Archive for the ‘February 2012’ Category

2012 Expo Wrap Up

The 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition was the largest in history – by far. We topped the 3,000 attendee mark. For the first time ever, I had to join the ticket sales operation for the first few hours Saturday morning.


The seminar presenters become more polished each year.  As good as our seminars were in 2004, they pale in comparison to those that took place this weekend.  It’s been very rewarding to watch various individuals move from a place of nervous tension to absolute command of the seminar room.  Of particular note, Lana Preston, a first time presenter this year, managed to do this in less than a single hour!


The attendees spent money – a lot of money. But the distribution of sales changes a bit each year.  For every exhibitor that remarked something along the lines of “We were off a couple thousand from last year” or “Attendance seemed off this year” there were an equal number that reported “Our sales were up a couple thousand over last year” and “This was the biggest crowd we’ve ever seen here!”  Johnny Kuhne from Angler’s Roost reported that his 2012 Saturday sales alone, eclipsed his entire two day total from last year. Similar successes by other exhibitors were common.


There is a great sales lesson here – you can’t stand still. The key to availing yourself of the Expo sales dollars is keeping your product line fresh and exciting.


As always there were a few surprises. Two exhibitors canceled at the last minute (Thursday), but another signed on that very afternoon. One of the seminar camera tripods was found lacking, but that was taken care of without too much trouble. As any event grows larger, minor slips are apt to happen, but the ability to deal with them becomes easier. We’ve seen just about everything by now.


All in all, the 2012 Expo was easily the largest and best in our history. To get a better idea of this year’s event, please copy and past the following URL into your browser address window:


Hit the “next photo” button at the top of the first photo and view roughly 40 photos from the 2012 Expo. Enjoy!


Tom Kirkman




The International Custom Rod Building Exposition tends to spread me a bit thin. Anything and everything that takes place there either starts or winds up in my lap. Thus, it’s difficult for me to be able to spend as much time as I’d like to with each subscriber, attendee or exhibitor. I’d love to be able to sit down and talk rod building with each person there, but with 2500+ people involved, it’s just not possible.


Often I worry that the guy whose hand I just shook and exchanged a few quick pleasantries sees my hastiness to move on as a snub. I can assure you, it’s not. The thing is, there is just so much to do and so many people to acknowledge that it’s rare for me to have more than a few quick moments for any particular individual.


So if the best I can do is shake your hand and thank you for coming, please be aware that while I may not say much, I do indeed mean what I say. If I can’t accept your kind offer for dinner or a beer, it’s because a hundred more have already asked and I just can’t accommodate everyone. I do however, sincerely appreciate every person that exhibits and attends the Expo. My only regret is that I just don’t have as much time as I’d like to spend with each one of them.


Tom Kirkman




The “Stuff”

The amount of product at the Expo each year is simply staggering. With over 12,000 rod blanks to choose from, and many times over that in guides, grips, cork, adhesives, finishes, tools, etc., etc., etc., many builders comment that they can’t get around to seeing it all in just two days. Yes, there really is that much “stuff” on hand at the Expo.


While the following photos cannot possibly show more than a tiny bit of the product on hand, they will at least give you some idea of the items available at the Expo. If you attend, do your best to try and see it all.


Show Pricing

Is it all free?  No, it’s not all free, but you never know when an exhibitor is going to dump a box of free stuff for everybody. It has happened!

Rod blanks in trash cans? Absolutely. The “Trash Can” specials were introduced by Andy Dear of Lamar at one of the earlier Expo’s. Andy was offering over a thousand close-out rod blanks from All Star and Castaway and trash cans provided a great way to display them. They were far from being trash, of course, but they sold at ridiculously low prices nonetheless. The tradition of the trash can specials lives on at each subsequent Expo, and will be back for 2012.

99 cent rod blanks?  Sort of. What you see above were sold at 99 cents per foot. Yes, there are plenty of terrific buys at the Expo. There will be over 12,000 rod blanks to choose from at this year’s Expo and while most won’t be free nor marked at 99 cents, nearly all will be sold at some level below standard pricing.

Bottom line – Prices are much lower at the Expo than you’ll find the rest of the year anywhere else. The Expo provides an opportunity for vendors to trim inventory, clear out overstocked merchandise, sell off discontinued items, etc., etc. And sometimes they just want to create some good sales buzz and attract new customers. It all adds up to a situation where your rod building dollar goes further than anywhere else at any other time. Many builders pay for their entire trip just on the savings they reap at the Expo.

A Picture is Worth…

There is a belief among savvy travelers that if you want to find a good place to stop and eat, you look for the food joints that have the most cars parked outside. The idea being that if there’s plenty of folks eating inside, it’s because the place has good food.


Which brings me back to the International Custom Rod Building Exposition – if you’ve ever wondered if it was any good; if it was worth your time to travel in and stay over for, then consider that this is the one event that attracts more custom builders than any other. More in fact, than all other rod building events combined. All these folks are here for a reason, and they continue to come back each and every year. Once you attend, you’ll understand why!




Continuing Education at the Expo

The educational portion of the International Custom Rod Building Exposition is often overshadowed by the absolute plethora of rod building blanks, components and tools there. But make no mistake – the craft’s most extensive and intensive demonstrations and seminars take place at the Expo each year.


Gary Loomis talks Rod Blank Design


Everyone, from old pro to novice, can find something of interest within the seminar programs, which range from basic and introductory, to highly specific and advanced.

Billy Vivona presents CrossWrapping


Both seminar rooms, each outfitted with 125 chairs and some additional standing area, feature quality audio-visual gear so each seat, is the best seat in the house. Everybody, front to back, can easily see and hear what’s going on.

Kevin Knox on Abalone

In addition to the formal seminars at the Expo, it’s not at all unusual and rather quite common, for impromptu demonstrations to start up at a moment’s notice.  Ask a question, and you’re likely to find yourself surrounded by a couple dozen builders involved in a sudden and informative live demonstration.

Morris Schlesinger teaches WoodTurning


The 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition features perhaps one of the event’s strongest seminar and presentation line ups ever.  And all seminars, top to bottom, are included at no additional charge with the regular price of admission ($10).


Capt. Mike Pedersen on Carbon Skinned Grips


2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition Seminars and Demonstrations:

Saturday February 25, 2012

Room A

 9 AM – Basic Rod Building with Jim Upton & Dennis Papike

11 AM -Cord and Turks Head Wrapped Handles with Steve Patterson

12 PM (noon) – Basic Crosswrapping with Billy Vivona

1 PM – Introductory Wood Turning with Morris Schlesinger

2 PM – Sharpening Lathe Tools with Morris Schlesinger

 3 PM – Building Presentation Grade Rod Cases with Mark Crouse


Room B

10 AM – Abalone Shell Inlays with Kevin Knox

11 AM  – Rod Sensitivity with Jason Brunner

12 PM (noon) – Building Great Lakes Trolling Rods with David Mayer

 1 PM – Building Rods for Charter Boats with Ken Preston

 2 PM – Rod Blank Design with Jason Brunner

 3 PM – 3D Beaded Wraps with Lana Preston




Sunday February 26, 2012

Room A

 9 AM – Basic Thread Weaving with Jim Upton

10AM – Advanced Thread Weaving with Jim Upton

12 PM (noon) -  EVA Grip Construction with Billy Vivona

1PM – UV cured finishes with Ken Preston


Room B

10 AM – Custom Rod Inscriptions with David Mayer

11 AM – Decorative Wrapping Secrets with Steve Patterson

12 Noon – Long Distance Surf Rods with Ryan White

2 PM – Rod Building Past and Present with Gary Loomis


RodMaker at the Expo

Just a quick note to let folks know that for the first time, RodMaker Magazine will not be taking subscription or renewal orders at the Expo. These transactions take up far too much of my time both there and yet again once I return to the office. So, if you need to get a new subscription or renew a current one, please do so via the online method here on the magazine website. Thanks.


Of course, RodMaker will be on hand with the largest selection of back issues we’ve ever had. And, they’ll be available at a very special low show price. One time only. See you at the Expo.


Tom Kirkman



What The Expo Is, and Isn’t

The International Custom Rod Building Exposition is a custom rod building event, period.  Attendees shouldn’t expect to find the exhibit hall filled with general tackle items, taxidermists, guide services, etc. What they should expect, and will find, is 50,000 square feet filled with custom rod building items.


Fishing shows are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. So adding in tackle dealers to a rod building event only serves to dilute the rod building portion of that event. This results in there being too little tackle to attract many fishermen and too little in the way of rod building to attract many custom rod builders.  It’s like trying to build a baitcasting/spinning/fly rod combination – you can do it, but the resulting rod isn’t likely to be very good at any particular task.


There are all sorts of combinations that could be tried and some might even be successful. But the Expo is already hugely successful and I believe a good portion of that success has to do with the fact that it is exactly what its name purports – a specialty custom rod building event.  Besides, it’s not like we’re having trouble filling the exhibit hall with custom rod building exhibitors.  I see no need to take on compaines that aren’t involved with custom rod building just to fill booth space.


For what it’s worth, if you want to take in a fishing show, the Bass & Saltwater Fishing and Boating Expo is taking place in Greensboro, NC the same weekend as the ICRBE. However, they open on Friday. So, if you want to attend a general fishing tackle event, come in a day early and spend Friday over there. The Greensboro Coliseum Complex where that event takes place, is less than 20 minutes from the Showplace. This combination offers you two specialty events, each one true to what its name implies.


Tom Kirkman



Cross Wrapping Secrets

Learning the basics of decorative cross wrapping isn’t difficult. What is often difficult, however, is creating precise decorative cross wraps. Many aspiring thread artists, even those with a firm grasp of how various wraps are made, struggle with getting everything perfect, square and precise. And make no mistake, a tight, precise cross wrap will outshine a wavering, off-center wrap every time.

Few thread artists can create decorative cross wraps that are as precise as those done by Steven Paterson. According to Steve, there is a way to ensure that you get perfect cross wraps every time, and it doesn’t require any sort of “taper offset spacing.”

To that end, Steve will be on the seminar team at the fast approaching International Custom Rod Building Exposition on February 25 & 26. His presentation, “Decorative Cross Wrapping Secrets” will take place on Sunday morning (the 26th) and should be a boon to any thread artist that wants to take his or her wrapping skills to the next level.


Yes, you can do this!

And to that end, Billy Vivona will be presenting “Basic Decorative Cross Wrapping” on Saturday morning (the 25th). Here’s your chance to not only learn the basics of how to perform any cross wrap, but learn to do them all perfectly as well. Don’t miss this unique opportunity.


Tom Kirkman



Originator of the Micro Guide Bass Rod

Micro Guides, as they have come to be known, are guides which heretofore would have been considered outside the realm of anything being used on typical North American fishing rods, most notably bass rods.  In the last 5 years, however, they have exploded on the U.S. bass fishing scene. Over that same time period they’ve also been responsible for the greatest sales surge that commercial rod companies have experienced in a very long while.


Ask the average bass fishermen who is responsible for the “micro guide” rod concept and the answers will likely run the gamut of any number of well known tournament bass fishing professionals.  A few have even ventured so far as to actually take credit. But the thing is, not a single one of them had anything to do with the introduction of “micro guide rods” to the American bass fishing scene. This current trend, which has now found its way into nearly every commercial rod company’s product line, can be traced directly back to a single personSteve Gardner.


In early 1997, North Carolina based custom rod builder Steve Gardner decided to try using the very tiny mini-guides offered by a few component manufacturers on his bass rods. Yes, the guides already existed, but they were considered speciality guides intended for other markets and other types of fishing. No one was using them on typical bass or even common freshwater fishing rods. Steve is the one that jumped through the hoops to obtain a set. He’s the guy that did all the initial testing with them. He’s the guy who convinced an American component distributor to bring them in and offer them to other rod builders. He’s the guy that wrote the first article on using them on bass rods and the guy who worked to get other custom builders involved with their further development.


None of this was any small feat – nobody could believe such tiny guides would work, or could possibly excel, on a bass rod. Steve ran into a lot of roadblocks along the way but persevered long enough that “micro guide” rods gained a foothold. From that point, it’s all been a matter of others jumping on his bandwagon to such an extent that Steve’s name has almost completely disappeared from any discussion about “micro guides.”   It’s safe to say that most folks using a “micro guide” rod today have no idea who the heck Steve Gardner is.


Suppose Steve had never dabbled with “micro guides.”  Surely somebody else would have brought them to the forefront for use on bass rods, right?  I’m not so sure. Nobody else was looking in that direction and it was no easy sell for Steve to even convince an American component distributor to take a chance on them. Of course, we’ll never know for sure what might have happened, but what we do know for certain is that Steve Gardner is the man solely responsible for the birth of the “micro guide” bass rod.


Tom Kirkman