Complete Rodsmith Custom Fishing Rods listing at CustomRodsmith.com
History of Rodsmith Custom Fishing Rods
I started building fishing rods in 1978 having been asked by my wife's uncle to build him a bass rod. He liked it so much that he had me build a second matching rod. I then ventured into completing an ultra-light trout rod 'kit' for myself. It was such a nice rod that I made several for friends.
Because I was near enough to fish the Salmon River in New York State I decided to build myself a rod from S-Glass blanks. I recall buying all my materials by mail-order to build an 8-1/2 footer. After fishing buddies saw that rod I got orders for no less than a dozen just like it. I guess I was a rod builder at that point. Not much later, a trip to Gananoque, Canada, to fish the St. Lawrence with a group of family and friends called for about two dozen Northern Pike rods.
I mainly worked with fiberglass and then graphite until seeing a split bamboo rod at a fishing show. At a sportsman show in Suffern, NY, I bought an 'injured' F.E. Thomas Dirigo from Hoagy Carmichael. It needed some wraps replaced, a few guides were bent, and it could use a bit of straightening but otherwise it was a nice example. I set out to refinish the rod using, among others, Mike Sinclair's book and the 'Garrison/Carmichael Bible' as reference material. The outcome was very pleasing and I learned from my mistakes as I went along. Bamboo had become my passion.
After purchasing and refinishing several dozen low-cost production rods from manufacturers such at Montague, Union Hardware, South Bend, etc., I began accumulating a sizable collection so I decided to document my collection for insurance purposes. That eventually led to my first catalog.
I printed the catalog and distributed it while listing rods for sale on the internet. I sold many rods through on-line auctions as well as directly from the catalog. My objective was to introduce sportsmen to the beauty and mystique of the split bamboo rod, but I wanted to make it affordable. Thus the majority of my catalog listed rods with pricing of $200 or less. Not bad for rods that had been professionally refinished to near-new condition.
My hobby had become a second job. I was repairing rods for at least a half dozen sporting goods stores in the Northern New Jersey area. I worked my regular job as an Electronics Engineer during the day and repaired and built rods until the wee hours of the morning virtually every night. I once estimated that I have repaired five to six thousand fishing rods spanning thirty-plus years. I've also designed and built custom rods ranging from teeny ice fishing wands to 120-lb. class offshore trolling rods. Somewhere in Florida a charter boat captain is, hopefully, still using the matched set of eight custom-designed offshore trolling rods built by me for him. On the other end of the spectrum was the outfitter who ordered six, four foot, heavy-duty graphite spinning rods designed to fit in the inflatable rubber boats he used to fish the small streams up there in the wilds of Alaska. I've even refinished a 10 foot, heavyweight split bamboo salmon rod for a gentleman in Russia. Talk about shipping fees!
In 2006 my wife decided we should leave New Jersey and relocate to Ohio. We were following our daughter who married a native 'Buckeye'. I packed all my rod repair materials, all my fishing gear and my bamboo rod collection that now totaled more than 150 specimens into approximately 80 large corrugated cardboard boxes and shipping containers.
I must admit that the move from Northern New Jersey, where I lived within a half-hour drive from the Musconetcong, Paulinskill, Pequest, Big and Little Flatbrooks, South Branch Raritan, and Rockaway rivers, to mention a few, did not sit well with me.
When I left New Jersey, I left a lot of disappointed customers and upset sporting goods stores who relied on my rod repair work to get traffic in their shops. I was considered, by many, the premier rod-repairman in Northern New Jersey.
What hurts me most is that I left a vast custom trout fishing customer base. Although I enjoyed the supplemental income, I really enjoyed the camaraderie. I miss that most of all nowadays.
I was an aggressive buyer of bamboo rods. I bought virtually every fixer-upper that I could get my hands on. I was really 'into' the hobby. That was to change.
Once settled into our new house here in Ohio I found it almost impossible to locate the items that I would need to make rod repairs. Although I had taken great care to pack properly, make lists, mark boxes, etc, when confronted with a basement loaded with boxes I became disheartened, then disinterested. So except for the few critical jobs I received from panicky longtime customers back in New Jersey I let the hobby fall by the wayside.
I think it's appropriate to mention here that competing with 'MegaMart' for business is a losing battle. Out here I joke that a person can go to 'MegaMart', get a rod, reel, vest, hat, tackle box, lures, live bait, boat, boat motor, trailer and a guide all for about $9.95. (plus tax) I realize that that is a bit facetious, but that's how it seems. Unless the fishing rod was a gift from a oval racetrack driver they just throw it away and buy a new one.
Now the sad part.
In March of 2009 I became very ill. My kidneys failed and years of partying finally caught up with my liver. I ended up in and out of several hospitals in a downward spiral to end-stage renal disease and finally dialysis three days a week for six hours a day.
Things looked pretty grim for about eight months or so. I ended up in the Cleveland Clinic and was deemed so sick that I was moved to the top of the organ transplant list. I needed a liver and a kidney quickly. On Christmas Eve, 2009, I underwent a double-organ transplant in an operation lasting more than 18 hours and involving a very large number of highly skilled surgeons and nurses.
When I awoke I awakened to the sight of three Priests standing over me in the ICU. I had the uneasy feeling that I had not survived the operation. I must admit that prior to becoming ill I was not a very religious person. But after what I, with the support of my loving wife, survived I can assure you that God and I have become close. We talk nightly now.
So I am now once again ready to share the wonders of split-bamboo with whoever has an interest by making some of my collection available for purchase.
So enjoy reading through my offerings and if something piques your interest by all means let me know and we might be able to work something out.
Ray Niedbalski Jr, Rodsmith