Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New Issue Mails Today

RodMaker Volume 22 #2 mails today. Most subscribers will receive it towards the middle to end of April.

New Issue

The new issue of RodMaker, Volume 21 #6, mails Monday December 3rd. Most subscribers will receive it shortly before Christmas.

New Issue Mails June 1st.

RodMaker Volume 21 #3 will mail on June 1st, 2018. Most subscribers will receive it during the 3rd and fourth weeks of June.

RodMaker Volume 21 #2

RodMaker Volume 21 #2 mails tomorrow. Most subscribers will receive it during the 3rd and 4th weeks of this month.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate…

The Origin of Foam-Core, Carbon-Skinned Fishing Rod Grips

How many of you are old enough to remember the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup advertisement? The one where some guy eating a chocolate bar walks around a corner and bumps into a guy who’s finger scooping peanut butter out of a jar. They look up and as they regain their senses, one shouts “You got peanut butter on my chocolate bar!” The other responds with “You got chocolate in my peanut butter!”  All ends well as they taste the combination and decide that something delicious has just happened.

Back in 2003 I began searching for a good do-it-yourself method for creating  flocked grips.  For those unaware, flocked grips are made from embedding short nylon fibers onto an underlying base, generally of cork.   Such grips had long been available from a couple of commercial sources and were often referred to as “the Cadillac of rod grips.”  But there was no simple, inexpensive do-it-yourself method for rod builders to create their own. If you desired a flocked grip, you paid the price – which often exceeded $30 for a single grip!

Borrowing and then modifying a process used by custom furniture makers for lining drawer bottoms, I developed the method I was looking for. I published an article on the technique in the  Volume 7 #4 issue of RodMaker.

Shortly thereafter, I decided that there was no need to use expensive cork as the core for flocked grips.  I began experimenting with mixing, pouring and shaping my own urethane foam to use as flocking cores.  Hold this thought…

Down in Texas  Andy Dear  had purchased a large quantity of cork grips from the old  All Star Rod Company  operation. In an attempt to salvage some of the lesser quality cork and create something more novel at the same time, Andy had begun experimenting with glass and carbon sleeving as a covering for the cork.  Hold this thought…

In 2006, shortly after researching and publishing an article on  Rod Grip Ergonomics  (Volume 10 #3) I began toying with the idea of fitting a fly rod with a carbon fiber grip. The increased rigidity it would provide over a standard cork grip was bound to increase control and reduce fatigue. Trouble was, any such grip would be limited in size and shape to the commercially available non-tapered carbon tubes often sold for making Tennessee handles. Or so I thought.

One afternoon while conferring with Andy on another matter, we spilled our current projects to each other. In an instant, peanut butter and chocolate collided. A unique idea was borne that day – combining a lightweight, rigid, shaped urethane-foam core with an outer skin of carbon-fiber. Within 72 hours afterwards, the world’s first urethane-core/carbon-fiber skinned fishing rod grip was a reality.  

The world’s first rigid foam, carbon skinned fishing rod grip appeared on the cover of the Volume 10 #5 issue of RodMaker Magazine in October of 2006.

Maybe not exactly delicious, but innovative and important nonetheless, that first grip appeared on the cover of the Volume 10 #5 issue of RodMaker. An article on making your own cores and how to skin them followed in the Volume 10 #6 issue. Scores of rod builders picked up the technique from there and a few are producing them commercially today. Now you know how they came to be.

Tom Kirkman

Additional Photos of foam-core/carbon-skinned grips. Copy and paste each URL into your browser’s address window.

New Issue

The Volume 19 #4 issue of RodMaker is in the mail now. Most subscribers will receive it towards the end of this month.



TTW Expo Report

Here’s the latest report on the 2013 Expo by the folks at Tackle Trade World:

Early Exhibitor List

The 2013 International Custom Rod Building Exposition has already signed several exhibitors. And… the booth contracts were only mailed middle of last week!


The first companies to sign on are:


American Tackle

Angler’s Roost

Bingham Enterprises

Mudhole Custom Tackle

United Composites USA

Total booths taken: 17. A pretty good start for the first week!

Expect the list to double, or triple, by late next week. Expect to see 50+ companies on board by late August as we move towards the largest Expo in history.


Tom Kirkman




The “Experiment” Turns Twelve.

On June 7th, 2001, at 11:24 PM, Wendy Woudstra of made a test post on a new type of forum for custom rod builders. There had never been anything like it before, nor since.

At the outset I wanted to provide a public forum for the exchange of custom rod building information that was devoid of the sort of rude, crude, fighting and flaming that was so prevalent on many public internet forums. To that end I installed a set of rules which required users to register with and use their actual first and last names. Folks tend to behave better when other folks know who they are.


The rules also indicated what would be acceptable in terms of overall conduct. Disagreements were expected and would be allowed, provided they were civil. While I saw nothing in the rules that was overbearing, I quickly received numerous emails and phone calls from folks who were very upset at what was required in order to participate. Few thought such a format could thrive, if even survive. And yet, to this day, has been the most successful rod building forum on the internet. The daily traffic, the number of registered users and the support provided by an industry that feels comfortable being a part of a such a forum, has proved the idea can and has worked.


Sure, there have been a few problems. But only on extremely rare occasions does a user get banned, and then only for repeated rules violations. And no one has ever been banned for simple disagreements. In fact, out of over 7,000 registered users, only 16 people have ever been banned from That’s less than 1% of the total user base in 12 years. This tells me that most rod building folks are indeed level headed individuals who just want to build rods, learn from each other builders and have fun while doing so.

Sure, we’ve had a few bad egg sponsors. But very few. has maintained a sponsor list each year of from 50 to 60 companies. The total number of individual companies involved in the past 12 years has run just over 80. Many of our original sponsors are still with us. While some came and went due to the usual ups and downs of the business world, only 3 were ever “given the boot” for defrauding anyone. Another testament to the good business practices that prevail in the rod building craft.


Some of you have likely heard me say that if I had it to do over again I’d have never started an internet forum. Frankly, there are days when I still feel that way – you have to watch such public forums like a hawk, which can get in the way of other things you’d rather be doing. But when I consider the 388,000+ posts (all about rod building) made in the past 12 years, the number of builders that have been helped, the friendships made and ideas shared, I can’t envision the craft without this or similar forums. In other words, I think it’s all been worth it. I hope you feel the same way.


Tom Kirkman




Expo Criteria

Compared to the general fishing population, custom rod builders are few and far between.  This is why an event like the Expo, which must support anywhere from 40 to 50 manufacturers and dealers exhibiting in 85 to 90 booths, will only work in a handful of possible locations here in the U.S.


There just aren’t enough rod builders in any particular region to support an event the size of the Expo. Put the event in the wrong place and you wide up with a regional event which at best will only draw a few hundred builders. This leads to financial losses for the exhibitors and precludes them exhibiting in the future. In other words, the event dies.


The International Custom Rod Building Exposition has enjoyed tremendous success these past 9 years. Luck, however, has had nothing to do with it. You don’t get lucky 9 times in a row!


Others have attempted to emulate the Expo but none have succeeded. Not for lack of trying or sincerity, but for a failure to understand the demographics of the craft and therefore not being able to locate their event in a place which meets all or at least most of the necessary criteria required in order to successfully stage something like the Expo.


The RodMaker Magazine mailing list provides a good general overview of rod building demographics in the U.S.  When you look it over, you see that well over half of all the rod builders live east of the Mississippi River. If you want the event to be within a single day’s drive of the greatest number of rod builders, you’re faced with the fact that the event must be held in the eastern third of the Country.

A nearby international airport is an absolute must – we’re talking about it being within 15 miles or so of the event facility. Amtrak is nice, but not altogether required. Major interstate highways should run within a very few miles of the event facility and lodging.


Weather is your next concern.  Northern winters, along with the similar harsh winters of the Southern Appalachian Highlands, put any such event at huge risk. So, you need to stay south of the Mason-Dixon line for the best weather luck. But not too far south or you’re no longer within that single day’s drive for most of the builders.


Only a few locations then become apparent. Atlanta is one of the top convention towns in America. It has almost every single thing going for it in terms of being a great place to host an event like the Expo. There’s just one catch – the bulk of the rod building industry is made up of mom-and-pop type companies. Only a handful could afford the cost to exhibit in a place like Atlanta.  So, regretfully, scratch Atlanta. While it would be great for ICast or AFFTA, it’s just a tad bit out of the ICRBE’s reach.


Further south than Atlanta takes you out of that single day’s drive of most of the rod builders. So now you turn and look north of Atlanta, but not too far north – remember that the chance of a bad winter storm increases the further north you go.


So now you come to Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville or Charlotte. All have a lot going for them.  But the high altitudes of Knoxville, and particularly Asheville, put you back in danger of major winter storms. The other two are still very much viable.


Raleigh just built a new convention center in its downtown. It’s one of a few cities that could make an outstanding location for the Expo all the way around. It certainly meets just about all the necessary criteria involved. I like Roanoke and Richmond too, but they miss on at least a few of the criteria needed.


And of course, High Point isn’t the home of the world’s largest trade show for no reason – the International Home Furnishings Market has been here since 1911 and neither Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco nor Atlanta have been successful in their many attempts to lure it away.  Imagine that.


Sister city Greensboro isn’t half bad but presents a few logistics problems for out of towners – it has convention facilities galore, but most are single hotel/convention complexes. Nice as they are, they can present logistics problems when your crowd prefers more than one hotel.  The city’s large coliseum complex, is nowhere near walking distance of any hotel.


The bottom line is that everyone would like to have the Expo in their backyard. The reality is that such a thing just isn’t possible – not if you want something the size of the Expo to succeed. There are only a handful of places where this particular event is possible and tomorrow I’ll give you a great hint/riddle as to which one I’ve chosen.


Tom Kirkman