What is the first thing that you think of when you think of Fenwick?
This is the question that I asked the members of our Facebook community group, not because we didn’t already know, but because I wanted somewhere to start.
I’ve found that, in order to convince someone of something, you have to first show them that they do, in fact, have an opinion, or in this case, a preconceived notion.
You see, Fenwick has been in this industry for quite a while, which means that they’ve opened themself to about as many opportunities for scrutiny, ridicule, and whatever other word you want to use to express that there is almost nothing but negative sentiment that has shrouded the brand over the past 20 years.
I’m here to tell you why this sentiment, while once warranted, is no longer. We’re here to tell you why you’re wrong about Fenwick Fishing Rods.
Do You Know J-Poe?
Justin Poe, or as almost everyone I’ve met calls him, J-Poe, is someone you may not know by name, but you are likely familiar with his work. To expand from there, you’re CERTAINLY familiar with he and his partner in crime, Dave Brinkerhoff’s work together.
J-Poe and Dave were integral in bringing to life many of the rods which we consider to be the gold standard for what we and many of you consider the gold standard of what a fishing rod should be, not the least of which being the Shimano Cumara, G. Loomis E6X, rebranding of the G. Loomis GLX, and the original G. Loomis NRX.
Why is this relevant? If you can’t make the inference, it is because these two have been hard at work with their new team of rod specialists at Fenwick. That’s right, the masterminds behind the some of the best rods ever made were tasked with revitalizing the Fenwick brand and, not to our surprise, they crushed it out of the park.
You’re about to learn that some rods with cult followings, such as the G. Loomis NRX 873C CRR, have been replicated with almost indiscernible accuracy. You’re about to learn that J-Poe, Dave, and their crew of rod builders have brought to life a high end reaction series that they were never allowed to build during their time with G. Loomis.
How are you going to learn? Well, lucky for you, I had my favorite podcaster, Andrew Hayes (Tackle Talk Bass Fishing Podcast) connect with my favorite Rod Guru, J-Poe, in an effort to talk about the fruits of their team’s hard work; The revitalized World Class, Elite, HMG, and Eagle fishing rods from Fenwick.
Listen to Full Interview Here
On Your Favorite Podcast Platform Here
The following is a heavily condensed version of the full interview
Who is Fenwick?
Andrew Hayes (00:00:22):
“So your past history from Shimano to being with G. Loomis and helping make them who they are today with the NRX and everything, then going to Pure Fishing. You had the Zenon series you were working hard on a couple years ago, but these past few years I think your attention has largely been toward Fenwick.
So my first question is, as far as the Fenwick brand itself, that’s a name that most people as anglers have heard of, but there’s some sort of connotations of Fenwick and what people immediately come to mind when they think of the name. But as far as a company that has a lot of history and a long lineage, what is the story of Fenwick to kind of get us up to this point and how do we get to where we are today?”
Justin Poe (00:01:18):
“First of all, thank you for the kind words. I could never take credit for such. I have a lot of people in my Rolodex that I could call to answer those questions and I’ve been on some incredible teams. I’m a jack of many, many trades, but master of none when it comes to fishing. But I do speak angler fishing rod, right? So when you explain it in a certain way, I think I can translate that to someone smarter than me to make the rod do what you’re asking for. So if I had a strength, I would say that’s it.
But back to Fenwick as a brand, Fenwick is one of those brands for me personally, before I came to work for Pure fishing, it was one of those things, it’s like we got to do something with Fenwick. I love me some Fenwick, but I hadn’t seen Fenwick where I lived in a long, long time. Fenwick was the first rod I was ever given. My uncle built me an 1196 cut to 6’6″ on honey glass in a custom rod for albacore fishing, and the first rod I ever purchased with my own money was an HMG at Ed’s Bait and Tackle in Mission Viejo, California. It’s something that’s important to me and it’s an important brand to a lot of people. The Fenwick angler is different. The questions that they ask at a trade show, it’s like talking to two different people.
It’s also a lot of responsibility and it also just makes it that much more important when you’re doing something like we did here and Fenwick has a history of innovation. They were the first ever fiberglass fly rod up in Fenwick Washington. A group of guys got together and built that. It was the first ever high modulus graphite rod back in 1973. I mean it’s still in the line today.
HMG, that’s what that stands for. High Modulus Graphite, plain and simple. All of our rods today are made out of high modulus graphite, but back in the day it was the only one. It was the first ever flippin’ stick, the first ever technique specific thing.
So you’re building product for discerning anglers. There’s a lot of responsibility and without disrespect, I think we had taken our eye off that for Fenwick as a brand for a long time, so it was kind of all over the place and really segmented when I got here and they gave us lots of reigns and lots of rope to go do everything we needed to do, which was so cool.”
Why Revitalize Fenwick?
Andrew Hayes (00:05:11):
“When I think of Fenwick, and I’ll be completely honest, I think of it as an older folks brand. It’s the guy at the lake that’s been fishing that same lake for 20 years, has that place dialed, can whoop your butt with no electronics, has that old school edge and knowledge to him and has been fishing the same HMG for 20 years.
It speaks to the quality of them, but I also think that it hasn’t, like you said, been the super popular choice for the newer generation and the younger crowd and it has kind of, I guess for a lack of better term, it got a little stale.
So when you were going through this project and you said, alright, we are going down this road, we’re going to revamp Fenwick, who did you think your old customer was and who is your new customer that you’re trying to make these new Fenwick rods for?”
Justin Poe (00:09:05):
“The first answer to that, in my gut, is because it deserves it, right? It deserves it. That’s why. That’s the first and foremost reason. The second reason is because we can.
The reason why it deserves it is because it was just a little bit segmented. There were favorite rods within every little sub-brand. There were six sub-brands between Eagle, HMG, HMX, Elite, Elite Tech World Class, and Elite Bass. There were all these different little spinoff type names and there were great rods within each one of those little segments, but the Elite Tech in a bass rod did not feel like the World Class in a bass rod. It was like there were little scatterings of awesome rods.
I mean, we blew up 206 rods. Literally all gone, everything. The way they were built, the mandrels, the reel seats that were being used, everything gone, all of it. We started off at the mandrel, we built them all brand new from the inside out. The new line is 264 unique rods.
“I mean, we blew up 206 rods. Literally all gone, everything. The way they were built, the mandrels, the reel seats that were being used, everything gone, all of it.”
We started with very distinct mandrels, we call ’em DCT, the Direct Control Taper. We started there, but then the worst thing about some of the good fishing rods in the market today is that [manufacturers put] an uncomfortable handle on them. You can take an awesome rod that you have all this technology, time and painful toiling and testing and deflections and actions and materials, and then you put a $6 glue on handle on it and that’s not cool.”
Andrew Hayes (00:13:44):
“You mentioned the handle, I’ve got the new Elite in front of me, so the design of this reel seat, I’m sure there’s a lot that went into this. Can you tell us how you ended up with this design? Why the [pinky and ring finger] are what’s making contact and if there was any rhyme or reason behind it?”
Justin Poe (00:14:26):
“Dave Brinkerhoff and I started this whole thing, [but] it’s not OUR rod line. There’s 10 people that worked on this rod line for two years and seven months. So I’m not trying to make it sound like Dave and I are the only ones that built it, but him and I, we have built hundreds of reel seats together. Most of ’em start off with a crayon, terrible drawing on a napkin somewhere and it gets whittled or CNC’d or poured or whatever. Back in the day before we could print them and we’d literally have them sculpted and stuff like that, but we never really knew why some were better than others. So we set off to understand it.”
“We never really knew why some [reel seats] were better than others, so we set off to understand it.”
“I kicked this off with a design firm up in Michigan that actually doesn’t work in fishing tackle. They have nothing to do with fishing tackle. Their big push is surgical hand tools for the medical industry. They taught us all kinds of things about the human hand and contraction, flexion, all the different types of things that your fingers do, that your hands do.
I had never noticed it, but since your middle finger, index finger and thumb are basically the claw of your hand and they do all of the physical labor, those fingers are the ones that you feel very little sensitivity in anyway. You feel most of your sensitivity that’s going to come through in the small measurements that we feel sensitivity through a rod in your pinky and ring finger. I mean if you kind of shake those fingers, it’s kind of funny, you’ll realize that those fingers have about half the dexterity is those first three, right? So it was really important for us for that the pinky and ring finger rest where you’re going to feel the sensitivity and it’s cool that you found it.
We studied thousands of people and how they hold the rod. Some guys are pinky back behind the trigger. Some guys are all forward of the trigger regardless of how you hold it or what your hand size is, you are going to get blank contact on that casting rod.
The spinning rod handle is even cooler than that. Well maybe not cooler but certainly harder [to build]. The problem with the spinning handle is that there’s a lot of companies that will make them skeletonized, where the forward grip is fixed, the rear grip is fixed and just between you have the blank. You’ve got that big area of openness under your hand [which causes] a lot of hand confusion there in that open space.
The truth is that the measurement of the reel foot and the diameter of the handle itself, you want to get it in a way to where your pinky and your ring finger wrap that, whether you’re pinky back or you split pinky and ring finger, no matter how you hold it, so it still falls to where the pads of your pinky and your ring finger wrapped right around that and they fall in that blank area.
“We studied thousands of people and how they hold the rod. Some guys are pinky back behind the trigger. Some guys are all forward of the trigger regardless of how you hold it or what your hand size is, you are going to get blank contact on that casting rod.”
So the [spinning rod handles] look a little weird, they look a little odd and they actually don’t feel awesome unless you have a reel on it. Put a reel on here and feel it. That was really fun to design and was probably one of the hardest things because when you’re working with a company that makes things like that or teaches things like that and they’re drawing those angles, that’s, that’s all great, but they’ve never built a fishing rod part ever. They don’t know how it gets assembled. They don’t know how it gets built. So that’s when the real work started after they taught us, and I give them a hundred percent credit for that, but after that we had to go figure out how to make that into a fishing rod part and that took a long time and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Andrew Hayes (00:21:09):
“The other thing too that I really like is, I have an Elite in my hand and I have a World Class that I’ve been playing around with. The Eagles, everything… You guys did stay true to the fact that this rod looks like it could have the name Fenwick on it and it doesn’t look like a race car of a rod. This looks like what I think in my personal mind of minds, what a fishing rod should look like.
So talk to me about the actual look of this rod and how you guys wanted to go about with the design and the color choices between the lines and the handles and all that.”
Justin Poe (00:22:09):
“The color was the very last thing. The only thing we wanted to really do with color is we wanted to make sure it was in a continuum. If you looked at the Fenwick stuff today, it was all built in a very different place of time. There was 5, 6, 7 years between some of those lines coming out, so they didn’t even look like they were in the same lineage.
We really wanted to go with an American classic kind of design and the line flows all the way through, but there’s some of the choices we made on the colors and what we did on the handle makeups were very purposeful. I mean everything we did with these rods is very purposeful.
The blank is the key to every good fishing rod. Without it, it doesn’t matter what you strap to it, it’s not going to make it better. The most alive, the most sensitive a blank will ever be or a fishing rod will ever be is when it’s a blank and everything you put on the rod makes it worse. It kills the sensitivity, it changes the balance points, but you can’t fish a rod with no guides and no reel seat.
It doesn’t matter what you want. You’re getting a rod with all those pieces. So we went with as minimal as we could everywhere, where before you had put a trim ring or something like that. The paint itself is all transparent and they’re all a certain viscosity. We actually have to change that by the day depending on the temperature where we build it, so it’s not an easy thing, it’s a pretty exact science.
So in the Eagle and the HMG, you’re going to see composite cork and cork on the back end of those rods because the blank is a little bit heavier and a rod that fishes lighter is always more sensitive and a rod that fishes lighter is always more balanced. Where on a World Class and Elite, you’re going to have that EVA and a little bit of EVA swap back there in the butt section with the cork there too. You don’t need the composite cork.
So in order of weight, the heaviest is that composite cork. The second heaviest is the cork and the lightest is the EVA. So with the cork on that world, World Class and Elite, we put EVA in the backside of it because we didn’t need the weight of the composite cork to balance it.
You’ll notice, depending on the application when you’re fishing, crank baits and reaction baits, it’s a tip down technique. So you can leave the butt end of those rods a little bit lighter than you can in a bottom contact rod where you’re fishing a jig, you’re fishing a Carolina rig, you’re fishing a Texas rig, you’re fishing a drop shot. The last thing you want is that rod to be tip heavy because you’re correcting for that all day because when you’re shaking or you’re doing whatever, that’s a tip up technique.
So we paid attention to that. There’s six different hook keeper placements on these rods, because if you’re fishing the bottom contact rod, you don’t want to unhook your worm all day to put it through a closed hook keeper. You also don’t want crankbaits with treble hooks falling off of open Texas rig style hook keepers and being in your carpet. So I mean these are all things that Fenwick was worthy of and every single part of this rod was purposeful.”
Introducing the Four Series of Fenwick Rods
Andrew Hayes (00:27:35):
Of those four lines, what are your overall price points and who in your mind are each of those lines made for, or the biggest difference between those lines that anglers are going to see when they pick them up?”
Fenwick World Class Rods
Justin Poe (00:27:57):
“World-class is our very top of the line. That is where we put a lot of our innovation, so that’s where we really press the material strategy. It’s made a 40 and 36 ton graphite blend with our proprietary reinforcing resin, titanium guides, everything thin, zirconium everything, and carbon reinforced reel seats.
It’s super light. It’s not the lightest [on the market], but the lightest is not always good. It’s our most sensitive and best recovery. They start around $420 and go up to about $500. That is our flagship, that is our top of the line.”
“That’s the guy who wants the best rod on the planet. That’s who wants this rod. I want this because it gives me a leg up on my competition.”
“That’s the guy who wants the best rod on the planet. That’s who wants that Rod. I want this because it gives me a leg up on my competition. Or also maybe it’s not a competition thing. It’s like, you know what? I’ve earned this. There’s a reason why people buy platinum trucks and nice cars. They want the nicest and that’s what it is, it’s our absolute nicest. I’m going to go through a little bit of what we did with the actions on those here next.”
Fenwick Elite Rods
Justin Poe (00:29:16):
“[Elite is] a blend of 36 and 30 [ton graphite] with that reinforced resin, same titanium, similar reel seat, things like that. The extra 25 horsepower on the supercar is a big difference. Elite is $250, so you’re paying for the 25 extra horsepower in World Class. It takes a lot to make [World Class] the way it is, and that material is very, very expensive.
There’s a little bit more available in Elite, there’s more models because at $250, it’s more applicable to more people. We don’t make predator and musky rods in World Class because those guys are fishing with gloves on. They don’t necessarily need that, but it is an Elite because it’s an 8′, 9′, or 10′ rod and they want it to be light, super responsive, and bomb a musky bait a long way. We don’t have salmon steelhead rods in World Class, but we do have awesome steelhead float rods in the Elite where hey, I can feel things as I’m hover fishing or as I’m drifting down a river, I want to be able to feel everything and I want a light rod when I’m fishing a nine foot or a 10’6″ rod. So that Elite is probably the meat of it for a lot of people.”
Fenwick HMG Rods
Justin Poe (00:30:52):
“HMG is the heart of our new line of rods at $150 and there’s most models in that one. There’s over 70 models in HMG alone. HMG is a blend of 30 and 24 ton graphite and it has titanium guides, a little bit different handle configuration, and the glass reinforced real seat. We purposefully made the real seat a little heavier, so it helps to balance without having to add counterweights, you add a few grams in the reel seat and it changes how the whole rod fishes. You start off fishing the lighter one and then you’re realizing, oh man, these tips are diving, so we got to do something back here, and it’s better to do it in that area of the real seat because it doesn’t change it too much and you don’t have to add as much overall weight to balance the rod.”
Fenwick Eagle Rods
Justin Poe (00:31:46):
“Eagle starts at $99, and if there was one [series] that I’m most impressed with, it’s Eagle. I’m impressed with how nice of a rod we could build at $99. I cannot find anything even close in the market that feels as good as these Eagles do for $99.
Eagle’s a little bit limited, just like World Class is a little bit limited. You’re not going to get all the crazy technique specific models in Eagle because, in our studies, findings, communications and in our questions that we ask, those guys paying $150+ are the ones that want the difference between a 3/16 and a 1/4 ounce jig rod. So, I mean they want to get super finite as you go higher. It’s not quite as technique specific as you go lower.
What is Family Flex?
Andrew Hayes (00:32:55):
“Yeah, hats off to you guys. The very first time I saw these was this past year at iCast and when I was walking around like yes, the World Class [rods] are awesome, the Elites and HMG are awesome, but I think you guys have a killer in that $99 price point with Eagle because, like you said, that $99 price point used to be really competitive for rods and lately it seems like $150 to $200 is now the new $100 and there’s not really a whole lot of quality rod choices in that $99 price range.
You’ve got basically Mavericks, SLX, and not really a whole lot else even at $99 and these, I mean if they feel half as good as they did on the show floor, I think you guys have a great option for these people that just either want a starting rod or they want a rod that they can beat the crap out of and they don’t feel too bad about it because it’s a $99 rod and they don’t have to protect it like a boat cling and they can actually go out and use it. I think you guys have a great option for people that they’re going to really love at that $99 price point.
“There’s one glaring similarity with all four of those lineups and it’s this thing you guys are calling family flex, which I think is probably the coolest thing that I’ve seen come out of a rod company in a while, is this idea of symmetry from my $99 rod to my $500 rod.”
But the crazy part about all of this is you just went through all of the differences in those four lineups, but there’s one glaring similarity with all four of those lineups and it’s this thing you guys are calling family flex, which I think is probably the coolest thing that I’ve seen come out of a rod company in a while, is this idea of symmetry from my $99 rod to my $500 rod.
I’d love to hear your beginning on where that idea came from and then how it came to life and what that means for us as we pick up a World Class and we pick up an Eagle. The similarities that we’re going to see because you guys did it strategically.”
Justin Poe (00:34:28):
“Yeah, family flex is one of those things that I think a lot of people have wanted to do, but they’ve never had the horsepower and the discipline to do it.
I’ve worked for companies that were like, ‘Hey man, that would be awesome, but we got a budget on building this. I don’t know if we can do that.’ I mean it’s really hard. It’s an absolute headache.
In family flex, we are building the top of the line of every single model. The highest it exists, we build it there first, so you take a 7’6″ medium light hair jig rod, it exists almost all the way through the line and the top of the line for that rod is World Class. So we make that rod, we make that mandrel, we make that pattern, we deflect it, we check its power, and then we custom make every rod below it. We custom make the Elite, we custom make the HMG and we custom make the Eagle to match the deflection in power identically.
If you go and you fall in love with an Elite 7’0″ medium heavy and it’s your favorite 1/2 oz. jig rod, whether it is or whether it’s not, the HMG 7’0″ medium heavy fast jig rod is going to be identical deflection and power, so if one fishes a 1/2 oz. jig the way you want, all of ’em are going.
So that’s a beautiful thing. The cool thing about that is if you find something you love, you can walk up knowing that it’s going to be the same action and power wise you’re just going to get wider weight and more sensitivity.”
Andrew Hayes (00:42:44):
“So when you’re getting these rods to the point where they’re perfect, you are dialing them in, and you’re going through multiple rods at a time, is it a process? This is probably a question for a couple of folks you work with too, but when you get the rod right, do you know it that second or is it like going to the eye doctor where I need to see the next one to be like, no, that got worse, I need to go back?”
Justin Poe (00:43:03):
“No, you kind of know it. We have things we’re shooting for. Some of those are deflections on paper or digitally, and some of those are in the form of an old action that you love, but you don’t love the rest of the parts of the rod. So you might be trying to mimic an action from seven or eight years ago from your repertoire, but you’re trying to do it in today’s technology.
This 264 [rods], it seems insane, I mean it is insane to do it all at one time, but it was a good opportunity for us to completely reset the brand. But there were rods on the peripheral that we didn’t finish because we didn’t get the first one locked down the way we wanted to, so we’re still working on those in the background for the next time and we can bring new models next year or the year after. It’s not a ‘Strike now and never strike again.’ It’s a strike now and keep striking kind of deal.
“Materials don’t change as much as people think they do. The ability to put them together and new ways to get them together change all the time.”
Technology and ability changes. You’re learning every day. I’m learning every day. Materials don’t change as much as people think they do. The ability to put them together and new ways to get them together change all the time.”
Andrew Hayes (00:45:59):
So some of these people that come out here and claim that they have these brand new crazy materials, these rods are made out of, there’s only so many puzzle pieces you can use out there realistically to make the puzzle of the best bass rod, right?
Justin Poe (00:46:24):
“You’re 100% right. There’s only a dozen different versions of graphite that you can even buy. So sure, I mean you could call it X, Y, Z awesomeness when you blend 40 and 36 ton graphite, but that doesn’t tell you what it’s actually made out of, and for us, we’re just going to tell you what it’s made out of because that’s not where the magic is. The magic is how it’s made, not what it’s made out of.
That’s really the truth. If you have a rod that you love, regardless of who made it and regardless of what it’s made out of, the truth is that how it’s made is why you like it versus what it’s made out of. I have felt 40-ton graphite fishing rods that feel terrible, and they’re not good just because they weren’t built or put together very well, it’s often because they’ve used too much material.
“The magic is how it’s made, not what it’s made out of.”
I mean, I think I was talking to one of our reps the other day and he laughed and he was struggling to understand what’s the difference and I told him straight up, ‘There is no difference between the material that this Eagle is made out of and the old Eagle as far as blank, there is none.’ He was like, ‘You got to be kidding me. This rod feels nothing like the old Eagle‘ and I said, again, ‘You are assuming that the number matters and it doesn’t.’
We tried to do everything purposeful and we’re just going to tell you what it’s made out of. You’re never going to figure out how we made them. We have the guy, right? I’m not the guy.
Andrew Hayes (00:50:48):
“Speaking of the characteristics that people are going to notice out of these rods and some things we’ve talked about a little bit, let’s start with sensitivity. When you guys talk about the World Class being more sensitive than the Elite that’s more sensitive probably than the HMG, than to the Eagle, is that something that’s subjective, or is there some sort of objective measure of sensitivity to a rod that you guys can use?”
Justin Poe (00:51:47):
“Yes, yes, and yes, it is subjective. Some people can feel more than others, that’s for certain. Some people have the touch. We [also] have ways that we measure it with anodes on the rod, we put the rod in a fixture and we can measure how many hertz transfer to where your hand is on the rod.
We also know which hertz your hand [feels] better than others. So we can put things in certain spots and do things in certain ways to make sure that you’re getting the most sensitivity that you can. Hard glue joints, fillers, and things like that all take away from the transfer. If you reach up and you put your index finger on a hook keeper on a rod, you’re going to have more sensitivity than you are in the back end of the real seat. But sometimes you can’t fish the rod that way. So it doesn’t really matter.
And yes, we can test that the World Class is certainly more sensitive than the Elite and then the HMG and then the Eagle. We can also test that the Eagle is as sensitive as any other $150 rod on the market. It just so happens to be $100.
The beauty of what I said about how we designed family flex is if you start Eagle off by building World Class and you tone it back to the materials that you have, you end up with an incredible rod that is a percentage of the best. If you start off with an Eagle and you just change the material to make it a little bit better, you only get a little bit more horsepower out of HMG, Elite, and World Class. You’re getting a derivative of, it’s an amplified Eagle instead of a toned down World Class. [Which is] a different thing.
I think the customers who already love Fenwick are going to just love ’em even more and I think some of the people that were hesitant to jump on the last 5, 6, 7 years are going to get a taste of what the new Fenwick is and we’re happy to have ’em all.”
Andrew Hayes (00:56:06):
“So my last characteristic specific question to you is about balance. There’s going to be some people that are listening to this that either don’t fully understand balance or don’t fully understand how to check balance.
When you guys are designing rods, how do you take balance into consideration when you don’t know what reel I’m going to put on it or what I’m going to do technique or line wise? How do you guys design a rod to balance, knowing that there’s things you don’t know about how I’m going to use it?”
Justin Poe (00:56:57):
“There’s inherent things for balance, like I mentioned before with the balance of the techniques. I don’t think a lot of people think about that too much. A lot of rod builders don’t think about that. They think about, oh, ‘The reel’s going to be seven ounces, so we to can counterbalance it to where it balances here for seven ounces’ and they stack quarters or whatever until it gets seven ounces and it’s balanced, [which is] great unless it’s a tip up technique [where] you don’t necessarily want it balanced for that.
That’s probably first and foremost; What does the technique demand? We get that by studying people that fish it and our own fishing. You can’t know that if you don’t fish and you can’t know that if you don’t talk to people that fish, so that’s number one.
Number two is we go out and we buy all the reels. We have ’em all. I have as many Curados as most people and I work for Pure Fishing. I have Curados, I have DC’s, I have Daiwas, we have everything. So we check, right?
We would certainly love if all of these Fenwick [rods] got fished with a Revo or a Pflueger, but the truth is Fenwick is way more than that, and that’s not a knock on Pflueger and Revo, but this is everyone’s rod line. It don’t matter what you’re fishing.
“There is nothing special extra about these rods because something extra makes them less special.”
There’s going to be no argument with how this rod fishes, but this rod is not going to look like the stuff that you fish regularly. But we take all comers. So we take the top end reels for world-class and make sure it balances there. We custom tune, but we don’t do it in terms of how we add things to it. Everything you add to the rod makes the rod less cool, maybe not less cool for a whoops, but less cool as a tool, right?
I mean you don’t want straps, doodads, and gadgets all over your hammer because it screws up the way you swing it. Same thing in a fishing rod, all the stuff you add to it can take away. You want just enough. I mean just like some guys, well man, ‘This rod’s got to be better, It has 10 guides.’ Well, if you only needed 8 guides, you kind of hose yourself on the weight, which exponentially screwed up your sensitivity.
So it, it’s interesting how people associate certain things with certain things. There is a sweet spot, there is a happy medium. There is nothing special extra about these rods because something extra makes them less special.”
Standout Models and Their Inspiration
Andrew Hayes (01:02:39):
“So as far as the rods go themselves, the last thing I wanted to ask you about is specific models of these rods. Are there any models within these four [series] that you would consider unicorn rods? [Is there] a really cool model, taper, or length in a lineup of 30 rods, that stands out? [Where you say], ‘That one’s pretty cool and unique and I think people should check out.'”
Justin Poe (01:03:17):
“There’s several between Dave and I and the team here… I mean you’re talking 70-80,000 rods built over the course of 15 or 20 years. It’s a culmination of everything we ever wanted to build and everything that was needed to be built.
In the world of bass, there’s a couple little sleepers in here and then there’s a couple that are like holy cow, that’s like a classic that has been reborn.
World Class 7’3″ Medium Heavy Extra Fast Bottom Contact Casting Rod – WLDB73MHXFC
My favorite rod and one that we all kind of agree on in bottom contact as being a shining star is the World Class 7’3″ medium heavy extra fast, WLDB73MHXFC. That rod is insane. Dave and I originally designed that rod years ago with a different logo and a different color on it for a Carolina rig rod. We had [management] that were like, ‘There’s not enough people to fish a Carolina rig. What are you doing?’
We saw a need. We had a friend who lived in Alabama and we went to El Salto a couple times that year [with them] where we were just fishing a lot of Carolina rigs and we really got to know the technique, where you needed something that didn’t buckle when you casted it but could give to the drag and feel it still.
That rod was insane and it became like a cult following within that last brand and guys are doing everything with it. It was a Carolina rig rod, it was a swim jig rod, it was a faster action chatterbait rod. I mean it’s everyone’s everything rod, and at the same time it’s just a Carolina rig rod for some guys.. It’s one of those weird technique specific rods that just became general purpose because it’s so sweet. So, that rod is ridiculous.
World Class, Elite, HMG, & Eagle 7’5″ Medium Heavy Extra Fast Bottom Contact Casting Rod
If I’m fishing a 1/2 oz. jig and the water’s cold and I’m fishing 10-15 ft. deep and I’m just fishing structure, that 7’5″ medium heavy for me is the sweetest 1/2 oz. football head jig rod in the world. I love it. And you can find it in [every series]. The whole line has it.
World Class 7’5″ Medium Heavy Reaction Bait Casting Rod – WLDB75MH-MFC
Some of the stuff that Dave and I were never really allowed to make was reaction bait (Crankbait & Swimbait) rods out of the highest end materials. We were always just kind of pushed and told that people wouldn’t pay for the benefit that it gives you. I think with this series, when people pick them up and tie on a crankbait or a reaction bait, I think they’re going to prove how wrong the people told that told us that were.
“When people pick them up and tie on a crankbait or a reaction bait, I think they’re going to prove how wrong the people told that told us that were. “
You can feel some ridiculous things on these crankbait rods. I mean it’s stupid. You cast, first of all, they cast 20% farther than the Eagle would because recovery the material. Because traditional crank bait rods are kind of glassy, the material doesn’t spring back as much. These do not feel like stiff graphite rods, but they also don’t feel like wobbly fiberglass rods.
You can feel a piece of eelgrass on one of six hooks a long way away, so you’re not wasting your cast. You could feel that your bait gets clean and continue your crank, right? Instead of winding all the way to the boat, having a piece of eelgrass going, ‘Well crap, when was I out of the game? Was I immediately out of the game? Or was I out of the game in the last 20 seconds?’ Stuff like, that’s cool for me. It’s that 7’5″ Medium Heavy. I like that 7’5″ Medium Heavy in the crankbait rod, it is insane.
World Class & Elite 7’6″ Medium Light Walleye Spinning Rod
I fished Lake Oneida in June with a group of people, and I am not a hair jig fisherman, I’m not the guy. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had some good teachers to fish a little bit with, Corey Springle, Cole, and the boys up there. I was also in a very target rich environment where they bite that thing and man, it was cool. That 7’6″ medium light is an epic, epic hair jig rod… Epic.
Rapid-Fire Model Recommendations
Andrew Hayes (01:10:15):
The last thing here that I’ve got for you, I have nine of the most popular techniques that people are going to ask about, so tell us the rod that you would steer people toward for these specific techniques as you were designing these.
Starting with a 3/8 oz. chatterbait?
Justin Poe (01:10:54):
3/8 oz. chatterbait. That one, I guess it depends where, but for me, I’m fishing that on the reaction series 7’5″, medium heavy.
Andrew Hayes (01:11:04):
3/8 oz. Texas rig?
Justin Poe (01:11:05):
3/8 oz. Texas rig. I am fishing the 7’1″ medium extra fast [bottom contact]
Andrew Hayes (01:11:13):
Justin Poe (01:11:15):
Oh, we have a killer set of swim bait rods in this and there is a, oh geez. Well it depends, right? There’s the five bait rig. The three bait rig.
Andrew Hayes (01:11:30):
Yeah, we’ll call it traditional five like chandelier, five bait rig.
Justin Poe (01:11:34):
The full-on chandelier rig? I’m probably fishing the 8’0″ heavy, right? There’s an 8’0″ heavy and then there’s an 8’0″ extra heavy. I think the big HUDs, big cull shads, big stuff like that is more of an extra heavy, but the 8’0″ heavy is probably the better for a chandelier Alabama rig.
Andrew Hayes (01:12:02):
Standard 110 jerk bait?
Justin Poe (01:12:03):
110 jerk bait. I’m a kind of a sucker for that because I prefer a little bit of a longer rod where some guys prefer a little bit shorter rod. I think most people would answer that the 6’8″ medium heavy moderate fast, but for me it’s 6’10” medium heavy fast.
Andrew Hayes (01:12:27):
1/2 oz. spinner bait?
Justin Poe (01:12:28):
1/2 oz. spinner bait’s got to be the 6’8″ medium moderate.
Andrew Hayes (01:12:32):
Justin Poe (01:12:33):
Ooh, super spook. Back to the 6’10” medium heavy fast.
Andrew Hayes (01:12:36):
Justin Poe (01:12:37):
Buzz bait. It depends who’s fishing it, but for me, I cover a lot of water when I’m fishing, so I’m probably fishing on the 7’5″ medium heavy moderate.
Andrew Hayes (01:12:50):
Next to last one. Standard popper?
Justin Poe (01:12:53):
Standard popper. I’m right to the 6’8″ medium because I want full control.
Andrew Hayes (01:12:57):
Last one, frog?
Justin Poe (01:13:00):
Frog. I’m fishing a slower rod than a lot of people are going to do because fishing with these guys has taught me that you need to give a little bit more, so I’m fishing the 7’5″ heavy medium fast.
Much like Justin described a key element to building great fishing rods, it feels like I’m only going to detract from this post by adding any more material to it.
I am so appreciative of Andrew and Justin for agreeing to this interview on relatively short notice. It was my hope to give Fenwick, as Justin put it, the respect that it deserves. Now it is my hope that you’re convinced to give Fenwick the chance it deserves.