Archive for the ‘November 2010’ Category

Times Change…

The biggest difference between modern 21st century rod building and that of a couple or three decades ago is the plethora of parts and pieces available to current custom builders.

Not so very long ago custom rod builders were required to possess a great deal of creativity. They had no other choice – the selection of parts available to them was limited enough that modifications of certain components was almost always a necessity. This was particularly true where rod blanks were concerned. If a builder wanted a specific length, action and power, it was rare that he’d find that exact combination. The only way to get it was to extend, or more often trim, to arrive at the desired length. In fact, where modifying a rod blank these days is the exception, it was the rule back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Component colors? Forget about it.  Guide frames were black or chrome. Glass rod blanks were painted yellow, black or white. Graphite models were available in one color – natural charcoal grey. If your customer wanted a color theme to match his boat or similar, you achieved it with thread – the only thing that came in a variety of colors.

Times change and lately where custom rod building is concerned, they’ve changed for the better.

Tom Kirkman


Your Personal Billboards

Good advertising costs money. At least most of the time. Custom rod builders looking for inexpensive yet productive advertising venues often overlook the walking and rolling billboards that are already in their possession – their head and their vehicle.

That’s right – every day you encounter untold numbers of folks, many of whom may be fishermen, and among them not a single one has any idea that you build custom rods. It’s not at all a stretch to suggest that every day you’re losing sales which you might have landed if only you and your potential customers had some way of identifying each other.

Take the bull by the horns and wear clothing that identifies you as a custom builder. Something as simpleas a hat or shirt with your company name or logo might be all it would take to attract the attention of a fellow fisherman.

Likewise, your vehicle is a rolling billboard, seen by perhaps hundreds if not thousands of fishermen each and every day. There are plenty of businesses these days that make inexpensive one-off signage for display on vehicle windows. If you don’t want to display it full time, consider a magnetic sign for your door or tailgate.  And… there’s always a custom state license tag to consider!

As expensive as good advertising is, it makes little sense to discount one of the most inexpensive, and possibly most effective advertising mediums available to you every day.  If you’re not taking advantage of these walking and rolling billboards, you’re missing out on one of the best advertising opportunities possible.

Tom Kirkman


Current Trends

If you’ve been keeping up, publishers are having a heck of time these days.  Many long time newspapers have either stopped publishing or are on the ropes. Magazines are dropping like flies – many long time sportsfishing magazines have bitten the dust in just the past few years. Most publishers blame the internet and its ready source of free information.  I know quite a few publishers and we talk. Each year I can’t help but think that eventually the internet will catch up with RodMaker the way it has so many other magazines. But lately, I’m thinking that such a thing may still be a long, long way off.

For the first 8 or 9 nine years of its existence, RodMaker’s circulation figures grew every single issue.  By the 10th year, those numbers had leveled out.  I fully expected to see them begin to tumble. But they didn’t. Only during the onset of the recent recession did I see any reduction, but even that didn’t last long. RodMaker’s circulation recovered from that small dip and has remained amazingly steady over the last 4 years.  Not really growing, but not falling, either. All things considered, not a bad place to be in a time of serious recession.

I believe there are two reasons for RodMaker’s good fortune. First is that RodMaker has managed to stay far ahead of the internet in terms of new rod building information. Easily 90% of today’s popular rod building topics and techniques appeared in RodMaker up to 2 years prior to that same information trickling down to the internet. So where the newest methods and techniques are concerned, RodMaker is still king.

The second reason RodMaker continues to fare so well, I believe, has a great deal to do with the overall demographics of our craft. The vast majority of those who engage in custom rod building are of an age that typically does not live on the internet. Sure, most have internet access and use it regularly, but it’s not where they tend to turn, first, when they want information. Sure, that’ll change in time, but for the next few years at least, it’s safe to say that most custom rod builders aren’t living on the rod building forums and photo pages. Add up every current rod builder who is registered and active on all of the rod building forums combined (mine included) and you won’t have 10% of the total craft. It’s a fact – for every single rod builder actively utilizing an internet rod building forum, there are at least 5 RodMaker subscribers.

Maybe I should knock on wood. Then again, maybe I should just keep on doing what I’ve been doing.

Tom Kirkman


Building Your Own…

There are plenty of fishermen who’d like to try their hand at building their own custom fishing rod. A few will and do, but most won’t even try. That’s a real shame.

The manufacturing processes involved in creating most goods these days is pretty involved.  As a rule, few of us could expect to easily and successfully build our own top-of-the-line sporting goods equipment. Much, if not most of it, is now made with fairly sophisticated tooling and processes that preclude the average person from duplicating it in their garage or basement.  But this isn’t true where fishing rods are concerned.

I know many fishermen who have the idea that fishing rods are made and spit out of elaborate machines. In reality, of course, they’re still made by hand in the same way they were 100 years ago.  Outside of the rod blank and some of the component parts, all of which are readily available for sale, the assembly of a fishing rod does not require any special machinery or high-tech knowledge. Building a fishing rod is still a mostly hands-on process and one that nearly anyone with decent manual dexterity can master.

About 3 decades back, Dale Clemens coined a very apt advertising phrase, “You can build a better rod than you can buy.” And he was right!  As good as many of the commercially made rods have gotten in the past decade, almost any of them can be bested by anyone that is willing to put in just a little time reading and practicing. I know many rod builders who on their first few attempts, crafted better rods than they could have purchased for any amount of money. And those who find that their first rods still leave a bit to be desired quickly realize that they are already close to if not already even with most of the commercially made rods they’re currently fishing with. It would be extremely rare to build that first rod and not have something that doesn’t perform at least as well as most commercially made rods.

If you’ve ever considered building your own fishing rod, why not get started today! Custom rod building can be as simple or as elaborate as you care to make it. Blanks and components are readily available and come in price ranges to fit any budget. The actual “how-to” isn’t at all hard to come by.  Many rod building books and DVDs are available and a great deal of rod building instruction is online, free for the taking.  There are plenty of custom rod building forums to help you out in a pinch. Never before have there been so many folks ready and willing to help you build that first custom rod!

It really is true – You can indeed build a better rod than you can buy. And it’s really not all that hard to do.

Tom Kirkman


The following RodMaker Magazine advertisers can help you get started on your first custom rod building project today! They have everything you need to build a quality custom fishing rod.

Sources for Rod Blanks and Components:

Bingham Enterprises

Mud Hole Custom Tackle

Online Information on Custom Rod Building:

Recommended Books and DVDs:

How We Do It – Flex Coat (DVD)

Step by Step Rod Building – Flex Coat

Rod Building Guide – Amato Publications

The Complete Book of Tackle Making – C. Boyd Pfeiffer

Advertising Theft

Once upon a time, a man bought some property beside a highway. Then he bought some lumber and some steel and proceeded to build himself a large billboard. He then offered to lease billboard space to any and all interested parties.  Shortly thereafter, a man who made and sold knick-knacks saw the billboard and inquired about leasing it in order to advertise his product.  A deal was struck and the billboard owner put up an advertisement for the knick-knack seller.

Not too long after that, a fellow that made and sold widgets drove by the very same billboard.  He knew that if he could get his advertisement on that billboard that many people would see it and his business would get a boost.  But rather than inquire about leasing space on the billboard as the knick-knack seller had done, he began rationalizing all sorts of reasons why he shouldn’t have to pay anything to advertise his widgets there.  So he pulled over, got a ladder out of his vehicle and proceeded to climb up and paste an advertisement for his widgets on the billboard.

Of the three folks involved here, which one has acted in an unethical, unfair manner? I think most will quickly agree that the guy who simply pasted an advertisement next to a paid advertiser, on a billboard which someone else owns, is the one committing the unethical act.

This scenario takes place every day on rod building internet forums. Folks that have incurred no expense in setting up and operating a forum will backdoor the owner and paying sponsors by adding their website URL to their signature, or putting their business logo in their avatar, or perhaps simply make outright mention of their product or service within a message post. They feign innocence and pretend to see nothing unethical nor unfair about such a practice. Granted, a few may actually be obtuse enough to believe they haven’t done anything wrong, but most are smart enough to know exactly what they’re doing – they’re advertising on someone else’s nickel. In short, they’re stealing.

Bottom line – there is a cost associated with doing business. If you wish to benefit from the expense and efforts of others, be willing to pay your fair share. It’s the right thing to do. It keeps you in good standing with the industry and among potential customers. Anything less is not only poor business – it’s stealing.

Tom Kirkman


New, FREE Artwork

Back in 2008 I developed and copyrighted the International Symbol for Custom Rod Building. I get inquiries almost daily asking me if it’s okay to use the symbol on business cards, brochures, etc.  Well, of course!  In fact I hope rod builders from around the globe will do just that. In fact, to that end, I even put up some free artwork of the symbol on the official symbol website. Anyone is free to download and use it to their heart’s content (just don’t sell the symbol nor put it on anything intended for sale).

This past week I’ve decided to take the idea for the free artwork to a new level. I’ve begun offering additional artwork featuring the symbol on items that rod builders can use in their custom rod building businesses. We’re starting with bumper stickers.

That’s right – bumper stickers. Your vehicle and boat are seen by many hundreds if not thousands of people each week. With over 60 million fishermen in the U.S., it’s a good bet that a good many of these folks are your potential customers. But unless they have some way of knowing that you’re a custom rod builder, that market is simply going untapped.  Why not take advantage of a sales aid that won’t cost you more than a couple bucks and which would really boost your business?

Here’s a sample of the type artwork that is now being featured on the symbol website.

The artwork has been saved and loaded onto the site in reasonably high resolution jpeg format and should be suitable for good quality bumper stickers in the 8 to 10 inch wide range. Instructions on the best vinyl media and inkjet settings can also be found on the website.

Each week I’ll add a few more sales aids, all featuring the symbol, of course. And if you’d rather just browse the artwork for ideas, that’s fine too. I think we can do a great deal with this new idea and eventually have quite a repository of free rod building related artwork for everyone’s use. Enjoy!

Tom Kirkman


You can access the bumper sticker artwork here: