Saturday, June 4, 2011

Deconstructing Old Ads: Tales of a Wonderful Rod

"From Lake and Stream come tales of a Wonderful Rod"

One must understand a bit of history to appreciate today's ad from the April 1929 issue of Field & Stream . Baitcasting rods since the days of Dr. Henshall were either very long and designed to cast live bait or short and somewhat stiff and made of bamboo or various woods. The metal rods that were on the market were almost exclusively hollow rolled steel, made up of short fitted sections and with a seam running lengthwise. They were light but not smoothly tapered, and hence did not have the smooth action of the best bamboo. They also lacked strength due to that seam that ran the length of the rod. In 1925 the American Fork and Hoe company came out with square, solid steel baitcasting rods whose design was taken from fencing foils. Hence the term “Rapier Steel” found its way into advertising. This was the first soft action rod that also had strength. It was a task to convince the average fisherman that fishing with such a limber yet strong rod was both easier and more fun:

"Wherever sportsman gather on lake or stream, you hear tales of a wonderful rod. They describe its marvelous action in playing large and heavy fish; how it yields to every rush without once relaxing a firm and steady pull. Its softness and delicacy in casting are reported as taking away half the strain and effort of this strenuous sport; and men who have put in three or four years of heavy work with a single rod state that it is as straight and true as the day it was first unpacked.”

The square, True Temper rod was an overwhelming success. They were to be seen on the banks of lakes and rivers well into the 1950's. They were in a word: indestructible. One could back the car over them with little harm. The guides were wrapped on with fine copper wire which was then tinned over. According to Robert Page Lincoln who fished on many occasion with Fred Arbogast; Fred (who was a national champion tournament caster) always preferred the True Temper solid steel rod until the advent of seamless tubular steel.

For several years I set up a large display of antique equipment at fishing shows. I was always asked by visitors if the solid steel fishing rod they had at home was worth anything. My reply was usually something to the effect that there were two such rods in every garage in Jackson. For a rod that was so popular for so long, there has never been much collector interest or a good history written of the steel baitcasting rod. I vividly remember a NFLCC National Meet about 15 years ago when a first-time attendee brought about 25 solid steel baitcasting rods for sale. At the end of the meet, they remained, tied in a bundle, abandoned against the showroom wall, waiting to be carried off to the nearest trash receptacle.

The top handle in the picture is identical to that shown in the 1929 ad. The bottom handle is the offset "Speedlock" handle for which True Temper started to advertise in 1935 and which became standard on most True Temper rods for many years up through the age of glass

-- Bill Sonnett

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