Brandon Palaniuk with a production model (blue wrap). Photo by Tyler Brinks
By Tyler Brinks - November 13, 2019
The Pacific Northwest is known for many things. Coffee and rainy days may first come to mind, but if you’re an angler, you’re probably also aware of the many fishing rod manufacturers that originated in the Pacific Northwest.
Major fishing rod brands such as G.Loomis, Lamiglas, and Sage all call the area home, and there are several lesser-known rod-builders – including the upstart Alpha Angler – that are continuing the tradition of building rods in the Pacific Northwest.
Bass Pro Tour angler Brandon Palaniuk lists Alpha Angler as a sponsor (as does Gerald Spohrer), but Palaniuk is one of the major contributors to the process of designing new rods for the brand. He shared some insight on what it takes to make a rod, and all the development that’s involved before a customer makes their first cast.
A Designer’s Mind
Palaniuk is always looking for ways to improve existing equipment or to develop ideas for new gear. This was one of the reasons he connected with Alpha Angler, a company headquartered not far from his Idaho home, as he has a voice in what they produce.
“I can give input on rod ideas and know that they will actually take that feedback and make the rods better,” he said. “All of the rods are performance-based and built for a specific technique or multiple techniques.”
It Starts With an Idea
As new trends develop in fishing lures, technique-specific rods are sure to follow. That was the case with Alpha Angler’s most recent launch, a rod designed for throwing glide baits and swimbaits, a technique that Palaniuk loves.
“The research and development for this rod took a few years,” Palaniuk admitted. “We made sure everything was balanced and perfect for throwing tournament-sized baits, it’s not for the big 10- and 12-inch glide baits that are out there. We wanted it to be comfortable and light enough to fish all day long, and there really wasn’t anything like it on the market.”
Once the performance aspects of a rod are identified, real-world testing comes into play.
“We want to catch fish on the rod and do durability testing on the rod before it’s ready to go,” shared Palaniuk. “The timeline is ‘whenever it’s done’. Sometimes we nail it right away, and six months later, we’re selling it, and sometimes it takes much longer.”
Tapers, Action, and Materials
Developing a performance fishing rod requires an understanding of all of the different blank materials and how they perform on the water. Rod manufacturers regularly use graphite, fiberglass, and combinations of the two when building rods.
“There are blanks that are 100 percent graphite, some that are 100 percent fiberglass, and then you have the blends,” Palaniuk said. “We even make sure to use different blank suppliers because some factories are better at one or the other.”
Beside the blank material, there are many other things to consider when developing a new fishing rod.
“We start experimenting with different blanks to get the right tapers and actions for that technique, but everyone has different preferences and fishing styles, and you have to take that into account,” Palaniuk said. “Plus, one of the biggest things is to ensure that the finished rod is balanced correctly. All of the work that goes into a rod that I helped design gives me confidence that I’m using the best rod possible for that technique.”