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March 28, 2014

A Visit to Crowder Rods

One of the last American-made rod factories stands in Stuart, Florida.

A small warehouse sits ten minutes from the Manatee Pocket of Stuart, Florida — in that warehouse is Crowder Rods.

It's an unassuming workplace surrounded by other industrial businesses, from boat propellers to welding shops. Crowder Rods doesn't bear a big sign nor does it have a flashy logo to get drivers to stop. It's a lot like the owner, Rob Crowder — a perfect cocktail of humble and proud.

Rob Crowder is a 20-year veteran in the fishing-rod industry who started building for Reddington Rods at the age of 19. Two years later, after learning the ropes, he branched off and started his own custom-rod company.

"I always had an interest in not only fishing, but building fishing rods," Crowder says. "It was a little scary in the beginning, but we quickly built the business on Crowder Custom Rods and also building saltwater rods for Sam Scott Rods and light-tackle rods for Redington."  

Now they deal with Dick's Sporting Goods, West Marine, Gander Mountain and Big Rock Sports. Crowder still makes his own prototypes. Like a mad scientist of fishing rods, he works on new designs in his workshop. He always seems to be thinking about how to make a better design.

"We are fortunate to have very loyal customers and guides that offer great feedback," he says. "In most cases the ideas come from the field.  We have the ability to react quickly to their needs, unlike many of the larger import brands.  Each year we try to offer something new to anglers in our market."

Crowder Rods produces tournament-level fishing rods. These are true custom rods, none of that funny business of shipping out parts and working with third parties. Crowder develops and designs all of the company's rods — all 400 different, species-specific ones. 

In the warehouse, there are different stations throughout the process, from handling to painting to inspection. It's odd to see something that seems so simple broken down into parts. When the average person sees a rod, he or she may think there's not much to it. Crowder knows better than that.

"One of the main reasons Crowder has survived is our attention to detail and maintaining a high level of quality for our customers," he says. "While there are many things to do every day, I take a very hands-on approach to what ships from our factory with my name on it."

Crowder Rods isn't on a one-track mind set, it's also bringing new options for female anglers. The company recently released the Pink E-Series Lite rods for women anglers, and it doesn't stop at just building rods. For the remainder of this year and into 2014, Crowder Rods will be supporting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with its women's fishing clinics, which are being held in eight cities across Florida.