I LOVE FISHING RODS. I love the limitless variety of actions, lengths, styles and designs.
I love the uber-spectrum of colors and shades you can find. I love the myriad array of materials, blends, and composites that they can be built on. For every technique and every application, there is a rod. The selection is staggering.
As deeply infatuated as I am with fishing rods, I doubt it even comes close to comparing to the passion of a person who custom-builds fishing rods.
I had my first encounter with custom-built fishing rods when I was a boy and I hung out in my Uncle Bob Renaud’s Corpus Christi tackle shop, Gulf Sporting Goods. Uncle Bob used to build customized surf and light-tackle rods that were coveted by his clientele.
I always admired his rods, which were artworks of both form and function. He was proud of those rods, and their owners considered themselves lucky to have them. Unfortunately, my Uncle had long retired from building rods by the time I had the common sense to appreciate how special owning one would have been.
Rod builders are an interesting breed. They consider a fishing rod as more than a tool to cast lures and control fishing line. The graphite, fiberglass, or composite blank is the canvas they express their identities on
Actually, any material can be considered fair game. Joe Montemayor, who has built rods for more than 30 years, used to build surf rods from retama cane, which had both flexibility and toughness. They were staples among South Padre Island surf and jetty fishermen.
The thread, butts and handles, and wraps replace oils and watercolors. A rod builder can show his dedication to his or a customer’s alma mater, a profession or trade, such as a Caduceus for doctors, or as a display of gratitude for a soldier home from harm’s way (more on that later).
“Really, we can pretty much design whatever we, or a customer can think of,” says rod builder Jerry Pointdexter. “If a customer wants a white rod with burnt orange or maroon threads and handle, we can do that. If you want your name on the rod, that’s no problem.”
A custom rod, then, can be as unique as the individual wielding it. Custom rod builders can also offer features that mainstream tackle companies don’t, such as spiral-wrapped guides or micro-guides.
Micro-guides, now a tackle industry standard, were originally the rod-builders’ wildcat rounds. Spiral wraps wrap around the spine of the rod to maximize the effectiveness of the rod’s action by allowing it to bend more naturally. This was also a rod-builder innovation. The micro-guides are smaller than your typical guides, which decreases the weight of the rod.
Major tackle companies are reluctant to offer features such as spiral wrapping because most customers have a hard time wrapping their minds around the unconventional look. They work well, but the traditionalist nature of many anglers can’t accept the reality of the unique.
So, if an angler is interested in unique features such as these, a custom rod builder is the best and perhaps only avenue. Anglers may have to pay a bit of premium to own a customized rod, but many consider the benefits well worth the expenditure—besides, there are always birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, Mother’s and Father’s Day.
Many anglers I’ve talked to think that a custom rod is a specialist’s tool that is designed for a certain need. To a point, that might be true. Custom-built rods come in a greater variety of actions, lengths, and styles.
You are more likely to find a rod-builder who will build you that seven-foot, ultra-light bait casting rod with a moderate-fast action for shrimp tails than you are to find it on the rack at your big box store. That should not proscribe you from having one made. If you want a popular action, but you want your name on it, and it be in your favorite school colors, then go for it. Make the rod relate to you.
Custom rod builders are more than just hobbyists who try and make a little extra from their pastimes. They are a unique part of the panorama that makes up Texas fishing. Joe Fisherman pulls a little extra overtime and saves his spare cash in the hopes of eventually owning a spiral-wrapped, micro-guided beauty with the Dallas Cowboys star emblazoned next to his name. Doctors’ and lawyers’ (and writers’) wives smile at the idea of commissioning a special anniversary gift from one of these artists. They contribute to the identity of Texana, and they enhance the quality of life of a few soldiers to boot!
It is all a labor of love to them.
One last comment on the cost of a custom-made rod:
Many readers may believe that a customized rod is beyond their economic reach. That is not necessarily true. Granted, a top-of-the line blank loaded with features is going to drain a bank account, but a good, well-made, individualized rod is surprisingly affordable.
The trick is to contact a rod builder and ask questions about materials and cost. The astute angler will call and ask about cost well before considering a personalized rod. Then he can make the appropriate arrangements to cover the cost. It may take a little time to collect the funds, but it is well worth the wait.
Email Cal Gonzales at [email protected]