20 ways to break a rod
  |  First Published: December 2007

Read and weep, because you’ve done the same or will one day





There isn’t a worse sound to a fisho than that of a rod snapping. One could probably liken it to a batsman hearing the death rattle of stumps flying and bails hitting the ground. Both know they’re out without having to look.

When you hear that snapping sound you know the rod is buggered. Fish long enough – and that isn’t long for some people – and everyone hears it at some stage. And if you haven’t, then your time will come.

The older rods that were mostly fibreglass were a lot harder to break than the super-light graphite rods of today, so people get to hear the death knell more often.

When I first thought of writing this article, I started off with 10 ways to break a rod but as I gave it some thought I managed to come up with 20 ways pretty quickly and decided to stop there. I am sure that we could go on recounting heaps more methods to destroy one’s pride and joy.


This has to be one of the most popular methods to turn a good 7’ rod into a useless five-footer. When my wife and I had just moved in together we decided to visit some good friends a few hundred kilometres inland of the coast in South Africa. My mate had also sourced some rods for me that were excellent to fish the national championships with. All of us survived the trip there and back unharmed – until we started unpacking the car.

My lovely partner and soon to be wife thought that she would help me by unloading my rods. There was a force-5 gale blowing as she ever so gently removed the rods from the car. She almost got them out when the door slammed shut, trimming only about 15cm off the ends. At least they were still all the same length!


The advent of remote-control garage doors has made life a lot easier for many of us. This is great unless you have your boat parked half-way into the garage and push the remote by accident! A friend did this after the Flathead Classic and destroyed all of his rods in one go.

To say he was devastated would be an understatement and he still has the broken bits lying in his garage. He pulls them out once a month to have a wail and then puts them away again, just to show them that he hasn’t forgotten them. Some of us can get a bit too attached to our rods.


This one is a top achiever for the tropics, especially for those of us from down south where ceiling fans are not commonplace. Re-rigging in the hotel room after a long day’s fishing and poking the rod tip into a whizzing fan is a great way to spoil a holiday.

I have seen this one done and fortunately we had a few spare rods to go around so all was not lost. Our mate actually ended up catching the best fish of the trip on one of my rods, cheeky sod.


If I had a dollar for all the rods broken by doing this then I would have heaps more fishing tackle and be on a permanent fishing holiday. High-sticking is the term given to a situation when the angler is holding his rod too high and the angle between line and rod tip is too acute. A sudden pull from the fish generates too much pull on the graphite and because of the intense angle it snaps.

Fish that are close to the boat and require that last bit of lift to get to the net are prime candidates for high-sticking. Many fishos unused to fishing off a boat are prone to this.

Try to avoid high-sticking by keeping the rod tip lower, which also means that you will be able to be heaps more pressure on the fish.


Rods are built to absorb a gradual pull. Most good quality rods can handle just about anything that you throw at them but they are not made to cope with a sudden massive jerk. I have seen so many rods broken like this it’s just not funny.

If you get your rig stuck on the bottom or in a snag on the bank, never give it a massive jerk to try to rip it free. For one, the lure can come shooting back at you and hook someone on the boat (seen that one, too!) and secondly, it’s the easiest way to bust a rod. Grab the line or preferably the leader and yank on that. Even the most expensive lure is far cheaper than a decent rod.


A rod locker on a boat is a very handy place to store rods out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, if the locker closes while the rods are still being put in you have a recipe for disaster.

I found this out in a recent bream tournament. While I was stowing away my rods, wake from a passing boat caught me unawares and the locker door slammed shut.

I didn’t want to look but eventually forced myself to. I was greeted by the spectacle of three rod tips sticking straight up at 90° to the rod locker door. To say that I was unhappy would be putting it mildly!


:Driving under tree branches or low bridges with the rods in the upright holders is a pretty good one.

I saw this happen while travelling behind someone on the way back from the boat ramp. They had obviously left the rods in the holders after washing them and drove under a low bridge, snapping the rod tips clean off as the guys drove along none the wiser.

I decided to leave them in their happy state until they found out the terrible truth when they arrived home.


The tackle store owner’s worst nightmare is a clumsy test pilot. Graphite rods are not designed to be bent back on themselves. One can still do this with glass rods like the good old whippy Ugly Stiks but a graphite rod will snap every time.

Let the salesperson help you or load up the rod up gradually the ceiling if you want to see the blank under load.

I recently did a presentation on how to do fish soft plastics. I explained exactly how not to test a rod using a rod as an example. When the audience came up to check out the combos on display, the inevitable happened. One of the guys took a graphite rod and with the butt in one hand and the tip in the other, bent it to see what it was like. You guessed it, that sound again. I noticed it a split second too late to stop him.


Always try to stay out of the habit of putting your rod down on the deck of the boat, especially when there is more than one of you aboard. When the action is thick and fast with the fish chewing their heads off, rods can get trampled quite easily.

It is a really bad way to spoil a good fishing trip and can make enemies out of good mates.


Carrying rods through the house and walking into a wall has to be one of those tricks that can make a fisho feel a complete idiot. When a rod tip hits a wall head-on the graphite shatters and you are left with your favourite rod a few centimetres shorter.

Try not to rush when carrying the gear, it can be a lot less expensive.


Unhooking a snagged lure by jabbing it with the rod tip is the same as walking into a wall but you feel a lot more like and idiot because your mate has usually just told you not to do it because he has already broken a rod in a similar manner.

Either the lure hooks the rod tip guide and you hear that sound (it sounds much better under the water!) or you push too hard and you hear that sound (did I mention that it sounds much better under the water?). I still do this with my rods and will still be one of the fortunate few not to hear the sound and until I do I will persist in my folly.


Your rods are tied to the roof racks and you reverse into a lamp pole, garage door or other very obvious structure. I have seen two of my mates do it and I couldn’t help laughing but I did have to run and hide for a while.

The worst person to be is the guy guiding your mate while he is backing up. You are so intent on watching what he is doing that you forget that he has some rods poking out the back of the car.


Now this one I can relate to; fortunately it only cost me a guide and the rod survived. We were fishing for black bass in South Africa with a tiller-steer electric at maximum speed on the bow to battle a gale.

I hooked a good bass and after a tense fight I had it next to the boat when it made a dash straight for the bow. The spinning blade grabbed the line and before I could hit the off button, it pulled my rod straight in.

This time it was my mate’s turn to have a good laugh at my expense. He said the expression on my face was priceless.


This is probably not as popular as many of the others but it still manages to account for its fair share of broken rods. Roof racks are great for transporting long rods but sometimes it’s hard to get the rods tied exactly straight.

So securing the tips to the front bumper or tail gate with a length of fishing line is the logical thing to do. One just needs to remember this when opening the bonnet or you might hear that sound again.


This is more a case of the disappearing rod than the broken rod. But it’s usually broken when you drive back up the highway and find it lying in the road.

A friend splashed out and bought two expensive new outfits which he put in their rod covers and placed on the deck of his boat before setting off.

When he arrived at the ramp they were nowhere to be seen. He back-tracked and found them next to the highway but they had been modified into five-piece travel rods by the car travelling behind him. Hey, at least he didn’t hear the sound!


I mentioned earlier that leaving a rod on the deck isn’t always a good idea. Well, we still do it but we need to be very careful that when the rod is picked up again that the tip doesn’t wedge itself under something. As we have already discussed, graphite doesn’t really appreciate being bend at sharp angles. Wedging a rod tip under the protruding ribs on tinnies is a popular favourite.

17. ZAP!

Accidentally placing a graphite rod across the terminals of a battery is definitely not a technique that breaks a lot of rods but it is a very spectacular way of doing it. Graphite is an excellent conductor of electricity and when, by some quirk of fate, a rod finds a way to touch both terminals the consequences are the same as a dead short!


When thunderstorms are about, the idea is definitely not to be holding a rod when lightning strikes.

At a surf fishing comp in South Africa a group of anglers were getting stuck into the brown stingrays. A thunderstorm was building out to sea and no one was really thinking much of it. One of the fishos had his spare rod placed in a sand spike about 10m away when it was struck by lightning. The force left him unconscious for a short while and threw everyone else nearby to the ground.

He is very fortunate to be able to talk about it today. The graphite rod delaminated all the way to the first guide and is now on display in one of the tackle stores there. It looks like a graphite mop.

Lightning is a killer so never take a chance.


On a trip years ago one of the guys caught a good-sized GT on a popper. He wanted a quick photo of the fish so he stuck his rod in the holder and held the fish up. The GT jumped and he dropped it.

Unfortunately there was no slack in the line and something similar to high-sticking happened. The tip of the rod snapped off and ended his popper fishing for the holiday.

Always remember to back off the drag when handling a fish on or next to the boat. If it surges away from you at least it will not break the rod.


I had to save this one for last because it seems to happen so often that, for some inexplicable reason, when you lend a rod to one of your mates it will break. How often do you have a rod that has never given you any hassles and you pass it over to your mate and there’s that sound again!

Or he takes it on holiday and at the airport baggage claim the rods come out broken. It is almost never your mate’s fault but there is something about the generosity of lending the rod that tempts fate.

There you have it. Twenty ways to break a rod. As I said before, there are heaps more but that’s about enough stories of heartache and devastation for one article!

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