Fishing Rod Epoxy – The Ultimate Guide

11/17/23

Custom rod building is becoming an increasingly popular hobby with anglers who are looking for fishing gear that stands out in a world full of mass-produced everything. Whether their focus is on aesthetics or performance, anglers are focused on producing rods that are tailored to their specific tastes and needs. The fishing rod epoxy used to cover thread wraps and decals, and to provide a protective finish to the rod, are a key component to not just the looks but the fishability of the rod as well. If you’ve invested a lot of time into getting thread wraps just right…the last thing you want is an epoxy that yellows or flakes off over the course of a couple of fishing seasons.

For this article, we interviewed Andy Dear with Axis Outdoor Company. Andy’s numerous accomplishments in the rod building industry include bringing Threadmaster and Gen 4 epoxy to the market, both of which have become golden standards in the rod building world.

Fishing Rod Epoxy UV Resistance

One of the most desired attributes in a rod epoxy is UV resistance. Fishing rods spend a lot of time in the sun, and over time heat and UV radiation can cause epoxy to yellow, which negatively affects the aesthetics of a rod. If you’re looking for an epoxy that will stay clear, Andy says that what you’re looking for may be counterintuitive.

“If you want an epoxy to stay clear for a long time, don’t pay attention to what it looks like in the bottle,” he says. “What you’re looking for is what it looks like once it’s mixed and applied to the rod, and what it looks like a year down the line. A lot of guys will go down to Bass Pro or wherever they get their building supplies from, and they’ll see a two part epoxy that looks clear in the packaging, and they’ll go, “Oh, that looks good.” But to me, that’s a red flag.”

The reason, Andy reveals, is because the UV inhibitors that chemists mix in with epoxy hardener tint the substance.

fishing rod epoxy

“It’s a joke in the industry,” he chuckles, “that if you want to keep it from turning yellow, then you’ve got to turn it yellow! Because the UV inhibitors are actually yellow. But they’re not really that yellow. If you mix 3 ccs of hardener with 3 ccs of resin, it’s water clear for all practical purposes.”

But while UV resistance is an important factor to consider, Andy stresses that it’s just one of many criteria to consider.

“If you’re using epoxy, you have to accept that eventually, it will yellow,” he confides. “But, hey, you’re a rod builder, right? Stip that sucker and redo it! Another joke is that while epoxy is far from the ideal guide coating, it’s the best thing we have out there. There are a lot of factors to consider. Cost, ease of use, tensile strength, flexibility…the list goes on. Don’t get too hung up on clarity and UV resistance.”

Rod Epoxy Mixing And Storing

A lot of problems rod builders experience with epoxy boil down to operator error. According to Andy, proper storage and mixing techniques are crucial to getting a good finished product. Luckily, these are easy things to do.

“As far as storage,” he says “you want to store epoxy at about 70 degrees, in a dark place, with the lid on. Mixed or unmixed, heat, age, oxygen, and exposure to light all cause epoxy to degrade. So store it in a cool, dark place.”

“When it comes to mixing, a lot of guys ask me, “How little can I mix?” he continues. “Usually, the recommendation is 3 ccs of hardener, 3 ccs of resin. And that’s not because we want people to buy more epoxy. It’s because when you start to mix less, you reduce your margin for error. If you try to mix, say, 1 cc with 1 cc, and you’re off by a tenth of a cc, you’re outside the margin for error to ensure a good cure. It may stay tacky forever. But if you’re off a tenth of a cc and mixing 6 ccs, you’re going to be within the parameters for it to set up properly. With that said, I’ve mixed a dab of epoxy as small as the eraser on a pencil to coat fly heads. And 9 out of 10 times, it would harden just fine. But every now and then I’d mess up the ratio, and it would stay tacky.”

rod bond

How long should you mix your epoxy to make sure the hardener and resin are well blended. Andy offers some simple advice.

“The best advice I’ve ever heard on that,” he laughs, “is “Mix it until it’s mixed, and then stop mixing it! But in all seriousness, that question brings up a good point. In addition to making it easier to get the proportions right, mixing at least 6 ccs total also gives you enough material volume to properly mix a batch of epoxy. Part of proper mixing is scraping the side of the cup, and you just don’t have enough epoxy to do that if you’re mixing really small batches.”

Proper Environment

Another thing to keep in mind to make sure that your epoxy cures properly is to mix and apply it in the appropriate environment

“The temperature and humidity of your working environment is a big deal,” Andy says. “Issues tend to rear their head when you combine high humidity and low temperature. You want to keep your humidity levels low, and keep your temperature above 70 degrees. I know that can be hard for people in the Northeast or up in the Pacific Northwest. I get a lot of customer support type calls from guys in those areas, and I take more of those type of calls in the winter than in the summer months.”

Andy continues. “Epoxies cure through an exothermic reaction, so the more heat you give them the quicker the crosslinking takes place and the quicker it cures. If you’re at 60 degrees, the stuff may stay tacky for days. I get a lot of calls from people building in their basements, and I’ll tell them, “Dude, take that thing upstairs into the bedroom!” Problem solved. On the flip side, something to keep in mind is that high temperatures can affect your pot life. Once you get up to 80 degrees or so, you don’t have a very long pot life. Really, 70-75 degrees is about the magic number you want to work at.”

Epoxy Coats VS Applications

Many times, rod builders will apply epoxy more than one time to ensure smooth and adequate coverage on a build. Builders often interchange the words “coat” and “application” but Andy maintains that there’s an important distinction to be made.

fishing rod epoxy

“Basically, if you are applying epoxy on top of epoxy within 24 hours, then the base finish is still chemically reactive and can crosslink molecularly with the next application. You applied epoxy twice, but it’s one coat” he says. “But if you wait longer than, say, 48 hours, then that epoxy has hardened and you are applying a second coat. In cases like that, I think it’s best practice to scuff that coat in order to enhance the mechanical adhesion.”

Epoxy Material Safety

Any time you start mixing chemicals, including fishing rod epoxy, you should take some safety precautions.

“Sometimes, epoxies can cause contact dermatitis,” he cautions. “I know some builders who have developed allergies to certain epoxies over time. I also know some, oddly enough, who had an allergy and eventually seemed to lose it. I get a rash every now and then working with epoxy. But I hand pour a lot as part of my work; more so than the average builder. I do take precautions. I wear gloves. And I talk to a lot of guys who wear respirators when working with the stuff, and I’d never tell somebody not to take a precaution they felt was appropriate. But I believe the main thing to be aware of is contact dermatitis.”

Final Thoughts On Fishing Rod Epoxy

By understanding the characteristics of the various types of fishing rod epoxy available and the techniques used to properly apply them, you can improve the look and performance of your next custom rod project. With a little bit of knowledge, epoxy work can be challenging but rewarding. Hopefully, this article has armed you with the knowledge you need to make your next build your best yet.