Archive for the ‘July 2011’ Category

Prime Event Coverage

Tackle Trade World (TTW) is one of the two largest and most widely circulated fishing tackle industry trade magazines. It’s certainly a very important publication and is highly respected among companies and individuals who make their living in and around the sport fishing fishing business.

TTW mails to over 27,600 fishing tackle related businesses every month - over 11,000 of them right here in the USA.

This morning I learned that TTW plans to do a pre-show feature on the 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition in their February issue. This will include our floor plan, list of vendors and complete information on seminars and demonstrations.  In March, TTW will follow up with a post-show report, including photographs and comments from the event.


Generally, only the largest and most important industry events such as EFFTEX, China Fish, ICast, IFTD, etc. receive this type of pre and post event coverage from the likes of TTW. Therefore, for the International Custom Rod Building Exposition to now be included is quite an honor. Not to mention that it certainly won’t hurt our attendance!


Of course, this begs a question – The Expo is huge by rod building standards, but small by general fishing industry trade show standards. Therefore I couldn’t help but inquire why TTW had decided to give us such valuable space in their publication. Their representative quickly answered, “We consider the International Custom Rod Building Exposition to be a very important event.”


That’s good enough for me.


Tom Kirkman



Exciting 2012 Expo Addition

Morris Schlesinger loves to turn wood. In fact, the only thing he loves more is teaching others how to turn wood. Therefore it’s no accident that he’s one of the most acclaimed teachers of the wood turning craft anywhere to be found.


Morris was featured at the 2009 and 2010 International Custom Rod Building Expositions. He gave a total of 4 turning demos and worked closely with the Klingspor’s Wood Working Shop booth. Due to a prior commitment, Morris wasn’t able to attend and participate in the 2011 event. More than a few builders mentioned how disappointed they were that he wasn’t on hand. He’d become quite a crowd favorite for his knowledge and down to earth teaching style.

This morning, Morris called me and said he wanted to be on the slate for the 2012 Expo. And more than that – he wanted to run an all day long demonstration! That’s right – he said he wanted to be able to give personal wood turning instruction from the time the doors opened, until they closed.


So, at the 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition, not only will Morris Schlesinger be presenting wood turning seminars, he’ll also be available one-on-one in his own booth. I can’t tell you how excited I am to add this first class presenter to the Expo. Ordnarily, folks pay Morris for his instruction. At the 2012 Expo, you can get it for free.


You can also learn more about Morris and view some of his work at these locations:


And here:


Tom Kirkman



Incomplete Rods

How many rod builders start a rod building project and then never finish it? I seem to do that more and more these days.  It’s been almost 15 years since I last built a rod for sale and since that time I’ve not really had much reason to build more rods for myself – I already have multiple rods for each type of fishing that I do.


But ideas for new rods still pop into my head on a constant basis. Often they stem from a method or technique I’m developing for the magazine. Other times they’re just ideas that I feel compelled to take from the mental to the physical stage. Rarely, however, do they entail completing the entire rod. As such, I’ve ended up with dozens of half-finished rod projects. Most only need to have guides wrapped and coated in order to be complete. But time is short and with no real need for the rod itself many of these half-finished rods have languished for years now.

Of course I’m occasionally forced to take a project all the way to completion – there are some ideas and techniques that require proving out in the real world before they can become a part of a RodMaker article. So new, completed rods, do still roll out of the RodMaker shop from time to time.


Still, wrapping guides was never much fun for me. I found it easy, but repetitive in nature and therefore I’m not much interested in finishing out rods that were never really required to be fished in the first place. So they sit, half completed, gathering dust.


I’m reminded of the rod builder I once met who showed me over a hundred beautiful custom rods he’d built, but which he had absolutely no use for. He said he didn’t fish – never had and never would. He just enjoyed the process of building rods.


Tom Kirkman



1434 Days in a Row

In August of 2007, in the Volume 11 #4 issue of RodMaker Magazine, subscribers got a surprise along with a free gift – a high quality window decal featuring the brand new International Symbol for Custom Rod Building.


Non-subscribers weren’t left out, however, as I quickly put up a website with information on how they could obtain their own decal featuring the symbol, free, for nothing more than an SASE.


Interestingly, since that time nearly 4 years ago, not a single day has gone by without there being at least one request for the decal in my PO Box (yes, main office locations still put up mail on weekends and holidays). Some days there will be several, other days just a few, but always at least one. Until today, however…


That’s right, for exactly 1434 days in a row, I have received at least one SASE requesting the free decal. Today, however, there was not a single SASE in my box.


This won’t be the end of it – I’ll get more requests right on along, but perhaps a bit more sporadically. At any rate, with the ones mailed in the magazine, given away at the Expo and those returned in SASE requests, we’ve now given away almost 60,000 free decals featuring the symbol. Of course, some guys have two, or perhaps even three. Still, a pretty strong showing for something a lot of folks didn’t think would ever catch on.


Tom Kirkman



Joy Dunlap

Let me tell you a little about a rod builder named Joy Dunlap. Joy may be the oldest living, active rod builder. He’s 89 now and has some trouble with arthritis and other ailments, but he’s still “at the bench” as often as he’s able. He began building way back in the early 1940’s and has been involved in all aspects of the craft right on up to the present moment in time.


Joy probably created more notoriety for the “Robert’s Wrap” (spiral wrap) than any other custom rod builder over the years. No, he didn’t invent it, but he did popularize it. He’s built on cane (made his own blanks), steel, glass and graphite. There isn’t much about custom rod building that Joy hasn’t had a finger in at one point or another.


Yesterday I opened the mail to find a package from Joy. Inside were several articles covering a wide range of rod building topics. Some on history, others on techniques. These will be appearing in several near future issues of RodMaker.


As the “old timers” of the craft are getting on in years it’s important to remember that much of what rod builders are doing today, has been built on the shoulders of Joy’s generation. I’m glad he’s still around and “at the bench” as much as he can be these days.



Tom Kirkman




I’ve heard it said that life is 50% facts and 50% personal perception. I won’t argue with that.


A day or so ago a post popped up on my companion forum, A user claimed to be having trouble getting in touch with a specific component supply dealer.  Nothing sinister about the post whatsoever. However, in short order the thread began filling with equal numbers of supporters and detractors of said dealer. Exactly the sort of thing I don’t like seeing on the forum. Once the correct contact information was provided, I closed the topic lest it turn ugly, as these things have a way of doing. The original topic starter emailed me shortly afterwards to let me know that all had turned out well between the dealer and himself.


Shortly after that, another user started a new thread along the same lines, about the same dealer. This one was a direct complaint accompanied by a somewhat harsh comment. I quickly caught it and clearly stated that I didn’t want that type of thing on the forum. I said that I understood his frustration but pointed out that there are two sides to every story and then closed the thread. The point was made and that topic didn’t rear its head again.


However, within minutes the private emails began pouring in. About half chastised me for “protecting the dealer and preventing the builders from learning about his bad business practices.” The other half chastised me for “allowing a good dealer to be trashed.” Both sides were adamant that their perspective was the correct one and in either case, I was the culprit.  So there you have it – completely different perspectives on the same action. Take your pick – some days you can’t win.


Tom Kirkman




I’ve been very pleased with the number of rod builder survey forms that have been received back over the past couple of weeks. We’re nearing the 4,000 mark and will hopefully reach the goal of 5,000 before the end of July.


The aim of the survey is to provide the industry with certain facts about the rod building craft that no one can currently verify. Things like rod building demographics – Where do most of the rod builders live? What age groups do they fall into? Which products and manufacturers are the most popular? What new products do rod builders most want to see introduced? What other field sports pursuits do custom rod builders most often participate in? What magazines do they read and/or subscribe to? How do most builders prefer to buy their blanks and components? And much more.


The answers to these questions will help the rod building industry improve and introduce new products, target the most popular types of rod building, place advertising in the publications that possess the most rod builder readership and generally focus their efforts and resources in the most productive manner possible. By taking part in this survey, you are helping the entire custom rod building craft and creating a brighter future for it.


I plan to have the final tally around the first of August. The results will be made available to the industry first, then published here in the blog for everyone else.


Tom Kirkman



Fooling People… Nine Times!

Abraham Lincoln has been credited as saying, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”


Without expecting the same notoriety, I’ll add my own take on the theme with, “You might fool people once or twice, but you won’t fool them nine times.”  I’m speaking of the International Custom Rod Building Exposition and the repeat exhibitors and attendees it attracts each year. Thousands of rod builders have attended the event over these past nine years. Dozens and dozens of manufacturers and exhibitors have done the same. Why do they keep coming back? Have they been fooled or do they know firsthand just how good the Expo really is?


The fact is that each and every Expo has been larger than the one preceding it. This means more companies and more rod builders continue to attend the Expo each and every year. And, once they attend for the first time, they tend to come back… over and over and over again.


If the Expo wasn’t absolutely everything it’s been made out to be, why would all these companies and all these rod builders continue to come back, year after year after year?  One can speculate, but there’s really only two possibilities – either the Expo really is all it’s said to be, or all these companies and rod builders have been fooled… nine times!


Tom Kirkman



It’s Already Started…

I wish things had been this easy when I announced the first National Rod Builders Show back in 1994. Then, such an event was a hard sell – few believed it could be done. Now, less than 72 hours after announcing the 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition, my phone has done nothing but ring. My email box is packed. Companies are lining up for booth space… and I haven’t even printed the booth contracts yet!


Success breeds success and while I don’t want to infer that selling booth space for the Expo is completely easy, I must say it’s not the hard sell it was back in 1994. Nowadays our problem isn’t getting companies interested in attending and displaying – it’s trying to arrange the floor plan so that we can accommodate all the companies that want to be involved in this thing.


Contracts will be printed and mailed next week. We’re also adding a new element to the event that I’ll talk more about next week. I think you’re going to like it.


Tom Kirkman