Aussie rod builders unite

LAST year I was lucky enough to attend a meeting of the South Eastern Australian Rod Builders. SEARBS is a small group of like-minded people with a huge interest in building their own fishing rods. A couple have even progressed into the semi-professional rod building arena. The group was first formed by a Wollongong local, Col Chaseling who is the mastermind behind this cost free little club.

The meeting I attended was at the home of one of the members, Ray Balmforth. Ray is right into topwater fishing for bass, whiting and bream with the occasional trip up to Ashford in the state’s north fishing for Murray cod. Some of the light spinning rods he is turning out are really something else. Ray was the perfect host for the day. He is one of the most hospitable blokes it has been my pleasure to meet. He turned his house over to a bunch of semi strangers, cooked an exceptional lunch and provided a great afternoon tea. I don’t think anyone left Ray’s hungry! Ray also showed his expertise at turning some really nice cork for front and rear handles.

The day commenced with about 12 of us getting to know each other and show off some of the rods we’d built. You could probably imagine what it was like with everyone meeting and wanting to have a chat about one thing or another. This really is what SEARBS is about. Sure, everyone has an interest in rod building but it’s fairly rare for a group of rod building nuts to be able to get together and just talk. There were heaps of subjects covered from decorative wraps, to turning cork grips, thread selection, colour preservers, epoxy techniques and so on.

The great thing with this group is that the experience levels range from novice, semi experienced and right through to old hands. Everyone was there to help someone, offer advice and to learn something new.

One of the members, Mark Newcombe travelled all the way from Old Bar just to attend the meeting and to meet everyone. Mark has recently started his own rod building business at Taree. His rods are extremely well constructed using some flash Matagi components and a great technique. I may have created a bit of a monster with Mark because we talked about feather inlays as a decorative technique. Mark has now turned out a few inlays which may soon put me out work! He has also taken on a couple of Pro Staffers who compete in many of the popular fishing tournaments so he really has the bug in a big way.

Just before lunch I saw a rod leaning against one of the walls at Rays. I picked the rod up and was absolutely blown away by the BEST tiger wrap I’ve seen. The wrap was done in a colour nicknamed “Burple” by many but really is a shortened version of Bullards purple. The wrap was just stunning and so was the rest of the construction of the rod. The epoxy finish was as close to perfect as you can get. The owner, Soc Demos, built the rod which was only his second or third rod. This really is a credit to him and just goes to show that with a little patience and a basic understanding of rod building anyone can create their own masterpiece. Great stuff Soc!

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Another builder doing some great work is Tristan Batho. Tristo loves his land based game fishing so really has the opportunity to build some pretty fancy rods with some expansive decorative work. I think Tristo is a little like me and likes his rods to be seen in a crowd. He is currently posting some of his works on

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I’d like to include everyone who attended the meeting in this article but there just isn’t room. One person I must include is my old banana bender mate, Rod Churchward. Rod caught a flight all the way to Sydney from Maryborough in Queensland and then travelled to Wollongong just to attend this meeting. It was just outstanding dedication and it was a real pleasure to catch up with Rod again.

For any fisherman or keen rod builder out there wanting to share some hints or even learn a few things, I highly recommend contacting either Col or Ray. New members are always welcome by a great bunch of guys called the SEARBS.

Contact Col Chaseling on (02) 42 743923 and Ray Balmforth (M) 043 253 9154.

Mark Fisher is an expert rod builder and regular contributor to Fishing World magazine.

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