The GW Nickel Silver Hook Tender Series
Hook tenders, or hook keepers, tend to be a dime a dozen; well, perhaps a dime apiece back in the day when our coinage was silver. Generally, they are an inexpensive piece of bent wire or, at their fanciest, a thin saddle of bent sheet metal securing a loose ring. Hook Tenders are usually nothing rodmakers get excited about and, depending on which opinionated rodmaker you speak with, either a sine qua non – or a blasted pestilence – upon the rod. Personally, I prefer a rod with a hook tender. Here’s why. If you, the rodmaker, put a hook tender on a rod, anglers will use it. If you don’t, they’ll stick their hooks in either the cork grip or in a guide. If an angler hooks the grip regularly, the cork will tear out. If an angler hooks a guide, the varnish around the guide will scar, quite possibly damaging the guide wrap. On the other hand, if you use a properly designed hook tender, an angler might nick the varnish, but they won’t impair the function of the rod over decades of use.
I’ve always wondered why, excepting the ring & saddle tenders, no one offered these components in fine nickel silver to complement nickel silver reel seats, winding checks, and ferrules. In early 2014, I stopped wondering, got off my duff, and started bending wire and experimenting with pressure-forming feet, grinding feet, & polishing feet. When it comes to fine hook tenders, I believe the feet are critical, to both the look and the function. A tender with two feet should be able to stand upon those feet – it should, in other words, be balanced. The feet might have the barest hint of texture still visible from the shaping process, but they should be polished smooth enough to easily accept wraps of the finest diameter silks. Silk wraps also mean that each foot should be tapered so that fine silks can, without hesitation or unsightly bumps & gaps, wrap up from the blank onto the foot; if fine silk works, any other thread will work, too.
I’m pleased to offer several styles and sizes of pure nickel silver hook tenders. The photos will do them more justice than my words – but I’ll try.
First, I worked up a pair of English Style Hook Tenders. I had known for some time that this would be necessary since the stock of the small brass English Style tenders from GW’s collection of vintage components is dwindling rapidly. I worked from the vintage components as a basic model, but everyone knows that those classic tenders need a lot of work to make them useable. The grooved feet need to be filed smooth and polished and the ring needs to be bent up so that the loop angles away from the blank at 35-45 degrees. I wanted the GW English Style tenders to be ready to go, no extra effort needed. They’re time consuming to make, but the end result looks great and you can put them straight on the rod. These are available in a small, light-wire version, perfect for 5 weight rods and under; for 6 weight rods and up, try our larger, heavy-wire version. Available bright or blued (no clearcoat – I don’t clearcoat hook tenders because they are going to get scratched by the hooks and they’re much easier to touch up with a cold bluing solution like Oxpho-Blue if they’re not coated). Unlike their predecessors, these are not mass produced hook tenders. These are small pieces of functional rod jewelry, hand-formed and polished in Lancaster County, PA. These are like the vintage English Hook Tenders we sell, but all the work has been completed, plus they’re nickel silver. Buy one, and you’re supporting an American craftsman.
Next, I thought about the most popular tenders we sell in terms of volume, the inverted “U” series in bright chrome, black chrome, and TiCH. Why not make these in nickel silver? The hardest part here wasn’t forming the wire into the basic U shape, it was creating nice feet. For my inspiration, I looked back at my favorite vintage snake guides, the ones with paddle feet. I love paddle feet. I started experimenting with pressure forming feet, trimming them both before and after forming, then grinding each foot smooth, hand-filing a gentle taper on the tip of each foot, then polishing the feet. Again, the goal is to be able to wrap these hook tenders with the finest silk, straight out of the bag. It’s also nice that properly formed paddle feet make a sturdy, balanced platform for the tenders. They are stand-up components! These are available in four styles, two heavy-wire and two light-wire; within each wire diameter there is a true inverted “U” tender and a more angular inverted “box” tender. These are available in a small, light-wire versions, perfect for 5 weight rods and under; for 6 weight rods and up, or for spinning and casting rods, try our larger, heavy-wire versions. All four styles are available bright or blued. Could these be made cheaper overseas? Sure. Would they be as nicely formed? I doubt it. Support an American craftsman – or become one yourself; it’s good for your soul.
Last but not least, we offer the Dickerson-Inspired, Twisted Tender. According to the book, Dickerson: The Man and His Rods, Lyle Dickerson used three separate formats for his hook tenders. There were variously a) some have none at all, b) rarely a ring & saddle, or c) usually his own creation, a “loop the loop” tender. Dickerson crafted his “loop the loop” tenders from brass wire and left them bright. In most cases, I agree. However, I have seen photos that show beautifully blued “loop the loop” tenders under what appear to be Dickerson’s original wraps. These look indistinguishable from tenders made with nickel silver and blued. So, using Mr. Dickerson’s preferred “twist” on making an eye catching and functional hook tender, I worked them up as part of our Golden Witch series of nickel silver hook tenders. These are available in light or heavy wire, bright or blue. If these sell well, I may add the more historically accurate bronze wire “loop the loop” as an option. You’ll notice that these are essentially snake guides, but with the loop twisted closed, and in line with the feet, rather than perpendicular to the feet. The loops on the GW tenders are soldered at the base, which adds a lot of structural stability to them, especially in the light wire format. And of course the feet are hand pressed, shaped, and polished paddle-feet. These are labor intensive, but worth the investment on your next fine rod…especially if you’re using a Dickerson taper!