I'd second a trip to Smitty's. The first rod I built was a hook & hackle blank, similar in price and performance to the pac bay. That rod turned out fine, I was most concerned with how the finish would come out on the wraps. Turns out the finish was the easiest part of all. Buy the parts from Smitty, the tips you will recieve are more than worth it and you don't pay freight. There are a few things he showed me that I will not post online, I probably could not explain them anyway.
The St. Croix ultra legend is a nice blank for the price if you like fast rods. You might consider a burled cork handle if you choose to turn your own.
Best of luck with your project, it's a great way to get through the winter.