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Pistol-Grip Rods: Obsolete Or Still Worthy Of A Spot On The Boat?

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September 09, 2013

Pistol-Grip Rods: Obsolete Or Still Worthy Of A Spot On The Boat?

By Dave Wolak

Does anyone ever use pistol-grip casting rods anymore? Once in a while at the lake I'll see an old-timer flicking a spinnerbait around with a 5'9" pistol-grip—you know Hank Parker style. I remember when these rods were the craze among bass fishermen. Call me nutty, but I think pistol grips will always have a time and a place, namely in tight quarters when short casting around boat docks or scattered shallow wood. But those times and places are becoming fewer and fewer with the advent of lighter, longer rods with split-grip handles integrated into the blanks.

The short handles of pistol-grips might make casting easier and more accurate, but if you used to use them, you might recall that fighting a fish on one was tough on the wrist, and big bass could easily overpower the rod. The new breed of rods with the blanks running through the handles assist with leverage both behind the hand and in front of the hand. The configurations are essentially matching up the technology and biomechanics necessary to make fishing effectively a lot easier in terms of catching, and a lot easier on the angler physically. Although I still grab a pistol grip now and again, it’s hard to get away from the new stuff, and that’s because in my opinion, two hands are better than one when it comes to presentation and fish fighting. A long-handled split-grip rod allows me to use my left hand on the butt to aid in pendulum swinging a bait, and it also allows me to choke up higher on the rod above the reel for a more solid hook set.

Aside from new technology overtaking the old, there is another reason why I think pistol grips that were once the best things since sliced bread went away. Today, average bass anglers are simply better, spend more time on the water seriously fishing, and ultimately have higher expectations than they did 25 years ago. I think it’s fair to apply this even to the casual angler that gets out once every two weeks. With higher expectations on the water, we all expect more from our equipment. That’s not to suggest, however, that you should toss those old pistol grips, because technology also has a way of making the old new again. All it may take to revive the pistol-grip is someone respected in the fishing world putting up some big bass, or swearing lure X works better with a pistol. Suddenly they could be the best things you need that you already had.

Comments (16)

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from 357 wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

i hate pistol grip rods, I caught several decent sized pike on a borrowed pistol grip rod and man it played hard on the wrist. I have one i used for pots it's a 5'6" rod and i got into a 5 pound bass on it once and man it was unpleasant i haven't taken it out since.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

A custom builder worth his salt could easily run a hole through the end of the pistol grip and affix a split grip style butt to it, giving both grip ergonomics and additional leverage(Seen it once or twice:)).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

Dave, I was working for Lew Childre when Shag Shahid hand carved the first really true pistol grip handle which Lew promptly had Fuji build for his speed sticks. (by the way, Casey still has that first wooden hand carved handle). The Idea behind the first pistol grip handle was to make you naturally turn the reel ninety degrees in your hand such that your thumb would hit the left side of the reel spool instead of being on top of the line. I still have and use the pistol grip handles and favor them over through blank handles. The old pistol grip handles and even the two hand cork handles made by Fuji were off set. The new through blank rod handles do not have an off set and are much harder to cast. As to fighting fish, I have caught saltwater fish in the sixty pound range with my old pistol grip handles with no problems. I still like the old adaptor system that Lew used to connect the rod to the handle. Lew first used an "O"Ring lock system but when hard plastics handles gave way to carbon fiber handles, the "O"Ring system was replaced with a simple chucking system. Then after Lew's passing, Casey did away with the chuck and designed an off set pistol grip handle that let the rod blank extend inside all the way to the trigger of the handle. This would let you touch the blank and still have an off set handle in order to satisfy marketing. But the rod has the purpose of damping or absorbing the shocks of a fighting fish and that is why it it bends and flexes like it does. The rod is supposed to insulate you or keep you from feeling the full force of the jerking of the line caused by the fish and keep the fish from snapping the line at the reel. But the line is the only thing directly connected to the lure/bait and thus also to the fish. Just like a tin can telephone, the string or line transmits the vibrations. Thus to properly keep you in touch with the lure/bait/fish, you must keep one finger lightly touching the line while fishing. The vibrations that are picked up by your finger from the line will tell you everything that the lure is seeing. So the rod can not contribute to the true feel of the lure/bait and do its job properly. Therefore being able to touch the blank at the reel does not actually help you with feel, even though the sales hipe told you otherwise. Casey tried to keep the off set handle alive, but all the hipe about through handle blanks was too great and became a big factor in doing away with the off set handles for bass fishing. I hope that I am not the last dinosaur to use the Fuji pistol grip and two handed handles and I still have a bushel basket full of them to put on my newer rods so that I should have enough to finish out my lifetime.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

Picked up a combo from Sam's Club that had a pistol grip handle, of course that was a good 20yrs ago, loved it then and still carry it in the boat today, accurate little thing.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bsheahan1229 wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

I have a pistol grip spincaster my grandfather gave me (along with the Mickey Finn the won the Vintage Tackle Contest about a year ago). I tried casting it, and I couldn't wait to get back to my regular spinner. The reel weighed about a pound (it was made of steel), and the rod was also very heavy (also metal). Now I denounce all pistol grips.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

I see them all the time as curb alerts on craigslist. I never liked them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

I beg to differ. I have 2 of them with good bait casters and I love ‘em.

One is my Pike rod and I sometime use it for very light Muskie lures. One is my 10 pound test bass rod. In fact, I just caught a nice Large mouth on the bass rod yesterday morning, with no issues. Pistol grips. I love them. The only problem I found is getting them in the weights and performance you want. So when in the big sporting goods stores I am always on the look out, And who holds the grip when reeling a fish? I though that grip was just for casting. I grab the reel and seat itself or just above. I also have one of the heavy duty through the blank, with adjustable extension and I still prefer the pistol grip.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FSU70 wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

I regret I didn't buy up a number of pistol grip rods while they were still plentiful. They are few and far betwen now and hype and advertsing has replaced accuracy and efficiency. I've thrown a spinner bait for many years and I prefer the accuracy and control of the pistol grip over the long handle rods. I still fish a lot of boat houses and deadfall and the accuracy and control of the bait is much more effective and responsive for me. The long handle rods are great for Carolina Rigs as it takes two hands to really sling that rig but in most cases your not throwing that anywhere but points and in open deep water.
I agree the pistol grip puts the stress on the hand and many a time I have come home from fishing a tournament and my right hand was sore. But that is a small price to pay for the efficiency and accuracey I feel I get from a pistol grip.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fruguy101 wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

Pistol grip rods are just about the only thing I own. I have always cast with my right hand, then switched to my left to hold it while I reeled the line in, holding the rod and reel right under the reel seat. Never had any problems fighting fish in this manner.

However, God did not make everybody the same. Therefore, everybody will have their own preference. Mine is to not spend more than a couple hours pay on a rod because no matter how sensitive the rod, know what a strike feels like as you work the lure is more important than having a rod that shivers when a hair falls on it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from sgtsly wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

I'm never without one. Got a nifty little 2-piece 5-6er that is always in the trunk. I can stop anywhere I want and chuck Shysters or split shot a 4" lizard and catch bass all day. Caught snook and redfish at Weedon Island on Cotee spoons and trout on DOA shrimp. Great for float tubes too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

When I looked at the posted picture, I thought that it had been taken yesterday in my garage. I have a half dozen pistol grips in the sink to be cleaned and brushed as I write this. It strikes me that previous posters all have their preferences and are quite satisfied with their choices. I personally have no desire to throw out the old and buy the "latest and greatest". And come this weekend, my grandson is going to experience the joy that comes from using a 12' cane pole, rigged with a red-and-white bobber, a small split shot, a #8 eagle claw gold hook and a can of worms. In my humble opinion, that's what fishing is all about.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 31 weeks 4 days ago

Have accumulated a lot of things over my fishing career and that includes several pistol grip rods. I think the weaknesses of the pistol grip are noticed more if you compare it to a spinning rod. Where you can balance a good spinning rod with one finger near the grip the pistol grip is not even close to this.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 31 weeks 1 day ago

Didn't notice one, WestCoast steelhead/salmon levelwind drift rod. Darn near a must to prevent throwing your prized rod over the side of a jet boat, or driftboat on a cold hands day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tleichty1989 wrote 30 weeks 6 days ago

I just purchased a pistol grip with an Abu Garcia black max on it. Ill be taking it back not really a fan of the system. I have grown up with a spin cast rod and reel! Way more versatile in my opinion.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FISHEROFLIFE wrote 28 weeks 5 days ago

I HAVE SEVERel pistol grip rods they good for bobber fishing and bass all around just good rods.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nehemiahmercado wrote 23 weeks 1 day ago

No one deny the fact that the short handle pistol-grips will make casting easier and more accurate, since long handled split-grip rod would not provide the perfect hold in hand. There are many materials used to make the pistol grips like wood, rubber, metal etc.

However, special textured rubber grips are the most appropriate among them. If you want to buy varieties of pistol grips, then you can look up Zfi-Inc.com who also offers 10% discount coupon on such products, without taking a shipping charge.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from santa wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

Dave, I was working for Lew Childre when Shag Shahid hand carved the first really true pistol grip handle which Lew promptly had Fuji build for his speed sticks. (by the way, Casey still has that first wooden hand carved handle). The Idea behind the first pistol grip handle was to make you naturally turn the reel ninety degrees in your hand such that your thumb would hit the left side of the reel spool instead of being on top of the line. I still have and use the pistol grip handles and favor them over through blank handles. The old pistol grip handles and even the two hand cork handles made by Fuji were off set. The new through blank rod handles do not have an off set and are much harder to cast. As to fighting fish, I have caught saltwater fish in the sixty pound range with my old pistol grip handles with no problems. I still like the old adaptor system that Lew used to connect the rod to the handle. Lew first used an "O"Ring lock system but when hard plastics handles gave way to carbon fiber handles, the "O"Ring system was replaced with a simple chucking system. Then after Lew's passing, Casey did away with the chuck and designed an off set pistol grip handle that let the rod blank extend inside all the way to the trigger of the handle. This would let you touch the blank and still have an off set handle in order to satisfy marketing. But the rod has the purpose of damping or absorbing the shocks of a fighting fish and that is why it it bends and flexes like it does. The rod is supposed to insulate you or keep you from feeling the full force of the jerking of the line caused by the fish and keep the fish from snapping the line at the reel. But the line is the only thing directly connected to the lure/bait and thus also to the fish. Just like a tin can telephone, the string or line transmits the vibrations. Thus to properly keep you in touch with the lure/bait/fish, you must keep one finger lightly touching the line while fishing. The vibrations that are picked up by your finger from the line will tell you everything that the lure is seeing. So the rod can not contribute to the true feel of the lure/bait and do its job properly. Therefore being able to touch the blank at the reel does not actually help you with feel, even though the sales hipe told you otherwise. Casey tried to keep the off set handle alive, but all the hipe about through handle blanks was too great and became a big factor in doing away with the off set handles for bass fishing. I hope that I am not the last dinosaur to use the Fuji pistol grip and two handed handles and I still have a bushel basket full of them to put on my newer rods so that I should have enough to finish out my lifetime.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

When I looked at the posted picture, I thought that it had been taken yesterday in my garage. I have a half dozen pistol grips in the sink to be cleaned and brushed as I write this. It strikes me that previous posters all have their preferences and are quite satisfied with their choices. I personally have no desire to throw out the old and buy the "latest and greatest". And come this weekend, my grandson is going to experience the joy that comes from using a 12' cane pole, rigged with a red-and-white bobber, a small split shot, a #8 eagle claw gold hook and a can of worms. In my humble opinion, that's what fishing is all about.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

Picked up a combo from Sam's Club that had a pistol grip handle, of course that was a good 20yrs ago, loved it then and still carry it in the boat today, accurate little thing.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

I beg to differ. I have 2 of them with good bait casters and I love ‘em.

One is my Pike rod and I sometime use it for very light Muskie lures. One is my 10 pound test bass rod. In fact, I just caught a nice Large mouth on the bass rod yesterday morning, with no issues. Pistol grips. I love them. The only problem I found is getting them in the weights and performance you want. So when in the big sporting goods stores I am always on the look out, And who holds the grip when reeling a fish? I though that grip was just for casting. I grab the reel and seat itself or just above. I also have one of the heavy duty through the blank, with adjustable extension and I still prefer the pistol grip.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FSU70 wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

I regret I didn't buy up a number of pistol grip rods while they were still plentiful. They are few and far betwen now and hype and advertsing has replaced accuracy and efficiency. I've thrown a spinner bait for many years and I prefer the accuracy and control of the pistol grip over the long handle rods. I still fish a lot of boat houses and deadfall and the accuracy and control of the bait is much more effective and responsive for me. The long handle rods are great for Carolina Rigs as it takes two hands to really sling that rig but in most cases your not throwing that anywhere but points and in open deep water.
I agree the pistol grip puts the stress on the hand and many a time I have come home from fishing a tournament and my right hand was sore. But that is a small price to pay for the efficiency and accuracey I feel I get from a pistol grip.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fruguy101 wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

Pistol grip rods are just about the only thing I own. I have always cast with my right hand, then switched to my left to hold it while I reeled the line in, holding the rod and reel right under the reel seat. Never had any problems fighting fish in this manner.

However, God did not make everybody the same. Therefore, everybody will have their own preference. Mine is to not spend more than a couple hours pay on a rod because no matter how sensitive the rod, know what a strike feels like as you work the lure is more important than having a rod that shivers when a hair falls on it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from sgtsly wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

I'm never without one. Got a nifty little 2-piece 5-6er that is always in the trunk. I can stop anywhere I want and chuck Shysters or split shot a 4" lizard and catch bass all day. Caught snook and redfish at Weedon Island on Cotee spoons and trout on DOA shrimp. Great for float tubes too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 357 wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

i hate pistol grip rods, I caught several decent sized pike on a borrowed pistol grip rod and man it played hard on the wrist. I have one i used for pots it's a 5'6" rod and i got into a 5 pound bass on it once and man it was unpleasant i haven't taken it out since.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

A custom builder worth his salt could easily run a hole through the end of the pistol grip and affix a split grip style butt to it, giving both grip ergonomics and additional leverage(Seen it once or twice:)).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bsheahan1229 wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

I have a pistol grip spincaster my grandfather gave me (along with the Mickey Finn the won the Vintage Tackle Contest about a year ago). I tried casting it, and I couldn't wait to get back to my regular spinner. The reel weighed about a pound (it was made of steel), and the rod was also very heavy (also metal). Now I denounce all pistol grips.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

I see them all the time as curb alerts on craigslist. I never liked them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 31 weeks 4 days ago

Have accumulated a lot of things over my fishing career and that includes several pistol grip rods. I think the weaknesses of the pistol grip are noticed more if you compare it to a spinning rod. Where you can balance a good spinning rod with one finger near the grip the pistol grip is not even close to this.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 31 weeks 1 day ago

Didn't notice one, WestCoast steelhead/salmon levelwind drift rod. Darn near a must to prevent throwing your prized rod over the side of a jet boat, or driftboat on a cold hands day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tleichty1989 wrote 30 weeks 6 days ago

I just purchased a pistol grip with an Abu Garcia black max on it. Ill be taking it back not really a fan of the system. I have grown up with a spin cast rod and reel! Way more versatile in my opinion.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FISHEROFLIFE wrote 28 weeks 5 days ago

I HAVE SEVERel pistol grip rods they good for bobber fishing and bass all around just good rods.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nehemiahmercado wrote 23 weeks 1 day ago

No one deny the fact that the short handle pistol-grips will make casting easier and more accurate, since long handled split-grip rod would not provide the perfect hold in hand. There are many materials used to make the pistol grips like wood, rubber, metal etc.

However, special textured rubber grips are the most appropriate among them. If you want to buy varieties of pistol grips, then you can look up Zfi-Inc.com who also offers 10% discount coupon on such products, without taking a shipping charge.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment