May 25, 2007

Lead in fishing rods and reels

If you've been shopping for a fishing pole or reel lately, you're almost certainly going to see a "Prop 65" warning. This is statement mandated by California's Prop 65 law, requiring a warning if someone may come into contact with certain cancer-causing materials.

This warning is only required on products sold in California. However, since most companies distribute nationally and don't know where their their products will ultimatley end up, it's usually put on all products going anywhere in the US. If you don't see the warning on a rod or reel, it still doesn't mean it's lead free. It could be only marketed in a geographic region outside of California.

Lead is considered cancer-causing, and hence, you'll see this warning on fishing rods and reels because they almost always use lead paint (that's how you get that shiny look).

Now, instead of a specific warning about lead, most manufacturers will attempt to hide this fact by using the generic "cancer" warning allowed under Prop 65. The warning often goes something like this:

WARNING: This product containts chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
Scary message, but then most people just thing "oh heck, what doesn't cause cancer these days" and move on (I doubt most people would think that it's a lead warning). And if you do hunt around, you'll find something reassuring like this message from Shakespeare.

Interested in finding a lead-free alternative? Good luck. It's basically non-existent (if you find otherwise, please post a comment).

What is fairly astounding is that both Shakespeare and Zebco tried to sell "kids" fishing rod and reel combinations that had lead paint in them. There was a subsequent recall, and it appears that the children's new rod and reel combos are lead-free.

Now, there are really only two ways that I know of to get a lead-free fishing rod and reel: Buy the Zebco or Shakespeare children's fishing kits (these are the ones with colorful Batman and Robin, etc. -- real kiddie stuff); or buy the Jr. Fisherman Rod and Reel combination from Outdoor Adventure (only the 2007 models, not the earlier 2006 models). In fact, at this point, I would only recommend the Outdoor Adventure models as Zebco and Shakespeare both had the audacity to ship a "children's rod and reel" combination with lead in them (although they have apparently stopped doing this subsequent to the recall).

In order to be lead-free, also make sure to also use lead-free tackle (jigs, weights, etc.).

Good luck and good fishing.

UPDATE:   We've heard that MountainBaby has lead-free fishing poles.  Hope that helps.  If you

Tampa Bay Conservation League


Unknown said...

Hi, many thanks for your very informative post on lead paint in fishing rods.

Have you found any other lead-free alternatives? The "outdoor adventures" one you mention herein does not appear to be available anymore.


Anonymous said...

so how is the lead harmful? do you have to ingest it or is it just by close contact?

Unknown said...

Has ANYBODY found a lead free fishing rod? If so, please send a link, to that website, to my email:


Anonymous said...

i have purchased a few rods on ebay, made by a company called phoenix blaze, designed by doug hannon, the product tag on these rods says "no lead used in the manufacture of this product", these are the only rods i've ever seen state that. they fish very well. hope this helps someone. i'm still looking for a lead free reel.

Anonymous said...

Avet reels has no lead warning on it and it is made in California if I recall correctly.

Anonymous said...

Over ten years later and still can’t find a clear lead free option for a rod and reel. Sad!