In a long life of being on and around the water, both fresh and salt, in search of fish, I've found that there is absolutely no fishing rod available at any price that makes you a better fisherman than any other angler. No lure, no line and no braid. Not even the ability to tie one or two good knots in the dark are gonna get you across that line where 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish. That line takes time. Time, experience, and passion. The tackle you use, or more accurately the tackle you can afford, has nothing to do with the fundamental skills one needs to excel at this sport. Regardless of a powerful movement to turn what is essentially a hunt into a catch-and-release or 'look-only' hobby, a sport it remains and always will remain.
At the very start of that long life I talk about all the time was a guy named Eddie. Eddie was a custom rod builder and a do-it-yourself tackle designer (he would have loved Mudhole.com). That exposure to this incredible and universal sport made somewhat of a craftsman out of me. It's been maybe 15 years since I've built a few, but the last ones I built were pretty nice. The ties were perfect and had a little of me in them. Most importantly (to me at least), I've taught a few people to tie rods for themselves. Not even one of the five-or-so people I taught those skills to actually became professionals.
There are a lot of people that can build a rod, or a few rods, but to do it professionally, and to make the rods you build desired by and used by professional and serious amateurs in your entire region? That is another thing altogether from just having the skill sets.
Custom Rods vs. "Factory" rods
How much is a lot of money? What's the difference between an expensive, custom-built rod and the ones you can buy as kits for $30 complete with rod, reel, line, and a lure-or-two? At some basic level, nothing. If you know where fish tend to be, and under what conditions, you are halfway – or maybe even three-quarters of the way – there. If you know, for example, that fish predators tend to sit in the water behind structure and face the incoming or outgoing tides, or that they hide in grassy or rocky edges in lakes, and you know where there is a seawall or grassy edge you can reach with a lure or bait, you can catch fish with the $30 variety as well as you can with a fly rod costing more than three thousand dollars. That's a lot of money for a fishing rod.
Thirty-five hundred dollars for a fly rod? Hey, it's one of ten that were ever made like it. Ten. It's made out of tonkin cane – a rare bamboo that's more than likely endangered and illegal to own. For the mere cost of thirty-five-hundred you're sure to catch more tiny rainbow trout gobbling up those little black mites tied on #24 hooks. Right? Are they "j"s or circles, I wonder?
Kris Greene; The Guy Behind the Rods
Kris Greene is a Tampa Bay-based retired fireman with a passion for building things and a true passion for fishing. It wasn't until after he retired that he really got into building custom fishing rods. Like I said, building a custom rod is one thing. His love for fishing and the chance to fish a lot made his problem-solving mind want to build the lightest rod he could ever build. You can talk to him about the parts he'll decide to use on the rod he builds for you, but his unique approach to handle-placement and weight – always weight – makes his spinning rods the lightest, strongest, and most castable rods we've ever touched. That's saying a lot. We know more than one person who builds fishing rods and every good builder has something about their rods that makes them the one you absolutely need to have once you've touched it, but when it comes to weight and strength, The Greene Stick is hard to beat.
I spend a lot of time with my partner Captain David Rieumont, a retired cop. Firemen and Law Enforcement Officers – the ones that make it out alive – carry with them stories ranging from corpses in strange places to kittens in trees. But without going overboard, those of us responsible for this publication want to truly thank David Rieumont and Kris Greene. Even if Kris' rods weren't flying off his building tables (literally) faster than he can careful and painstakingly tie them, I would want to say nice things about them. Him having put in thirty years makes it easy.
When you get to know Kris Greene you'll find him to be a very cool guy. It's not surprising; I meet anglers, talk to anglers, interview anglers and use custom rods. My life doesn't exactly suck. But that said, you get to know these people; you get to know about their companies, or why they have such a cool or unique product. Look at Mudhole.com or any of our advertisers (supporters, because that's exactly what they are to us). The company has history. A history connected to fishing, and connected to the fishermen behind the product. It was no different with Kris.
He's always been a serious biker (as in bicycle, not grrrrrrm biker). He got into repairing bikes, moved from there to dealing high end bikes to thinking he might be able to build the lightest, best custom bike in the country. He only got to building the lightest, best bike in the southeastern United States! While still around bikes a lot of his time, he thought of – fantasized, more accurately – doing what he did with bicycles with fishing rods. Build the lightest, best one in the country.
The result? A seven-foot spinning rod I use, David Riemont uses, Dave Tartaglia uses, and hundreds of other anglers use as their absolute favorite. It weighs in at an incredible 1.75 ounces. If you're into comparisons, the next lightest rod manufactured is twice (more?) the cost and twice the weight. Twice. His newest invention actually weighs in at 1.6 ounces!
Suppliers, Components, and Touch
We have an advertiser on the site called Mudhole.com. You can find a story about Mudhole on our Products and Services page. The company is the world's leading supplier of products for custom rod builders and what they call 'crafters'. I asked our friend Kris if he used them or knew about them. The story lead back to when he first started building rods.
"I actually built a grouper rod about 30 years ago, Gary." Kris said. I had no idea that that long-ago attempt at custom rod-building would blossom the way it has." When I met Kris the first time, he was carrying one of his rods. They're so light and sensitive that you can put the tip on your neck, and when you talk, someone holding the rod by the handle can feel the buzz. Their weight is one thing, their sensitivity another. I was interested in who he got materials from.
"When I started back into building as a business, I was first buying stuff from a couple of different people on eBay, which I liked a lot and who were very, very helpful to me when I started cranking up my business. That's when I found out about Mudhole. Any professional – or somebody that wants to try building their first rod or lure – should know about them."
"Over the years I've worked with them, I've built a very strong, very personal relationship with them. They're local (Oviedo, FL). I can drive to see them, and I know the entire staff. I've made it to the Pro staff at this point. It's surprising that your site is working with them, because I really cannot say enough nice things about them. They're a real partner to somebody like me."
Greene thinks of his rods as works of art and I can certainly see why. "You do certain things, like make sure the angler's hand fits the handle properly, and you talk about the type of species they target. But there's something else that I can't really quantify. Something that makes a rod I am building specifically for one person, from scratch, that makes them truly unique."
Kris' custom rods can be built to your hand, or you can pick one from the collection he keeps for clients that just cannot wait the time it takes to build them from scratch. The first (of three) of Kris' rods I touched was one he had with him. The second two were made by hand, for my hands. And they show it.
Rods the quality of Kris' often sell for two or three times the price of his. If you're thinking of using a custom fishing rod, or want to talk to somebody that knows them string-to-tip, you'll have a chance to meet him at our upcoming First Annual Fishing Extravaganza, coming to Fort DeSoto Park on the 31st of March. If you're reading this article and the event's already taken place, you can get a hold of Kris here: