For 11 years, Stephen Pratt has cast Composite Tube Systems Ltd (CTS) – described on the company’s website as New Zealand’s world-leading rod company – onwards and upwards. Pioneering new technologies and evolving to cater to a discerning, largely international niche market has meant his business has continued to expand despite straitened times globally. CTS crafts lightweight, high-strength carbon fibre fishing rod shafts and other carbon fibre products sold all around the world to the marine and aerospace industries. Pratt has a technology degree from Massey University and whilst working for an established fishing rod company, spotted a gap in the market for a maker of quality rod shafts (known as blanks) to supply rod builders – mostly mad keen fishermen who make a hobby out of building rods. He imported machinery from the US, leased premises in Glenfield on Auckland’s North Shore and got to work.
“We provide the shaft or the framework for rod builders to embellish and customise,” says Pratt. “Clients can range from a Taupo-based fishing guide looking for a rod specific to targeting trout at Kinloch, to guys in the US heading to Madagascar to fish, or an Aussie planning a marlin adventure in the islands; there’s a certain romance around custom making a rod for a very niche purpose.
“The fishing industry is massive; in the US alone, there are thought to be more than 20,000 custom rod builders creating anywhere from two to 150 rods each year. And in Europe, a lot of hobby rod builders use their winter downtime doing just that. You simply don’t get that kind of niche cottage industry within an industry when looking at other sports, except perhaps in motor racing. You don’t see people making their own golf clubs or tennis racquets.”
CTS is currently producing around 10,000 blanks a year and runs can be as small as one. The CTS team can also custom paint to satisfy a discerning client’s need for a signature look. They’ve built their processes around efficiency, and delivering top-class customer service whilst leveraging off New Zealand’s coveted clean, green eco-image which fits well with their client demographic.
“Ours is a small, well-defined market which demands high-end, specific products. We can compete globally by offering small volume, high quality and very particular kinds of blanks which can then be customised for individual fishing requirements,” Pratt says.