Old Rods

One of the few positives about being locked down has been the opportunity to get on with some rod renovations, some of which were tentatively underway already and accelerated, some were scheduled and others brought forward. I have some fairly modern mullet rods but otherwise it's been a bit of an eye-opener realising just how old some of my kit is - some rods already on their second or third iterations and in need of TLC again ...

First up, a pair of classic bass rods.


On the left is the famous honey-coloured glass Fibatube 132 blank used for, amongst others, the original John Darling Bass Rod by Going Brothers of Southend. I first built this rod up in 1977 for my father after he rescued the blank from the scrap box at Terry Eustace's shop in Birmingham; it had been returned and stripped of rings because it had an audible "tick" sound from the spigot when flexed, long since disappeared. Dad used and abused it for years till his declining health forced him to give up fishing and I inherited it.


On the right, a Mk 1 Zziplex bass rod that I built up for myself in 1987. I'd previously built one for my friend Jamie and was so impressed with how he got on with it I had to have one too. I caught a lot of bass on it from the Hampshire and West Sussex beaches near where we lived in UK, and some clonking wrasse down in Cornwall.


Both bass rods are still in regular use - I've caught lots of pollack on them since moving to Ireland, but oddly I've not got round to bass fishing yet - maybe this autumn if the travel restrictions are lifted.


Photos. Dad with a Solent stingray on the Fibatube bass rod, 1988; Jamie with a Solent smoothound on his Zziplex bass rod, 1987; Selsey bass on my Zzippy bass rod, mid-90s.


Next up, a brace of Zziplex 1005s, one of the very earliest Zziplex blanks, basically a light beachcaster that casts 3 - 4oz beautifully and 5oz at a push.


I bought my first 1005 in 1981. Martin Ashby at Going Brothers customised the blank for me, gluing in the dural butt and fitting a spigot to make two equal 6' sections so I could carry the rod more easily on my pushbike and on the train than in the standard 4' butt + 8' tip configuration. He machined and fitted two beautiful stainless steel collars either side of the spigot to protect the blank from splitting. The rod was my pride and joy for a few years till I lost some kit in a burglary. The scumbag couldn't even make a proper job of it - they left the tip section behind so I had a useless customised tip and they had a useless customised butt!


Years later, long after Zziplex had moved on to the 2500 and Dream Machines, I met rod-builder Mike Oliver through BASS and persuaded him to part with six 1005 blanks he'd been stashing in his loft. My friend Dave Barnes took two of them and I made up two more for other friends, leaving myself with two. One had a standard 4' carbon butt and the other was a long-butt version. I made that one up first and didn't really like it much. It seemed slightly cumbersome and a bit floppy compared to my original.


Now I've put a hacksaw to the long butt and re-rung the tip; and made up the standard butt blank that I'd never done anything with. They seem very nice and I'm looking forward to giving them a whirl later in the year.


Photos. My first ever double figure cod, winter 1981/82 taken on my original Zzippy 1005 from Milford shingle bank in Hampshire - I had to cycle to the station to catch the train to Southampton then change trains to New Milton then cycle again to get to the beach. I had to pack up in time to get the last train back and  I remember having to dump the foam mat I took to sit on to make room for the cod in the pannier bag on my bike! Then the best shot I can find showing the original 1005, a modest bass in April 1983 from the River Beaulieu low water channel where it cuts in close to Lepe Beach in Hampshire  - we were there early in the tide and I had to drag the bass across several yards of the gloopiest mud ...

Last of the completed renovations is a Daiwa light carp rod that Sylvi bought me for my 30th birthday, err ... 31 years ago. The transfer with the model number has long since worn away but it has a test curve about 1.5lbs and it was 12' long.


Soon after I had it I took about ten inches off the butt which was over-long, sticking out behind when holding the rod and getting in the way for striking when sitting on the beach. At the time I was mainly using it for bassing, fishing baits close in to the waterline on the steep shingle beaches outside the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour.


Later we moved to Hayling Island and the rod became my weapon of choice for hauling big mullet out from under the pontoons of the marina there. I even caught a few carp on it when I was invited to fish a little syndicate water near Chichester by my late mate Paul Stent, in return for showing him my tope mark.


Since we moved to Ireland it has become my go-to rod for dangling a float round the rocks here on Sheep's Head, catching pollack and wrasse and those triggers last summer that now seem so long ago.


Photos. Hayling marina mullet on the Daiwa carp rod, summer 2004; a rare carp fishing foray at Birdham near Chichester, West Sussex, autumn 2008; Sheep's Head trigger fish, summer 2019 ...

Works in progress - both my main beachcasters. The Shimano Antares is partly rebuilt but now waiting some parts from UK; as is the Zziplex 3500 that I have only just started stripping back. More on these later.


I've been getting the rod parts mostly from guidesnblanks.com who have a brilliant range of rings, reel seats, shrink tube, epoxy etc - though their postal rates to Ireland are crippling so I've been using the An Post AddressPal service which takes a day or two longer but is much more economic.


There are some nice late afternoon and early evening tides this week and the east wind we have at the moment looks set to fall light midweek. IFI issued clarification on 17th April that fishing is acceptable as personal exercise for "brief periods" within 2km of home, walking not driving to the venue which would be interpreted as non-essential travel. To be honest I wouldn't want to be out at the moment anywhere in proximity with people but that's hardly an issue for an hour session here on Sheep's Head where you can fish whole days without seeing a soul at the best of times. I may just be tempted out for a quick go on the offchance of an April mullet.

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Comments: 10
  • #1

    Adam (Friday, 08 July 2022 11:06)

    Hi, great article. I have an old zziplex rod that appears to be a bass rod, it is 11.5ft but the butt is 3.f5ft. I'm thinking it make have been cut down when build but not sure. What was the length of the butt you have on your mk1 zziplex bass? Thanks

  • #2

    David Rigden (Tuesday, 26 July 2022 19:32)

    Hi Adam. Sorry I've only just seen this, my automatic notifications seem to have stopped working for some reason :(

    I am away from home for about ten days but when I get back I'll put the tape measure on the butt for you, but 11.5ft total sounds about right, it's a few inches shorter than the 1005s which I'm pretty sure are 12ft on the dot.

  • #3

    Adam (Wednesday, 27 July 2022 23:19)

    Thanks Dave, as much info on the blank would be appreciated. Ot does have (period?) Guides that are similar to the fuji luminous bnhg, but the shock ring is a dark red colour. Also the running guides are single foot, the transition guides being double. Do you know what these might be?



  • #4

    David Rigden (Thursday, 28 July 2022 09:24)

    The only rings with a red shock lining I remember were on an Avon/quiver twin tip rod I had made by a company called Silstar, probably very early 90s. I think the company had started up making stuff for Shakespeare before introducing their own branding. They did quite a lot of mostly budget price poles, rods and reels in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, I see they are still going in Europe but I'm not sure if marketing in UK any longer. It wasn't an expensive rod so I'm fairly sure the rings would have come out of some factory in China or other far-east, either specifically for Silstar or off the shelf. I don't remember Silstar selling ring sets for rod-builders but it's possible, or the rings on your Zzippy came from the same source, or were recycled off a Silstar rod?

    Regards the original Zziplex bass rod, I think it was available about 1984 to 1990. Mine is an unground blank so the surface still has the spiral in the resin from the tape that wrapped it, as far as I know they were only available like this. The original Zziplex decal on mine was just the white lettering they used before adding the red & blue flash.

    I'll get back next week with the lengths of the blank and butt, I've got calipers to measure diameters as well so should be able to nail it down for you.

  • #5

    Adam (Saturday, 30 July 2022 16:55)

    Thanks David. My rod is unground and has the plain white lettering also. The guides look pretty well made to be fair, but one has been damaged, and the tip has been replaced (probably several times) too. I will probably replace with fuji when I rebuild. They do look pretty good though, which is a shame.

  • #6

    Steve (Tuesday, 02 August 2022 00:13)

    Watching this with interest as I have just purchased and had rebuilt a bass rod of exactly the same dimensions 3'5" butt and 8' tip. Just marked with the worn white zziplex lettering. Keen to know how early it is.
    Many thanks

  • #7

    David Rigden (Thursday, 04 August 2022 19:52)

    Hi Adam, and Steve

    The butt is 3 feet 6 inches long, 20.5mm diameter parallel apart from an extra wrap or two of carbon approx 3 inches long to reinforce where the male spigot pushes in at the top.

    The tip is 7 feet 10 inches long including the tip ring and the 3 inch spigot, giving a made up length for the rod of just a shade over 11 feet including tip ring so I guess the bare rod pretty much exactly 11 feet.

    I'm measuring the tip diameter as 4.3mm just below the tip ring but that includes a wrap of reflective tape so say 4mm at the tip. I'm measuring 17.3mm about 2 inches up from the top of the spigot, the lowest part I can get at above the carbon reinforcement and extra whipping I've put over.

    Both your tips seem to be slightly longer than mine and I know mine is its original length so I'd say it's unlikely yours are the original Zziplex Bass.

    I believe the original Bass rod was phased out around 1990 in favour of the Kevlar Bass rod. This is not a rod I know, apart from the name, the only reference I can find on line is 4' butt and 8' tip. However there's no reason it couldn't have been sold with different butt options such as 3' 6"; or the butt cut down by particular builders. It seems more plausible than an original Bass gaining 6" on the tip anyway.

    I hope that's helped a bit, if only in a negative sort of way.

  • #8

    David Rigden (Thursday, 04 August 2022 21:38)

    And Adam - probably not relevant because you said they were like Fuji BNHG so I presumed you meant ceramic inners, but I thought of another ring with a red liner, the Daiwa Dynaflo. They had a stainless steel inner, red outer in a black frame. Daiwa used them on a lot of their rods in the 80s and they were also readily available for home builds. They were more robust than the hard chrome rings still commonly in use at the time, lighter & cheaper than Fujis but they did groove eventually even with mono lines. They'd have been hopeless with braid.

  • #9

    Steve (Thursday, 04 August 2022 22:58)

    David, thank you for taking the time to measure yours, really appreciate it. I will dig the callipers out and compare the diameters in the AM. As you said, it's not a mark1 so the quest to identify will continue.
    Not dissapointed in the slightest as it is a really nice rod in its own right. After years of heavy gear in the upper Bristol Channel, using 3oz an Abu 5000 and this rod really is a joy, small fish actually pull back!
    Again, thank you

  • #10

    Adam (Thursday, 11 August 2022 21:48)


    Thank you for the feedback, the guides I have seem to have a ceramic ring, so still not quite sure.
    There is a chance it could have been a later blank that has been cut down at the butt. I will look into the kevlar bass a bit more. Thank you.

    Steve, how are you finding fishing with it? I've enjoyed it on chesil this summer, it's a great all round rod.
    If you ever want to part with yours a pair of them would be twice as good!