You’re a frequent vendor at the Hernando Farmers Market selling wood tables, daybeds, Adirondack chairs and other decorative items. How did you get started crafting custom designed fishing rods?
Guy Smith: I just got tired of everything looking the same. I thought about how neat it would be to do it myself and I started doing research and I began coming up with different rod designs.
How many years ago was it that you designed your first custom rod?
GS: About two years ago.
How does woodworking in furniture compare to your work with custom fishing rods?
GS: They are both an escape for me. Anything that you can create by hand is very satisfying and allows me to relieve a little stress.
Can you tell me a little about the process that goes into each custom rod?
GS: First, you have to know what type of fishing the customer is going to do (fly, saltwater, baitcast, etc.). Then the customer is able to choose colors, special designs, custom wood handles, decals and any other design specifics.
What kind of materials do you use?
GS: I purchase the rod blank based on what type the customer wants (Sage, Temple Fork, St. Croix, ATC, etc.) then the handles can be made from cork, EVA Foam or wood. The guides and thread colors are all chosen by the customer.
Where do you get the materials used to create your custom fishing rods?
GS: I purchase my materials from a company in Florida called Mudhole.
Do you work out of your home?
What is the difference in a rod someone purchases from a local retailer compared to a custom made fishing rod?
GS: When you buy a custom rod, it’s all yours. You choose every aspect of the rod itself. It is also handmade versus the machine-built rods major companies make that all look alike. I also like to spend my money in my community — that’s the main reason I work and buy at the local Farmers Markets.
How long can most customers expect to wait or pay for one of your custom fishing rods?
GS: Fishing rods usually take about five days after all of the parts are in the shop. So it can take 7-10 days to have the rod complete. Cost is also up to the customer. Rods can go anywhere in the range of $75-$1,000.
Do you have any memorable projects?
GS: The most fun thing that I’ve ever done happened because I didn’t have to work with a budget. I built a fishing rod for Ricky Medlocke, the guitarist from Lynyrd Skynyrd, last summer, and put some rattlesnake skin on it. He’s actually marrying my cousin, and I met him during the Christmas before last when they were in town. He’s a huge fisherman! He and I were talking and I mentioned that I do custom rods and it kind of petered out from there. He sent me an email a few months after saying “Here’s what I want.” He needed a rod for saltwater and for redfish. He came back in town for Easter and we put down the specifics. It was neat because he’s really down to earth. Being family and I had so much fun designing without a budget that I didn’t charge him for it, but it was worth around $1,700. It took about three weeks to make.
Do you ever see yourself quitting your day job as a full-time teacher and committing 100% to your hobby?
GS: It has always been a dream to work for myself one day, but I love teaching and my students enjoy my classes so I cannot say for sure what I will do.
Would you consider yourself a self-taught craftsman? How did you go about learning the mechanics of how to make a custom fishing rod?
GS: Self taught. Yes — trial and error. My father gave me the building basics when I was a kid and it became an addictive hobby. I read several books regarding rod building and of course you can find any information on the Internet.
What type of mentors did you have along the way? Were there any particular craftsman out here you looked to for ideas and inspiration?
GS: I just love artisan work. I have no particular favorite, just anything that someone touched and enjoyed building is an inspiration to me.
What type of projects are you working on right now?
GS: Right now, I’m working on a coffee table out of a maple slab for a local business. Because it’s slab wood it’s going to take a lot of time. Basically, it’s like you’re trying to sand a tree, not lumber. I just finished a custom table for a client in Collierville. She wanted a new table that looked old so I built and distressed the table. She loved it.
And as for the custom rod business?
GS: I am working on a rod that I put a maple burl handle on. The wood is beautiful but I have not decided where else to go with the rod.
Reel ‘Em In
An inside look at wood working guru Guy Smith’s custom fishing rods
Story by Tess Catlett