Largemouth Bass Lineup

Largemouth Bass Lineup

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Tale of Two Rods

Shakespeare and their Wonderod line are synonymous with vintage fiberglass fly rods.  One cannot possibly collect vintage glass without exploring and obtaining some of the many models of Wonderods that were offered.  The Shakespeare Tackle Company was founded in 1897 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  They started making the fiberglass Wonderod line in 1947 with the assistance of Dr. Arthur Howald.  According to Antique Lures, the first two fiberglass models were the 1390 and the 1290.  They wrote that "These first production "Wonderods" fly rods were model #1390, a 8-1/2 ft. three piece weighing under five ounces, and model #1290 7'9" two piece weighing three and one-half ounces. Both sported the now familiar milky-white colored fiberglass shaft with the spiral markings of the cellophane wrap, and featured a genuine agate stripping guide, serrated nickel-silver ferrules finished in black, and a ring hook keeper."

Over the past year, I was able to obtain not one but two model 1290s.  Both have different dates of manufacture.  The first one was manufactured in 1953 and the second one was manufactured in 1957.  Both are the 7'9" model.  I think together I might have spent a little over one hundred dollars on them.  One cost more than the other as it came with the original tube and sock.  A collector's dream for sure.  If you are trying to determine the date of manufacture for a Wonderod, you will need to look either on the rod itself underneath the model identification number or on the reel seat.  Shakespeare used a three letter combo for indicating the date of manufacture.  The first two letters indicate the year and the third indicates the month.  Here is the letters and their corresponding numbers for the years of manufacture:


Here is the letters to month table:


Here is what the three letter codes will look like on the blank and on the reel seat:

I already did a short post about line weights and the codes used for them which you can read here for those that might be interested.

Despite being the same model and only four years apart in manufacturing, they are very different rods to look at.  For me, as a collector, I love the difference.  Some of the things that you can see different in the two rods are: decal and company name variations, a difference in thread color, sizing differences in the guides, placement of some of the guides, the width of the thread, the reel seat color, and the way the thread was done... to name but a few.  What's really fun is looking at these two rods and seeing how they evolved over such a short period of time.  For reference the rod in the foreground is from 1953 and the rod in the background is from 1957.

If you are interested in vintage fiberglass fly rods or just want to pick up a piece of American fishing history, I would highly encourage you to check these rods out.  I love mine and I will be picking up more in the future.  Who knows...maybe we will be bidding against each other at some point. 


Antique Lures: A History of the Shakespeare Tackle Company

Fiberglass Flyrodders Wiki page


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