Ben Graham’s fishing rod building and repair business started about how one would imagine.
In December of 2017, the recent purchase of a bigger boat for offshore saltwater fishing left Graham in need of bigger rods for the deeper waters.
“I was now able to get out to where the big fish are, but I didn’t have the tackle for it,” said Graham. “So I decided to buy some offshore gear. The first rod I found on eBay was broken. The rod had some guides missing, but I figured I could fix that and not pay $150 for a new rod. Instead, I paid $20 for a rod and $20 worth of parts to fix it up. At the very least, I was determined to try. So you know, a little kit and some YouTube videos, and I had that one fixed.”
The building and repairing didn’t stop there.
“I started fixing some other stuff,” said Graham. “I bought a few more parts and pieces of equipment here and there. I started fixing some of my dad’s stuff, some of my own, and a few for my friends.”
Before he knew it, Graham had himself a growing side-business from his regular Monday thru Friday, nine to five. Graham works at Howard Industries as a Quality Engineer and has for the past 17-plus years.
Graham’s love for saltwater fishing developed after trips on the water with his father.
“About the time I was a teenager, we got an old bass boat and started going inshore [fishing],” said Graham. “I loved it. We had some friends that had bigger boats, so we’d go offshore [fishing] occasionally. Several years later, when I was in college, my dad bought an old 1969 Cuddy Cabin boat. That was my stress relief while I was in graduate school and MBA school at Ole Miss. I was buying parts for it, and when I came home on the weekend, we would work on it.”
It was those early memories with his father that inspired the name of Graham’s growing business.
“The name of my business is JG2 Custom Rods,” said Graham. “My dad and I share a first name and last name. We have different middle names, so we’re both James Graham. I named [my business] that because it was my dad who taught me to fish and how I learned to fish. It’s a tribute to him.”
All that Graham’s learned in rod building and repair is self-taught, self-researched, and a culmination of trial and error.
“I know there are classes out there you can take, and a lot of people get in that, but I didn’t take any classes,” said Graham. “I started from scratch. If I want to learn something that I don’t know, I’ll YouTube it or read forums about it. People show pictures of what they’ve done, and I may ask them, “How did you do that?” Those people were helpful in that kind of the community.”
Rod building is tedious work. The minutes and hours spent staring at one spot on a rod, making sure wraps are near flawless perfection, among other things, can be too much for the less patient. But for Graham, it’s not only enjoyable but a good stress relief.
“It can be tedious, but at the same time, it’s always been a good stress relief,” said Graham. “Fishing is a stress relief for lots of people. It lets you get away from the cares of the world and the worries of things because your only concern [on the water] is what’s on the end of the line.
“The same kind of thing goes when you’re working on building a rod. You’re paying attention to your wraps and making sure they’re tight enough, or not too tight, making sure your guides are straight, and your thread is packed well. Just pay close attention to that. You get lost in that and enjoy what you’re doing, blocking out the other stuff that everybody has to deal with every day.”
While Graham prefers saltwater to freshwater fishing, a majority of his business comes from local bass anglers.
“I probably do more bass rods than anything else,” said Graham. “I’ve done a little bit of everything. I like saltwater rods, but I’ve done more bass rods because that’s what a lot of people around here do.”
“My kids are asking about bass fishing,” added Graham. “I’m going to start bass fishing soon, I’m sure. I’ve sold rods to some of these guys to have younger kids that do a lot of high school bass tournaments, and my kids have gotten to visit some of those tournaments with me. They’re getting interested in being a part of that. So, eventually, I’ll have to do some more bass fishing.”
If you go a round of “Never Have I Ever” with Graham, fly fishing would also be on the list. But that doesn’t stop him from learning how to build fly-rods too. Sitting in the middle of Graham’s home workspace is a book with fly fishing in the title. Research is key.
Rods aren’t all Graham builds either.
“I also make lead sinkers and sell them,” added Graham. “I’ve wanted to get into tackle making too, but I haven’t done much of that yet just because I haven’t had the time. I mostly focus on the rods and such.”