Some fishermen contend the use of expensive, state-of-the-art equipment is an essential ingredient in making an accomplished angler.
Ron Lindner of Brainerd, Minn., a consummate angler and cofounder of In-Fisherman, is in this camp. Consequently, he uses the finest fishing reels and superfine custom-made fishing rods. One of his deluxe spinning reels, for example, retails for about $500.
Other fishermen maintain high-dollar equipment is not necessary. Al Lindner of Brainerd, co-founder of In-Fisherman, is part of this contingent. He uses the kind of rods and reels fishermen can buy at most tackle shops without totally deflating his wallet.
B.D. Ehler of Vassar has been in the middle of this debate for at least three decades. Here's his solution to this vexing matter: When Ehler selects a reel, he sides with Al Lindner. But when he chooses a rod, Ehler sides with Ron Lindner.
Ehler uses the sturdy but legendary Mitchell 300 Series spinning reels he purchased in the 1970s, and he attaches those old reels on state-of-the-art and custom-made Rainshadow rods.
Until Ehler, 67, retired in 1997, he was a pharmacist for Menninger Clinic. By avocation, he is a custom rod builder, as well as an avid crappie, wiper and white bass angler.
For a number of years, rod building was more than a passion. It became a part-time job. During that spell, Ehler was cloistered in the basement of his home that overlooks Pomona Lake for more than 800 hours a year, making about 100 rods during that time.
Nowadays, he makes rods only for himself and family. In addition, he teaches others the secrets of his craft and is the secretary of the Custom Rod Builders Guild, an international organization.
Ehler's forte is called thread art, and his skill at this craft is world-renowned. In fact, he was a major contributor to a Dale Clemons book titled "Custom Rod Art," published in 1982 and still in print.
Last month at the third annual Conclave and National Rod Building Symposium in Nashville, Tenn., Ehler conducted several long seminars, explaining the intricacies of wrapping rods with an array of colorful designs.
Ehler calls thread art an embellishment. In fact, some anglers especially fly fishermen find thread art too garish.
Thus, the mechanical aspects of a rod, Ehler says, should be the rod builder's primary concern. When a rod is built with that in mind, making sure the spine is correctly positioned with the correct number of line guides, it will be better than any retail rod an angler can buy at any cost.
By building a casting rod with Alconite guides in a spiral-wrap pattern, Ehler says, the line flow and control will be increased and the torque on the rod will be reduced. It will also improve casting distance and accuracy.
Likewise a correctly constructed spinning rod or fly rod can significantly increase an angler's casting distance. Moreover, a properly built rod seldom breaks. many commercial rods break with astonishing regularity.
Ehler would much rather be fishing, but on a harsh winter day he enjoys nothing more than rod building.