First my personnel disclaimer about this article: I am not sponsored by or I have not received any compensation to write this article from Matt Newman or iRODs. I was intrigued that a Professional Angler was starting his own business developing fishing rods and I wanted to learn more.
My familiarity with the iRODs dates back to the spring of 2010 when I had the chance to share the boat with the owner of iRODs, Matt Newman. Matt picked me up at the airport in Sacramento, CA and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Dude, you are not going to believe my new rods, they are sick!” OK, I just arrived in California and the “surfer boy” is hitting me with this new language and phrases. I am sorry folks, but I must admit something, I am a country boy from Georgia. I still wear a camouflage hat when I want too. The farthest west I have ever traveled is Texas. My first thought is that I am going to have to find a translator, ha-ha- just kidding… Matt jumps out of his SUV and pops the rear door open, right there in the airport parking lot, and pulls out these fishing rods to show me. My first take is what a cool looking fishing rod, stylist colors, neat logo design and this thing is incredibly light weight for a 7’8 rod. Off we go headed up the highway through the mountains to beautiful Clear Lake. This week I had the chance to fish with the JR Swim bait model – IRG783SB while throwing the 5 inch hard body swim bait. Matt went on to tell me that he designed this rod for the 5 to 7 inch hard body swim baits. The rod has a two piece reel seat, screw down fore grip and perfect tip taper designed for throwing swim baits all day with little or no fatigue.
There have been some dramatic changes in fishing rods over the years. Matt Newman has put the willingness to push the envelope with an exciting new rod design and concept. The neatest thing about this new rod company is a fisherman and other tournament winning anglers are designing these fishing rods. Matt is not doing it on his own either; he has got some help from some his friends in the business. Pro Anglers like Fred Roumbanis, Gabe Bolivar and Bub Tosh. Below are the highlights of my conversation with the boss of iRODs and the swim bait king – Matt Newman.
Tom, Jr.: Hi Matt, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me today. Please tell us about yourself and your role and responsibilities at iRODs?
Matt: Well at the moment I am wearing a few hats. I am already designing a few more rods for the Genesis Series and starting on a small second series of rods. Along with that I am the marketing, sales, shipping and team manager. I have been getting a lot of help from friends with website and logo design, as well as tons of input with the rods. The support from my friends has been huge.
Tom, Jr.: How did you get your start in the rod building industry and what made you decide to start up iRODs?
Matt: I have always been very critical with my fishing rods. Mike Brakebill from Roboworm really showed me the details of a good rod early in my fishing career. Then about 5 years ago Kevin Figgins helped me design my own signature swim bait rods. They did really well, so a few years ago he came to me and offered to help me with my own line. I jumped on the opportunity and here we are.
Tom, Jr.: Tell us about a little something about each rod in the iRODs line of rods?
Matt: OK, here’s a breakdown of the line.
• IRG783SB (Jr. Swim) This was a rod that the fishing rod world really needed. A lot of the popular swim baits are in the 5-7” size and there wasn’t really a good rod for them. This one was a lot of fun to make and test. It will cast these baits super far but has the backbone to control the giants that we dream for.
• IRG794 (Large Swim) Designed for the 8-10” swim baits. I really designed this rod to throw the 8” Huddleston’s baits. That bait has always been special to me and I wanted the perfect rod for it. It’s also a great rod for the bigger wake baits as well.
• IRG-795 (Jumbo Swim) This rod was made for the biggest of lures. (10”+) I knew this rod wouldn’t be a huge seller but because of my background I had to do it. One of my newer favorite big baits is the Black Dog Bait Companies – Lunker Punker. These are heavy baits and need to be casted a mile. Along with the other monster baits this rod had to be made.
• IRG-7114P (Bub’s Punch Rod) Designed by Legendary mat puncher Bub Tosh. I have been friends with Bub for a few years now and following his success punching mats. 1year ago I was picking his brain for information and we got talking about fishing rods. He mentioned how he was still looking for the perfect punch rod. It took us the whole year to get it right, but by the multiple pictures and many phone calls I received from him I knew we finally have found the perfect punch rod.
• IRG-754F (Fred’s Magic Stick) Designed by Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Angler and premier frog fisherman Fred Roumbanis. There is no better frog rod on the market (period). Last year I was at Clear Lake testing a new prototype Frog rod and I bumped in to Fred. I needed and wanted a frog fisherman opinion. Fred taught me a ton right there on the water about a good frog rod. I gave him that rod and he soon came back to me with a few small tweaks that were needed. Then after a few months of him fishing it, he called and wanted to change the name of it. He said it was becoming his favorite rod for c-rigs, pitchin, toads and fishing swim jigs.
• IRG-703CC (Gabes Rip Rap Special) Gabe Bolivar, FLW Tour Pro designed this rod for very popular square bill crankbaits; however don’t overlook this rod for ripbaits, chatterbaits, spinnerbaits and small topwaters. This rod is the only graphite/Fiberglass composite rod in the lineup. Its action is so unique. Gabe has had a lot of success with a square bill crankbait and he wanted to make the perfect rod. He was very particular about having the perfect action. It has a extra fast soft tip which allows you to cast them really well and feel the bait digging around but once the fish grabs the bait and loads the tip up the backbone kicks in fast and really shuts off for control.
• IRG-703C This is the utility rod. This rod was made for worming 8-10lb, ripping jerkbaits or finesse fishing light jigs. This rod and the 704C were the two rods that I thought every rod lineup has to have they are the bread and butter. This rod has way too many applications it can be used for.
• IRG-704C This is a must have for every anglers arsenal, a superior jig rod, pitching rod and Carolina rigging. Its super lightweight and comfortable handle makes it so that you won’t want to put it down all day.
• IRG-744C This rod is my “Mr. Versatile” designed for almost everything. A great rod for most reaction baits (topwater, spinnerbaits) but a must have for open water jigs and Carolina rigs. This rod was fun designing and fishing. I started out trying to make a rod for topwaters, but the first prototype came out a little different than I imagined. It was the coolest feeing rod right of the bat. I have found that I have 2-3 of this rod on my deck every day.
• IRG-713S (Fred’s Power Finesse rod) finally, an alternative to those wimpy spinning rods. This rod has everything you need for finesse presentations and still the power to land tournament quality fish. I had never been into spinning rods until I started designing this particular rod. I sent over a few samples to Fred and he put some tweaks in to it that I love. I now use this rod every day! It’s so much fun playing fish on it. It has a very fast tip to detect bites without spooking the fish but the quick tip and strong back bone get them out of the bushes and rocks fast. Whether you are using a 1/8 shaky head or a ¼ dropshot. This rods extra fast tip allows for easy bite detection but delivers a quick shut off to control the biggest worm fish of your life.
Tom, Jr.: What sets iRODs apart from other custom rod builders?
Matt: I think the most important part was that there was so much input from very successful pros in their expertise. Second being a pro fisherman I know how you can’t use anything but the best equipment but with all the high costs of fishing, the lower price makes it possible to have a bunch of good rods instead of just a few.
Tom, Jr.: What is the price range on your rods for the retail customers?
Matt: The retail costs on the Genesis series is $149.99
Tom, Jr.: Is weight reduction an important factor of consideration when designing rods at iRODs?
Matt: Very much so! Holding a rod for 8-12 hours a day can get tiring. The weight and balancing is a big deal. A light and well balanced rod should not tire out your wrist and fore arm even if you are fishing from dark to dark. The light weight also helps out with detecting subtle bites.
Tom, Jr.: Can you explain how a rod goes from a concept to the final product at iRODs?
Matt: The first step was to design a rod on paper that sounded right. I know that sounds weird but you have to start somewhere. Then we get it in a few samples with different tips and backbones. From there we take the good features form all of the samples and form them together. Sometimes you get it right the first time, others took over a year. The appearance of the rods was easy. I knew what type of handle and grip I wanted. I pretty much took all of the best parts of my favorite rods, combined them and added some newer features. The fore grip was the tricky part but it was very important for me not to have my fingers touch any screws. I hate that. I am so pleased with the way they came out. I originally had a black and red combo but so many other companies were using it. The green was my next choice and it really made them pop.
Tom, Jr.: Do your Pro’s really design the rods we see on the store shelves and at our local tackle store or online?
Matt: Absolutely. I sent them raw blanks in which I thought would be close. They then added the perfect tweaks. Some of them were completely redesigned by the guys. They have their names on the rods and they wanted them perfect.
Tom, Jr.: How often do you personally get to get out and fish, and which rod is your favorite?
Matt: I usually fish 3-5 days a week but, with my new work schedule I am lucky to get out 1-2 days a week. My favorite rods changes week to week. They are all so fun to use. I find myself putting down a rod and bait that is working just to catch a fish on another rod because they are all so very unique. I guess I’m a rod nerd!
Tom, Jr.: So what does the future hold for iRODs?
Matt: I hope to take over the fishing rod world – Just kidding! I’m going to expand the Genesis Series but, I am already working on another new line. I hope I’m the first one to discover the new rod material that will make them lighter and more durable.
Tom, Jr.: Last question – warranty. A lot of the other rod companies offer all kinds of different warranties that can be best described as insurance. Will you share with us the reasoning behind your life time warranty?
Matt: Graphite rods are delicate no matter which way you look at it. Spending good money on a good quality rod to have it break 1, 2 or 5 years later sucks! G. Loomis started it and I really appreciated how there warranty worked. I think until we can make high end bass rods that are indestructible there needs to be a good warranty backing quality rods.
Tom, Jr.: In closing is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Matt: Just pick one of my iRODs up and feel it! Just because they are affordable, doesn’t mean they are cheap. I found a few ways to keep my overhead down; which has helped me create an affordable priced fishing rod. These rods are the real deal and I very proud of the work me and all my friends have put in to this. Check them out online at http://www.irodfishing.com/
About the author: Tom Branch, Jr. is a freelance outdoor writer and a full time Lieutenant/Firefighter-Paramedic with over 25 years of service with the Gwinnett County Fire Service in Georgia. He has been working in the Outdoor Industry for over 15 years and has done everything from successfully managing and developing a pro fishing team, developing new products, designing packaging, participated in different radio and television shows and developing Writer’s Conferences. He and his wife Kim live north of Atlanta in Braselton, GA with their 2 labs Jake and Scout. Check out his blog at – http://outonalimbwithtombranchjr.blogspot.com