Challenge Names 2021’s Top Custom Rod


The International Rod Building Challenge pits some of the world’s very best custom rod builders and designers against each other in a competition that considers creativity, craftsmanship and functionality. The 2021 Challenge, hosted by American Tackle Company, featured many entries from throughout the United States, Germany, Indonesia, Canada and Portugal.

For the competition, rod builders were presented a mystery American Tackle Bushido blank to build their creation; everything else was left up to the builder for creativity, design and craftsmanship. Each builder showcased their version of a highly ornate yet functional fishing rod in hopes of capturing the coveted 2021 title. The entries submitted featured both spinning and casting rod configurations including one spinning/fly convertable design.

The judging panel was comprised of 10 noted fishing and rod-building professionals with extensive diversity of experience in rod manufacturing and custom rod building, as well as noted anglers and editors of well-circulated fishing media. Each judge scored to a list of criteria ranging from design, theme, functionality and craftsmanship in 11 categories. Judges spent hours carefully grading the top-10 rods for the final results.
In the end, Mark Crouse was declared the winner, taking first place in one of the tightest races this competition has ever seen.

Mark’s entry in the 2021 challenge featured custom-created acrylic grips, a custom fabricated/machined highly polished aluminum reel seat/handle trim, custom-fabricated extendable rear handle grip and impressive ultra-smooth epoxy finish over finely detailed thread work. His entry was designed into a spinning rod configuration utilizing the titanium version MicroWave Guide Line Control System for better balancing and enhanced performance.

Mark is no stranger to winning rod-building competitions. He has been a true craftsman in rod building for many decades. His rod beat out Wade Christensen and Mark Blabaum, who earned second and third in the competition respectively.

To view more of the entries visit



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