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Anglers beat the winter blues by learning rod-building skills

  • Rod-building

    Denny McLean checks to make certain the line guides are in the proper alignment during a rod building class at Netcraft in Maumee.

    The Blade/Lori King
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Denny McLean checks to make certain the line guides are in the proper alignment during a rod building class at Netcraft in Maumee.

The Blade/Lori King
Enlarge | Buy This Image

A car buff can either go buy a factory-made automobile and get some or most of what they want, or if they have the knowhow and the parts plus the assets, this car aficionado could build a dream machine of their own, hand selecting the engine, transmission, the sweep of the fenders, the chrome adornments, the wheels, the styling, and the radio control knobs with matching walnut grain.

A fisherman can do the same thing, but in more practical fashion. You can buy a factory rod off the rack and have it come close to meeting your needs, or you can build your own 100 percent custom, one-of-a-kind magic stick that makes a perfect fit.

In the winter, when the weather keeps most anglers indoors, antsy, uncomfortable, and battling the vagaries of cabin fever, creating that distinctive, signature fishing rod is an ideal escape from the chill-factor doldrums. With the spring walleye run likely three months away, building fishing rods is one certain way to make the calendar flip faster.

This acquired skill also introduces the fisherman to the primary tool of the trade, on a more intimate and detailed scale. Dow Whetstone took a rod building course at Jann’s Netcraft one winter, and it opened his eyes to the limitless possibilities one has when crafting a fishing rod from a stack of parts.

“I was an avid fisherman, so I knew what I was looking for with factory rods. I knew about the action, the kind of power it had, and the type of grip,” he said. “I understood those things, but I was not an expert, by any means.”

Whetstone figures he has built between 20 and 30 fishing rods since taking the class, which helped him develop a more complete understanding of the seemingly endless variables involved in the construction of this piece of angler’s equipment.

“First of all, the rod building class showed me that I could do this, and go any direction I wanted as far as the power, the type of action, the style of grip, and everything else,” he said. “You can change the theme and the aesthetics, and the rods you build don’t have to look like anything else out there. Between the time I started the class and now, I’ve realized that there are literally millions of choices involved, and all things that I could change.”

Netcraft offers the rod building classes in the dead of winter, when fishermen most painfully are idle. The first session takes place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 6, and additional sessions are scheduled on subsequent Saturdays as the classes fill up. The rod building classes take place at the store on Briarfield Boulevard in Maumee.

Netcraft, which traces its Toledo origin to 1941, has been selling rod-making and lure-making components on its website for decades, so the rod building class seemed like a great fit.

“We see this class as an introduction into all of the facets of building a custom fishing rod,” said Bob Barnhart from Netcraft.

“If you have never replaced an engine in your car and then you have to do that, you will be amazed at all of the intricacies you can learn. Well, the same can be said about fishing rods. Until you learn how to build one and really delve into those intricacies, you don’t understand why the guides are in a certain place, why a certain type of guides are used, and countless other details that go into making a high-performance fishing rod.”

The Netcraft rod building classes are taught by Kevin Renner, who has more than 20 years of experience crafting custom fishing rods. Barnhart added the size of each class will be limited to six students to maximize the detailed instruction.

“Kevin has an exceptional skill set and a level of craftsmanship that you just don’t see very often,” Barnhart said. “He has dealt with all types of people as an instructor, and we’re very comfortable in his ability to make this a very informative and enjoyable experience for anyone taking the class. What we hope to accomplish by limiting the class size is giving Kevin the time for more one-on-one instruction.”

All of the materials necessary to build a spinning rod are included in the class, which costs $169.99 per student. Each student is set up with a rod blank, guides, cork handle, reel seat, hook-keeper, epoxy, tip adhesive, thread to wrap the guides, a burnishing tool, and a layout pencil. Call Netcraft at 419-868-8288 for registration or more information.

“As a fisherman, this was a really valuable experience for me, because anyone who takes the class will come away with a much better understanding of what goes into making a fishing rod, why the different parts are used, and how they all come together to make the rod ideal for a certain type of fishing,” Whetstone said.

He added once he developed a proficiency at building custom fishing rods, he found out how this ability pushes him to build the next one, and the next one, and so on.

“Once you learn this and see that you can make some really unique and very functional fishing rods, you just want to go on and build more,” he said. “If anything, it pulls you into an addiction. But if you have to have an addiction, this is a very good one to have. Every fisherman wants to have their own, custom, one-of-a-kind fishing rod.”

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at:, or 419-724-6068.

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