SOLON– Cast your eyes upon these custom rods, and you just might land a real beauty.
Solon resident and avid angler Scott Kleppe has put his passion for fishing into the equipment, building top quality custom fishing rods for the best personal angling experience possible.
Kleppe, Solon’s Public Works Director, has fished all his life. After entering a few local bass fishing tournaments, Kleppe decided he would like to try his hand at the equipment associated with the sport of fishing.
His first venture was starting a small company selling custom lures and baits. “Things got really busy, but there was no real money in it,” said Kleppe. There was, however, the satisfaction of using special lures that give a fisherman the extra edge. “They are often better than anything you can buy at the store,” Kleppe said.
And if custom lures are good, an entire rod that was custom built could certainly be better.
“I spent several years contemplating making rods. I purchased a kit and learned a lot through the Internet,” Kleppe said. In fact, he not only taught himself how to choose and assemble the specialized components, he also learned– largely by reading and examining photographs– how to build his own equipment that would allow him to handcraft a variety of fresh water fishing rods. His workshop includes things like a hand wrapper, power drying machine, motorized-epoxy mixer, a variety of weaving looms, jigs and other specialized equipment, much of which he made himself simply by studying the professional tools he saw online.
Three years ago, Kleppe decided to jump in with both feet and create his own custom rod.
“The first rod I made was actually for my son, Josh” said Kleppe. “When it was done, everybody said it was just beautiful.”
After he built a few custom rods, Kleppe’s work began attracting attention as people noticed the creativity in his craft. “People started to take notice at the rods, and that’s how I kind of got into the business,” said Kleppe.
That’s when SK Custom Rods came to be. His garage serves as his workshop, and he does most of his advertising through word of mouth and via his website, www.skcustomrods.com .
The construction of a fishing rod begins by learning what a client is looking for, such as favorite colors, decals, threadwork, or logos and emblems. If clients bring a photograph or illustration of a design, Kleppe uses a computer program to convert the picture into numeric specifications that guide him in hand-weaving the design onto the rod. Once a design is crafted, it must be carefully coated with epoxy and made impervious to water.
Building each rod is a meticulous, painstaking process.
Kleppe, who’s built over 70 rods in the last three years, said “It typically takes about 15 hours to build one rod,” but there have been some that have taken much more time.
It all starts with a plain, unembellished rod known as a blank; Kleppe tries to use St. Croix blanks, as they are one of the only rods made entirely in the United States (Kleppe maintains a very high priority on US-made components). From there, he can create an endless number of options for anglers and their rods. Customers can choose from decorative wraps and weaves, blank painting, marbling, feather inlays, decorative wood handles, foam handles and inlays, and even inlays made of snakeskin.
“I can do about anything,” said Kleppe. “What I offer is something you can’t go out and buy at your local store. If you buy a rod at the store, you know everyone has the same rod.”
Kleppe is currently working on a Coca-Cola-themed rod for a female client; its most outstanding feature will be a wrap of red-tinted abalone on the handle. All of Kleppe’s creations feature something similarly unique and eye-catching, whether it’s a team mascot, a fisherman’s nickname, a meaningful icon, or holographic, colored line guides. One multicolored weave bears a tiny, fierce skull and the moniker “Slab Hunter,” all made with layers of thread.
Another rod he built for a brick layer; the handle was made by precisely cutting, gluing and sanding more than 450 separate pieces of colored foam stock into a brick pattern, about a 20-hour process. The rod also included a custom weave that depicted a bricklayer holding a trowel and a brick. The customer was overwhelmed when it was finished.
“He had a tear in his eye,” said Kleppe.
It is that reaction that keeps Kleppe interested in this side business that takes a lot of time, a great deal of patience and strict attention to detail.
But besides offering a customized look, SK Custom Rods is also in the business of customizing the fishing experience for better performance. Kleppe believes custom rods are similar to custom golf clubs, tuned to suit a person’s comfort, personal style and physical size. Fishing rods can be made to accommodate specific types of fishing, bodies of water and other conditions, including a person’s physical limitations.
“Rod length, guide selection, guide spacing, handle construction and reel set are only a few of the factors that must be considered when designing and crafting a fishing rod made just for you, your quarry and your fishing style,” he noted on his website.
Kleppe’s personalized or fishing-specific rods include custom fly rods, spinning rods, casting rods, trolling rods, children’s rods and caricature rods, and those for crankbait, ice fishing or even a lightweight rod ideal for catching walleye, for example.
SK Custom Rods is also available for restoring and repairing rods as well.
“If someone has grandpa’s old rod and wants to use it, or hang it on a wall and have it look like new, I can do that,” said Kleppe. “If they are missing a piece or something on the rod is broken, bring it in. I can fix it.”
Repairs can be made just about any time; however, Kleppe likes to have about a month’s notice to fashion a custom rod, to allow time for communicating with the customer and ordering any necessary parts or materials.
It’s just his nature to want to do it exactly right.
“I strive for excellence. There can’t be any flaws,” he said. Though the average person might not be able to see mistakes, Kleppe said he notices when details aren’t perfect, and he insists on doing it better.
“Just to see people’s faces when they first see their rod, that’s what makes it all worth it.
“The wow factor. That’s what I’m going for.”
For more information, visit skcustomrods.com to view descriptions of custom products and photos of previous projects. Kleppe can be contacted by phone at 624-3547.