FTR’S Winn Rod Building Contest Results: Meet the Winners!

What type of rod would you build if we put the “rod grips of tomorrow” into your hands?

Fishing Tackle Retailer asked that question and offered rod builders ready to take up the challenge sample rod grips made from patented Winn Inc. polymers to demonstrate their concepts.

Our readers with rod building or rod repair services responded with handsome creations that took advantage of both the functionality and colorful designs of the advanced WinnDry polymers.

“I really wanted to make sure the ‘tacky’ feel of the Winn grip was the center point of the finished spinning rod,” said Kelvin Smith, who took home the First Place award.

Smith employed a two-piece yellow (4.5”) split grip, which he called “an uncommon grip color that stands apart from commercially built rods.” The grip was a perfect match to the forest green rod blank and Smith’s elegant thread wrap artistry.


First Place

Kelvin Smith, Diamond Willow Fishing Rods, Sauk Rapids, Minnesota.


Second Place

Ernest Horvath, E.P.’s Custom Rod & Reel, Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Ernest Horvath, winn grips, joey's rods 016-1

Third Place

Steven Schoonover, Mad Viking Tackle Company, Livonia, Michigan.


All winners will receive a selection of Winn rod grips.

Winn rod grips are the creations of Dr. Ben Huang, who has revolutionized the sporting world with his innovative products and more than 100 patents. His WinnDry polymer retains its “tacky’ feel even in extreme weather conditions.

Interestingly, all three winners elected to take up the spinning rod design challenge with similar intent. They noted that the bare-bones designs of so many spinning rods today have all but eliminated the angler’s hand contact with the grip. Such designs have indeed diminished overall rod weight but often to the detriment of comfort and control – particularly during harsh weather conditions.

“Using a (standard) spinning reel seat, there was little if any grip contact, though it was aesthetically pleasing,” Smith continued. “So I elected to try something a little unique and increase my grip contact.”

That he did by straddling the mid-grip of a two-piece split grip with a Fuji cushioned plate reel seat secured to graphite bushings at each end.

“My objective with every rod is to make it as light as possible for the angler,” said Ernest Horvath, whose second place rod employed a charcoal Winn split grip with a titanium chrome-colored blank from Batson Enterprises. The Winn grip gave the angler gripping advantage without adding weight.

Steven Schoonover also chose the bold yellow split grips of Winn, which offers an array of color and design options with textural variations. “I put the rod into the hands of three guides who work the Detroit River for walleye,” noted the Michigan-based rod builder. “The feedback was great from all of them. Two even put them into the hands of clients who felt positively about them, too. I even had a cork ‘die hard’ tell me, ‘Hey, these grips are pretty cool!”

FTR will provide more details on the rod designs and use of Winn grips in coming weeks.

For more information on Winn Rod Grips, see the Winn Grips Fishing website at:, or contact Mark Christensen, phone: 1 (714) 373-6271; email;