Forgotten Dealers

There’s no doubt that there are more folks selling more rod building blanks and components than at any time in history.  This isn’t necessarily good for the health of the rod building industry, but it’s also not the subject of today’s blog entry. I mention it only because I’m reminded that there was a time when far fewer component supply dealers existed and with the aging of so many long time rod builders, many of those firms are in danger of being forgotten.

My rod building career began in the mid-1970’s as I was preparing to graduate high school.  I had been building my own inline spinners, spinnerbaits and plugs for a few years and had seen rod building blanks and components in a few of the lure making catalogs.  E. Hille and NetCraft seemed to carry some rod building stuff, as did Limit Manufacturing (now Barlow’s Tackle in TX). Of course, Cabelas had some stuff.

As I became more active in rod building I sought out more dealers. Keep in mind that in those days, a catalog was indeed a “wishbook,” particularly to a kid who had more imagination than money. All the dealers published yearly catalogs. At the back of each catalog was an order form.  You filled it out, attached a check or money order, mailed it and then waited for the treasure to arrive. That was how business was done in those days.

By the late 1970’s there were quite a few companies dealing in rod building supplies. The books by C. Boyd Pfeiffer and Dale Clemens had done a lot to expand interest in rod building and new suppliers had sprung up quickly to answer the growing demand.

Boyd and Dale both had their own companies – Tackle Crafters and Clemens Custom Tackle respectively. Lloyd Simmons and Lloyd Bingham were a bit more obscure but each had their own loyal following.  There was a company in Miami, FL named “Rodmakers Supply.” I never bought from them and still don’t know much about them. Of course J. Lee Cuddy was also located in Florida and they were one of the big names in the business at that time. Biscayne Rod Company was there too and has long offered blanks and supplies to custom builders. They produced their own rod line and were highly respected among serious anglers.

Of course around that same time Gene Bullard was making a name for himself in Texas. I bought much of my early materials from Bullard International. Later, as we turned the corner into the 1980s, I found Mac Kelly at Heads or Tails in Louisiana. “HoT” was my main supplier for many years. Somewhere in the mid-1980’s I stumbled onto Ray Carey at Rays’ Custom Rods up in Arlington, OH.

Bob McKamey and Karen Hapka had purchased Simmons and Bingham mid-way through the 1980’s. Merrick Tackle was already a staple by then and I think they go back a long, long ways. Angler’s Workshop up in Washington has been around a good while and I think they were active in the 70’s as well.

I remember seeing advertisements for Corens Rod & Reel in Chicago and a place called Tackle Chandlers in Virginia, but I have no idea if either is still around.  No doubt there were others. Some I can’t recall at the moment and others that I simply never knew about. I think it would be fantastic if any of you reading this blog entry would take a moment and mention any dealer or supplier that I might have left out. I’d particularly like to hear about any dealers that were around in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  There’s not too many rod builders left from that era and it’d be interesting to know where they bought their supplies and what type of stuff was available during those earlier times.

Tom Kirkman



  1. John Lundquist on August 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Manhattan Tackle Crafters is one I can remember from a good ways back. I think they were still in business up until a couple years ago.

  2. BEddens on August 16, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Shoff Tackle in the NW has been around at least twenty years. Maybe longer.

  3. Woodman Charlie on August 16, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Many will be too young to remember but Herter’s was another place that was selling rod building supplies way back when. Also there was a company that had bought up all the old jeep antennas from WWII and was selling them as rod blanks. They were fiberglass and tough as all hell. No way to break them. I forget who sold them as rod blanks but I still have some I built in the 1950s.

    • Lou Auret on August 17, 2010 at 2:38 am

      You could buy the metal version of these off the back of a British fishing magazine called Angling Times in the early 1960’s. Kind of like sea monkeys off the back of American comics i would imagine. Anyways that was my first build it yourself rod, a metal WW2 antenna from what they claimed was a tank that came as a kit.About $3 which was not insignificant at the time. Very slow action: you would strike and some time later the tip would respond and keep doing so for some time.

  4. Tom on August 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Featherweight offered “Rawhide” rod blanks up until the late 1970’s and these may be what you’re referring to. I recall hearing about the surplus military antennas sold as rod blanks but wasn’t really sure who it was that sold them.

  5. Jim Rippe on August 17, 2010 at 12:52 am

    From what I found Corens is still alive.

    Corens Rod & Reel Svc.

    (773) 631-5202

    6001 N Nina Ave
    Chicago, IL 60631

  6. Richard Popola on August 17, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Hi Tom
    I live in South Florida and I’ve been building rods since 1957. I knew Ned Segar from “Rodmakers Supply.” I also delt with Cuddy’s and sometimes I still get over to Biscayne. There was also “Fishing Rod Components of Homestead” in the 80’s. If I can help you in any way please let me know.

  7. Gene on August 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Reed tackle in NJ.
    Also was a place in Maryland, but the name escapes me.

    • Bill Kreher on August 17, 2010 at 9:24 pm

      I purchassed from Reed’s many years ago. I still have one of his original shipping boxes and when I looked inside I found a bottle of rod varnish and a bottle of color preserver with the Reed Labels. Wonder if Tom could use these for a museum?

  8. John Britt on August 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    For a guy just starting out it was tough to beat Midland Tackle in upstate N.Y.prices on their blanks (seconds and overruns)through his monthly newsletter

    Fishing Rod components of South Florida in Homestead Fl was devastated by Hurricane Andrew they tried to reopen in the pan handle but never regally recovered.

  9. Gene on August 17, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    also was a rodmakers shoppe in Strongsville, ohio.

  10. Ken Preston on August 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Mudhole Custom Tackle – beginnings were back into the late 60’s when the company was located in New Jersey prior to purchase & move to Florida

  11. Ken Preston on August 17, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    An American company named NARMCO invented the first hollow fiberglass fishing rod blanks in 1946. Dr. Glenn Havens, head of research for NARMCO, is credited for the invention. Though fibers made of glass can be traced back to the 1890s, Owens-Corning is credited for the invention of fiberglass in 1938.

    NARMCO was a WW 2 weapons manufacturing plant that used fiberglass in some of their parts. Their name was an acronym for the National Armament Company.

    NARMCO became the Narmco Conolon Company at their factory in Santa Ana, California and fishing rod production began in 1947. Armed and ready (pun intended) they quickly became the world’s largest producer of fiberglass rods. Prior to this invention; all fishing rods were made of split bamboo, wood or steel.

    Narmco Conolon maintained the lead by covering the full spectrum from ultra-light spinning, bait casting and fly rods to powerful heavy-duty sea rods.

    In the early sixties; The Garcia Corporation became the new owner and changed the name to The Conolon Corporation with Howard Ashby as President. Mr. Ashby was also a Garcia Vice President.

    Early rod materials were just called “fiberglass”, then “Missilite” (a chemical bonding finish they had used instead of rivets on their old products such as bombs and guess what, missiles!) to seal the fiberglass rods, then quickly changed due to the negative implications to “Conolock” then to “Live Fiber” in the fifties.

    All of these “surnames” were no longer used when bought by Garcia.

    The Conolon Corporation closed in 1982

  12. Ken Preston on August 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Started selling rod blanks and rod building kits around 1950 (“FLEXIBLE SILICON FISHING ROD BLANKS AND KITS” ) Silaflex was purchased by Browning in 1962. They were also the maker of light aluminum ferrules – the ones with the rubber “o” rings

  13. John Britt on August 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    when Mac passed away his wife continued to operate heads and tails for a while then sold it and it moved to Alabama and became the Rod Room which i believe is still in operation

    • Ken Preston on August 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm

      Gee – I wondered what became of Heads and Tails. I dealt with them when they were located in LA.

  14. Bob Guenther on August 17, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    I see that a couple of entries have mentioned some of the old rod and blank manufactures from the Southern California area. Lets not forget John Harrington the founder of Harnell Rods in Santa Monica Ca.He was a pioneer in the blank making industry. Several other distibutors in the L.A area were Mueller Cork, S.H.Barton,and Cork and Tackle.

  15. Tom on August 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks guys. I was really talking more about dealers/suppliers than manufacturers, but thanks for all the information nonetheless – It has added a great deal to this particular entry. I’ve gotten a ton of emails and phone calls from folks telling me it brought back a lot of memories. Now it’s all in the written record.

  16. Ken Preston on August 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    T.G. Tochterman’s Fishing Tackle. 1925 Eastern Ave, Baltimore Maryland. In business 94 years. Long enough to have had an official “worm wrangler”. The place I go when I’m looking for old bamboo agate guides and other neat stuff.

    “Pardon Dee Tochterman if she doesn’t have time for more than a quick hello. She has worms to wash. Thousands of them. Every day from spring to late fall, Tochterman is the head worm wrangler at T.G. Tochterman & Sons, the 94-year-old tackle shop on Eastern Avenue.”

  17. Ken Preston on August 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Clyde’s Sport Shop

    “Welcome to Clyde’s Sport Shop – The last place I know that has new and partially used spools of Rice’s thread

    Thanks for taking the time to visit us online. Open to the public since 1957, we are celebrating 50 years and two generations in the hunting & fishing industry. We are proud to be your neighborhood sport shop and continue to strive to successfully serve thousands of existing customers and welcome many new ones. Now the whole planet can experience the great customer service and down home attention to detail for all of your outdoor hunting and fishing needs. Whether your an angler, archer or gun enthusiast, we have what you need. We deliver. “

  18. Mike Bradford on August 18, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Most of these have already been mentioned. Herters was the catalog to have before they went under. L.L. Bean, Gander Mountain, and Netcrafters were the others. I have 2 SilaFlex rods that were built in the late 40’s early 50’s. Shakespear and the Wonder rod. Gudebrod thread, Color Preserver, and varnish (They also sold a thread tensioning device). Prefection, and foulproof guides. I don’t know when Fenwick started selling blanks, but they were the first rods built. J. Kennedy Fisher,and L.C.I were some of the first graphite blanks I built on. My Dad worked for Pratt Brothers Sporting Goods in San Bernardino, CA. from the early 50’s to the early 70’s. He did their tackle repair, and was a demonstrator for SilaFlex. Pratt’s kept lots of rod building products in the store. I started building in 1982.

  19. Mark Gonsalves on August 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I remember purchasing from Pierson’s Tackle Crafters in the 880’s.