Great American Fly Rods
Great Bay, Great Rods...
- By: Joe Healy
It’s a late-winter afternoon as I pull into the driveway of David Gibson’s house in Barrington, New Hampshire, across from the shores of Bellamy Reservoir (also known locally as Swains Lake). I’m meeting Dave (shown in the photo, in his workshop), president of Great Bay Rod Company, and Darrin Maggy, vice president of operations; we’re at Dave’s house because a blistering wind storm has knocked out power at Great Bay’s HQ in nearby Rochester, NH. Dave has temporarily taken operations home, literally, and continues to wrap rods in his basement workshop. Yes, these are homegrown, made-in-America fly rods. And when you cast one, you’ll be impressed.
Dave and Darrin have backgrounds in computer-equipment sales, so know business, but they followed their passions into the fishing market. Initially, they found anglers responded to their niche products. “We’ve always bucked the trend, making a medium-action small-stream rod series, for example, when I started the company six years ago,” says Gibson. They also continue to make sweet-action fiberglass rods.
Darrin Maggy, Great Bay Rod Company VP of Operations
Recently, the company significantly expanded their wholesale and direct-to-consumer businesses.
According to Gibson, “There is an increasing awareness, and therefore demand, for innovative American-made products. My business partner Darrin and I have had careers in the high-tech industry where we saw a combination of cutting-edge and tradition. We’ve applied that same combination to our company and it’s been working. I’ve been building rods for more than 20 years. In 2004 I decided to throw caution to the wind and to leave high-tech and to launch Great Bay Rod Company. Hindsight is always 20-20, and I’d have preferred to start a company at any time other than the worst recession, but we just work harder and smarter. We’ve been blessed and have expanded ever since.”
Great Bay Rod Company manufactures 72 different models of fly rods spread across four graphite and three fiberglass series. The Evolution series uses aggressive, state-of-the-art tapers that are designed to meet the demands of saltwater game fish. The EMG are 9- and 11-foot rods that run from 2 to 8 weights including a Czech nymph design and switch rod in both fresh and saltwater versions. Pond and lake fishermen look to the MSR series, which provide a blend of power and delicacy. And the popular Winding Brook small-stream series provides classic rod designs between 6 and 7 feet in length.
Many anglers like the softer, traditional feel of fiberglass rods, and so Great Bay Rod Company launched the 5-foot Brumby Creek, the 6-foot Saxon Creek and the 7-foot Northeast series.
“While these rods were designed to be true specialty rods for Northeastern conditions, we have found many Western anglers who specialize in off-the-beaten-path water, and they love our rods. We used modern tapers with the fiberglass material, so they are anything but your grandfather’s old rod,” Gibson said.
Great Bay Rod Company takes a different approach to fly-rod design and manufacture.
“In addition to best sellers, we focus heavily on niche rods that other manufactures overlook,” says Gibson. “From the EMG Czech Nymphing, 11 foot 4-, 5-, and 6-weight switch rods to the 5-foot Brumby Creek small stream series, we supply wholesale accounts and consumers with rods that are specific to their fishing situations. We use static deflection testing for guide placement on each of our rods. We ship our rods after a 100 percent inspection, and all of our rods come with the standard Great Bay Rod Company original owner lifetime warranty. Our goal is to invest in America, one rod at a time.”
Great Bay Rod Company Evolution Force
Company Announces Dealer Protection Program
Great Bay also recently announced a revolutionary Dealer Protection Program. The Dealer Protection Program allows for a successful integration of wholesale and consumer-direct sales, and is revolutionary for the fly fishing industry.
“Channel integration is a difficult part of any company,” said President Dave Gibson. “I come from the technology industry which is well known for its frequent changes and expansive outreach programs. A flat-to-declining industry like the sport of fly fishing can expand and grow provided that there is an opportunity for success.”
The Dealer Protection Program is unique in a number of ways. First, it allows Great Bay Rod Company to partner with its wholesale base. For accounts that maintain an annual stocking commitment, Great Bay Rod Company credits the dealer’s AR with the profit from a rod that is sold through their Direct-to-Consumer web and catalog channels.
“We currently work off of a 60-mile radius of the consumer,” says Gibson. “Local fly shops have come under significant pressure over the past decade. There are reduced participation rates, limited foreign and domestic travel, and reduced discretionary spending. Neither dealers nor consumers need competition directly from the manufacturer. We want to be good business partners.”
The program is designed to reward dealers who have maintained an annual stocking commitment in Great Bay Rod Company and accredits those dealers with sales conducted (on the e-commerce site) within a 60-mile radius of the buyer. All Internet sales within that dealer's geographical boundary are credited to that dealer and a check is issued on a quarterly basis.
“We feel that dealers who’ve made an investment in Great Bay Rod Company should be rewarded. And as many fly shops do not have a Web presence, they do now through the Great Bay Rod Company. At the same time, there are areas of the country where, due to low population densities or the seasonality of travel patterns we won’t see any fly shops. GBRC will realize those sales through our retail channel so we can maintain profitability. That increase in profitability will help us maintain suitable retail pricing and not have dramatic price increases/decreases,” Gibson says.
Founded in 2004, Great Bay Rod Company (www.greatbayrods.com) manufactures mid-price-point fly rods. For 2010, the company’s product line consists of four series of graphite fly rods, and three series of fiberglass fly rods. The privately held company is based in Rochester, New Hampshire.