjust the margin the fly shops make on a given product.  This happens a lot, and when one rod is suddenly more profitable for a local shop owner than another, that rod suddenly gets a lot more hype from local shop owners and guides, who are probably the single biggest factors in driving sales.

    In addition to the logic above, I know for a fact that the out-the-back-door-intellectual-property-draft happens because I have spoken to many manufacturers off the record about what a problem this has become over the last 5 or 6 years.

    In the specific case of Hardy, I can guarantee that they have their own particular blanks coming in because Hardy is one of the few companies that opted to use 3M’s Powerlux nano-particle, which Hardy markets as Sintrix.  The same dust was offered to Sage, Scott, Loomis, St. Croix and everyone else in the carbon fiber industry, including things like golf shafts.  Sage and Scott tested it and passed on it.  Loomis used it.  St. Croix used it for a while but it looks like they’ve stopped based on their current marketing.  Hardy used it via their manufacturer, JS Co.  I am not aware of JS Co. using that dust in any other product.  Now as for Hardy’s *tapers*, I think the situation above probably applies, but in order to double-check you would need to buy competitor’s blanks and saw them into 1 inch increments and spec out the interior and exterior diameters to reconstruct the mandrels employed and the thickness of the flags wrapped around those mandrels at a given point (the only other factor in blank design is material used.  Mandrel taper, number of turns of carbon fiber, and type of carbon fiber prepreg used are the three legs of the blank design stool).  That’s the only way to know if Hardy’s or Loop’s or any other of JS Co.’s clients have had their particular exact taper re-used.

    What I do know is that JS Co. rods offered well down-market are seriously awesome and those rods came out of nowhere (literally – first run ever).  That tells me JS Co. is absolutely using its design expertise (if not the outright same taper) as developed for other companies to release “Brand X” rods which are the functional equivalent of the $700 Hardys and Loops, at bargain basement prices.  That in turn should give you a good picture of what is going on with that $700 price tag in the first place.

    Zach

    #54461
    Zach Matthews
    The Itinerant Angler

    PS, if you want to hear about these nano-particles and their relative effectiveness straight from the horse’s mouth, go back and review Steve Rajeff’s podcast, which was recorded when these things were first being offered around.  His comments as I recall were that in order for carbon fiber nanotubes to achieve their potential, the science to grow them longer needed to be in place.  

    Carbon fiber nanotubes, buckyballs, and a single-layer thick carbon hexagram material called graphene are some of the most exciting areas of materials science right now.  It is cool to see fly fishing getting into some of that.  But the verdict on short nanotubes as Rajeff explained it was that they ran the risk of being more noise in the system than actual load-bearing or assisting structure, at least until they were grown longer.  I have heard that this is the same reason some companies passed on this 3M silica material as presently available.

    Zach

    #54462
    Clay Smith
    Member

    Zach,

    With all the technical knowledge I’m hearing just curious if you were asked to design a rod series or “design” a rod series?

    Clay

    #54463
    Zach Matthews
    The Itinerant Angler

    Most definitely “design.”

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