Made in the South Awards

2010 Sporting Category

From modern rocking chairs to strawberry jam, the winners of our first contest for craftsmen exemplify the South’s entrepreneurial spirit and a tradition of goods made right

Photo: Brian Woodcock

Sporting Winner

Oyster Fly Rods
Product bamboo fly rods
Made in  blue ridge, GA

A Bill Oyster fly rod is not only American-made: Every one of the forty custom rods he makes each year, Oyster makes by hand from imported bamboo at his shop in Blue Ridge, Georgia. “I split each twelve-foot length of cane into six strips,” Oyster says. “Then, depending on the length, number of pieces, and action wanted, I plane each strip of  cane to thousandths of an inch. I also engrave all the nickel and silver hardware, which takes as long as the actual creation of the rod.”

What emerges is a form of functional American art. With their distinctive engravings and elegant rattan grips, plus an action faster than a typical cane rod’s, every Oyster fly rod is both elegant and remarkably fishable. “We’re making a faster rod,” Oyster says, “with action more like a graphite rod.”

While Oyster says that he builds at least 90 percent of his rods for custom orders, he also makes a few standardized models. “Problem is, when I put rods out for sale in the shop, they sell pretty fast. But I guess that’s a good problem to have.”

$1,840 – $10,000

Sporting Runners-Up

Fisk Knives
Product hand-forged Knives
Made in Nashville, AR

How’s this for dedication to your art? At his wedding in October, master bladesmith Jerry Fisk walked under a procession of crossed bowie knives held by friends and former apprentices in his shop. That level of dedication spans a thirty-year career and numerous titles, accolades, and high-profile clients. And Fisk is still hammering metal most days of the week, finishing hunting knives with mammoth-bone handles, dirks with intricate gold wire inlay, and even heritage sets of knives decorated with Damascus steel custom-engraved for three generations of one family. “My guess is that I’ll fall dead in my shop of old age trying to get out my last order,” he says. “This is what I do because it’s what I love.”

$1,100 – $36,000.

Caribiana Sea Skiffs
Product Fiberglass and teak boats
Made in Pensacola, FL

Classic teak detailing and a graceful hull may disguise the versatile, hardworking machine beneath, but a Caribiana Sea Skiff is just as equipped for hard-core fishing in the shallows as it is for taking in a sunset with the grandkids. “I grew up in the Delta riding around in a duck boat,” says company owner Curt Morse. “That’s what this boat is. It is a boat that doesn’t require a huge skill set, that anyone can get on and go anywhere.” The small-batch company has made it through Hurricane Katrina, relocation to Florida, and the more recent disaster in the Gulf without compromising quality, and there’s little doubt that its boats will go the distance, too.  

$23,900 – $70,000

Fritz Orr Canoe
Product Wooden canoe Paddles
Made in Cedar Mountain, NC

Fritz Orr III grew up surrounded by one of the best paddling cultures in the South, on the grounds of western North Carolina’s Camp Merrie-Woode, so it’s little surprise that he went on to earn four national whitewater canoe championship titles. Along the way, Orr occasionally built boats and paddles to finance his career, but three years ago he returned to the boat shop near his childhood home to build gorgeous, vintage-style paddles from all manner of hard- and softwoods. He makes heirloom-quality designs for slow water and mounting over the mantel, too.

$280 – $480 864-230-4921