Not many anglers actually know about the process of how they’re fishing rods are made. Luckily, in 2017, we had the opportunity to partner up with Sportsman Channel’s Made For The Outdoors TV to show the world exactly how both TFO fly and conventional rods are made. If you haven’t seen both of these videos, do yourself a favor and check them out below. The amount of detail, time, and focus that goes into each step of the rod building process is incredible, and we are honored to have such a hard working and talented team that makes it all happen.
We recently connected with TFO Ambassador and Made For The Outdoors TV host Bill Sherck to revisit these videos and his trip overseas to where TFO rods are born.
What still stands out to you the most about your visit to the South Korea factory where both the fly and conventional rods are made?
There are a bunch of things that stand out about the trip. First off, BJ is the most passionate rod builder I have ever met. He is a very technical guy who understands all the engineering and hi-tech materials, all the stuff that regular anglers don’t always comprehend or appreciate…But more importantly, BJ loves to fish! He has so many GREAT fish stories from his adventures. You can tell that passion translates into how BJ and his team build rods. I’m talking about the tapers for all kinds of specific species of fish, how each rod feels in hand, how each rod looks.
This is TFO’s facility. This isn’t some place where builders manufacture a bunch of rods and throw in TFO’s order when it comes through. BJ and his team build only TFO rods. That is why these rods are so darn perfect.
The other very special part of our trip was watching BJ’s crew build each rod. They are handcrafted. From the hand cutting of the materials to shaping blanks to painting and building grips. Each station and each step of the process was so much fun to watch. I loved the discerning eyes. It seemed like every person was always looking at details.
The crew is definitely a closer-knit family than any other place I’ve been. They work hard and they play hard. Literally! The team works together, and then they take a mid-day break and walk to lunch together where they eat as a team (I believe BJ provides their meals) and then they walk back to the facility and grind out games of ping pong and checkers before getting back to rod building.
Of all the steps and processes involved, what surprised you the most? Was there a procedure in rod making that you never thought would have been a part of the process?
It was funny, but I was wandering around the facility and discovered a complete guide wrapping/rod wrapping area sitting in the dark collecting dust. Why in the world…Because BJ had good friends across town who are the best in the business at wrapping guides. BJ shares that part of the rod building process with those people. I love that every day, TFO drives completed blanks over to their friends who wrap and finish all of the guides and then drive those completed rods back to TFO for final assembly. A very cool part of the process to experience (outside of the dried fish sitting on all the wrapping machines. Turns out it’s a sign of good luck for those employees).
BJ and the TFO team take great pride in where they build the rods. Incheon/Seoul area is a global manufacturing hub know for some of the world’s biggest technology names. Samsung, Kia, SAP. TFO fits right in. They don’t pretend to make the most rods, but they are absolutely convinced they make the best and they do so with the most passion.