It was three o’clock in the morning and I was dragging a grape ringworm over a piece of structure in 22-feet of water when the subtle strike was detected courtesy of the high dollar graphite rod. I reeled down just as I had countless times before with my conventional fiberglass sticks, paused just for a second to confirm the strike and rocked back in an attempt to not only drive home the 4/0 hook, but quickly move the bass away from cover.

At some point in the split second that it took to set the hook, the graphite rod did not simply break… exploded!

It wasn’t until an hour or so later that my partner noticed that I had tiny shards of composite sticking out of my cheek much like porcupine quills. The year was 1972 and a boat dealer that I had guided a few times had given me the prohibitively expensive rod only a few weeks earlier as a gift.

Solidly hooked on the sensitivity of graphite, I sold four Fenwick glass rods that I had built and purchased two more significantly cheaper graphite rods. In less than a month I had broken both of them and I swore off graphite for three years. Even after realizing that graphite was just too big of an advantage to ignore, I continued occasionally breaking rods that just should not have broken.

Folks still break graphite rods today, but I can assure you that if it is the product of a reputable company……. durability is no longer an issue. I fished with All Star rods for over 20 years and with the exception of one brief run of problems with a particular model, I never broke one under normal use. I had clients break a few abusing them, but even that number was minimal.

There are several rod companies with great reputations producing rods that even the most discerning angler cannot go wrong with. Perhaps even more importantly, those companies offer at least one line of affordably priced rods that cannot compare to their high end models, but still perform very well.

For the past several years I have fished with CastAway rods for two reasons. The first reason being that I have not fished any other rod that I liked better and the second being that they were gracious enough to sponsor me. That said, I would continue fishing their rods even without their support.

To date, I have never broken a CastAway rod. I have had clients break a few, but in every single instance it was the result of angler abuse. I supply clients with only the top of the line CastAways, but any graphite rod, regardless of cost, is subject to break when you hang your back cast on the console or side of the boat, slam the rod locker lid or car door on the tip of the rod or stick the tip in the ceiling fan while showing it off in the living room!

I felt a need to cover this subject after a client recently broke one of my Skeleton series rods trying to winch in a big trout while suffering from temporary insanity. In spite of my last minute pleading, he reached halfway down the rod with his free hand and tried to hoist the fish over the side. A word of advice….If you cannot pick a fish up with both hands still on the reel and rod handle… the fish!

I have seen more rods broken in this fashion over the years than any other way. Aside from the aforementioned disasters, some get broken by anglers trying to free a snagged lure by pushing on it with the tip of the rod and a few succumb to fits of temper.

While it results in little more than the cost and down time of having to have a guide or tip replaced, I see far more rods relegated to the rod locker due to an insert getting cracked or completely knocked out of the frame. More often than not, this is the result of reeling a swivel through the guides only to cast it out again with even more force. While it occurs with less frequency, an oversized knot attaching a heavier leader to the main line will eventually damage an insert as well.

Having pointed out these common mishaps only as a reminder to help you avoid the same misfortune, I still recommend saving your money until you can buy the best rod a reputable manufacturer has to offer. Match it to your fishing needs, couple it with the right reel and you will instantly see why that rod costs a little more.

If you can’t tell the difference…..don’t buy that rod, but regardless of which rod you purchase take care of it with the confidence that today’s graphite rods will last you a very long time.