Expert views 4 min

Banana Rods: an effective launch and an elegant cast!

An interview with Valentin de Ruffray, founding director of Banana Rods, a company that designs and manufactures high-end fishing rods.
Banana Rods: an effective launch and an elegant cast!
Banana Rods: an effective launch and an elegant cast!

What led to the creation of this new brand in an industry with an already abundant and diverse offer?

It certainly is abundant, but I'm not so sure about "diverse"! Before starting on this adventure, I believed that all brands were marketing the same products, more or less, whose performance did not meet the design and technological innovations that they claimed.  
At any rate, that is what, I, as a fishing enthusiast, observed when purchasing equipment.  Even when purchasing fishing rods that were reputed to be top-of-the-range, I found the quality to be lacking.

And you set out to create the ideal fishing rods?

That's not a claim that I can make, given that like any demanding fisherman, I believe that there is no such thing as the ideal fishing rod. Nor is there any such thing as a universal fishing rod. In addition, I followed my impressions as an enthusiast, and I also conducted market studies with users which revealed that there was room for an offer based on customised equipment manufactured in a quasi-artisanal manner albeit using industrial methods and processes. This is what led my engineer brother and I, as well as a handful of employees, to take the leap in 2010.



Did your initial idea pay off?

Although it was not an outrageous success, it soon became apparent that our approach was viable. It was all the more promising in that it arrived at a time when 90% of the offer was manufactured in Asia, and the most prominent brands were beginning to consider the ebb of outsourcing. Seven years later, this ambition proved to be a pious wish as there are no more than four or five true manufacturers in Europe.



But is it really possible if you want to meet the requirements of various practices?

It is certainly not possible to meet all of them. However, it is perfectly reasonable to offer serious coverage for "classic" specialties. The extremely elitist world of fly fishing is obviously a prime area of focus when considering high-end production. If we can also meet fishermen's expectations as regards more aggressive lures and carp, that covers most of the demand from experienced fishermen.

What do these specialties have in common?

Regardless of the type of fishing, the basic equation remains more or less the same: cast a lure the size of a predator's prey, i.e. between five and a dozen grams, into the water as precisely as possible, and being able to reel in a fish one thousand times its weight.  
The rest is a matter of expertise in developing more or less flexible rods adapted to the technique and the physical constraints of each species. Always with the same goal: creating a high-precision tool able to quickly and precisely relay all interactions between the fisherman and his prey.


On the latter point, what sets you apart from your competition?

Niche markets such as sports equipment market are rarely dominated by large industrial groups, but rather by SMEs whose theoretical capacity to invest in R&D is equivalent. 
As a result, the technologies required to design and produce equipment remain accessible to new industrial stakeholders of our size. However, an "artisan", as experienced as he may be, will not have access to such a market. They must often content themselves with assembling high-end components that we sometimes provide.

How much latitude do you have as regards selecting composite materials?

It may surprise you to learn that the composites ecosystem is such that we are able to use the same quality of polymer wefts and formulations as automotive and aerospace industry manufacturers. 
If your engineering firm has engineers with qualifications in the field of composites, and our employees are qualified, suppliers make it a point of honour to offer us pre-impregnated weaves with the most elaborate resins.

What do you think attracts people to your approach?

Not just our range of products, which is not huge, but our responsiveness, I think. Banana Rods gives them the possibility, if they so desire, to customise a little less than twenty different basic models, including luxury products. However, it is best to properly understand the term "high-end". Although some customised products can go into thousands of Euros, most orders are for fishing rods priced between € 500 and € 750, depending on the type of fishing activity.



Who are your customers?

Not novice fishermen, of course. Not capricious billionaires either. They are simply fairly experienced fishermen who want a set of high-performance rods available at all times, which they have created on the basis of our advice. And especially that are under warranty for 10 years, and which we can repair most of the time. 
For this type of fishing enthusiast, who often has a very personal, almost fetishistic, relationship with their equipment, the technical support that we can provide is very reassuring. They know that any problems they may experience will not leave them without the equipment they use, to make their best catches, for very long.

Where are your fishing rods sold in Europe?

Our main market is France. Not only because that is where we are based, but also because France has over three million practitioners, making it Europe's largest market for recreational fishing. 
The other advantage of this activity's popularity is the good reputation enjoyed abroad by French fishing equipment manufacturers. 
We were able to emphasise our very demanding approach with British fly fishers, who are more elitist than in the rest of the continent. Germany and Italy are also very receptive markets. However, the flourishing American fishing equipment market is strictly off-limits to foreign manufacturers.


Crédits photos : Banana Rods

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