Janesville73.1°

Whitewater man hooked on fishing pole building

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Story by Carla McCann
February 23, 2008
— Al Hutchison began custom building fishing rods three years ago after the death of his 24-year-old son, Brian.

The hobby provided him an escape from the devastating emotional pain that shrouded his waking hours. In his basement workshop, Hutchison found peace.


“It was a place to be calm,” Hutchison said.


The 54-year-old Whitewater man grew up fishing in area lakes and is an avid fisherman. For Hutchison, the hobby has taken his love for the sport to another level.


One of the first steps Hutchison took in learning the craft was to participate in an annual event at St. Croix Rod Co. in Park Falls that allows the first 25 daily visitors to build their own rod blanks under the guidance of company workers.


“It wasn’t hard,” Hutchison said.


Afterward, Hutchison joined the ranks of custom rod builders and became a member of the Custom Rod Builders Guild.


While honing his creative skills, Hutchison discovered the joy of creating rods for children.


As a member of the Whitewater Optimist Club, he designs and donates rods for the organization’s annual All American Fishing Derby and the city’s Freeze Fest.


Hutchison’s wife, Joyce, shares his interest and commitment to the hobby.


The couple also volunteer statewide to present classes on rod building for Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs.


“We teach the kids how to build a rod, and they go home with their own rods,” Hutchison said. “They are thrilled with the rods.”


The rods Hutchison designs for children are ultra-light and crafted for small hands, he said.


Since beginning the hobby, Hutchison believes he has crafted about 200 rods, he said.


Hutchison’s projects begin with blank rods ordered from St. Croix Rod Co. His role as a custom builder is to design rods to fit individuals, including designing handles and creating unique art on each rod.


All rod builders bring their own style and talents to the design table.


Hutchison specializes in



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