CTS/NFC custom builds vs factory Sage, Scott, Winston, etc.

Chinook Angler

New Member
I am curious how fly fishing folks feel about their custom built rods, especially those built on CTS or NFC blanks. It seems to me that performance wise many of those custom builds are on par or even superior to the highly rated and reviewed factory offerings from Sage, Scott and other big names in the industry. Many customs also feature the best components money can buy and excellent workmanship. The warranty on the best blank brands is great as well. Yet, judging from the classifieds on this site, the price difference between the factory rods and their comparable custom made cousins is not even close. While the trendy Sages and Scotts sell for close to a grand, the best customs can barely touch $300 or so, even if they sell at all. So, why is that? Do people care more about the name on their sticks? Or, not many even know how good a custom can be? What are your thoughts?
 

veilside180sx

Active Member
It really comes down to warranties for the avg buyer. With rod blanks...companies stand by their “manufacturer defects only” warranty. Unlike factory rods where they are more willing to play ball with abuse.

Most builders will rewrap a piece once if the blank manufacturer replaced a piece of the blank. After that there is typically a fee.

As a rod builder...I can say I don’t have a single factory rod in my fairly decent collection. For me it’s about getting exactly what I want...for a decent price. I haven’t broken a rod in 15 years...so warranty issues...aren’t a huge concern to me.
 
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jaredoconnor

WFF Supporter
I have no experience in this area, so my input is probably useless and should be ignored entirely. However, when folks talk about boutique things, I think of "economies of scale" and "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

The rod building forum will probably get you better responses.
 
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suckegg

Active Member
I am curious how fly fishing folks feel about their custom built rods, especially those built on CTS or NFC blanks. It seems to me that performance wise many of those custom builds are on par or even superior to the highly rated and reviewed factory offerings from Sage, Scott and other big names in the industry. Many customs also feature the best components money can buy and excellent workmanship. The warranty on the best blank brands is great as well. Yet, judging from the classifieds on this site, the price difference between the factory rods and their comparable custom made cousins is not even close. While the trendy Sages and Scotts sell for close to a grand, the best customs can barely touch $300 or so, even if they sell at all. So, why is that? Do people care more about the name on their sticks? Or, not many even know how good a custom can be? What are your thoughts?
I have these
Epic's Dorado 888, factory build, love it. My bass and sometimes carp rod. $995 studio build.
Epic's Salsa 686, custom build. Bought it for trout streamer fishing but use it for all trout fishing. Fine for smallies too. $995 for their studio build.
2 CTS 6'6" 3wts, both custom builds. Absolutely dreamy! Bought blanks off Ebay separately for a total of $500 or so. I never looked at what I paid to have them built since I fired the budget director. The reason I have two of these is I tell people we are going small stream fishing and they say "fine, I'll bring my 8'6" rod then" which is way too long for my tight canyon bottom fishing. I can't see ever letting go of any of these, just too much fun. Love the Fast-Glass feel, the deep power and the fact they are more durable. Really fun to fight fish on.

I also had an Epic Carbon 9' 6wt which was one of my favorite rods ever till a friend set the hook on a Yakima trout like it was a 40lb pike. I have not gotten over that one yet.
 

Chinook Angler

New Member
I agree on the warranty side of things, it's a bit more of a hassle with the customs. Not that much though as the re-wrapping fees will not really run into hundreds of dollars to justify the difference.

I have no experience in this area, so my input is probably useless and should be ignored entirely. However, when folks talk about boutique things, I think of "economies of scale" and "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

The rod building forum will probably get you better responses.
That's an interesting perspective. Care to elaborate? I am not sure I fully understand what you mean.
 

Chinook Angler

New Member
I have these
Epic's Dorado 888, factory build, love it. My bass and sometimes carp rod. $995 studio build.
Epic's Salsa 686, custom build. Bought it for trout streamer fishing but use it for all trout fishing. Fine for smallies too. $995 for their studio build.
2 CTS 6'6" 3wts, both custom builds. Absolutely dreamy! Bought blanks off Ebay separately for a total of $500 or so. I never looked at what I paid to have them built since I fired the budget director. The reason I have two of these is I tell people we are going small stream fishing and they say "fine, I'll bring my 8'6" rod then" which is way too long for my tight canyon bottom fishing. I can't see ever letting go of any of these, just too much fun. Love the Fast-Glass feel, the deep power and the fact they are more durable. Really fun to fight fish on.

I also had an Epic Carbon 9' 6wt which was one of my favorite rods ever till a friend set the hook on a Yakima trout like it was a 40lb pike. I have not gotten over that one yet.
Thanks for this! How do you compare your customs with the big name factory rods you fish?
 

jaredoconnor

WFF Supporter
That's an interesting perspective. Care to elaborate? I am not sure I fully understand what you mean.

Boutique products are generally not as good as products from larger companies, because larger companies are able to do everything that they do and at a much lower cost.

Obviously, in the real world there are a lot of situations where that breaks down. For example, smaller companies may be willing to accept lower margins. Larger companies may also happily abuse their position in the market. However, I have generally found the principle to hold true.
 

Big Tuna

Member
Boutique products are generally not as good as products from larger companies, because larger companies are able to do everything that they do and at a much lower cost.

Obviously, in the real world there are a lot of situations where that breaks down. For example, smaller companies may be willing to accept lower margins. Larger companies may also happily abuse their position in the market. However, I have generally found the principle to hold true.
You apparently don’t fish 2 hand rods. I’d take a Meiser or Burkie over and mass produced rod because they’re superior.
 

suckegg

Active Member
Thanks for this! How do you compare your customs with the big name factory rods you fish?
There must be over 100, maybe 200 "other brands" out there today. The brands I listed are well fairly well known with established reputations.

I have custom blanks that you can decide the flex parameters rolled for me as well as builds on standard blanks. Never a problem with either of those. My custom builds have certainly been equal to any of the big names with one exception and that one was not bad, just not as clean as some of the better big names.

I do happen to have manufacturing and design in my work experience and I would strongly disagree with the thinking that bigger is inherently better or that because you can purchase at lower rates the product will be better. There isn't enough of the very finest cork available to satisfy the demands for the big numbers of rods the largest brands pump out would be one example.

I forgot to add the Burkheimer 8'9" 4wt DAL to my list, which I suspect would be a boutique company by some. I just recently did a video shoot of one of those in action for a shop that will give one away this month. The caster in the video has cast many, many rods and he thought it was fantastic.

I'll add just because a rod is custom or boutique doesn't ensure it's any better either.
 

CreekScrambler

Active Member
I hope to someday have a nice, bench-made rod or two. Maybe we’re all accustomed to artificially low prices and artificially high prices on goods, including fly gear. I think paying a craftsman a reasonable wage for high quality work is about as straightforward and high-value as anything else.

At the high end, I wouldn’t consider a mass-market rod at all, as I don’t believe the value is generally there (too much overhead).

Maybe the Internet is reopening the markets for quality-made goods like custom fly rods by allowing smaller shops to reach their customers and stay in business. Somewhat like how beer has been re-diversified from the long post-Prohibition-era hangover of super-breweries. We’ve all got small local breweries cranking out great beer, and I don’t think any of us are opposed to abundant local beer!
 

Gila trout

Active Member
I am curious how fly fishing folks feel about their custom built rods, especially those built on CTS or NFC blanks. It seems to me that performance wise many of those custom builds are on par or even superior to the highly rated and reviewed factory offerings from Sage, Scott and other big names in the industry. Many customs also feature the best components money can buy and excellent workmanship. The warranty on the best blank brands is great as well. Yet, judging from the classifieds on this site, the price difference between the factory rods and their comparable custom made cousins is not even close. While the trendy Sages and Scotts sell for close to a grand, the best customs can barely touch $300 or so, even if they sell at all. So, why is that? Do people care more about the name on their sticks? Or, not many even know how good a custom can be? What are your thoughts?
Hello, I would assume it’s for the factory warranty. I have one factory built rod all the rest I put together. I just really enjoy rod building, it’s not that difficult and it’s very rewarding. Most anglers don’t care how well a rod is put together. Their more concerned with how it casts which is probably more important than build quality. Most factory rods build quality is very average ie: uneven wrap length, poor epoxy work on wraps, large gaps in the thread wraps, guides that are not aligned perfectly, thread tits sticking through the finish, dust particles and lent left in the wrap finish. The best factory built rods are T&T they do nice work. For the prices Orvis and Scott charge their build quality is not that great. But hey their churning out rods they to do time to do perfect work like a good custom rod builder can. My NFC Gamma Beta is the best very fast action rod I have ever cast/ fished. It’s finished out with the best components and I have $300.00 in it. Personally I would never pay $800.00 to a grand for a fly rod but to each is own. Yes, NFC, CTS, Epic and Batson/ Rainshadow produce some some fine blanks that build into outstanding rods. Finally, I am really into glass rods and the boutique makers like McFarland, Livingston, Barclay, Graywolf and a few others are producing rods and blanks thats are on par and in many cases superior to the established rods companies offerings.
 

GAT

Dumbfounded
I own three custom built rods made with Sage blanks. I picked the handle, line guide type, wrapping thread, etc. I like them. Do they cast any better or do I prefer them over a factory rod … no. I regard them all about the same. I had them built by a close friend who charged me next to nothing to build the rods so that was my primary motive. He loves building rods and I prefer to buy high quality rods at bargain prices. A win win.

No crazy no matter what warranty but I don't care. I have yet to break any of the custom rods.
 

Chinook Angler

New Member
I own three custom built rods made with Sage blanks. Do they cast any better or do I prefer them over a factory rod … no. I regard them all about the same.
That's exactly right! There is no "magic" or "soul" component that can differentiate a factory rod from a custom built from the same blank. The same blanks will cast exactly the same.
 

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