Buying a Pure Custom Rod

My Journey to a Pure Custom Rod Made by Graham Verrall by Wayne Petherick

When I started fishing eight months ago the last thing I would have expected to add to my fishing arsenal was a custom built rod. I knew they existed, and I certainly met people that had them. Over time and sessions I refined my gear using a trial-and-error approach: If something was suited to the style of fishing I was learning then I kept it, added to it, or modified it to better suit my needs. If it didn’t, I moved it along. There was not necessarily anything inherently wrong with the gear that I moved on, it just didn’t suit my style. 

I thought I had got my gear to a near-perfect state. I found I preferred shorter rods for kayak fishing for the obvious reason of space, though I kept some longer rods which I found were good for fishing over objects or keeping your rod tip higher for other reasons. Sometimes I would just take the short, and sometimes I would just take the long. Sometimes I would mix it up and take both. 

One day while fishing with some friends I had the opportunity to meet Graham Verrall, better known as the “The Rod God” around the place. I’d definitely heard both names, and a friend had a gorgeous custom rod he had built, though I had never actually met him. Graham was visiting my friend and had some rod blanks with him. A finesse blank caught my eye and I asked for a look. Graham talked me through it, showed me how it loaded up, and described a bit about the company. Without seriously considering it I asked, more as a matter of curiosity, “what would a rod like this cost?” I don’t recall the exact figure but I do recall it was not as much as I expected for a custom built rod. I said I would think about it and let him know. 

In the past I have always valued having good quality gear and have tried to live by the mantra “buy the best gear you can afford”. The problem was I couldn’t get the fact that I could afford this custom rod out of my mind, and I began designing it in my head. Without any particular reason, the colour scheme I chose was red and blue, the length was 6’ to 6’6”, and it needed a whippy tip which I found was particularly suited to the twitch style of fishing I was doing. 

I mulled it over then contacted Graham asking if I could discuss the build to make sure my ideas were reaslistic. We eventually made a time and I was told “make sure you’ve got a couple of hours”. Still not knowing why it would take me that long to describe my build ideas I met with Graham. 

He showed me a few previous builds explaining the differences in the blanks, the cost of the blanks, and some of this history of the various manufacturers. Graham then showed me a number of different options for blanks for my custom before I finally settled on a St. Croix SC-V 1-3kg in a 6-foot two-piece full graphite. That out of the way, Graham opened half a dozen different boxes full of reel seats, winding checks, EVA handles, and various other bits and pieces used for custom builds. After explaining my colour choices, we picked the parts and laid them out on the table. It took some time to find the right EVA for the handle and after a long process we chose a plain black foam so as not to distract from the other features of the rod and so that it wasn’t “too busy” with patterns. 

I now grasped why we needed a few hours. 

Just when I thought we were done, Graham asked “do you have half an hour?” I replied that I did and asked what for. He said “we are going to build it”.  Wow.  We put the various parts together so I could see what the rod would look like in real life.  Now please remember that the picture below is not the complete rod, but rather a proof of concept to ensure that all the parts come together and that they look like you want to rod to look.  The EVA will be tapered, shaped and finished so it blends seamlessly with the winding checks and other parts.  In the second image we mounted to reel to see how it would look.  And it looked bloody fantastic!

We roughly assembled the various parts so that I had the opportunity to see how it would look as a finished product. It wasn’t at all as I had imagined it all those times. It was infinitely better and my wildest expectations had been multiplied one hundred times.

At that point I realised you don’t buy a rod from Graham, you invest in an experience.

I told Graham that it was so much more than what I had previously imagined. What happened next was a little mind blowing, more so than the rest of the morning as Graham asked “do you want to cast it?” I had no idea how that was going to be possible, but found out as he temporarily attached the eyelets and padded out the blank to add the reel seat. We removed all the “bling” as it would have just got in the way at that point. We put my CI4+ on, threaded the line through the eyelets, and crudely (that is, using a granny knot) attached a jig head. We weren’t looking to skull drag anything out of structure, we just needed to see how it worked when cast.

With a gentle flick of the wrist I found I could cast this out as far as my other rods, but with less effort. It was so light and the action on the cast was exactly what I wanted (admitting though it was sans bling at this stage). This was all about trying out the feel and action. 

This was a seriously impressive piece of kit even in this unfinished state!

After making some final decisions about the grips and a few other things this was pretty much the end of the build discussion. I stayed for a while longer just listening to Graham and learning more about rod building and fishing in general. This man is an absolute wealth of knowledge, not just about rods but in all aspects of fishing from lures to use and how to fine tune a baitcaster, through to locations and how to find fish.

If you are looking for some quality gear and want a full experience of custom building a rod with a master rod builder then there are few better people to talk to.  Trust me, you won't regret it.

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