Custom Rod Maker Draws on Childhood Memories

By Eric Olson

June 18, 2010 Updated Dec 28, 2007 at 3:55 PM EDT

Barry: This is zircoday. That’s also a Central American wood.

There is no room for cars in Barry Belknap’s Fort Wayne garage, it’s chock full of exotic woods like zircoday, fiddle back maple, and cocoa bolo from the Amazon rain forest. Barry picks up a huge burl the size of a big pumpkin. “That’s about 70-80 pounds”, he grunts. Belknap’s a woodworker but the real work begins when he’s finished with his power lathe. That’s when the threadwork begins, tedious hours tying fittings to this custom fly and fishing rods.
“This is a spinning rod and I do a lot of ultra light rods, sort of a specialty rod,” he says, whipping a gorgeous 12-foot rod through the air like a French sword. Belknap is founder and CEO of Belknap Custom Rod and Lure Company, maker of handcrafted fishing rods. Fishing has been in Barry’s blood since he was three, when his dad gave him his first plastic fishing rod.
“And there were some little bass about yea long on the pier and he said if you catch those we'll have them for dinner. Within about ten seconds I had one of these on the dock, so then we talked about catch and release!”
Barry’s two loves, fishing and woodworking were joined about ten years ago when he made his first fly rod. He’s been perfecting his products ever since, using meticulous care, employing the finest materials. He made a particular beauty for St. Francis softball coach Ryan Bolyn.
“And I try and do some decorative things with different types of banding. This case it was silver because it was part of the Cougar with blue and the black.”
Barry also makes custom lures but it’s the Belknap custom rods he loves to build, finely balanced works of art that will set you back anywhere from two to five hundred dollars. A bargain when you consider the work that went into them, the attention to detail, and the decades worth of good times you’ll share together.

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