In theory, an ideal rod should gradually from butt to tip, be tight in all its joints (if any), and have a smooth, progressive taper, without 'dead spots'. Modern design and fabrication techniques, along with advanced materials such as , and composites as well as stainless steel(see Emmrod)- have allowed rod makers to tailor both the shape and action of fishing rods for greater casting distance, accuracy, and fish-fighting qualities. Today, fishing rods are identified by their weight (meaning the weight of line or lure required to flex a fully loaded rod) and action (describing the speed with which the rod returns to its neutral position).
Until the mid-1800s rods were generally made in . This changed in 1846 when American Samuel Phillippe introduced an imported fishing rod the first six strips of cane made in Bavaria where Phillippe was importing Violins that he passed off as his own hand work. Split-cane rods were later independently produced after Phillippe started to sell the imported rods to a New York retailer and then copied by Americans Charles Orvis, Hiram Leonard and Englishman William Hardy in the 1870s and mass production methods made these rods accessible to the public. Horton Manufacturing Company first introduced an all rod in 1913. These rods were heavy and flexible and did not satisfy many customers. The next big occurrence in fishing rods was the introduction of the fiberglass rod in the 1940s and was developed by Robert Gayle and a Mr. Mcguire.
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The 18th century was mainly an era of consolidation of the techniques developed in the previous century. Running rings began to appear along the fishing rods, which gave anglers greater control over the cast line. The rods themselves were also becoming increasingly sophisticated and specialized for different roles. Jointed rods became common from the middle of the century and came to be used for the top section of the rod, giving it a much greater strength and flexibility.
Modern fishing rods retain cork as a common material for grips. Cork is light, durable, keeps warm and tends to transmit rod vibrations better than synthetic materials, although EVA foam is also used. Reel seats are often of graphite-reinforced plastic, aluminium, or wood. Guides are available in steel and titanium with a wide variety of high-tech metal alloy inserts replacing the classic agate inserts of earlier rods.