Archive for the ‘January 2012’ Category

New Issue Mails

The Volume 15 #1 issue of RodMaker mailed yesterday. This issue went out a tad early to facilitate subscribers getting their tickets for the RodMaker Reception on February 24th.  Presorted 3rd class mail generally takes about 3 to 4 weeks to reach most everyone, therefore the first issue of each year always mails about a week early.



One other thing worth mentioning – the Volume 15 #2 issue of RodMaker will mark the magazine’s 15th anniversary. During these past 15 years the magazine has become the most successful and popular publication for custom rod builders around the world. Expect some big changes during this 15th anniversary year. Stay tuned.


Tom Kirkman



RodMaker Reception

One of the perks for RodMaker subscribers who attend the International Custom Rod Building Exposition each year is the RodMaker Magazine Reception. This annual event takes place on the eve just prior to opening day of the Expo. It’s free for any and all RodMaker subscribers.


The Reception features free refreshments (light hor d’oervres and tea/water). If you like something a little stronger, an alcohol cash bar is on hand with beer and wine available.


Of course it’s worth mentioning that we normally give away close to 100 free door prizes and this year is no different. No, this isn’t a raffle – it doesn’t cost anything to enter. No one can “stuff” the ticket box in order to win the big ticket items. Everyone has a chance – the same chance – to win something, including no less than 4 rod lathes/wrappers, including a Renzetti Master Rod Lathe!

All in all it’s a fun, relaxing time with good people, good food and lots of free “stuff.” The Centennial Station, located about 2 blocks east of the Showplace (121 South Centennial Street) will again be the host location for the event. The building is a renovated train depot that exudes a great deal of warmth and charm. Hope to see you there on February 24th, just after 6:30 PM.  You’re guaranteed to have a great time!


Tom Kirkman


PS Don’t arrive early!  Doors will not open prior to 6:30PM and the only waiting area will be outside. If it’s seasonably cold, it won’t be comfortable outside! The line moves quickly so there’s no reason to arrive prior to 6:30PM.


Partial List of Free Door Prizes (more TBA)


Renzetti Master Rod Lathe  -  Renzetti/RodMaker Magazine


Tour Star Replaceable Grip  -  Tour Star

Tour Star Split Grip Combo


Three sets Kigan Zero Tangle Micro Guides  -  Hydra Fishing


Power Wrapper  -  American Tackle

Rod Dryer


Rod Jacket/Reel Cover  -  Angler Innovations


Numerous Snake Skins  -  The Skin Shop USA


Two “your choice” blanks  -  Batson Enterprises

ALPs Power Wrapper


MicroWave Guide Set  -  Swampland Tackle


React Pro Series Bass Rod  -  Seeker Rod Company

Seeker Fishing “Hoodie”


One 14 foot Euro Spey Rod  -  Angler’s Roost

#104M Aluminum Fly Reel


Peel & Stick Decals ($35)  -  Decal Connection


Iridescent Fish Decals ($25) – Bil-mardecals


MHX Blank (your choice)  -  Mud Hole Custom Tackle

MHX Fishing Pliers

ProWrap Metallic Thread Kit (12 spools)

ProWrap Thread Assortment (17 spools)


Four Premium Rod Blanks  -  Lamiglas


Twelve Kits New Aftcoat Epoxy Finish  -  AFTCO


Four Rod Blanks  -  St. Croix Rod Company


Eco Rod Wrapper  -  The Rod Shop, Inc.


Four Rod Shop Aprons  -  Mickel’s Custom Rods


Three BingSHX Rod Blanks  -  Bingham Enterprises

One North Fork Composites Rod Blank


Four Guide Placement and Set-Up CDs  -  RodMaker Magazine

Renzetti Rod Lathe


Two Sheets Tacy Mop Veneer  -  Angler’s Envy


One Set Fuji Titanium SiC K-Series Guides (your choice)  -  Anglers Resource

One Set Fuji Ti SiC KR Concept Guides (your choice)

Fuji Hand Wrapper

Fuji Finishing Motor


Two FishHawk Thread Assortments  -  FishHawk Thread


Autographed Guide to Thread Weaving Book  -  Jim Upton


Three ThreadMaster Epoxy Kits  -  RodDancer Products

Three All-In-On Kits


Permalign Channel Lock Seat  –  Pacific Bay International

Quickline 9′ 6-weight blank

Quickline 9′ 10-weight blank

Four Minima Casting Reel Seats

Four Minima Spinning Reel Seats

Two Minima Guide Ring Sets


Century Surf Rod Blank  –  Hatteras Jack

More TBA…




Success Requires Time

No matter how carefully you select and mix the ingredients, you can’t just toss it all in the oven and expect to enjoy a delicious dinner inside of a few minutes. It’s going to take some time for things to get to the point where they’re going to provide you with an enjoyable meal.


It never ceases to amaze me how many folks build a custom rod or two and then decide to hang out a shingle and make a fortune in the custom rod building business.  Of course, it doesn’t work that way. Even if you were the best custom rod builder in the world, which isn’t likely if you’re just starting out, it’s still going to take a lot of work and time to establish the kind of brand image required to convince the world to beat a path to your door. In most cases we’re not talking weeks or months, we’re talking years.


A perfect example is the International Custom Rod Building Exposition. The first 3 or 4 years were difficult. It was like pulling teeth trying to convince companies in the industry that this event would be good for their businesses. Few believed that a large scale rod building show could possibly succeed. Others had ventured to what constituted large rod building shows of the time period and not found the business they had been promised. I was fighting an uphill battle.


Fast forward to the upcoming 2012 edition of this event. Right now we’re looking at the largest assembly of rod building manufacturers and distributors in Expo history.  Other than mailing out contracts to companies that had been here in 2011, I didn’t solicit a single one!  I did not make a single phone call to any person or company asking them to purchase booth space. I did not send a single email to any person or company suggesting that they should be here. Every single company on the current exhibitor list contacted me – by now they know of the Expo’s successful track record and want to be here. Nobody had to twist their arm, lest of all me.


The moral of the story isn’t that you should rest on your laurels. Quite the contrary – you need to keep working because the instant you stop somebody will be gaining on you. But my point is that success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s usually a long, hard slog, but given enough time it will come.  Rod builders who don’t attract a large following right off the bat need to be patient, continue working and doing all the right things. Success can be had, just not in an instant.


Tom Kirkman



Survey Musings

Just over 4,300 custom rod builders responded to the Rod Builder Survey published in the Volume 14 #3 issue of RodMaker Magazine. This represents the largest number of individuals to ever participate in any survey or questionnaire having to do with custom rod building. The results tell us a great deal about the demographics and buying habits of the mainstream rod building craft.


One of the most interesting pieces of information has to do with how many rod builders actively peruse and participate on the various internet rod building websites, forums and chat rooms. According to the survey results, only 21% are involved in any way with this aspect of modern media.


From that tidbit of information, it then comes as no surprise that just four companies control 75% of the total blank and component sales business.  Of course they all have something in common – they each publish and mail a print catalog. Those catalogs allow them to market to that vast majority, that 80% of rod builders, who are not active on the internet. In the meantime, the dozens and dozens and dozens of component supply dealers who limit their marketing and advertising to the internet, are all fighting over just 20% of the market.


That only a small percentage of rod builders actively participate on the internet also explains why rod building events that limit their marketing and advertising to the internet never seem to draw much of a crowd. How could they – they’re failing to reach at least 80% of the market.


I talked to a dealer last week that told me that he understood that most rod builders can’t be reached via the internet. But he said that he felt that as time went by, more and more would eventually migrate there. The problem is, with 90% of current builders being over the age of 50, and with 90% of the new builders that enter the craft already being over 50, that migration may take a decade or more.  Can his business hold out while waiting for this complete paradigm shift?


The Volume 15 #1 issue of RodMaker will contain complete survey results. Look for it around the 2nd week of February.


Tom Kirkman




A Little Bad News

For those of you who like picking through back issues of RodMaker at the Expo each year, I regret to inform you that we’ve had so many new companies sign on for the 2012 event that I had to make the decision to leave RodMaker Magazine out of the exhibit hall this year.


Each year things get a little tighter and we come closer to squeezing in all the booths that can reasonably fit in the 40,000 square foot hall. With the continued growth I knew this was going to happen at some point or another and 2012 seems to be the year we finally experienced some “spillage.”


Of course the good news is that in place of RodMaker we’ll have additional new companies exhibiting for the very first time. I’ve also added an entirely new row of booths along one end of the exhibit hall. That row will also be filled with new companies, several of which tell me that they’re bringing new, recently patented rod building products to show off.


So the exhibit hall loses a little on one end in order to gain a great deal on the other. I think it was a pretty good trade-off. In fact, at this point in time, it appears that we’re looking at the very largest Expo in history!


Oh, one last thing. The RodMaker booths will still be at the Expo, just not in the exhibit hall. Look for them in the Atrium, directly behind the ticket counter area.


Tom Kirkman



Trust the Numbers

I like numbers.  I particularly like numbers when they represent the effectiveness of something you’ve tried.  For instance, the daily page view total offered by the administration page of the Expo website gives me a spectacular idea of how varying advertising endeavors are working.


For instance, when I do a direct mail postcard push, I’ll see a huge spike in the numbers from about 3 or 4 days after the mailing. This is exactly the amount of time that it takes a first class mailing to travel just about anywhere in the continental U.S.

On the days when one of the wire services picks up an Expo news release and flashes it to the various media outlets, there’ll be a spike. When a magazine containing an advertisement for the Expo hits the stands and mailboxes, I’ll see a gentle but steady spike over the course of about a week to 10 days.


You might not believe it, but when a competitor fires off a barb or jab at the Expo, within 10 minutes the numbers start climbing. As the old axiom reads – Any talk is good talk, as long as they’re talking. 


On Sunday afternoons during NFL playoff season, nothing works. The numbers will fall and you can take that to the bank.


If I advertise somewhere and don’t see a spike within a day or two of the advertisement hitting the public, I’ll know that that particular medium isn’t working and needs to be crossed off the list for next year. After almost 10 years of hosting the world’s largest custom rod building event, I’ve learned from every advertising mistake I’ve ever made. And now those mistakes are paying off! I certainly know where to put my advertising dollars, as well as where not to put them.


Another thing the numbers tell me is what kind of attendance I can expect. All indications are that we’re currently looking at the largest and best attended Expo in history. The 2012 event will be one to remember.


Tom Kirkman



Raleigh Show

The Raleigh Bass and Saltwater Expo took place this weekend. I traveled over with Rodney Powell and Sammy Mickel. Although our portion of the Country has been unseasonably warm this year and remains pleasant for fishing, it seemed like enough guys stayed off the water this weekend to keep the show aisles crowded.


We ran into Scott Parsons (Fishsticks/RodDancer) in one of the first booths. Scott was staffing a non-rod building booth and we took a moment to speak with him. Around a few corners we ran into the Cashion Custom Rods booth where they’ve created an entire rod line around the carbon-skinned, foam-core grips introduced to the craft in RodMaker a few years ago. They really seem to be making a go of it.


In the opposite hall I spotted Captain Rick Bennett (Rodman Charters and Custom Rods). Rick travels the show circuit in this area and will be in Greensboro on February 25 & 26. Said he’d be over at the Expo, of course, on Saturday morning for a bit.  John Ballard (J&B Custom Rods) was there and his crew was doing a brisk business.


We ran into a few custom rod builders roaming the aisles but missed many more who were there. Steve Gardner, Don Hanner and others were spotted, but we never got close to them. Steve had called my cell phone to try and get up with me, but I never heard it ring! We talked later.


It seems that each and every year more and more custom builders are setting up at the fishing shows. It’s good to see and I hope they’re all doing well. It’s a tough business, but it’s heartening to see them in it.


Tom Kirkman




What are the odds…


Just four companies account for nearly 75% of the total rod building blank and component sales. That leaves several dozen other companies left to fight over just one-quarter of the market. What do these top four know that the rest don’t?


The four leading companies in terms of rod building supply sales know the same thing that firms like Cabelas, Orvis, LL Bean and Bass Pro Shops know – there is a cost associated with doing business. If you want to be successful, you have to advertise!


All the companies listed above, including the four rod building entities mentioned, spend the bulk of their marketing resources on print catalogs and direct mail advertising.  This is real advertising. The kind that gets results.


If your product isn’t selling, if your service isn’t requested, if your event isn’t drawing, take a hard, hard look at your advertising budget and where you’re putting your dollars. The secret to success isn’t really a secret after all.


Tom Kirkman