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White Water Custom Rods with Rich Parisen: Part I

White Water Custom Rods with Rich Parisen: Part I

A full spread of shiny new White Water Outfitters custom tuna rods looks terrific and leaves no doubt this vessel is ready to battle any monster on the high seas. Photo by Rich Parisen.

Most White Water Outfitters fans know we build awesome custom rods right here on the premises. What you may not know is the extent of our rod-building capabilities  – they are truly comprehensive. Whether you are looking for a single spinning rod designed for maximum sensitivity while tempting freshwater trout and bass or own a New Jersey sports team plus a large gas company and want a matching set of green and white 130-class tuna rods sporting your logos, we’ve got you covered.

“I’m guessing we build more custom rods than anybody else on Long Island,” proudly says W.W.O.’s master rod builder, Rich Parisen. “I’m also fairly sure we have the largest inventory of rod blanks, components and custom options available, too. We have a long history of building exceptional custom rods to exacting customer specifications and this segment of our business has really grown in recent years.”

When big money is on the line White Water Outfitters custom rods are up to the challenge.

Parisen’s knowledge and experience at building custom rods is simply unmatched in our area, and his expert abilities and craftmanship are the driving forces behind the popularity of White Water’s custom rod applications. That should come as little surprise when you take a look at his resume.

“I got my start from Mickey at Altenkirch’s Precision Outfitters,” reveals Parisen. “Mickey Altenkirch was already long recognized as a world-class rod builder when he gave me an opportunity to work for him some 45 years ago. I spent 20 years turning out most of the rods that came out of that shop, ten years on my own, and the last 15 years here - so I’ve had a chance to really learn the ins and outs of this business. These days, I’m lucky to have a great assistant, too. Rick Kossen is going to pick up the majority of this business some day when I’m too old, lazy and decrepit to do it anymore. He’s already well skilled, and he’s growing more polished daily.”

Parisen points out that crafting a purpose-built custom tool for fishing requires not only experience at the rod bench, but time on the water learning about and testing different blanks and components in the heat of battle. Taking that approach seriously, he has racked up immeasurable hours sampling nearly every style of fishing, and that familiarity shines through in each rod he constructs. Rich has spent time trolling, plugging and live-bait fishing for stripers. He’s surf fished Long Island’s East End, North Fork and South Fork, and put in untold hours matching strength and wit with offshore tuna, white marlin and mahi. He’s also fished both offshore and inshore waters along the North Carolina and Florida coasts, and entered semi-pro bass tourneys across the country to round out his freshwater resume.

“Why might you want a custom rod?” asks Parisen. The reasons can be very personalized, as you might imagine. “Maybe you love the action on a rod you’ve used but want the butt three inches longer,” says our expert. “You might like the action and grip on another rod but need the length shorter to better fit in your car. If you have arthritis and have some difficulty gripping fishing rods properly, a bigger, more comfortable grip can be the answer. Maybe you want a set of several rods with green and white diamond wrap and your company logo. Matched sets for new boats or to replace a hodge-pod of rods assembled over the years are immensely popular, too. They’re not always possible to get with standard production choices.”

A set of White Water Outfitters custom rods under construction with unturned cork handles awaiting some finishing from master rod builder Rich Parisen and the highly skilled Rick Kossen. Photo by Rich Parisen. 

Parisen notes that our full-set customers often want their rods to come in all-matching styles, colors and sizes, including 20-lb., 30-lb., 50-lb., 80-lb. and 130-lb. outfits, wire line rods, bass fishing rods and jigging rods. “We had a customer last year build a completely new set and it took 46 blanks to fill out his arsenal – including customized gaffs and a dart and tagging stick to match. The point is that a lot can be done in a custom shop that you can’t do in even the most well supplied tackle store where you are pulling rods off the rack because there just aren’t enough items on the wall to make a matched set.”

At White Water Outfitters, we have a number of custom capabilities that a lot of other shops simply don’t offer. We carry a tremendous amount of inventory, so we always have a wide selection of blanks in stock - 200 to 400 at any time - that people can pick up and play with or bend. We also have a variety of materials from which we build on-hand whether it’s cork, EVA, composite or hard woods for trim. Our rod guide selection is varied, too. Plus, we can pretty-much order anything in terms of custom colors and we have a drying room that allows us to cure up to 40 rods at a time.

Orange highlights on this old school looking "field" pattern rod for Jeff Lomonaco's skiff, "Toller".

“But there’s so much more,” adds Parisen. “We can do custom grip shaping because of our lathe capabilities, and we probably build a wider variety of rods than most people will try in their lifetime. What do you need? A saltwater flyrod or a trout wand? Spinning rods for bass fishing, bluefish and weakfish in the bays? Something for salmon in Upstate rivers, tuna jigging or grouper fishing? We’ve got the blanks, components and, most importantly, the skills to cover everything from freshwater panfish up to 130-pound-class tuna outfits.”

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  • Bryce Poyer