Opening the big world of small waters fishing.

Tackle & Techniques: Rod Grip Replacement

Tackle & Techniques: Rod Grip Replacement

May 31, 2015

The DIY Guy’s Guide to Rod Grip Retrofits

Give an old rod new life with a Winn grip!

By Mike Pehanich

Good fishing rods never die, they just, well… kind of fade away.

Thanks for the memories!

But wait…

We all have rods that have delivered on everything we have asked of them and tail off into retirement for no other reason than they just don’t feel and look as good as they once did.

Retrofitting fishing rods with Winn rod grips gives them a fresh new look as well as performance benefits.

Retrofitting fishing rods with Winn rod grips gives them a fresh new look as well as performance benefits.

If only we could restore the freshness and feel of these cherished rods!

We can! In fact, a simple rod upgrade will not only give new life to an old rod but give it better feel and performance than it offered the day it came off the production line!

Retrofitting with Winn grips

If you have fished long enough, you have likely replaced a rod tip or two. You probably have replaced a few broken, loose or worn guides as well. Minor maintenance steps like these can put a rod back in action, but they won’t make it feel like new!

Replacing the original handle with a high-tech grip, on the other hand, can dramatically rejuvenate a rod. Moreover, with some of the new grip options now available, you can literally get your rod to look, feel and perform better than ever!

Why it took the industry so long to deliver viable alternatives to cork and EVA rod grips during this golden age in rod making is a question for future tackle historians. But today’s, high-tech grip alternatives have brought performance benefits and eye-catching style with them.

The rod grips making the most pronounced impact are the new advanced polymer grips from Winn Inc., the Huntington, Calif.-based sporting goods component manufacturer best known for its globally famous golf grips. Their creator is Dr. Ben Huang, a self-taught polymer genius, mathematics wizard, and rocket scientist who worked with Dr. Wernher Von Braun in the development of the Saturn V rocket that took American astronauts to the moon.

Winn grips are now available in a "Natural" cork color.

Winn grips are now available in a “Natural” cork color.

The grips comprise a “skin” of patented WinnDry polymer over an EVA underlisting. The polymer’s claim to fame is its consistently tacky feel even in rain, snow, sleet and temperature extremes. A patented single-panel wrapping system, called AVS or Advanced Vertical Seam, matches the polymer material over the corresponding underlisting edge to create a flat, perfectly sealed and almost seamless edge. The polymer and design technologies offer almost limitless colors and texture combinations that serve, in the words of Dr. Huang, “both function and fashion.”

The latest generation of Winn rod grips, released this past March, 2015, are available in a wide range of styles. To check available colors and sizes for each model, check the Winn website at: www.winngrips.com

Getting it done!

You don’t have to be a custom rod builder to retrofit a rod with Winn grips, but you’ll certainly benefit from the experience of someone who has swapped out a grip before! The EVA underlisting on a Winn grip makes them easy to install with conventional methods used for EVA grips. (Note: Winn grips do cost more than their EVA or cork counterparts, so even an experienced hand will want to follow directions carefully, particularly on the first try or two.)

Winn boasts two Bassmaster Elite Series anglers on its pro staff: Russ Lane and Brandon Lester. Both are “Do-It-Yourself “ guys. Lane, a member of the CastAway Rods pro staff, is an inveterate tackle tinkerer who installs Winn grips on all his rods other than the CastAway Invicta series rods, which come from the factory with a custom-designed Winn grip. Brandon Lester crafts many of his own fishing rods from scratch, and now has Winn grips on almost his entire tackle arsenal.

Winn_Grips_033

Winn added a series of Elliptical grips to its offerings this spring. Like the others, they are made with the patented WinnDry polymer, which retains its tacky feel even in wet conditions and weather extremes.

Cork grip removal – Removing a cork grip is relatively simple if you have the gumption to take on the task and work with care. The challenge is to apply cork-breaking pressure with a pair of pliers without breaking or damaging the rod blank. Get a pair of pliers that are large enough to hold the grip in their jaws. “I use Channellock pliers because the biggest thing to avoid is accidentally grabbing and crushing the rod blank,” explains Kelly Moore, Master Rod Builder for CastAway Rods. “Just barely grab the cork. Once you get bits of cork to crack, you can pop off pieces.” The Flex Coat or other finish beneath the cork will be hard, but you can remove it, too, with relative ease. Heat the blank with the flame of a lighter or match. (Some use a torch, but I will pass on that option.) Just a couple of waves of the flame across the blank should be sufficient. A carefully applied razor blade will remove the epoxy.

Channellock pliers will help you grip the cork without damaging the rod blank.

Channellock pliers will help you grip the cork without damaging the rod blank.

EVA grip removal – An EVA foam grip generally comes off cleanly with a razor blade or (razor) knife. Make an incision along the length of grip, being careful to cut only down to but not into the blank itself. Use the same procedure described in “Cork grip removal” to take off any underlying coating.

Sizing and preparing the grip for installation –Try to achieve snug and even fit for problem-free installation and long-term performance. Matching outside blank diameter (O.D.) with the inner diameter (I.D.) of the grip is highly desirable but not always possible. Fortunately, you have ways to compensate…If you will be installing the grips with epoxies, slide the grip on for a “dry” run before you apply the epoxy. (Note: you will not have the luxury of a test run if you use the double-sided tape method.) “If you have gap issues, build up the loose areas with masking tape,” advises Moore, who also suggests a gentle “roughing” of the Winn grip underlisting before installation. The EVA underlisting has a little “give” in it that may allow it to fit easily over a rod blank with a very gradual taper. If the fit seems too tight, ream the interior of the grip carefully with a tool built for the task, such as the Batson Dream Reamer. Most Winn rod grips come with tenons at one or both ends. These are intended to improve the fit in the end caps and winding checks. You can trim them for a better fit or even cut them off entirely if necessary.

Conventional grip installation — Because Winn grips have an EVA underlisting (i.e., inner layer), you can install them using standard EVA grip installation methods and any of a number of proven glues and epoxies made for the task, such as ProPaste or Flex Coat. Follow instructions, but work quickly and clean off all residual material.

Winn's Curve Taper grips are interchangeable as rear or fore grips when used in combination with Winn winding checks and butt caps.

Winn’s Curve Taper grips are interchangeable as rear or fore grips when used in combination with Winn winding checks and butt caps.

Double-Sided Tape Installation Method — Winn has long employed a double-sided tape method to install its grips to golf clubs. The approach has proven equally effective with fishing rods — provided there are no gaps between blank and grip! Size up grip and blank, and prepare for installation in the aforementioned manner. Take a two-sided — a.k.a. “double-sided — tape and wrap it around the section of the blank upon which the grip will sit. Once your tape is accurately affixed, pour mineral spirits over the tape AND inside the grip. Slide your grip on while blank and grip are still moist, and set it in place precisely. You will only have a very short time to work. Once the grip is set and dry, it w

Note: Some custom rod builders prefer to use acetone for grip installation. This method is NOT recommended with Winn grips; the acetone may cause the Winn polymer to bleed.

Those are the simple steps. If you’re a DIY guy by nature, you will find the procedure a snap! But even if you’re a stranger to your own garage shop, a careful step-by-step approach will get the job done within a try or two. You will be impressed with your handiwork and even more impressed with how your old rod performs with its handsome new handle!

 

Pretty soon, you may be changing out rod grips for all your fishing buddies!

Cracked cork grips often send perfectly good fishing rods to the scrap heap. Retrofit them with Winn rod grips, and they may look and perform better than ever!

Cracked cork grips often send perfectly good fishing rods to the scrap heap. Retrofit them with Winn rod grips, and they may look and perform better than ever!

Winn rod grips are available from Mud Hole Custom Tackle (www.mudhole.com; Phone 1-866-790-7637 or 1-407-447-7637 ) 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *