If the internet has taught us anything it is that you are NEVER right. In fact, according to the world wide web ding dongs, you may be the dumbest person ever. In fact it may be generational stupidity that goes back to the monkey you evolved from. I don’t feel that way of course. I value everyone’s opinion and the ridiculousness that informed them of it. But on the internet , if your preference doesn’t align with whomever reads your contribution, well buckle up, it’s gonna get bad.
Assuming you don’t get lost in troll town, you can learn a lot about which grips work best. The truth is, it is great to educate yourself about the options, but ultimately you are the only one that can decide what works for you.
Now let’s talk about me. I’m just going to get this out of the way: I like big grips and I cannot lie. Some would call them comically large. I have big meat hooks and for me they are more comfortable to fish all day long. This usually leads me to a Fenwick style. Nice contours for the hand with a nob at the top end to put my thumb over should I need to. These work for me. Will they work for you? I don’t know, do you look like you are progeny of a sasquatch?
The beauty of most handle materials is that you can shape them however you like. There is a small cannon of grip types that are generally accepted. So let’s breakdown those classics.
Let’s talk materials
This is less controversial because there are only really a few materials. Let’s digress. I have always been a function over form person.
Eva grips, are they non-traditional? Absolutely. Would some say they are ugly? Undoubtedly. Would anyone who fished it for a day change their mind about them? Most definitely. I have a 10’ 5wt that I use as a proverbial Swiss army rod. It’s a lot of rod, but the give and squish in the EVA make it a dream for marathon fishing. It performs well when wet and doesn’t easily degrade over time.
Winn grips have a place in my heart, as well. They clean easy, aren’t slippery when wet and are generally more comfortable than cork. They come in goofy colors and add an endearing look to the utilitarian angler’s arsenal.
Cork is the classic and generally accepted standard. Rings come in burnt, colored, rubberized, and many other styles. The options and combinations make for beautiful handles. Another beauty of cork is if you stain it, wear it down, or have chunks you can always recondition it with some sandpaper and a drill, lathe, or wrapping machine.
For those who really want something unique you can get carbon fiber grips. They are super light and very durable. My brother and fishing buddy, Johnny, loves these because they are very stiff. He doesn’t like the handle to bend with the blank and this takes the bend out of the handle. I recommend coating them with a few coats of Permagloss or something. Raw carbon fiber, while it looks amazing, fishes rough. It’ll take some skin off your hands and will prove to be very uncomfortable by the end of the day. 1,000 points for style though.
Finding all, or any, of these combinations on commercially produced rods may be difficult. The industry seems to change every few years. Right now really small grips are in. If this doesn’t work for you look for a local rod builder and have them build your preference, which of course is wrong. And don’t even get me started on fighting butts… ok. Really quickly. Fighting butts are great. They help with leverage, they keep your reel out of the dirt when you set it down and catch your fly line when casting in a sloppy manner. Historically they are on rods 6wt and up, but I have put them on 3wt rods for various reasons.
The moral of the story, find what works for you and fish it until it doesn’t work for you any more, then experiment and try again.