Tips & Tricks for Building Ultralight Fishing Rods

Panfish & Trout beware… Ultralights are easy to build and ultra-fun to fish. Check out this blog and Mud Hole Live episode for all the best rod building tips and tricks for ultralight rods!

Recap Mud Hole Live: Ultralight Builds

DO NOT miss the video at the bottom… it’s Mud Hole Live: Ultralight Builds!

Featured Demos: 

  • How to Build Tennessee Spinning Handles 
  • Static Deflection Guide Spacing, Guide Foot Prep, & Guide Bands
  • Step-by-Step SK2 Assembly with Tips & Tricks






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We’ve created Mud Hole Live’s Rod Builders’ Workshop to stay in touch with rod builders and their builds in between shows… Join the group now!

How to Build Tennessee Spinning Handles

Tennessee fishing rod handles are a popular handle design that has stood the test of time. As a traditional setup, the Tennessee handle brings the best of simplicity and performance to your fishing rod.

Not only is building a Tennessee handle easy, but now with modern innovations in rod components, there are many more options to customize this classic handle assembly.

To build a Cork Tennessee Handle, follow these steps:

1. Mark the Center of the Cork & Cut in Half

Cutting the cork in half is necessary for two reasons.

The first reason is that the graphite slip rings that hold the reel won’t fit over the cork’s outside edges, and the second reason is because it makes reaming much easier.

You can cut the cork with a Razor Blade, or the Cork Jig Saw.

2. Ream the Grips to Fit the Rod Blank

Remember when reaming, slow and steady will always produce a better fitting handle because you can slide it on to check and then ream as needed to fit the grip perfectly in place.

Stock up on Reamers!

3. Use Paste Epoxy to Mount Grips

After the paste epoxy is mixed, apply a small amount along the butt section of the rod blank to install the cork. Start applying the epoxy a few inches above where the grip will be because as you rotate the cork down the blank and into place, it will use the epoxy as a lubricant before bonding to its final position.

After you have rotated the bottom half of the cork grip down onto the rod blank’s butt section, there will likely be some leftover epoxy emerging from the bottom. But that’s fine, simply use this runoff to install the butt cap over the cork’s rear tenon.

Next, slide on the graphite slip rings over the bottom half of the cork grip.

TIP: DO NOT FORGET to add the slip rings before mounting the top half of the cork grip.

After installing the slip rings, repeat the process to mount the top half of the cork grip onto the rod blank.

Then if there’s any epoxy left above the grip, use this epoxy to glue on the appropriate winding check.

4. Let Cure and Install Spinning Reel

With the handle and slip rings in place, set the Tennessee Handle aside to cure overnight.

You can also try a Carbon Fiber Tennessee Handle!

The next day, take your spinning reel and insert the foot between the slip ring hoods. You will notice that as the slip rings fit over the reel foot, there isn’t any wiggle room for the reel.

The slip rings tighten to grab the cork as well as the reel foot to ensure you have a dependable handle.




All About Ultralight Rod Guides

We get a ton of questions of guides, here are all the answers we have for ultralight guide trains!

Static Deflection for Guide Spacing

Besides giving power and action the ultimate test, the Deflection Tool & Chart Combo also provides an excellent resource for static deflections and guide spacing.

Regardless of the application, custom guide spacing is simple and efficient when you use the deflection tool.

Basically, the game in static deflection is to keep the fishing line from ever crossing or touching the rod blank. Use that path as a roadmap to layout your guides and build a better ultralight rod.

Learn more in the Mud Hole Live Episode at the bottom!

Guide Foot Preparation and Grinding

Prepping your new guide is a must before it comes to time to attach it permanently.

Properly prepping the new guide by grinding down the guide foot with a Guide File or a Dremel tool and the Guide Grinder Holder is important to the wrapping process. Take the time to file down the guide foot to a point before attaching it to the blank.

Double check the bottom of the guide foot for any burrs. If you find some, it’s a simple fix!

Just take some light sand paper and buff out any burrs or points created underneath the guide foot.

This ensures a smooth transition once you start wrapping thread from the blank up onto the guide foot, and that the guide foot doesn’t damage the integrity of the rod blank.

Micro Guide Bands for Thread Wrapping

Micro Guide Bands are designed to work specifically with the size of Micro Guides to facilitate an easier rod build.

For instance, the main purpose of the guide bands is to hold the micro guides in place for thread wraps. Now that’s not all they do, but let’s be honest, that a huge plus with these tiny guides.

After your guide spacing is marked on the blank, you can start moving the guides into place. Start with the furthest guide down the blank and work your way to the tip.




Build the SK2 Ultralight Handle Assembly

The ideal option for minimalist fisherman, Fuji’s SK2 Reel Seat brings one of the most sensitive, lightweight, and versatile reel seats on the market.

The skeleton seat construction gives rod builders the ultimate freedom to customize and personalize their handle assembly.

The SK2 fulfills its design purpose by supplementing the natural feel of the rod blank while increasing both the angler’s casting control and sensitivity for hook setting.

Arguably the most popular skeleton seat on the market, Fuji’s Sk2 Reel Seat brings a lightweight and organic feel to any handle assembly. A minimalist’s dream, the SK2 is 54 percent lighter than other conventional reel seats.





Fuji’s SK2 has a minimal construction that also allows for maximum sensitivity and control. Providing optimal blank exposure with full contact on the rod itself, the SK2’s Reel Seat works wonders whether you’re looking to improve your casting, hook setting, or just enjoy a day on the water.

Check out the step-by-step tutorial to build your own Rod with the SK2 Seat on Mud Hole Live!

Watch Mud Hole Live: Ultralight Builds

From tips for age-old classic handles and modern minimalist setups, to exclusive custom tricks that anglers really love, it’s time we share all our advice on ultralight builds with you.





Now that you know the fun of fishing ultralights and how easy it is to assemble your own, choose the perfect setup for you with our Ultralight Rod Kits!