Carrots top reel innovations

Pick up a fishing rod at your favorite sporting goods store these days, and chances are that printed somewhere on the rod are the words carbon or graphite.

Those words have become synonymous with almost unbelievably lightweight rods with equally amazing strength and performance. But what if I told you the future of fishing rods might be found in vegetables?

Stop laughing. It could be true, especially given the events that took place at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades last week in Las Vegas.

ICAST is arguably the world’s largest sportfishing trade show and draws participants from around the globe. As I walked through the new product showcase, I came across a fishing rod called “The Carrot Stix.”

Below the orange rod were two placards; one read Best Freshwater Rod and the other Best of Show. The product description said the rod was built from carrot fibers.

After taking a closer look at the rod, I realized it was the work of Las Vegas resident Ken Whiting, also known as the “Wizard of Rods.” He is the founder and former president of Airrus Rods, where he won the ICAST Best of Show honors in the fishing rod category on five occasions.

Now with E21 Fishing, Whiting still is setting the fishing world on its ear. With the 2007 Best of Show award in his pocket, Whiting has won six of the last seven years.

“We were lucky enough to receive an award for a rod that is built around probably one of the most outstanding and revolutionary composite materials that I’ve come across,” Whiting said. “The nature of the technology, I think, is what put us over the top.”

While The Carrot Stix is orange, the rod’s name stems from the fact the rod is built from carrot fibers. Two scientists in Scotland — Dr. David Hepworth and Dr. Eric Whale — developed the material, known as Curran. Both are avid anglers.

The scientists began looking at cellulose fibers from carrots about five years ago.

“They are very tiny fibers; you can only see them under an electron microscope,” Hepworth said. “We break the carrots down to an almost molecular level.”

Once the fibers are broken down, they are combined with resins to create Curran — lightweight, biodegradable material that can be molded into a variety of strengths, stiffness and flexibility.

Hepworth and Whale said they think Curran one day could replace carbon fibers in the industrial world. In the United Kingdom, Curran is being used for fly rods.

Whiting attributes his success to anglers who have talked with him. He said he learned about their likes, dislikes, what they would like to see in tackle and what they would buy.

“From that, I just went about to create pieces of equipment that provide areas of functionality that didn’t exist in product that was available on the market at the time,” Whiting said. “And apparently it was effective.”

• JUNIOR BASSMASTER EVENT — The Nevada BASS Federation will host a qualifying tournament Aug. 4 and 5 at the Kirch Wildlife Management Area for kids ages 11 to 18 who may want to get a taste of the big time.

Two age-group winners will have the chance to qualify for the Junior Bassmaster Classic. That event takes place each year in conjunction with the professional-level Bassmaster Classic. Participants in the junior version vie for scholarship money totaling $21,000.

For more information, visit nevadabassfederationcom on the Internet.

Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer and a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. He can be reached at doug@takinitoutside.com.

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