Junior swears that this post is going to turn up in some weird google searches, but I’m going to press ahead anyway (for those who have arrived here who are not interested in bamboo rods, you can stop reading now!).
Occasionally I get asked about the swelled butt on a rod. All of my rods have this swelled butt design, meaning that the bamboo blank is noticeably larger just above the grip on the rod’s butt section. To the uninitiated, it probably seems a little strange: shouldn’t the taper be more or less consistent down the entire length of the rod? What exactly does one gain by this?
The main reason for a swell is pretty simple: it stops the rod from flexing down through the grip. This effectively makes the active part of the rod shorter and gives it an action that’s a little crisper. My own feeling is that this also gives the caster better control over the rod, and thus helps with overall casting performance. Most bamboo anglers probably take this for granted, but when you stop and think about it, it’s a pretty smart design move.
I’m not the only one who thinks so, and there is a long tradition of building these swells into the rod. Many of the eastern rodbuilding companies did this for many years, the kind of companies that have heavily influenced much of my approach to rodbuilding. FE Thomas, Payne, and Leonard for example, all cut their rods this way, and they had the advantage of doing these swells on a beveler (as I do), which I think is far easier than handplaning them.
Don’t get me wrong. Swells certainly aren’t universal. Some people out there prefer a rod that flexes down into the grip (I’ve even heard of rods breaking in the grip if you can imagine that) but I think the majority of rodbuilders today use them. What’s more, it’s also important to note that even among those who build swells, there is still some variation in terms of design. One example that springs to mind is T&T, who tends to use fairly large swells on their rods, larger than the the roughly .060″ swell that I use and that is pretty standard for Leonard-style stuff.
So what’s the takeaway here? As with so much in bamboo rodbuilding, I think it largely comes down to individual preference. My own opinion is that it’s a design that makes a lot of sense, and so I continue to use it on all of my rods.
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