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By Gene Kira, Oct. 22, 2001, as published in Western Outdoor News:

It's late Sunday night and I'm half-loaded, but not it the toxicological sense. My faithful Baja fishing trip pickup is sitting outside with the kayak tied on top, and at first light tomorrow morning, we're heading down Mex 1, with a brand new prototype fishing rod.

The post-Hurricane Juliette desert vegetation in Baja is the "best of a lifetime," according to some friends who just drove up from Buena Vista, and I'm packing a digital camera and enough chip space for about 500 high-res photos.

If you haven't ever seen how the desert transforms itself after a really big chubasco, you owe it to yourself to go down and take a look. There will be places, almost completely barren a month ago, where you will now need a machete to cut your way through. There will be flowers, huge and tiny, that are rarely seen at any other time, and the vines will be growing so fast, I swear you'll hear them creeping along at night beside your camp. It's an experience that gets you close to the mystery of life.

After enormous Hurricane Lisa in 1976, Ray Cannon went down to Rancho Buena Vista, and he wrote about the powerful force of renewal that he found there, and that's what I want to see too. I want to climb the hill near Santiago and look upon the Sierra de la Laguna, as green as the cliffs of Maui. I want to see the long-suffering cattle of the desert ranchos standing in grass so tall that it reaches up to their shrunken bellies and they can finally eat their fill, without even bending their necks.

Also coming along on this trip is a very special spinning rod that was just wrapped for me by Jim Hernandez of El Cajon, Calif. This rod is the only one of its kind that I've ever seen, and it's something that I've been wanting for many years.

I started fishing with spinning tackle when I was about eight, and I guess I just never learned any better. After decades of trying to become more of an "expert angler," I still feel most natural and efficient with a dumb old left-handed coffee grinder. Just can't help it.

But the problem with spinning tackle is that really good rods are hard to find, so I recently called Dick Katner of San Diego's Graphite-USA, and I asked him how he would design the ultimate spinning rod, starting from scratch. Dick is a composite materials engineer par excellence with such items as parts for the SR-71 spy plane and a Tour de France-winning bicycle frame to his credit, and he also custom manufactures blanks for the high-end fly rod industry.

My new Graphite-USA rod is a three-piece beauty, nine feet long, and it weighs only 8.5 ounces. The blank is only one-half inch thick at the base, and it's the strongest, most responsive rod of its kind that I've ever held. It will easily handle 25-pound test line. I can lift 7 pounds of weight off the ground with it, and it breaks down small enough to carry on a plane.

This slender, pure graphite instrument responds with a remarkable speed that is almost magical, and Dick Katner says the special fiber modulus and double helical outer layers make it the toughest thing going.

Jim Hernandez' final instructions as he handed me this beautiful, three-piece work of art was to just try and break it on a fish. "You'll be amazed," he said.

Well, I don't know if I really want to test my new rod that way, Jim, but in a few days, I'll be on a fishing boat in Baja, and we shall see what this little carbon jewel can do.

(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")