Why So Many Top-Notch Fishing Rods (Sort-of) Come from Alabama

It’s day two on Kentucky Lake and a shallow crankbait is targeting bass on a creek channel.

Hold up. If that sentence seems off, you know your way around bass fishing.

Shallow crankbait. Creek channel. Kentucky Lake. Half the bass fishing fanatics reading this are having a fit right now.

No ledges. No deep diving, 20-foot plus cranks. This is old school fishing—for a reason.

There’s a great saying, “A great rod is only as good as its guides.” I made it up a few days ago.

To test the theory I’ve made my way to the oft-neglected backwaters of Kentucky Lake: oxbows and lily pad fields that would look more at home in Florida than Tennessee.

 

Along for the journey is FTR fishing historian and old school angling expert Joe Sills Sr. We are armed with a war chest of rods containing anything from a $20 big box special to a brand new, nearly $400 St. Croix Legend Elite. Stuffed in between are a legion of sticks in the coveted $80-110 and $150-180 ranges. But this quest is not about testing rods, it’s about understanding rod components. And it’s about putting the word of one component distributor—Angler’s Resource—to the test.

Jim Ising is the Marketing Director for Angler’s Resource, the Alabama-based, sole-U.S. distributor of Fuji rod components. Ising, like most Bama boys, knows his way around a fishing hole. And, also like most Bama boys, Ising says his fishing products are the best.

What products exactly? Angler’s Resource distributes reel seats, cork and EVA handles for those seats, rod blanks, rod guides, rod tops and essentially anything you could ever need to build a quality fishing rod. St. Croix uses their components. So does G. Loomis, Lamiglass, Kistler, Falcon and too many other quality rod companies to list.

“Our brand is usually reserved for their top-of-the-line stuff,” says Ising. “They buy from other component makers as well.”

Top-of-the-line stuff. This field day might not be a fair fight. Then again, when have fishermen ever clamored for a fair fight?

“Fuji has been around for a long time,” Joe Sr. says, interrupting a chronological history of Kentucky Lake. (He’s been fishing here competitively since the 1960s. Part of today’s lesson: they didn’t always ledge fish.)

His crankbait darts around a log. “They make high quality stuff. They used to make reels and rods, too.”

Splash! The all-too familiar sound of another fish on his line and not mine. Hey, the old man has a nearly four-decade head start on me, which is about as long as Ising says Angler’s Resource has been around.

“From humble beginnings as the sales force for Fuji some 35 years ago,” Ising told me before this trip, “Angler’s Resource is poised as a single source supplier of what certainly would be seen as the finest collection of rod building components available anywhere, at any price.”

What he means to say is this: if you are serious about building top-notch fishing rods, Angler’s Resource has what you need to get the job done.

Splash! This time, I’ve come to blows with a Kentucky Lake largemouth of my own. Joe Sr. isn’t the only one with a crankbait. Back in the narrows of this 350 square-mile reservoir, we’ve located a school of bass. “Sometimes we’ll catch 25 or 30 off of a bank like this,” shouts Dad.

Today, we’ll settle for 14.

When Angler’s Resource was formed in 1980, Kentucky Lake was a different place. “In the late ’70s,” the history lesson continues, “Kentucky Lake was known as a dead sea. If you had 10 pounds in a tournament, you were guaranteed to place in the top three. Then, the grass came in. It’s the same grass you see at Guntersville and Chickamauga. The lake became a world-class fishery.”

That’s the Kentucky Lake you see today; the one you see on television filled with wrapped boats and pro bass fishermen. The lake that’s still filled with wanna-be pro bass fishermen when they leave. And the lake that’s filled weekend-to-weekend with high quality rods from high quality manufacturers that are getting components from Angler’s Resource in Foley, Ala.

By the end of our day, only one rod in the war chest malfunctioned. A guide broke on a $180 (mercifully unnamed) rod. The guide was not made by Fuji.

“That’s usually the way it goes,” says Ising. “Manufacturers drift away to save money and then come back after dealing with returns.”