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White Water Custom Rods with Rich Parisen: Part II

White Water Custom Rods with Rich Parisen: Part II

A matching set of custom spinning and conventional rods stand ready for delivery. If ordering now, expect completion in six to eight weeks says Parisen. Photo by Parisen.

As we noted in Part 1 of our custom rod building coverage, White Water’s master rod builder, Rich Parisen, believes one of the biggest advantages to choosing our shop for custom fish sticks is our tremendous inventory. “I’ve been at this game now over 45 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he states. “We use rod blanks from both domestic and overseas manufacturers, and the quality of blanks has really improved from years ago when fiberglass ruled the roost.”

Indeed, today, White Water customers can choose from graphite, nano-carbon, fiberglass and even composite blends with all kinds of action and profiles. Materials these days are also super light, and you’ll find all of our custom rods to be not only lightweight but incredibly strong as well. Many of the rods we turn out, in fact, achieve “feather-weight” status, especially our slow-pitch and snap-jigging models which generally weigh less than half-a-pound.

When it comes to components used to match the blanks, many customers are especially choosy about their guide selection, notes Parisen, but we’ve got that covered, too. “We can match any size and any style applicable to the rod and task for which they’ll be needed,” he explains. “For the most part, we use industry standard guides from AFTCO, Winthrop and Fuji, but we also carry other select brands for when we need to build a special purpose rod or have to match a color on a customer’s re-worked boat set built 20 or 30 years ago.”

With our custom shop, continues, Parisen, “we not only have the ability to match colors for rods, but for people to pick new wrappings because we do this all by hand. Every rod gets four coats of polymer epoxy finish, and it’s all hand brushed. Because we have a drying room capable of curing 20 to 40 rods at a time, we can work on an entire set at one time.”

At White Water Outfitters, we specialize in boat sets, but we also do individual spinning and conventional rods, plus one-off builds for people who enjoy specialized types of fishing, whether that be casting for white perch in a tidal creek or using an 8-foot graphite tuna popping spinning rod to entice smashing strikes from 300-pound beasts. That tuna action, by the way, has been outstanding off Long Island’s South Shore and East End over the past five or six years thanks to the influx of bunker in our waters. These days, it’s possible to tangle with these fish just five or six miles off the beach. Sometimes, they come even closer.

The past few years have seen a heavy bite of big tuna sometimes less than 10 miles from the beach. Pick your days carefully and you can cash in on this action less than an hour from the nearest inlet. Photo by Parisen.

“That near shore tuna fishing really is a blast,” says Parisen enthusiastically, “and it’s within reach of a surprising number of boaters. We have anglers coming in all the time looking to outfit their 20-foot vessels so they can get in on the action. You have to choose your days wisely, of course, but between late June and early October, you might have a shot at substantial tuna five miles off the beach any day your head out,” continues Parisen. “That’s really got some of our crews excited. As proof, I’m sitting in my varnish room right now surrounded by nine sets of rods for customers. Of those 100 custom sticks, 85 are stand-up tuna choices!”

As for Parisen’s favorite rod to build, it’s a spinning rod with a cork handle designed for tempting anything from largemouth bass to fluke and weakfish in the bays. “Fifty years ago, when I first started at Altenkirch’s, I watched all the custom rod work being done on the lathe and just fell in love with the idea of making the perfect fishing rod. To this day, then, I just love building a cork-grip, medium- to light-tackle spinning rod because it brings back such great memories – both while making it and fishing it,” he says with a smile.

Should you decide to go the custom rod route, keep in mind that you’ll need a little lead time for this artisan work. “I tell everyone six to eight weeks,” says Parisen. “If I get it done sooner, I feel like a hero. If I tell you two weeks and it takes, three, well, that’s never good for anybody. Like everyone here at the shop, I like to under promise and over-deliver.” 

How do you spot a White Water Custom Rod? Superior wraps, a fine finish and quality parts are good tip-offs. Photo by Parisen.

As for the price of custom rods, they range $350 to $400 for a fairly simple spinning rod to upwards of $1500 for a custom 1-piece or 2-piece giant tuna rod that can handle a 1,000-lb. fish.

“If you can dream it, we can build it,” concludes Parisen. “Get your custom rods built here…they’ll prove worth every penny.”

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  • Bryce Poyer