AD: Well you know, like most people who start building rods, one of my first purchases was “Advanced Custom Rod Building” and one of the things that I noticed was that you always gave credit to guys who were innovating things in different parts of the country around that time. DC: Right!
AD: So that was in ‘75 when RodCrafters formed and then your second book, Advanced Custom Rod Building came out in ‘78? DC: Yes, in ‘78 and then the period following right after that was what I would say was the greatest growth spurt, about ‘79, ‘80 and ‘81.
AD: How much interaction did you get to have with the various rod manufacturing companies, were they coming to you for con- sulting work and advice on how to improve the performance of their rods? DC: Well, the rod manufacturers didn’t beat down my door. It was those of them who made their own blanks and who wanted to sell to the custom rod building market. For those I either ended up writing something for them, or helped them identify their spot in that market. As men- tioned earlier, a lot goes back to Fenwick and Lamiglas, the big two. In retrospect, it’s also interesting what grew out of those blank companies. They each had different design philosophies. The blank manager at Fenwick was Don Green, who subsequently started Sage. At Lamiglas, blank design was done by Gary Loomis who built one of the most successful blank and rod companies. Practically
everything in graphite design and development came those original companies. It was exciting for me to be remotely involved.
AD: I’d like to, if we could, change the subject a little bit. From all of the years of experience that you have in rodbuilding,I’dlike to know what criteria you use or what facets of the craft you look for when you are judging the execution of the construction of a custom fishing rod? DC: (Pauses) That’s a very difficult question. But it’s a good question, because it can lead me in so very many ways. It’s difficult though. One area would be the quality of workmanship. Everyone attending a seminar had to bring some samples of their work. Among other things, this fostered very valuable one-on-one discussions between rod builders. As people were putting rods out I was frequently asked, “What do you think of this?” As I examined the craftsmanship in the rods I noted that older guys usually had more gaps in their thread and their threadwork wasn’t as good. I learned this was most often due to poor lighting and a lack of magnification. They never saw the gaps in the thread.
A lot of those over 40 needed to use drugstore-magni- fying eyeglasses and some better lighting on their work. So, the quality of workmanship, such as threadwork and finish, is one comparatively easy criteria to judge.
Beyond that it would be very difficult to apply a judg- ment because it is a custom rod. I might pick it up and think that it would not cast very well. Yet the person for whom it was made might feel it was as close to perfect as it gets. That is the difference in a custom rod! It’s built for a particular person, his physical build, his style of casting, the fishing intended, his expectations. To each of us those things are different to varying degrees, hence the need for a true custom rod.
Some people say, “I build custom rods” but really what they build are handmade rods where the buyer can pick the color of the thread and maybe a buttwrap of their choosing. The builder, basically, has different models for different kinds of fishing. Where I live now there is a big difference between spinning rods for snook fishing meant to be used with live bait vs. artificials, from a boat or from the beach, under dock lights at night vs. from a bridge and that’s not taking into account the person fishing the rod. True custom rodbuilding is fitting a rod to the angler all the way. I have always had a big bone to pick with that and you hit it!
AD: Before you started Clemens Tackle did you ever have a cus- tom rod building business where you built rods for a clientele? DC: No, no I didn’t.
AD: So it was mostly building for friends and family? DC: Right. Only the occasional sale.
AD: Once you got Clemens started were you able to work with clients one on one, or did you focus strictly on the component sales and consulting? DC: I did work some one on one and built custom rods, but my big passion however was getting guys to build their own rods. I wanted to educate them on how they could build a better rod than they could buy, for all the various reasons. I worked with all kinds of groups, such as bass clubs, flyfishing groups, saltwater clubs, etc. As a speaker I could spend the whole time talking about why a person could build a better rod than he could buy. However, I recognized my need to build rods for other people if I was going to try to teach. You can’t be just all talk. You have to do the thing yourself, and so I did.
I would say my forte wasn’t in the craftsmanship or in the assembly of the rod, I was no better than the average good rod builder and there were individuals that were cer- tainly better than me. My strength was talking with a client and spending hours, if need be, in helping him define what he really wanted and needed in a rod. Once that was all worked through, then it was just a matter of putting the rod together. I felt that maybe I did the “defin- ing” part better than others did. Part of this is psycholog- ical, too, because once you have taken a person through that complete process and he has examined all the aspects he in essence has designed his rod, he is in love with it