Jerry Rigsbee had never fished in his life, until one day when he was in his mid-40s, his stepson took him out to fish bass. He reeled in five, and from that moment on, he says he was “hooked” on the sport. He started hitting local ponds, joined several local fishing clubs, and grew a collection of fishing rods.
Now Rigsbee is in the business of making and repairing custom rods. A member of the Custom Rod Crafters Guild, he designs them from scratch, in a specially outfitted workshop in his Argyle Jacksonville home. In addition to crafting casting rods for bass, he creates fly fishing rods, fresh water spinning rods and trolling rods for salt water.
He can make a rod in any color imaginable and can decorate it in any motif a customer desires. He recently created a teal fresh water spinning rod for his Jaguars-fan pastor. For his brother in Baltimore, he made a rod in the Ravens colors of purple, black, white and gold, complete with the Ravens emblem.
“Me, I’m a Duke fan,” he says. “So I made one in blue and white, with a tiger rap motif. The options are almost infinite.”
Rigsbee’s enthusiasm for fishing got him into the custom rod making business. Eight years ago, he found himself with a half dozen broken rods and couldn’t find a place to get them repaired. Then an ad in a magazine advertising a “make your own rod in a day” class near Orlando caught his eye, and he enrolled.
“I was hooked,” yet again, he says, and ended up repairing and making rods for himself and for friends and family. When he retired five years ago from a payroll programming job at Baptist Health, he launched his business, J. Rigsbee Custom Rods. “I enjoy it,” he says. “It is definitely a craft and can be very artistic.”
A rod, according to Rigsbee, is basically comprised of four elements. “The blank,” which is the main middle section serves as its base. Then there is “the handle,” at the bottom of the rod, which can be made of cork, or manmade composite materials, including nonslip. The “reel seat” is the section that the reel attaches to. And “the eyes,” which run along the base, are what the line runs through. Eyes can be made of many materials, from wire to titanium, and range in price and quality.
The different compounds used to make a rod determine its price and “fanciness,” says Rigsbee, whose creations range in price from $125 and up. He can craft a plain black rod, or one with many colors and wraps, including real rattlesnake or cobra skin. He can even include the angler’s name in the design as well. Taking into consideration application and drying times, a basic custom rod can be ready in three days, but a more ornate one could take up to two weeks.
“For avid anglers, they make great gifts!” He says.