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Topeka Craftsman Customizes Fishing Rods for Local Anglers

Photography Provided

Many people who enjoy the outdoors claim to feel closer to God when taking part in activities that involve nature. Eugene Knepp combined a Bible phrase from Matthew 4:19 with his passion for fishing to create a name for his business. 

This Bible passage mentions “fishers of men.” Knepp’s business, Fishers of the World, is a custom-made fishing rod business that operates out of a workshop at Knepp’s Topeka home. 

“I do custom-built fishing rods,” Knepp says, “It can be personalized to their favorite colors or their favorite thread design.”

Fishing rods are easy to find in the area, but one that reflects the personality and style of the angler is unique. Knepp’s customers can personalize the rod any way they want, from the color to the thread and thread design. 

“This isn’t your simple rod out of the store,” he says.

Knepp visited a friend who was doing the same thing in Michigan, and was intrigued.

“I asked him to teach me how and get me started,” he says. 

As far as Knepp knows, he is the only tradesman providing these products locally.

“It’s a new idea – a new product for the area,” he explains. “I’ve been doing this for two years and it is just now slowly taking hold.”

The rods he makes range from those suited for ocean fishing to ice fishing and everything in between. 

“I do them all,” Knepp says.

Different types of fishing require different rod lengths and specialized equipment. A fly fishing rod can be 15 feet long, while an ice fishing rod may be only 2 feet. 

The customization process involves sitting down with the customer to determine their needs. From that initial conversation, Knepp orders the parts he needs and begins the production process. It takes about five to six hours to craft a custom fishing rod, plus an additional six to 10 hours for the sealant to cure.

Knepp is a longtime fisherman. As a small boy he would fish with his father, using an inexpensive rod purchased somewhere convenient. 

Now he realizes the difference that can be made by using a rod of higher quality. His rods are typically stronger than the standard variety found at chain stores. The rods also feature additional guides, which provides better stability when handling a big fish. The bright thread wraps and designs means an angler can spot their rod easily.

A variety of thread colors are used to make the wrap, and this is one of the features that distinguish Knepp’s rods from many that are mass manufactured. 

“I love the artwork that goes into each rod,” Knepp says. 

He recalls using his artist’s eye to complete a rod that a husband was purchasing for his wife. The challenge was to find the right thread color combination to coordinate with a yellow rod. Knepp’s choice was a charcoal color with gold accents.

Knepp specializes in three thread wrap styles – olive leaf, letter wrap, and tiger wrap. The olive leaf style involves any two-color combination in which one thread is manipulated to resemble a leaf pattern. 

Letter wrap involves weaving a letter pattern into the base color, and takes about six hours. Tiger wrap begins with a black base and is personalized with a color of the customer’s choice. It is wrapped loosely and then manipulated to create a one-of-a-kind design. 

A custom fishing rod ranges from approximately $100 to $200. The price depends on the materials and the time it takes to complete the custom design. Knepp also replaces guides and can handle other types of rod repairs.

By day, Knepp works in an RV factory. He devotes his afternoon and evening hours, as well as weekend days, to the rod business. 

Knepp and his wife Ruth, who live on 11 acres with horses and dairy goats, have three children – Danelle Janean, 16, Lily Grace, 13, and Kylan Eric, 7.

Fishers of the World is located at 2570 West 700 South in Topeka. For more info, call 260-593-0856.

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