When he realized that he could build a better fishing rod than he could buy in the store, Captain Howard Reed never looked back. He’s been fishing since he was six-years-old and it has taught him a thing or two. One is that fishing is all about confidence. “If you have confidence in what you’re using, it will help you catch fish,” he says. Another thing he’s learned is that people come in all shapes and sizes and so should their fishing rods. “Having a rod you’re comfortable with will also help you catch fish,” he adds. Chances are a factory-made rod won’t really fit your body and fishing style as well as it should.
For the past two years, Captain Reed has been at the helm of Narrow River Rods, building custom fishing rods and doing expert rod repairs out of his Narragansett store, Galilee Bait & Tackle. “I design a rod around the person using it,” he explains. He’ll start with a conversation about their fishing habits: what they fish for, how they fish, what kind of reel they want to use, what kind of baits they use and if they fish from the shore or a boat. His observation of their technique is a big part of the design process. “I size up how they want to hold the rod and how they are going to cast it. That way when they get it, it feels the way they want it to feel.” When you’re out on the water, the comfort of a custom-fitted rod translates into longer casts and better hook sets.
Captain Reed often takes customers outside to the parking lot and watches them cast. He then marks on the rod exactly where they put their hands. “In a factory-made rod,” he explains, “someone else decides where to put everything. But I can make the rod really fit the person.” For one person, he might make eight-inch handles. For another, the handles might be 30 inches. It all depends on the individual.
Each custom rod takes about two to three weeks from start to finish. The price tag begins around $150 and grows depending on how elaborate the customer wants it to be and what kind of materials they choose. “You can get fishing guides made out of titanium, for example,” says Captain Reed, “so things like that can drive the price up.” He has made rods with all kinds of decorative details, from fun colors to elaborate feather inlay patterns. “I’ve made pink rods for guys buying for their daughters,” he says. “Anything you want, you can get on a rod.”
Some final advice from the Captain: “Be persistent. Try different things. Don’t be pigeonholed into doing what everyone else is doing. Venture beyond the crowds and you’ll find fish.”
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