Editorial Note – I’ll be up to ICAST for the rest of the week.  I’m covering the show for Western Outdoor News, so not sure how much of that coverage will make it into these pages.  I’ll be posting stuff up though on the Facebook page as I go, so keep an eye out over there to see what exciting new gear is being introduced at ICAST.

Post-baking rough blank

Post-baking rough blank

Seeker Tour continued…

At the end of Part I, the raw materials had been wrapped around the mandrel, and then taped.  Now they are ready to be baked.   The baking process is a two step process that melds the disparate pieces of material into the one cohesive blank that you are more familiar with seeing.  It starts with a “soak”.  The soak doesn’t actually involve any sort of liquid.  Think of it as a pre-heating to the actual baking process.  It starts the liquification of the resins (glass and/or carbon fibers) that unifies the material.  Once the specified duration of the soak is completed, the blank is ready for the actual bake that hardens the blank.  After baking, it goes through a liquid soaking process that helps in removing the outer mold formed by tape.  The blank is now in a very usable, extremely durable state, but it’s rough.  The outer mold formed by the tape is uneven and leaves the unfinished blank with little ridges that need to be smoothed out.  A fine sanding is applied to the blank, a polyurethane coating is applied to seal it,  and it is now ready for finishing.

The factory has a capacity of producing about 200 blanks per day, and 100 finished rods per day.  Why the discrepancy?  Many of the unfinished blanks are sold to custom rod makers that fancy them up.  They may do marbling, or apply special stickers, or other customization/personalization that many anglers desire.  Seeker values the custom rod makers and is further extending their product offerings to them which I will describe in a bit.

At this point, Darin had finished up his call and found us on the floor.  Randy took us through the finishing process…adding of reel seats, grips or cork tape, putting on any paint or decals etc.  All of these processes I’ve described here are done by skilled workers, on-site at the Seeker facility in Long Beach.  The only piece of the rod making process that isn’t done in-house is the addition of the guides.  Seeker works with skilled craftsmen who are independent contractors to put on guides.  Why?  It’s really the fastest and most efficient way for them to get it done.  Efficiency…pretty much every inch of available space inside the facility is maximized.  Adding that capability inhouse would negatively impact the retail price in stores.

I’ve been around enough companies to see that sometimes Management and Operations don’t always see eye-to-eye.  It was nice to see that Darin and Randy really have a great working relationship.  I mentioned that observation to them and they gushed about each other.  They said when they have management meetings, it’s a very collaborative process that is then followed through with action.  One example of the team collaboration was the building of the stern that they use for demo purposes at tradeshows like Fred Hall.  When they decided they wanted to build a real stern of a boat, everyone pitched in and got the job done.  If you went to Fred Hall, you know that their teamwork really paid off in creating a booth that stood out on the floor.  Look at the detail, there are even burlap bags hung on the bait tank behind Pam.

Seeker Pro Staffer Pam Sharp at Fred Hall (check out the Salty hat in Row 2!)

Seeker Pro Staffer Pam Sharp at Fred Hall (check out the Salty hat in Row 2!)

We were done with the floor at this point and I had a chance to kind of recap with Darin.  When he joined the company in 2011, Seeker really reflected the fishing personality of Joseph Pfister, the previous General Manager.  Joe was a long-range fishing guy, and rods that Seeker made were primarily long-range focused, and very much Southern California fishing focused.  As Darin told me, his fishing interests range from “blue-gill to bluefin”, so Darin has been instrumental in developing rods not only for the different kinds of fishing we do here in Southern California, but also in other parts of the country.  Consistent with the Seeker philosophy of “Fishermen developing rods for fishermen,” Seeker sought out pro-staffers that were local experts in their particular fishery.  These pro-staffers provide critical product development input that lead to the cutting edge innovation that anglers covet.  Seeker now has a full line of rods addressing a broad range of specific fisheries across the country.

What’s next?

Day 4 for Jose Ortega

Day 4 for Jose Ortega

It was clear that with the impressive collaboration inhouse and externally with their pro-staffers that Seeker has made great strides in the last couple years.  I asked Darin what was next.  Other than the continual product development of each line, a new direction for Seeker is in providing all the componentry that goes along with serving the custom rod wrapping market.  He introduced me to Jose Ortega that was all of 4 days into his new job.  In short order (and leveraging his network built over 13 years in the industry), Jose has pulled together all the suppliers to be able offer “everything else” that a custom rod builder would need on top of the Seeker blanks.  Everything from the threads used in the guides, to the glue used to put on a reel seat, Seeker now offers at wholesale to custom rod builders.

Southern California is home to so much history in the fishing tackle industry.  With Darin and Randy leading the company, Seeker is clearly in good shape to make some new history.  Thank you to Darin, Randy and the entire staff at Seeker Rods for sharing their time to show us everything that goes into a Seeker brand fishing rod.  Keep up the great work!

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,