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Recreation Outdoors Entrepreneurship

Gold Standard: UWEC Student Starts Custom Fishing Rod Biz

Many people found new ways to pass pandemic time, but one student’s pandemic pastime turned into a successful business venture.

Hannah Bryson |

UWEC student Joe Swanson customizes all aspects of his fishing rods: length, power, action, decals, and color – you name it, you got it.
UWEC student Joe Swanson customizes all aspects of his fishing rods: length, power, action, decals, and color – you name it, you got it. (Submitted photo.) 

At the start of the pandemic, UW-Eau Claire student Joe Swanson was fishing for ways to fill his free time. A little more than a year, Swanson has sold hundreds of custom rods through his new business, Gold Standard Outdoors.

Though the business launched last year, the idea for it started nearly a decade ago when Swanson was 11 years old, and he and his brother, Ben, learned how to build custom fishing rods from a neighbor. Swanson recalled not being terribly good at the craft – and not enjoying it at all – but, as time went on, the idea latched, and he started creating more custom rods for friends and family, eventually catching onto the trade.

People just don't understand how much goes into building a fishing rod.

If I didn't build 'em myself, I wouldn't really truly understand what goes into it. 

Joe swanson

founder of Gold Standard Outdoors

“People just don’t understand how much goes into building a fishing rod,” he said. “If I didn’t build ’em myself, I wouldn’t really truly understand what goes into it.”

In the past year, Swanson has tapped into the huge market for custom rods in Eau Claire – as no one else offers the same product locally. This niche market has given him the opportunity to try his hand at crafting rods for all kinds of fishing. And, through the use of social media, the business has snowballed.

“I mainly do spinning and casting but I also built a dozen fly rods,” Swanson said. “I am building my first three musky rods right now, so I’ve done pretty much everything for freshwater so far.”

Gold Standard Outdoors can customize all aspects of your fishing rod: length, power, action, decals, and color – you name it.

This winter, his goal is to focus on producing ice-fishing rods, and has had numerous independent bait shops across the state reaching out to get his product in their stores – even one back in his hometown of Osceola, Wisconsin.

“A year and a half ago, I did not want to do this for the rest of my life,” said Swanson, who will graduate in December. “and now it’s like I can see myself making good money off of this and going somewhere with it.”


Gold Standard Outdoors’ products can be found on Instagram and Facebook.