Fishing stories are historically full of speculation, exaggeration, marketing hype, and out right lies. The saga of the Greatest Rod of All-time is based on nothing but a high level of performance over time.
The origin of the Greatest Rod of All-time began during the late 70’s when a young angler named Gary Klein asked me to take him fishing and show him some of my crankbait techniques. Gary was a young angler out of California who at that time specialized in flipping. About half way through the day we were throwing some deep diving crankbaits, when Gary sat down and tied a crankbait on his custom 7 foot, long-handled, glass rod. At that time most of us were still using short pistol grip rods for all our fishing. Outside of a few custom flipping sticks, that the western flipping anglers used, there were no long rods being used in bass fishing. At first I thought this was a strange move on Gary’s part but it did not take much observation to immediately see some advantages. First of all he could out cast me by at least 10 yards, which is important when deep cranking. More importantly I noticed that his casting motion was completely different. My casting motion with my short rods was more like a baseball pitchers one hand throwing motion. Having messed my shoulders up during my high school football days at La Porte, Texas my shoulders would be aching after a long day of casting and cranking. After making only a few casts with Gary’s long rod I realized that this casting motion was much easier, yet much more powerful than using short rods. Most baseball pitchers will be removed from the game after about a 100 pitches. Using that same pitching motion, those of us casting with short rods were probably facing rotator cup or elbow surgery in our near future. Even though our casting motion may not be as intense as a pitchers throwing motion I have been timed with making over 2000 cast a day for 6 days in a row with no rest. I knew I had to make a change in my equipment. Problem was there were no 7 foot long handle rods being made for bass fishing at that time.
When I returned to my Montgomery Texas home I went to a Cut-Rate Sporting Goods store in the Houston area trying to find any rod that was similar to Gary’s custom flipping rods. I did not realize that on that day I would find my greatest tool for cranking and other power techniques. The rod I found was actually a 7’ long handle saltwater water rod designed for speckle trout fishing. It was the closest action to Gary’s flipping stick I could find even though it was not the exact action. Only time would prove that it was the perfect action for cranking and other power techniques. Even though I would not fully understand the science of glass rods until later, I knew this rod allowed me to hook and land fish better than any other.
A few years earlier at the 1976 Bassmaster Classic, I had my first Hi-tech graphite rod experience and it almost cost me my first World Championship. Even though this was my 3rd Bassmaster Classic qualification I did not have any significant sponsors and had to pawn my Browning Deer rifle to have enough money to even go to the 1976 Classic. About a week before the upcoming Classic, at Lake Guntersville, one of the very first Graphite rod companies sent me the most beautiful rods I had ever seen. Like a rookie I left all my 6’ pistol grip glass rods home and took these new rods to the Classic. I took the lead on the second day even though I was loosing way too many fish. With the exception of my 5 biggest fish, which came on a spinnerbait, 22 of my eventual 27 keepers came on a small honey-B squarebill crankbait. I did not even have my 10 fish limit the 1st day because of loosing fish. I was mystified because I prided myself on not loosing fish. I could not sleep trying to figure out what was different.
Starting the final morning I admit, I was super charged. My career was literally at stake. I went to the magical bridge and rip-rap that had been producing all my crankbait fish. I was intensely focused yet I lost the first three fish I had on. My mind was racing. What is wrong? I never loose these kind of fish!! The bite was taking place as I cranked the square-bill on a tight line down the shallow rip-rap. The second I would feel the subtle tick (strike) I was setting the hook, then pull the fish a foot, and they would come off. The height of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I had to change something. The next cast I retrieved the lure down the rip-rap and when I felt the tick (strike), instead of immediately sweeping the rod, I pushed the tip slightly toward the fish, and then set the hook. Every bass after that had swallowed the bait and I never lost another fish. The rest is history.
Even though it took me a lot longer to understand the science of glass versus hi-tech rod materials, I was almost a victim of my ignorance. I now fully understand that the super sensitive hi-tech rods are a huge advantage when finesse fishing, yet that same sensitivity is what hurts you when power bait fishing. To understand one must understand the finesse strike versus the crankbait strike. 95% of finesse strikes occur when the lure is falling or setting still on a semi-slack line. 85% of crankbait strikes occur with the lure is moving or paused on a tight line. The strike on finesse baits is a subtle tick. The strike, on a moving lure, is a change in the feel of the lure’s movement. Powerbait anglers are intimately in tune with the vibration of their crankbait or the thump of their spinnerbait. When a bass begins inhaling their lure this changes that feel and they are going to quickly react. This is why the sensitivity of hi-tech will cause one to loose way to many fish. The better angler you are the more this ultra sensitivity will work against one. When those bass on that Guntersville bridge, even breathed on my little honey “B” I was reacting. I was reacting a split second to fast. With my old glass rods that super sensitivity was not there. It would give the fish that split second to deeply inhale the lure.
That is the Science of Glass versus Hi-tech rods. The story does not end here. Due to the avalanche of graphite and other hi-tech materials in the late 70’s and early 80’s manufactures stopped producing glass rods. Having one of the large rod sponsors you were forced to change. I changed thinking that the hi-tech would evolve and get better for power bait fishing. They may have improved but still were not near as proficient at hooking and landing bass as glass rods. Chris Russell with Wright-McGill approached me over a year ago and was curious why I did not still fish glass rods. I told him no one would make them for me.
He said, “Wright-McGill will!” My brother, Randy Fite, still had one of the original speckle trout rods. I gave it to Al Noraker of Wright-McGill and the “Greatest” crankbait rods were recreated. Sincerely, if you want to fish the best crankbait rods ever, check out my turquoise S-glass rods by Wright-McGill. Even if you are currently not in the market for a rod, these rods have a unique hang-tag on them that you really need to check-out. These hang-tags contain within them the complete system for achieving peak performance with each power technique. There is 30 years of what works in these hang-tags about Square-bills, Lipless, Top waters, Spinnerbaits, and Jerkbaits.