A fourth-year veteran in the Bassmaster Elite Series, Pro Angler Brandon Lester has been building his own custom rods for almost 4 years. Brandon believes custom rod building not only improves his physical performance, but also boosts his overall performance with the knowledge of different fishing techniques, equipment, and of course, fish.
***Update: Although the application still applies to bass fishing, we no longer offer the Brandon Lester 8’6″ Spinning Rod Kit.***
Interview with Bassmaster Elite Pro Brandon Lester:
Recently, Brandon got a chance to stop by Mud Hole Custom Tackle. In between inking a new deal with Mud Hole and stocking up on rod building resources, Brandon Lester answered a few questions about his complete Pro Tour Rod Kits:
Why do you want a longer MHX rod blank?
There are several benefits inherent to longer blanks like the ST1023F-MHX-Blank. Although this blank was originally designed as a steelhead and salmon rod, MHX suggested the ST1023F-MHX Blank because its length and flexibility make it ideal for me to throw smaller crankbaits.
For starters, this longer blank works to extend my casting distance and maintain excellent flexibility while I fight fish. The extra length of my ST1023F-MHX Blank gives fish more time to get the bait, making for a better hook-set. Then with the hook in place, the added length and its flexibility help me fight the fish to bring it in towards the boat.
I also found when using treble hook baits with a longer blank, I can hold the blank up to control the line and track the bait easier while fishing in the current.
Why choose the 8’6” blank when there are also the 9’ and 10’ versions?
Well to be honest, the 9’ and 10’ versions start getting a little heavier. If I decide to cast a crank bait all day long, the fatigue brought by the heavier rod will wear down my arms and wrists much faster than the 8’6” blank.
What’s the trade off in this rod decision?
I think the only trade off would be accuracy while casting. Shorter rods are more accurate, but can’t send the lure out as far. On the other hand, a longer rod blank is a bit more cumbersome, and while it won’t be as accurate, you can bet the cast will be a much further.
A farther cast is great for me because it maximizes the time my crankbait spends diving through the strike zone. I’ve noticed my success rate of landing fish using crankbaits has dramatically increased with a longer rod blank. So for me, the 8’6” ST1023F-MHX Rod Blank is the perfect length for my desired performance.
Was your concern primarily the length, or did action and power have any influence?
My primary concerns came down to both length and power. When I went to Mud Hole, we put the ST1023F-MHX Rod Blank to static board test and it was a perfect match.
We really nailed it with this rod blank selection and I’m excited to take it to the Bassmaster Elite Series.
What size lure and rigging works for you?
I work a lot of small crank baits like the Rapala Shad Rap and some balsa wood baits, but the largest crank bait I would use is the Rapala DT6.
Since this is a finesse cranking and drop shot rod, I would use up to a ½ ounce drop shot rig.
What type of line performs best in your fishing application?
Great question, I really believe the best drop shot line is 10 lb. braid with an 8 lb. fluoro leader.
But for finesse cranking, I would go with an 8 lb. mono or fluoro line because mono will cast further, work better in the cold weather, and it’s easier to use, while fluoro adds a little more sensitivity and gives you a little more depth considering it sinks.
Why fish with the split grip instead of the full grip?
I love the split grip because that’s the setup on all my handle assemblies. I build a lot of rods and the split grip is not only easier to build, but also performs better for me while I fight and land fish.
For more of my personal preferences, all my rods have MHX Winn Grips because they bring a consistent performance regardless of weather and environmental conditions.
How does this rod help bring fish to the boat?
A longer rod blank definitely gives me more control when fighting fish. With the help of the blank’s extra length, I found it’s much easier to bring each fish to the boat and land it.
When the hook is set in the fish, the ST1023F-MHX Rod Blank flexes at the tip and mid-section to form a shock absorbing mechanism between the fish and myself. This mechanism keeps the fish pinned on the hook until I can reach it.
Once the fish is in pretty close, I begin working my hands up the rod blank. Then to land the fish, I just hand-reel the remaining line until the fish is in the boat.