Get a grip on rod handles

These days rod handles sport mainly cork, foam or the Winn polymer material that’s catching on. Some rods have split grips while others have full-length grips. The Bassmaster Elite Series pros have varied preferences when it comes to their rod grips, including David Fritts, Kevin VanDam and Russ Lane.

David Fritts, make mine cork

Fritts fishes Lew’s rods that have handles made with cork, foam and Winn grips. However, his signature cranking rods feature full-length cork grips.

“It’s amazing how fast rods are changing,” Fritts said. “But you just can’t beat cork handles. I’ve been using them for 35 years.”

Cork has a little give for comfort, he pointed out, while also affording a solid feel when he’s “muscling in a big crankbait.” Because Fritts casts crankbaits with two hands, he prefers cork throughout the length of a long handle to ensure a firm, double-fisted grip.

“When you lay that long cork handle up against your arm, it cuts way down on the strain when you’re cranking,” he added. “The cork also helps the rod float if it falls into the water. I’ve done that plenty of times.”

Kevin VanDam, all in for foam

“Cork is good, but it gets slippery when wet,” VanDam said. “It also dries out your hands and gets dirty and ugly.”

The closed cell foam handles on VanDam’s Quantum rods avert all of these issues. Although foam is extremely light, Quantum’s rods have split grip handles to cut weight even more. Split grips also expose more of the rod’s blank, which increases sensitivity, VanDam adds.

The handle’s length is also critical to the rod’s balance, he stressed.

“Even a half inch can make a big difference,” he said.

Every year the entire Quantum pro staff gets together with the company’s engineers to give their input on every rod, including the right handle for a given rod length and action.

“We don’t always agree, but for the most part we do,” VanDam said.

Russ Lane, sticking with Winn

Lane doted on Winn’s non-slip polymer technology in their rod handle wraps and rod handles. Denali, Lew’s and Mud Hole offer grips in Winn material, which becomes sticky when wet for a secure grip.

“This is my third season using Winn wraps,” Lane said. “I have them on every one of my Denali rods.”

Winn wraps are wound over a rod’s existing grip, a procedure that can be done easily in a matter of minutes. When Lane’s hands are hot and sweaty or cold and wet, he claimed that his rod handles never get slippery.

“I also don’t have to squeeze the rod as hard to have a firm grip,” he said. “At the end of the day my hands are not as fatigued.”

Because it takes less effort to hold a Winn handle securely, Lane said it also improves his accuracy.

By using different color wraps on his rod handles, Lane can quickly distinguish which one he needs from the dozens in his rod locker. His flipping rod handles are one color, his cranking rods another, and so on.