The Suffolk County News
February 8, 2001 ...Jeffrey Bessen
Custom rod maker reels them in
Neil Faulkner was angling around for something to do following his
retirement from IBM in 1993. Pursuing his life-long interest in fishing
Faulkner, 61, turned to the rod and the reel. The former computer service
representative and licensed boat captain began building and restoring custom fishing rods.
“I was playing around with it for 10 years and it became a serious business a year ago in May,” said Faulkner. “I first started repairing and
restoring my own rods and building friends’ rods. When you sit down
wrapping a rod, in a sense it’s very relaxing.”
Custom fishing rods by Captain Neil, as Faulkner bills his business creates
his custom rods from scratch using high quality blanks of fiberglass,
graphite and composites.
“The blank itself has a different type
of action depending on what type of fishing you are doing and where,” said
The native Long Islander, who grew up in Wantagh and has resided in
Sayville for the past 36 years, furnishes a personal, individual touch to
every rod he creates.
“I’ll sit down with the person and we
will discuss how, what, why and where,” said Faulkner. “Blanks for
what type of fishing you are doing, different sizes weight lures used, butt to
tip, every part taken into consideration. Even what gauge line people
After collecting the necessary information, Faulkner selects a blank and
using a spine finder determines where the rod’s back bone or spine is located.
“Every tube has a back bone, the position it goes when it has a load on,”
said Faulkner. “I’ll find the spine and use it to our advantage.”
The advantage, according to Faulkner, is it uses the natural ability
of the rod to ensure accuracy and the best possible use of the blank.
A variety of grips can be chosen from synthetic, cork, flocked, slick
butt and unibutts. The flocked grip is a soft material electrostatically bonded to a cork grip. It is a firm, easy handling surface with a comfortable grip.
Faulkner uses graphite and unibutts and storabutts reel sets with a wide
array of choices for fly rods.
Many people who use a Capt. Neil custom made fishing rod swear by them, including Capt. John Capuano,
the captain of the Shinnecock Star, a party fishing boat that Faulkner helps
“Capt. Neil is a great captain and makes a wonderful rod, my boat is
outfitted with 30 of them,” said Capuano. “I own seven custom rods
he’s made, myself.”
Once a fisherman uses a custom made rod they are most likely to purchase one, according to Dot Capuano,
business manager for the Shinnecock Star.
“A good percentage of customers once they use them and catch fish
with them order one,” said Ms. Capuano.
Faulkner’s background and experience makes him what Capt. Capuano
called “... a man of the sea.”
“I have been fishing since I was five
years old,” said Faulkner. “From Wantagh in the bay or surf casting at
Jones Beach, in the 60s, that was good.”
As a Navy man Faulkner spent four years on two destroyers, the USS
Rhodes and USS Farragut, in the North Atlantic.
“Those were the days when the Russians were coming,” said
Faulkner, “we were out looking for the submarines, most times it was
whales. You look back it was important.”
A licensed U.S. Coast Guard Captain, Faulkner has fished off Long
Island’s waters for 56 years, been a party boat mate out of Mattituck, Port
Jefferson and Shinnecock, captained the Port Jeff Prowler in addition to
the Shinnecock Star.
“He’s a mentor, what can you say, he’s a leader...he’s captained my boat
and he makes a wonderful custom rod,” said Capuano.
Faulkner’s knowledge of fishing is evident as he speaks about piecing
together a rod.
“Most purchased rods have fewer guides leaving the rod uneven. A custom rod has the right amount of guides in the right position so the line
is parallel to the rod,” said Faulkner.
According to Faulkner the rod’s length determines the number of guides and a rule of thumb is: For
every foot of reel there is one guide. Guides are available in carbide, hardloy and silicon carbide.
Intricate thread work is another component of this hand-made craft.
Using colors and thread chosen by the customer, Faulkner does the elaborate
or simple designs that lends a distinct signature to the custom rod.
“I can build a rod in one day if I really wanted to,” said Faulkner. “It takes
8-10 hours without fancy butt wrapping. I could build it quicker by cheating, not doing everything, but there is only one way to build it and that is the
The right way has garnered customers from all over Long Island and
admiration from other custom builders.
“I get a lot of business from recommendations and word of mouth,” said
Faulkner. “I do shows, speaking engagements and demonstrations,
showing new people how to put rods together.”
As a member of Rodcrafters, Faulkner attends annual seminars and
industry shows, trading the newest techniques with other custom rod
“The biggest by-product of it is meeting all the people, the fisherman, they
are extremely nice people.”
To commemorate his inaugural fishing experience at age five, Capt. Neil
builds a custom rod for his grandchildren for their fifth birthday and takes
them fishing. So far he has to make four rods with at least two more to go.
“I can build these for awhile and hopefully I can use my hands until I
am 80 or 90 years old,” said Faulkner. “I’ll build you a rod you’ll have a blast
with and you’ll catch more fish.”
Prices range from $325 to tuna sticks for $700 and vary depending on materials and components. For more
information you can call Capt. Neil at 631-567-8049 and check out his Web site at