Merwin: How to Break and Not Break Your Fishing Rod

It seems that every fisherman breaks a fishing rod eventually, usually by accident but typically coupled with stupidity, too. Just in case you're among the few who haven't snapped a favorite stick, here are a few tips that will get you into that unhappy club.

Spring-loaded screen doors at home or camp work really well, as do the electrically operated windows in many vehicles. Either one can snap a rod tip so abruptly that you might not even notice until later. Or you can just set a rod on the ground, momentarily become distracted, and then step on it. That's probably the easiest rod-breaker of all.

(Note that I'm talking fishing rods here, and not fishing poles. The difference is price. If it cost more than 10 bucks, it's a rod and not a pole. Fishing poles can thus be regarded as disposable.)

Some rods are actually broken while fighting or attempting to land fish. In that case, the culprit is usually what's called high-sticking. That means holding the rod at too high an angle while applying a heavy load.

When fighting a fish (or attempting to pull free from a snag), hold the rod at no more than a 60-degree angle above horizontal. That means the load is being carried by the rod's midsection and butt, which are the strongest. If you're pulling with the rod held near vertical, that forces the load on to the upper third of the rod, which is likely to snap. Oddly enough, the more expensive and high-tech the rod, the more likely it is to break in this event.

I once tested a bunch of mid-priced freshwater casting rods under heavy, measured loads to see how much force would be required to break them. Held at 45 degrees above horizontal, it took from 22 to 44 pounds of force to snap the rod butts. (You can read the full report here. Most rods were much more durable than I expected.

So that leaves the other ever-present option for breaking a rod: stupidity. No one has a monopoly on being stupid, not even me. Car windows, kitchen doors, tailgates, and clumsy feet have all taken their toll on my rods over the years. You'd think I'd learn after a while, but I haven't....