If you’re a fishermen, and you’ve been to Rodanthe, then you probably already know Ryan White.
of Hatteras Jack -- a store that was started by his dad and grandfather
in the 1980s -- Ryan has been a fixture on the local fishing scene for
more than 20 years and has helped scores of tourists and locals buy,
maintain, or customize their reels and rods since 1997.
recently, Ryan’s ability to alter a fishing rod or reel to work best in
local surf-casting conditions has developed into a major operation, and
the reels and rods that Ryan once only created for his friends and
frequent customers are now propelling him to national attention -- in
fishing circles, anyways.
story begins in the late 1980s, when Ryan’s family, who were renting
boats and running fishing charters, decided to take advantage of the
resurgence in the local striped bass population by transforming their
small tackle business into a brick-and-mortar shop.
between restaurant gigs, Ryan started building his own reels and then
selling them in the store, to feed a demand for gear that would work on
the tricky Hatteras Island surf fishing landscape.
was something people requested, and I knew enough about it to do it, so
I started selling them a couple at a time,” says Ryan.
customizations clearly worked, and Ryan used his own modifications to
his advantage. In the early 2000s, he had set the state record for
4-ounce casting and was the state distance champion.
making a long-distance fishing reel, friction is the enemy and weight
is the enemy,” he explains. “Friction is the enemy because if you want
the best distance, you have to have the fastest bearings and least
amount of wind drag on the spool that you can get.”
is enemy because when you have more weight, it takes more to start the
spool spinning and takes more breaking to keep it under control once
you get it spinning.”
on in his customization venture, Ryan was buying kits from the United
Kingdom and modifying the existing reels with the specialized
equipment. The U.K. is a good resource, because the beaches in the area
are massively wide, so achieving distance is essential – much like
his work progressed, he started developing his own kits -- and his own
style of magnetic braking -- and then installing the magnetic braking
systems in-house, using factory side plates.
I developed my own system of putting magnetic brakes in fishing reels,
I figured out how to adapt that system for almost any conventional
fishing reel,” he says. “I was building the mag kits from scratch, and
was retro-fitting spool bearings and also drag washers for fishing
drags, gear systems, and removing level lines.”
he latched onto this process, his work remained steady, and for a
decade or so he created roughly 100 custom reels per year for eager
business came from word of mouth -- I never put a ton of work into
advertising,” he says. “Most of my business still comes from social
media and word of mouth.”
After a 10-year period or so of building custom reels for islanders, two things happened to launch Ryan into a global operation.
first was a partnership with Release Reels out of Burgess, Va. Word of
mouth about Ryan’s talents had clearly spread, and the company
contacted him to do some consulting on their star-mag reel, or SM reel,
which was their first jump into star drag conventional reels for
Seigler, the founder and CEO of Release Reels, stopped into the tackle
shop and told me he was interested in building a star-drag casting
reel, and he wanted to know if I was interested too,” says Ryan.
After chatting for a while, Ryan jumped on the opportunity.
and I have a very similar idea of how things should be done. And that
is the ‘right way,’” says Ryan. “It’s just being the best that you can
possibly be, bar none.”
Of course, doing things the “right way” can take some time.
Ryan and the Release Reels team spent four years working on the SM,
trying to find the best quality raw materials, best components, and
using a 3-D printer to see how everything fit together, before finally
releasing the reel in the spring of 2015.
been a hit in local circles, but has also been sold all along the
coast, in fishing shops in New Jersey, Long Island, Florida, and
“Overall the response has been good, and it’s been a huge success,” says Ryan.
partnering on a custom reel hasn’t been Ryan’s only ambitious venture,
and the second thing that got anglers talking was his design,
development, and distribution of a custom rod – which, true to his
previous experience with surf fishing, began with a company in Great
Britain, called Century.
was a relationship that had started in the early 2000s, when Ryan
started importing Century brand rods to modify for tournament casters
in the U.S.
have held the world distance casting record for close to 20 years,” he
says. “They hold all the world surf casting records – 100, 125, 150,
175, 200, and 225 gram casting records – and many with casts over 900
purchasing plenty of rods, and then adding his own customizations for
state-side fishing, Ryan approached Century about developing fishing
rods for the U.S. market.
agreed, and today Ryan White is the U.S. designer, product developer,
and distributor for his own line of “Century” rods.
these rods, the blanks are manufactured in the U.K. and then shipped to
custom builders in the United States. “I was building many of the rods
in-house in the early days, but was unable to keep up with demand, so
had to subcontract the rods out to someone who had a larger capacity,”
distance that the U.K. rods provided was an excellent start, but
modifications had to be made to make them conducive to American fishing.
is a barren wasteland of a fishing area,” says Ryan. “Long flat beaches
with drastic tidal changes, and waters that have been overfished. So
you need very long casting there, and this also works well on the U.S. side, but you don’t always need the 200-plus yard casts.”
U.K. rods are 14 feet long with very soft tips,” he adds. “And as an
example, the Northeast market requires 9-11 feet for the majority of
fishing, throwing a maximum of a 2- to 3-ounce lure, versus 14 feet and
throwing 10-12 ounces.”
of these discrepancies, changes are made on a grand scale to adapt the
nice long-casting rods to work best with regional markets on the East
Coast and beyond.
And the reception has been huge.
Century rods have been garnering a following all across the coast,
especially in the Northeast and New England states where Ryan attends a
number of national fishing shows to show off the goods.
two thirds of the rods are factory made, and a third are custom,
and Ryan is still adapting the Century rods to appeal and cater to
next thing I’m working on is the West Coast market,” says Ryan. “I’m
planning on staying based in N.C., but getting to spend a good bit of
time on the West Coast. I’m also looking at Central and South American
markets on the international side, which are both emerging markets.”
while folks who are used to seeing Ryan at Hatteras Jack in Rodanthe
might not run into him as much – he travels roughly 90 percent of the
time now, from Florida to Texas to New York – dedicated anglers will be
pleased to know that even though Ryan effectively has two national
operations in place, his days of customizing and creating new rods and
reels are far from over.
I’m going to keep customizing and honing the design,” says the
long-distance champ. “And while you don’t always need distance, it’s
just the human need to go longer, further, and conquer more.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Hatteras Jack's website is http://www.hatterasjack.com/index.htm.