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September 10, 2010

3M Matrix Resin and Rods of the Future

Invisible particles render graphite material stronger, lighter

David Shepherd

When a rod gets overflexed, the carbon fibers on the compression side of the tubular structure suffer tiny fractures. "This micro-buckling, visible only with an electron microscope, causes either immediate blank failure or a permanent weak spot that breaks the next time the rod is overflexed," explains Harry Campbell of Campbell LaCoste (the advertising agency for St. Croix Rod). "The nano-silica particles in the new 3M Matrix Resin pack together to reinforce individual graphite fibers during compression as the rod flexes. The extra support significantly retards micro-buckling, resulting in a much stronger blank without changing the rod's action."

But strength is only part of the benefit of this new technology. The sensitivity, says Bruce Holt of G.Loomis (, is superb. "I thought [Loomis] GLX was sensitive, but this is incredible." G.Loomis has also introduced new models - 29 in all, based on completely redesigned mandrels - using 3M Matrix Resin. Most are fly and bass rods, but the latter will no doubt have saltwater inshore crossover use, and Holt expects to see more saltwater models this year.

St. Croix now uses 3M Matrix Resin in four of the company's high-performance rod series: Legend Elite (spinning, casting, fly); LegendXtreme (spinning, casting); Bank Robber (fly); and of most interest to Sport Fishing readers, Legend Salt offshore saltwater rods. Schluter affirms that the resin substantially increases rod strength but not consumer cost. "It may add $15 to $20 to the retail price of Legend Salt rods," he says.

The Legend Salt series includes six conventional and four spinning rods with line-class ratings ranging from 15 to 80pound mono (20 to 100pound braid). Each rod also features an Alps ­triangular marine-grade aluminum reel seat with hard-anodized finish; Alps marine-grade aluminum gimbal with hard-anodized finish; high-density nylon slick butt; premium EVA foregrip; Fuji HB saltwater guides with SiC rings and gunsmoke frames on conventional models; and Fuji MN saltwater guides with SiC rings and gunsmoke frames on spinning models.

Prices for Loomis Matrix Resin rods range from $400 to $1,170.

"3M Matrix Resin has opened the door for us to become more creative in our rod-blank designs," says Jason Bruner, St. Croix's director of engineering. "In our laboratory we've seen a 30 percent average increase in strength on existing products. The resin allows us to push the limits of design in our new Legend Salt series and create substantially lighter, more sensitive saltwater rods without compromising strength." Holt agrees, citing G.Loomis rods as much as 25 percent stronger - and up to 20 percent lighter.

It seems 3M, St. Croix and G.Loomis have ushered in the future of fishing-rod technology. "Up to now it has been impossible to build a truly lightweight/sensitive saltwater boat rod because a certain minimum amount of blank strength is required specifically to prevent overflexing," Campbell says. "So boat rods typically have thicker blank walls, which add weight. The innovative 3M resin allows rod designers to build thinner-walled, lighter blanks that are as strong as or stronger than thicker-walled blanks rolled with conventional resins. St. Croix's Legend Salt series represents the first of this new generation of nanotechnology offshore rods."

Expect to hear more about rods with advanced resins as other manufacturers begin using 3M's new technology.

Click here for a list of rods using 3M Matrix Resin.