Home Rod Building and Reel Repair

Spiral Wrapped Magic!

CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
I've been developing my own step by step process for making the perfect spiral wrapped bass fishing rod. And I have been at it now for over 25 years since I bought my first custom spiral wrapped rod at a garage sale for $4 when some pissed off divorced wife was selling off all her former husband's fishing equipment for peanuts.

So thank you for the entry lesson and opening the pandora's box for me on this one!

And I can tell you that after 25 years of hundreds of trial and error guide placements I have finally gotten the process so dialed in thatI don't think I can really tweak it any better than where I am at with it today.

When I began this journey I had 2 ways of learning. 1) was learning from the one and only rod I had in my hands which taught me some very useful lessons that my second way of learning told me I should NOT be doing- 2) online research.

Online I found a rigid strict set of rules that varied from rod builder to rod builder. And over time I tried it their way and eventually found out in some ways they were wrong. So very very wrong and it cost me time and money making mistakes. But painstakingly step by step I learned to throw out the rule book and I found spiral wrapped magic when I stopped listening to everyone else and just started to let the materials in my hands show me the way to spiral wrap magic. The devil is in the details which I can not really spell out here word for word. Well, I could, but full disclosure is not in the cards right now.

But I can show you the results when I got close to perfect bullseyes.

Now keep in mind you can spiral wrap any rod. I started my process with off the shelf stock rods I had in my collection and gravitated to full custom rods once I had the process dialed in almost to the magic point. One MHX series 1 rod blank I worked on took 3 tries to get it where I wanted it as it is today.

And I am going to reveal probably one of the most important secrets to unlocking the physics of spiral wrap perfection....

A truly awesome spiral guide design system actually moves INTO alignment as the rod loads up. And every blank bends differently so every rod requires custom tweaking of guide placement to achieve the perfect end result.

Remember the reasons for building a spiral wrap in the first place:

1)The elimination of negative rod blank twisting that you have when guides are on top.
2)Elimination of line flow friction of the line running along the side of the blank between each guide when under load.
3)Reduction of line flow friction under load through the guides by straightening out line flow not found in top of blank guide systems. In other words, minimum angle of turn of the line flowing through the guide system when under load!

Spiral wrapped guide designs almost eliminate these 3 problems with standard guide systems- or reduces it all to the minimum level close to what spinning rods offer but with a baitcast reel. And this is what I became addicted to perfecting for my own personal preferences as other custom rod builders did not have it all dialed in like I can do for myself.

So I what I learned over the years was to place guides on the blank to follow the natural line flow under load lead to perfection.

When I followed rules in a book I screwed up! When I stopped listening to rules in this book or that book is when I began listening to the rod and line under load tell me where Nature says it should be.

When the spiral wrap gods smiled down on me, this is what the end results look like- and yes I know this first image is a little out of focus for a reason, but look at how straight the line is coming out of the reel right down into the loaded portion of the rod. Ruler straight line flow under load into accessing the rod's dynamics like never before! And no line rub on the blank anywhere in there!

You see, another secret to spiral wrap perfection is to stretch out the 180 degree wrap for as much of the rod blank as is possible! A lot of spiral wrap rod builders will bunch up the entire 180 degree wrap in less than 2 feet of rod length. Huge mistake! Just look at the line flow under load go through a guide and make a sharp angular turn through each guide! That is increased friction and guide loading that is all but eliminated in stretching out the under load line flow for 3/5's of the rod blank's length! Another key secret to perfection of physics that took me years to learn how to get it out the way it should be. Rules in the book thrown out. I wrote my own rules to achieve this:

The above rod is a minimalist as far as wrap guides go. But it operates flawlessly! And is pure joy when hooked up to a fish. The line flow under load follows rod building rules that says the line should sit in the bottom of the guide directly over the stem, or 180 degrees opposite the stem. No side loading of the guides period! That rule I followed to a T. And it works!

This next rod is one of my favorite off the shelf rods. I love and collect only U.S. made Falcon rods. I really enjoy the older thin wall blanks of the Bucoo micro guide rod series. I own 10 of them and all but 1 is now spiral wrapped. The following rod took some time to dial it all in, but the results operate with stunning ease and perfection.

Something else you should notice is that I have moved where the wrap takes place on the blank to further out than conventional spiral wrapped designs which bunch it all closer to the reel and force the line to flow in un-natural places increasing line flow resistance. I threw all of that out. Again, take notice of how ruler straight my line flow is under load from the reel all the way through the entire 180 degree wrap is perfect ruler straight for minimal line flow resistance. Line flow under load sitting in guides where it should be with zero side loading of any guides!

Rods like this cast like a dream and fight fish like a nirvana dream! Took me 25 years to unlock each step and over 100 rods for trial and error, many redone over and over until I got what the materials needed to tell me.


  • CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
    edited November 2019 #2
    And there are other secrets I learned along the way... like with off the shelf rods with all the guides on top, they cause what I call negative blank twisting as the rod loads up and wants to twist over under load leveraged by all the top guides. With those rods, the guides actually move OUT of alignment under load.

    With how I now do it, my guides actually move INTO alignment under load! And, I have discovered that even with spiral wrapped rods, there is some rod blank twisting, but I have learned to use that slight twist to actually further bring my guide system into alignment as it loads up. So I call that positive twist. I use the slight twist to my favor to achieve the desired end results rather than the other way around.

    Now here are some of the secrets I can write into words, but is something that becomes intuitive upon learning it.

    My first step when approaching any rod blank is to strip off all the guides or take a new blank and then load it by hand to the approximate 90 degree mark. Then I examine the blank under load because it shows me where to aim the straight line from the reel under load out to where on the blank? Do you see how my line under load is aiming at a specific spot on the under load rod blank?

    This is something that has to be learned carefully, because if you miss this mark, then you can not achieve spiral wrap perfection. Your wrap will be in the wrong place on the rod and not where the Nature of the line flow under load says it should be.

    And once I determine this specific spot on the rod under load, it tells me where the 180 guides underneath start and go to the tip. I place a bit of tape around the blank at this location. What I can try and describe is that this targeted spot on the rod blank under load is where it begins to bend beyond say a few degrees.

    And this is where I begin building the guide system I developed. I install all of the 180's underneath first. But, I have learned over the years to not epoxy down the 2 180's closest to the reel because their placement can change slightly down the road when line flow under load is eventually tested out.

    Next, once the 180's are installed, I then install the tip.

    And with just these guides in place, I next begin to work on the spiral wrap back to the reel. Put a reel on the rod and run it through the guides and load it up. The perfectly straight line flow from the reel into the 180's under load SHOW you where to put the spiral wrap guides going back to the reel!

    Every rod bends differently, so no rules in a book can tell you the same thing applies to every rod!

    Now for the final tip to share that took me the longest time to learn... and again, I can try and explain this in word in print, but for you to actually learn this secret with your own hands and eyes is quite another thing...

    How to explain... the key to spiral wrap perfection is in how well you aim the line coming out of the reel into the loaded portion of the rod. You can under shoot like most rod builders do, or you can over shoot the perfect sweet spot in the rod blank.

    So here is a secret most spiral wrap rod builders do not ever mention because I have never found one who has made it this far in guide designing...

    You know a long flat bridge like the one down in the keys is difficult to go under in a boat. But if an arch is built into the bridge now the boat has an open spot for the boat to flow under the bridge.

    Well, the same thing applies to spiral wrap guide systems! A flat straight rod is difficult to flow line around in a straight line. But once the rod loads up and bends, it provides an opening of an arch for the final degrees of the spiral wrap to flow right through into the 180's.

    Let that sink in... spiral wrap perfection uses the bend in the rod to aim the line flow under load directly into the 180's.

    Like I said above... as the rod loads up, the perfect spiral wrap guide design begins to come alive! And the guides actually move into alignment, not out of alignment as seen with rods with all guides on the top. Those are perfectly aligned when the rod is straight! It is when the rod is loaded up all the problems begin!

    And so, with spiral wrapped perfection we must reverse this situation which means the guides are slightly out of alignment when blank is perfectly straight, but as the rod loads up, the guides magically move into alignment when done the right way as dictated by each rod paired to a specific reel with specific height off the blank. Change to a different reel with different height off the blank and it throws the perfection of alignment off slightly. Not enough to matter to most, but ever so slightly depending on how far different the new reel is from the one used to make the custom spiral wrapped rod.

    And some rod builders may notice I left out certain details like to which side is best to wrap a rod and why based purely in physics. And I left out the stripper guide argument of line stacking as well. We can get into that later on if anyone cares.

    For now I just wanted to share with my fellow central Florida fishing and tackle enthusiasts where I am at today with my highly refined detailed method of spiral wrapping bass fishing rods.

    Now for some of what I don't like to see in spiral wrapped rods:

    Notice the entire 180 degree wrap happens in mere inches of the rod blank. Imagine loading this rod up and watching line flow through the spiral wrap. Each guide will have tremendous angular bends to the line flowing through each guide. That is increased line flow resistance. And no thought was given as to where on the blank the spiral should naturally take place. I would not want a rod built like this one! And this one is on rod builder.org website too as if it were the bomb! NOT!

    And this next one also shows no effort what so ever to straighten out line flow under load. In fact on this next one, they increase the wrap to well above 180 degrees in total! Guides going in both directions. Guaranteed angular bends in line flow under load! Increased line flow resistance. But it works. But is it ideal is the question? In my book, hell no!

    This next one shows again, entire 180 degree spiral wrap done in less than 18 inches of rod blank length guaranteeing angular bends to line flow under load and increased resistance. Stripper is straight up at 12 o'clock position for starters. Again no thought on where on blank spiral wrap should be located. In rods like these builders are placing dictations on the materials and forcing them into un-natural locations bearing no relation to what the rod would tell the builder if only they would listen to the materials!

  • CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
    edited November 2019 #3

    Take a look at the rod above. Notice it is under load and the line flow is slightly off center in the stripper guide slightly to the right side, and the second guide out is severely side loaded 90 degrees up the right side of the guide! This is a huge no no when positioning guides on a spiral wrapped rod. You never want to see any side loading of any of the guides period.

    And notice the angular line bends as line flows through spiral wrap guides. This is what you should want to eliminate if possible. Line should flow straight from reel into 180's nearly perfectly straight on a well designed spiral wrap guide system. No way around any of this.

    But will this work? Of course it will work. But again, is it ideal? Apparently not according to the line flow under load.

    Another thing to notice on this rod is that the 4th and 5th guides out from the reel are placed at the 180 degree position directly under the blank. 

    With the way I now do it, these guides should not be in the 180 position at this location on the rod blank under load. See further out where blank begins to bend under load? The 6th guide out is about where I would start my 180's. Not as close to the reel as this rod was done. This builder missed out on using more of the rod blank itself to straighten out the line flow under load and he severely under shot where the line flow should have been aimed down the blank into the 180's.

    A classic mistake. Heck, when I first started learning I did it! Big time! I look back at some of my first attempts and just laugh. And then throw some of them into the pile to be stripped down and done right based on what I know now. Huge differences.

    But they all work! Just not dialed in to the n'th degree of ideal perfection is all.
  • CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
    edited November 2019 #4
    This brings me to another secret I learned about guide placement.

    When I first started this process I used double footed guides that were kind of tall. Today I use mostly single foot micro guides which brings the line flow much closer to the blank.

    And this proved problematic for me to have the line so close to the blank through the spiral wrap around the rod blank without touching it when under load.

    There is one place X marks the spot of where the line flow under load cross the blank. And it is in this area where a balancing of guide placement has to take place. In other words the stripper guide takes up some of this 180 spiral wrap and the next guide out picks up the rest.
    Some rod builders will add another guide in between just to make sure the line flow stands off the blank and this is simply not necessary!

    Because even if there is an ever so slight amount of line touching the blank it does not pose a problem during line flow under load. It is a bigger pain in the rear to force another guide in there just to make sure but this increases angular line bends in the guides and is not necessary.

    Something else to consider here is rod use dynamics.

    A right hander holds the rod in the right hand when fighting a fish. A lefty holds the rod in his left hand when fighting a fish. This dynamic must be taken into account which can either help here or hurt here depending on the rod builder's understanding of the physics of what the rod is doing when fighting a fish.

    As I said above, the rod bend provides an arch for line to flow when under load. The same thing happens when fighting a fish from side to side. Use the bend to your advantage and calculate it in when placing guides here. Do it right and there won't be any line touching the blank even with short micro guides like I use. Do it wrong and the fish can pull the line into the rod blank at this cross point, but it is not really a big deal.

    When you consider all the line touching in a loaded standard rod between each guide through the entire bend of the rod and it still works. Then surely an ever so slight touching of the line on the side of the blank in one spot can not be a super cause for concern in a spiral wrap situation pushing tolerance here quite tight indeed.

    Hope this makes sense.

    And this is why over the years I have come to the conclusion that a spiral wrap must be done on the side of the blank that the reel's handle is on.  It has to be this way because to reverse it will bring the line into greater contact with blank at the cross point, while if going with the same side the reel handle is on, then as rod bends line is actually pulled away from the blank and presto! No line rub on the blank at the cross point. Use the way the rod is fished to your spiral wrap advantage! Simple enough.
  • CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
    edited November 2019 #5

    Here is another custom spiral wrapped rod. Anyone notice a broken rule above? At minimum, 3rd guide out is severely side loaded! Loading up this rod and the side loading is pulling that guide sideways trying to literally break it sideways off the rod! It is clearly in the wrong place and the line flow under load says so.

    Also, notice the angular bend in the line through the spiral wrap guides? Not ideal for sure. Attention to detail completely missed by this builder probably because most rod builders are dictating to the materials where he wants the guides to be and not letting the natural line flow tell him through testing before locking down the guides with epoxy.


    Even the stripper guide shows line flow under load is slightly off center.

    I just don't think this builder tested line flow under load before locking the guides down. And this is the results of that failure and negligence.

    I'll try and post some new images of more recent rods... look forward to hearing opinions on this subject.

  • SloughSlough S.w. Ga./ St. JamesPosts: 5,244 Admiral
    I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you
  • Ol'DirtyCasterOl'DirtyCaster Posts: 2,377 Captain
    Slough said:
    I want 6 minutes of my life back, lol.
  • CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
    edited November 2019 #8
    The debate over where to place the stripper guide continues to rage on...

    When I first began making spiral wrapped rods I actually listened to the so called experts I found online, some of which were found on various forums like rod builders.

    Some experts swear that the stripper guide has to be at 12 o'clock position straight up. Others swear it has to be 10 degrees to the opposite side of the spiral wrap because they claim if you don't do this, then the line will all stack up on the reel to the same side as the spiral wrap.

    Well, I made some rods like they said and came to find out down the road both were wrong. When doing a 180 degree spiral wrap it never made any sense to me to increase that to 190 degrees. So I never did follow that advice because it simply made no sense based on my experience with my first custom spiral wrapped rod which was made with the stripper guide actually around 90 degrees offset to the spiral wrap side. I used the rod like this for years and guess what? I never experienced any line stacking. So I was grateful to learn right from the top that line stacking was not an issue as some swore up and down it was.

    So this gave me more freedom to experiment with stretching out the spiral transition more. Pure physics directed me in the way to go.

    And on average, my stripper guides vary between 7 to 15 degrees offset to the spiral wrap side. Looking down the rod, some are close to being visually split down the middle by the side of the rod by line of sight.

    Another key factor to correct stripper guide placement is to watch where line flow under load flows through this guide. When properly placed, it achieves a balance between left to right polarities.

    For example, if the line flow under load is at the bottom of the guide properly placed directly over the stem at the 6 o'clock position when rod is experiencing a straight down vertical load, as the loaded rod is pulled to the left, the line flow will ride up the left side of the guide, and if the loaded rod is pulled to the right side, the line flow will ride up the right side of the guide slightly.

    So proper guide placement all along the rod blank is actually a careful tight wire balancing act between all polarities. And by offsetting the stripper guide to one side or the other depending on which way the fisherman uses the rod, the entire 180 degree spiral wrap transition starts at the reel and continues all the way out to the first 180's on the underside taking up on average from 50% to 70% of the rod blank length rather than the less than 2 feet of transition space most custom rod builders tend to go with.

    The nice thing about the process I learned the hard way step by step was that it was an adaptive process that worked on any rod blank of any length. I've done it successfully on 5 foot pistol grip rods all the way up to 8 foot rods and it can work on longer and shorter rods too.

    I guess the main thing I've learned all these years is that rules in a book don't always turn out right. And that I should not approach rod building from the point of view that I have some pre-determined idea of where guides have to be placed because some rule in a book says so.

    I've learned that when approaching the spiral wrapped rod that I should let each rod tell me where the guides should be placed based on that blank's specific bend characteristics. So I start with what I do know is the placement and installation of the known 180's and then work backwards towards the reel based on the taut line showing me the path for the guides location and angle of placement.

    And, don't be so quick to lock down the guides with epoxy. I have actually gone fishing a couple of times with unfinished rods with guides only wrapped on, but not epoxied in place. I do this so I can test the line flow under load and play around with guide placement and angle so I know I have it right or as close a balance as is possible before committing the rod to the finished state with all the guides locked down with epoxy. Don't be afraid to experiment and test first.

    I am amazed at how many rod builders pick their spots and angles and lock them down without testing line flow under load and doing any sort of corrections seeking straighter line flow. The rods I showed above show this very clearly. And all spiral wrapped rods can be tested to see how close or far their guide system is from the desired goal of ruler straight line flow under load.

    The trick is in learning where on the blank the 180's should begin and how to aim the line flow into them correctly without over shooting or under shooting as is the case most often.... Once you get this part down the rest is easy and falls into place.

  • rysherrysher Posts: 381 Deckhand
    Slough said:
    I want 6 minutes of my life back, lol.
    me too. alot of BS that can be easily dispelled. 
  • CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
    edited November 2019 #10
    Then go for it and show your spiral results. Put your spiral wraps under load up for viewing here so we can all see please. Showing unloaded rods won't cut it.

    The results I am achieving speaks for itself. If you can show better please do! The floor is yours. This line flow under load speaks for itself. I can not improve on this can you? Show us please!

    I'd really like to hear and see how you can improve on results like this and meet the rules of custom rod building as established at the 8th National Conclave of rod builders as agreed on by the country's top experts in the field as shown below...

    My guide design is geared towards meeting these standard rules for custom rod building- non-spiral theory:

    Notice rule number one: Line should run as straight as possible from the reel to the tip of the rod.

    Notice rule number two: Line should form as small of an angle as possible with each guide.

    It seems to me my spiral guide design and system meets these common rules while other spiral wrapped rods do not which is easy to see in loaded rods. So if my process is BS, then show why please. I am open to learn how to make my line flow even straighter than it does now.  :)

    I am simply trying to offer something positive and helpful here and it should hopefully be taken in that spirit.

  • Ol'DirtyCasterOl'DirtyCaster Posts: 2,377 Captain
    Cagey said:
    Then go for it and show your spiral results. Put your spiral wraps under load up for viewing here so we can all see please. Showing unloaded rods won't cut it.

     Oof. Getting my popcorn.
  • CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
    edited November 2019 #12
    What is kind of funny and ironic at the same time is that on this forum and others where I post about spiral wraps, not one single person ever shows the forum what their spiral wraps actually look like under load which can only mean one thing.... they did not straighten out line flow under load to ruler straight. 99.99% of the time, this is something that is overlooked during construction phase. I learned to incorporate it and make it a desired goal.

    Right now inside MudHole showroom are a few custom rods made by some top custom rod builders, and in the rack is a spiral wrap made by a top well known builder. Soon I plan on taking a reel in there to examine line flow under load. I already know what to expect because the stripper guide is locked down at the 12 o'clock position. Entire 180 degree spiral wrap transition is crammed into less than 24 inches of rod length and 180's at places the "science" says they do not have to be at.

    This tells me he just cranks them out using a predetermined guide placement set of rules without really taking into consideration the extra dynamics I laid out above which tweaks these rods into as close to ideal as is possible.

    There is a company- Duce Rods- who makes off the shelf spiral wraps that are close to what I make. I have examined them at ICAST and discussed it with company reps. Their rods are dialed in close to mine to within a 95% closeness.

    The first problem with off the shelf wraps is they only wrap to one side which is not a best case scenario for fishermen who need the wrap to go to the other side. And, off the shelf rods don't take into account precise reel height dimensions like I do when building for myself.
  • StankBaitStankBait Posts: 397 Deckhand

    Yep, Don Morton had it figured out. Meet the criteria and you have an efficient rod.
  • CageyCagey Central FloridaPosts: 917 Officer
    Yep! You are an informed member here!
  • RedRichRedRich Posts: 277 Deckhand
    "A right hander holds the rod in the right hand when fighting a fish. A lefty holds the rod in his left hand when fighting a fish. This dynamic must be taken into account which can either help here or hurt here depending on the rod builder's understanding of the physics of what the rod is doing when fighting a fish."

    In my world I am right handed and hold a baitcaster rod in my left hand when fighting a fish. Maybe I've been doing it wrong for 40 years. 

    I do agree that the rod under load should guide you as to where to place the line guides when doing spiral wraps.
  • Spoonplugger1Spoonplugger1 Posts: 10 Deckhand
    Sounds like you found Ralph O'Quinn's system he developed maybe 40 + years ago. We know the spiral wrap system in one kind, or another, has been around since the 1890's. The only interesting thing I see I can add is that back in the late 80's, or early 90's we experimented with the extent that spiral wraps could be effective. We built some rods with 540 degree spirals (1 1/2 ) turns, they worked just as well as our standard spiral rods, or guides on top rods with identical builds
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