In a recent post, I told you that a 2011 trend would be more direct sales by manufacturers via the Internet. Then I showed how HaberVision is doing that with eyewear. Just today, Mr. Merwin pointed out on the Honest Angler blog that fishing gear is more affordable than ever. He’s right, of course, and overseas manufacturing and direct sales are two of the key factors driving that phenomenon.
As such, you should check out the newly-launched rodmaker Rise Fishing Co. The company was created by Amanda Switzer and Steve Bechard (by way of disclosure, they are guide friends of mine). I had a chance to cast their rods last weekend at The Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey. My impressions were indeed very positive. The “Level” saltwater models are crisp and responsive, but not so fast that “feel” is sacrificed (a common flaw of some saltwater rods, in my opinion), and the “IN-LINE” freshwater rods have medium-fast action that I think will translate to river versatility by way of roll casts, wind casts, etc., across a wide range of experience levels and casting styles. All models are built with IM-8 and IM-10 graphite, and have titanium carbide guides. They cost $230 (freshwater) and $250 (saltwater).
The value proposition, very simply put, is to make rods with quality materials and components, and sell them at a lower pricepoint by removing the middle man (the retailer) from the equation.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on you, the consumer. If you love your local fly shop, lean on those folks for advice, and therefore want to support that business, this probably isn’t the best option for you. If you think your local fly shop owner is a pompous snob, and you don’t like putting money in his pocket when you buy rods, then it probably is.
Three things I immediately like about Rise…
1) The rods were developed by working guides…not just Switzer and Bechard, but also with input from a cadre of pros they’ve surrounded themselves with. You can feel that in the action.
2) Each rod comes with a spare tip section. Yes, there’s still a warranty/replacement program, comparable to many other warranties, but I like the notion of having the spare tip, right in the tube.
3) Rise channels an astounding 20% of proceeds directly into important conservation and angler outreach efforts, like the Trout Unlimited Youth Conservation Camps and Academies. That’s a hefty chunk.
Do I think the manufacturers who use new graphites, resins, and other components to make the best “performance” rods (and sell them at premium prices) have to worry? Perhaps not. But that’s not where Rise is pointed. Their sights are on people who want all-around value, plus functional, quality rods at a lower price. And because that includes an awful lot of fly anglers, I think Rise will shake this market and make its presence felt.
I will certainly be paying close attention…