Fishing has always been a passion for Jon Steblay. According to family lore, he caught his first fish — a five-pound walleye — at the age of four, though Steblay himself questions if this is not simply a classic example of a fish tale from his parents. Regardless, he's enjoyed fishing ever since. He's fished in both the Atlantic and Pacific, from Alaska to the Caribbean. You name it, he's probably fished it.

So when he saw an advertisement for a rod building class, he knew he'd have to sign up. Steblay took to it, well, like a fish to water. He found himself enjoying everything about the process of rod building, but one of his instructors left him with a warning before the class had finished: Be careful. This hobby can be addictive.

That was nearly 12 years ago, and Steblay admits he was hooked immediately. He built rods for friends, family, neighbors, anyone he could think of. He didn't want to stop, but he was coming to the realization that his hobby was quickly becoming expensive. So he did what many a man has done after finding themselves too deep in the throes of a passion project: He turned to his wife and asked, "What do we do now?"

Her solution was for Jon to turn his hobby into a business and White Cap Custom Rods was born.

Steblay takes pride in building no two of White Cap's rods alike. Each rod is tailored specifically to the needs of each individual customer. The rod is built based on which species of fish you intend to catch. Your hand and arm measurements will determine the placement of the handle, reel seat and foregrip to ensure your rod fits you perfectly. Even the components of the rod will be selected to match the ideal type of fishing the customer prefers, be it live bait, spinning, casting, trolling, or jigging.

Steblay says his rods only use the best materials from reputable manufacturers. This includes rod blanks from St. Croix, G. Loomis, Batson, Lamiglas, Pacific Bay and Sage; guides and tips from rom world renowned Fuji as well as American Tackle, Pacific Bay and other reputable manufacturers; even the reel seats, handles, and grips come in a variety of materials, styles and colors from the leading manufacturers. White Cap's use of more guides on its rods also ensure the they undergo less stress when reeling in the big one.

White Cap Custom Rods

In addition to the superior quality, Stemblay's rods are each uniquely designed to have their own visual flair. His specialty are rods that have feather inlays.

"Fish don't really care what your rod looks like," he admits, "But it makes your rod more unique and enjoyable."

Stemblay isn't one to sing his own praises when it comes to work, but White Caps website has a testimonial page filled with reviews from happy customers. Perhaps Pat from St. Joseph puts it best: "It's the best damn walleye rod I ever used."

White Cap Custom rods will bring some examples of Stemblay's work and will be taking orders at the Puklich Chevrolet ND Sportsman's Expo December 7 and 8 at the Bismarck Event Center. Doors open Friday from 2-7 p.m. and on Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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