A Very Brief History of Fishing Rods

Images of fishing rods date back to 2000 BC. And what do you think those early rods were made of?

  • WoodWall of rods
  • Stone
  • Space age materials

If you guess STONE, well, then you are wrong.

Though the earliest images we have of any kind of fishing rod is carved in stone, the early rods were wood. Just like when I first went fishing. My father cut a small branch off a tree, notched the tip, and tied some fishing line on the end. Voila. A fishing rod.

Getting complicated

For most of the history of fishing rods (over 3,000 years), fishermen (or fisherwomen?) made their own rods. The more complex rods were composed of various types of wood, with the most flexible going on the tip. Sometimes whale bone was used as the very tip.

These rods often had either the line tied to the end, or connected with a loop to loop connection to a loop on the end of the rod.

Next, sometimes the line ran down through the loop at the end, and was held in the hand of the fisherman.

New materials

bamboo lineupThe main issue with the original material was the weight of the wood. When new materials became available in the 1850s, greenheart and split cane bamboo, they were used to create light, flexible rods. Eventually someone figured out how to cut the bamboo into strips and glue them together into a hexagonal shape, allowing for strong but light rods.

At this time, rods were made by professionals, and they started added guides to the rods to help control the line. And reels because introduced to hold the lines and avoid tangles. What those lines were and who made them will be explained later (essentially, like rods, lines were originally made by fishermen/women, then by professionals).


The next material to be used for rods was fiberglass. This material was not used exclusively for long, but you can still purchase fiberglass rods, and some rods still have fiberglass components.

Carbon Fiber

Composite_laminate_specimenBy the late 1960s, rod makers were trying to find a way to use a new material called carbon fiber to make fishing rods. Shakespeare and Fenwick both introduced a carbon fiber fishing rod at a Chicago tackle show, interestingly both named GRAFLITE. Eventually Shakespeare won the honor of using the name first, so Fenwick was required to destroy all their catalogs featuring that name.

Today most rods are made of carbon fiber.

I’ll expand this page (and fact check as well!) in the future, as well as add some of the fascinating stories about rod production in the future.

So please check back!

And, should you have any information of your own about rod making, please be sure and share it with me below!

Tight lines,

Roger, The Smiling BassHole

Catch-Big-Bass http://catch-big-bass.com/ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.