What follows is an explanation, not a tale of woe or doom. But it bears covering. I got an email from a long time rod builder the other day asking why there aren’t more rod building magazines on the market. The answer is pretty simple, but I’ll let you read his comments before divulging the answer.


“Enclosed please find my renewal for two more years of RodMaker. Question – why after all this time aren’t there several magazines for custom rod builders? You can find a dozen or more on wood working and about that many for fly fishing. Why just one for rod building? I would think we would have at least three or four, covering the craft in different ways.”


The answer comes down to one single thing – no rod building magazine will ever be profitable.  You see, the number of custom rod builders absolutely pale against the number of woodworkers or fly fishermen. Same with the number of companies in the rod building industry against those in the woodworking or general fishing trades. Comparatively speaking, custom rod building is a very small craft. When you add up all the variables including subscriber and advertiser numbers, plus the cost of producing what any printer considers a “short run” of magazines, you’re faced with the fact that you just can’t come out ahead. At least not if you plan to pay a staff, maintain offices and assorted overhead, etc.


This is what I explained to the gentleman who sent the above email. And just as I expected, he followed with this:


“Then why and how are you able to keep RodMaker going? If there is no money in it, why do you do it?”


How can I do it? Well, I don’t depend on RodMaker for my livelihood. I was well enough off by my early 40’s that I no longer needed a day job. RodMaker was something that I decided to do more as a hobby than anything else. Something to keep me busy a couple days a week, at most. Of course, it turned into a full time “job” but that’s okay – I enjoy it and that’s why I do it. But I couldn’t possibly depend on it for any sort of a decent livelihood. And if I had to farm out the administrative duties or pay a layout man, editor, etc., then even RodMaker would be nonexistent. I’m lucky I’m able to wear several hats around here, otherwise well… it just wouldn’t be possible produce something like RodMaker for such a relatively small craft.


So what does the future hold? Will there ever be a plethora of rod building publications? I seriously doubt it. Without a huge increase in the overall numbers of custom rod builders it’s highly unlikely that anyone else will even test the waters. And that’s the crux of the matter – if rod building magazines were in any way profitable, there’d already be several on the market.


Tom Kirkman


P.S. As I told a representative from Tackle Trade World the other day, if I was looking for profit I’d be producing a kayak fishing magazine – now there’s a profitable, growing industry!




  1. TAS on August 7, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    It is a great magazine. I hope you at least break even.

  2. Tom on August 8, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Of course. As much as I do enjoy producing RodMaker, I would stop the instant the publication no longer paid for itself. Fortunately, it breaks even and then some. There is still a bit of breathing room.

  3. Mike Thompson on August 23, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Tom, I believe your absolutely correct on the Kayak magazine thought. I really see that sport to be growing at an incredible rate. Sadly you would have to clone yourself to take on that.