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Bamboo Bonzai


Our thanks to Cententenial Publications for use permission.

June 29th, 1998

Lew Stoner is seldom recognized by name as one of the great bamboo rodmakers even though his rods are considered among the very elite of the rodmakers craft. The problem that plagued Stoner was that he never built rods under his own name; instead he was one of the original founders of the R. L. Winston Rod Company, along with Robert Winther, and devoted his lifetime to making outstanding rods for that San Francisco company, first at the original shop on Harrison Street and later at the new facility on Howard Street. The company was originally called the Winther-Stoner Manufacturing Co. but that name was soon shortened to R. L. Winston by taking the "R' from Robert, the "L' from Lew and forming a contraction of their last names. The rest is history.

As tournament casting grew into a major sport across the country, and especially at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club in San Francisco, competition among rod companies increased. In 1938 Stoner developed the first hollow-fluted bamboo fly rods which cut down on the actual weight of the rod without decreasing the power or dimensions of the rod. This development, which removes the inside tip from each of the six triangular strips that make up a rod section resulting in a hollow core inside the rod, allowed Winston to produce rods with outstanding power in relation to their weight.

For tournament casting, Winston developed a ten-foot rod that stayed under the 5-3/4 ounce weight limitation, and in thecapable hands of Marvin Hedge, managed to shatter the previous distance casting record by 36 feet. The hollow-fluted process was later patented as #2,537.488 which appears on the shaft of every hollow-fluted Winston rod. Gradually Stoner incorporated the newly proven development into Winston's entire range of fishing rods to provide trout and steelhead anglers with the lightest rods available.

Stoner was an exceptional machinist and innovator who designed much of the company's rod making equipment and developed many of the improvements introduced on Winston rods, such as the use of duronz metal for ferrules and bakelite for reel seat spacers. Stoner was also one of the early pioneers in the development of fiberglass rods during the early 1950's. Lew Stoner died suddenly in 1957, leaving the R. L. Winston Rod Co. in the hands of his protege and partner, Doug Merrick.

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