Graphite Ice Rods - A Tale of Two Brothers
"Graphite Ice Rods - A Tale of Two Brothers." In Fisherman, Nov. 2019, pp. 32-33.
In 1978, Paul & Gregg Thorne began building fishing rods in Paul's basement. The rods were successful, prompting them to rent space from Ted Capra for their first Thorne Brothers store above the Trail's End tackle shop in the Twin Cities.
Somewhere around 1982, a music conductor walked in with a solid-graphite baton. "He wanted a better grip," Gregg said. "He asked for a cork handle. So I started working on it and a light-bulb blinked on."
Presto. With the wave of a wand, graphite ice rods were born. "When you think back, there were no quality ice rods available then," Gregg said. "People were wrapping line on wooden pegs attached to plastic sticks. Anglers were handling fish up to the hole and not using reels. So we found out who made those solid graphite batons - a company in California - reached them by phone an got them to grind blanks to specific actions. It was trial-and-error. Then we found out St. Croix made solid glass blanks, which was even more durable. When we came out with those first modern ice rods with reels, sales went through the roof."
"Gregg was always a visionary," Paul says. "He can take an idea from nothing to something. We borrowed $1,500 from a whole-life policy our parents took out on me and started buying Sage flyrod seconds. We bought all they had. We got people like Al Linder to try some of our stuff. Suddenly we were building so many I felt sorry for Gregg; he handled the hands-on part. We had people wrapping rods at home, but Gregg was still there in the middle of the night and couldn't build them fast enough. Jig-Whopper and others wanted us to design lines or rods for them."
But it took time for anglers to get used to reeling fish in on ice. "it's funny," Gregg says. "We were fishing one day and a snowmobile came up. The guy had a rod with a reel on it. I thought it looked like a Thorne Brothers rod. But he dropped it and handlined his first fish in. I went over there, and it was one of our rods. He said he got it for Christmas. I told him, you can reel fish in, you know. He said, " I know. I just can't get used to it."
After years of building high-quality rods, they sold Thorne Brothers. "Our new company is called Two Brothers Innovations," Paul says. But why jump back into the high-end ice gear with Elliott Rods and 2B Fishing in a much more competitive world? "Gregg is a a maestro. He builds rods as if building musical instruments. We saw something was missing out there. Some of these high-end rods are really fast and tippy - not all that functional for fighting fish. The best thing to fight fish is with a flyrod action. So we wanted to incorporate Syncork handles on ice rods that handle fish better. And we wanted to end our career the way we started it."