How to Repair a Broken Fishing Rod

Rear view of man on pier fishing, Goleta, California, United States, North America
JFCreatives / Getty Images

Often, fishermen throw away a broken rod that could have been easily repaired, in most overnight. And it will usually be stronger at the break point than it was before it broke. Sound impossible? Here’s how to fix that favorite broken rod.

Gather the Needed Tools and Repair Items

Photo © Ron Brooks
A casting rod with a clean break between eyes. Photo © Ron Brooks

You will need the following items:

  • Two part 15 minute epoxy.
  • An old expendable rod with a blank that the approximate size of the broken rod. It's a good idea to keep broken rods that really can't be repaired to used for this purpose. 
  • A two part rod coating, such a Flexcoat. Several coats of clear nail polish will also work – it just won’t look quite as nice.
  • Mineral spirits and Rod winding thread in a color that matches the broken rod. Use size A thread for small diameter rod breaks; use size E for breaks down close to the handle.

Inspect the Break

Photo © Ron Brooks
A casting rod with a clean break between eyes. Photo © Ron Brooks

Inspect the rod and determine exactly where the break is located. Ideally, it will be in an open area of the rod away from any guides. If it is at one of the eyes, it is still fixable; it will just take a little extra work.

If the break is a clean break it will be easier to repair. Some rods get crushed  and while those can still be repaired with this method, the rod's action will change substantially. A crushed rod will need a much longer insert piece for the repair, and that longer insert definitely affects the action of the rod.

Through the Handle Rod Blanks

Photo © Ron Brooks
Notice that the rod blank goes all the way through the handle. Photo © Ron Brooks

If the break is at the handle or butt you will need to determine if the rod blank goes all the way through the handle and butt. Cheaper rods often have the blank terminating in the handle. More expensive rods have the blank going all the way through. The more expensive through-the-handle rods are definitely fixable. Remove any cap or obstruction from the butt end of the broken rod. You should be able to see the graphite or fiberglass end of the rod blank.

If your rod blank terminates in the top of the handle, you will not be able to use this method for repair, and probably will not be able to repair the rod at all. Take note that in the picture you can see the rod blank at the very end of the rod.

Use an Expendable Broken Rod for the Insert

Photo © Ron Brooks
The Broken Rod with the Expendable repair piece. Photo © Ron Brooks

Remove all of the eyes and wrapping on the expendable rod. Match the diameter of the expendable rod to the broken rod. You are going to insert the expendable rod inside the broken rod. When it stops and has a tight fit, mark the expendable rod about 6 inches above the break.

On some cheaper rods - those that the blank does not go through the handle -- save them when they break. The rod blanks are graphite, and these are ideal to use as the "expendable" piece you can cut for the insert.

Measure for the Insert

Photo © Ron Brooks
The repair insert has been measured and is ready for gluing. Photo © Ron Brooks

After inserting the expendable rod into the broken rod, remove the expendable rode and measure 12 inches down from your previous mark. Cut the old rod in both marked places. This will leave you with a 12 inch piece of rod that you will use as an insert.

It is important that this 12 inch piece fit tight inside the broken rod. You are going to use epoxy to glue it, but any play in the insert at this point will translate to a crooked finished rod and loss of strength.

Dry Fit the Insert

Photo © Ron Brooks
A dry fit during a fishing rod repair. Photo © Ron Brooks

Drop the insert into the broken rod from the butt and slide it up inside to get a tight fit. Then place the top piece of the broken rod over the insert for a dry fit. A very slight movement of both pieces is ok, but any more than that is not acceptable. Your rod will turn out crooked if you have more than just a very slight movement.

Note in the picture that the two pieces of broken rod are being pieced together with the insert - from the butt of the rod.

Epoxy the Insert in Place

Photo © Ron Brooks
The broken fishing rod ready for the epoxy application. Photo © Ron Brooks

Mix the two part epoxy and prepare to coat the insert. Coat it all over the bottom 6 inches of the insert and drop it into the broken rod. Use the other piece of expendable rod to push the insert all the way to the break. With the insert pulled tight in the bottom piece, coat the remaining exposed piece of the insert with the epoxy mixture. Then slide the top half of the broken rod over the insert and down to the bottom piece. Be sure that the insert does not slide backwards down the rod. You want 6 inches of insert on either side of the break if at all possible.

Some people want to epoxy the insert to the bottom piece and let it set up. Doing that leaves a small amount of cured epoxy right at the joint location. That dried epoxy is hard to remove and it will prevent the two rod pieces from mating properly. It's best to do the entire epoxy job all at one time.

Finish Gluing

Photo © Ron Brooks
A broken fishing rod that has been glued and set up - ready to dry. Photo © Ron Brooks

After you make sure the two pieces are straight and tight, clean any excess epoxy from the break area with a cloth and mineral spirits. Remember you are using 15 minute epoxy, so while you don’t have to rush, you do need to get things done in relatively short order. Set the rod in a vertical position so it hangs straight. This will insure that the two rod pieces do not separate before the epoxy has a chance to set. With 15 minute epoxy, I wait about two hours before moving the rod.

The better you do with the mineral spirits clean-up on the exterior of the rod, the better the final product will look. Just take care not to allow the mineral spirits to dilute the epoxy, and be sure not to move the two pieces. The clean-up has to happen before the epoxy begins to set. You may want to practice epoxying some unusable pieces to see how the pieces will move about during cleaning. The better job you do at this point, the better the final product! 

Wrap the Break Area

Photo © Ron Brooks
The broken rod has been epoxied and is ready for the top coat. Photo © Ron Brooks

When the epoxy has set and is dry, I wrap the entire break area, about four inches, with rod winding thread. I make a tight wrap in a thread size that is appropriate for the diameter of the blank area and in a color that matches or helps mask the break area. I used a contrasting thread color in the picture for illustration purposes.

Rod winding thread comes in sizes 'A' to 'E', small to large respectively. If the break is at the top of the rod, use 'A'. In the middle go to size 'C' and for breaks toward the butt end, use size 'E' thread.

You want this wrap to be tight - much tighter than a decorative wrap. The tight wrap, when sealed with a top coat, adds strength to the repair area. Tighter is better!

Apply the Top Coat

Photo © Ron Brooks
Broken rod has been epoxied and wrapped and is mounted on the rotisserie. Photo © Ron Brooks

One way of applying the top coat is to set the rod up on a barbeque rotisserie. You can fashiong a modified butt cap that fits the end of the rod to attach it to the rotisserie. Brace the other end so that the rod is perfectly horizontal to the ground. Then mix the Flexcoat and while turning the rod on the rotisserie, coat the thread you've just wound. The rod needs to turn on the rotisserie overnight for the coating to cure without running. If you choose to use clear fingernail polish instead of Flexcoat, make sure to use multiple coats so that it builds up on the thread. This provides strength and with nailpolish, which drops quickly, you can eliminate the need to put the rod on the rotisserie. The downside is that it usually doesn't look quite as good when you've finished. It will be serviceable, however.

When way or the other -- rotisserie and Flexcoat or nail polish -- when you've repaired the rod it will actually be stronger where it broke than it was before! And the change in the action of the rod is usually negligible.

Finished Product!

A broken rod turning on a rotisserie as the Flexcoat dries. Photo © Ron Brooks
Here is what the wrap looks like after it has turned overnight. The break is fixed, the area is strong, and the rod is ready to fish!