Under the Microscope

Through time and technology, the evolution of the bass fisherman’s rod has advanced into a lighter, stronger and more efficient piece of equipment. Just a few years ago the latest addition to its legacy—the micro guide—was embraced by the freshwater mainstream. Spurring an avalanche in manufacturing, the industry’s hottest new concept was said to have numerous performance enhancing benefits. After the initial hysteria-fueled race to capitalize on the newest rod designs, the micro guide is now in its senior year and its merit is being re-evaluated in one of the most fickle and ever-changing markets.


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The debate on whether micro guides are a legitimate breakthrough or just another gimmick requires deciphering a dizzying dose of propaganda. With that being said, there is an equal amount of merit and scrutiny from both sides of the industry.

After the initial hysteria-fueled race to capitalize on the newest rod designs, the micro guide is now in its senior year and its merit is being re-evaluated…

Proponents claim reduced weight, increased casting distance and reduced backlashes. Additionally, having smaller profiled guides results in less damage from rod storage and transportation. Detractors question the performance claims, referencing insert malfunctions, problems passing knots through tiny eyes and mention that micro guides are just plain difficult to thread line through.

The average size of a micro guide is 3.5 to 4 mm in diameter, some even smaller. A standard casting rod uses guides that typically decrease from 12 mm to the tip, with a total guide count around 7 or 8. Rods built with micro guides may contain as many as 14 guides. The additional guides dampen the line’s vibration by confining the line within the tiny spaces, thus restricting the amount of line slap.

The mainstay for micro guides seems to be the overall reduction in rod weight and increased sensitivity. John Bretza, Director of Product Development for Okuma Fishing explained. “Smaller guides mean rods are becoming much lighter, especially at the tip. The reduction in weight allows for more of the smaller guides to be used, making it easier to balance, while also increasing overall sensitivity.”

Only a few years ago in their haste to capitalize on the micro guide craze, manufacturers were pumping out thousands of sticks laced with tiny guides with little research compiled resulting in several missteps during the process. Smaller sized stripper guides were placed too close to the reel, creating a drastic angle where the line funneled down into it, causing line abrasion when casting and when the rod was loaded under pressure. Guides were also improperly spaced and there were widespread problems with inserts popping out. There were also arguments whether the increased number of micro guides now being used would truly offset the weight of the rod.

With time, further research and development created a hybrid guide system that’s become more of a concept than a product, using micro guides towards the upper end of the rod, with slightly larger guides near the bottom. Through developments in guide spacing and size to determine the appropriate angle of line coming off the reel, the market has adapted to the changes and anglers are seeing benefits across a wide range of venues. Furthermore, the newest sets of micro guides are designed to perfectly transfer the line over the differently powered sections of the rod.

Companies like Fuji are on the forefront of guide development and recently launched a new Deep-Pressed guide that secures a ring on a thin frame, yet provides a large surface area for securing the ring material. Collins Illich, VP Director of Conventional Tackle for Temple Fork Outfitters explained that as the market continues to evolve micro guides are finding their place maybe not as originally intended, but as part of a greater product development. “Just look at the new product showcase at ICAST over the last few years—almost every rod entered a few years ago included micro guides and last year there were only a few,” observed Illich.

Only time will tell if micro guides will stick around or fade into obscurity. However, a growing number of recreational anglers and tournament pros alike are believers and express the benefits of the latest advancements. With respected brands like Ducket, Lew’s, Okuma, Temple Fork, Falcon, Phenix and Seeker continuing to produce incredibly advanced rods utilizing micro guide technology, it’s time you experience the difference for yourself. While micros aren’t ideal for every scenario, they may soon be your guide layout of choice for numerous technique-specific applications. Choose wisely!