Port O'Connor Rods equips fishermen in the Golden Crescent

Donnie Klesel, 50, works on repairing a fishing rods at his shop, Port O'Connor Rods, in Port O'Connor. He said building rods used to take him six hours, but now he can do about four rods a day.
  • Port O'Connor Rods

  • •  Address: 82 N. Byers Drive, Port O'Connor

    •  Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily

    •  Phone: 361-746-8049

    •  Website: pocrods.com

With a wide range of rivers, lakes, creeks and the coast just a short drive away, it's no wonder fishing is a popular sport in the Golden Crescent.

Whether it's fishing in the Guadalupe River or in the bays of the Gulf, there are plenty of fish to be caught. It's best to be prepared.

Donnie Klesel set up Port O'Connor Rods in 2010 after retiring from the inspection field in Austin. During the mid 1980s to the early 1990s, he was a professional bass fisherman and eventually settled in Port O'Connor and built a business that catered to fishermen on the coast.

"I told myself this is what I want to do - building inspections and build rods," the 50-year-old said.

Klesel has been building rods for more than 20 years and has been in the retail business of providing knowledge and quality fishing equipment for more than five years.

"I have a nice little retail shop with the wade fishermen in mind," he said.

Klesel's shop, which started out as a single room where he built rods and reels by hand, has evolved into a full-spectrum shop with everything from tackle for the weekend to rods for the beginner. Also, he and his team of employees are trained to build and clean reels and rods to get the fishermen back out on the water.

"I've got two employees in the back building reels and one up front running the shop with me," he said. "It's been a really great business so far."

Styles of fishing

Port O'Connor, as Klesel describes it, is a fishing paradise. There are different kinds of fishing to be had in the coastal area, including inshore or wade fishing, offshore fishing and bottom-line fishing. During the summer months, he sees a lot of fishermen use croaker and shrimp for bait, while the rest of the year, they will use hard or soft plastic man-made lures. Whichever the fishermen choose to use will determine what he or she will catch.

"Most fishermen are wade fishers, they like to walk out and fish," he said. "I like to wade fish because I target speckled trout."

Each style of fishing will also catch different kinds of fish. For example, Klesel said inshore fishing will consist of trout, reds and flounder, while freshwater fishing in Coleto Creek will include largemouth bass and catfish. No matter which body of water the fish are being caught in, the rods and reels will usually remain the same.

Top-notch gear

"Technology is getting better and better every year," he said. "The trend has been to get lighter, stronger and more sensitive."

The lighter the gear, the less fatigue fishermen experience, which equates to more time in the water. Lately, he said, a lot of fishermen are looking for a micro-guide spiral wrap rod, which is a feature that aids in getting more distance on each cast.

He also mentioned that the type of line on a reel can make or break a big catch. With the advancing technologies available, there are lines that range from neon green, pink, yellow to blues and purples. The different colors determine whether or not the lines are visible to the fishermen above water and the fish below the water.



"Braided line is very popular right now," Klesel said. "It's very sensitive, so if you have a live shrimp on that line and pop it into the water, you can feel it on your line."

Monofilament line, commonly used on beginner reels, is a single line of string made of plastic. Braided lines are made from multiple strands that make up one line. An advantage of the braided line is its strength and resistance to stretching. Klesel said the braided line will usually stay intact when reeling in heavier fish.

No matter the level of skill, he and his team can help direct anyone from the amateur to professional on the best gear to buy for the trip, right down to the fishing license.

Custom rods

When he's not in the shop, chances are Klesel is out in the water doing some fishing of his own. But seven days a week, Port O'Connor Rods is open to customers.

He builds his own line of rods he calls the Inspektor, a clever name because he continues to do building inspections. His business, My Inspection Company, inspects business and residential plumbing, real estate and windstorm protection.

"I can make what you want, to fit exactly how you fish," Klesel said.

He starts with the blanks, which are the rods without anything else attached, then makes sure the grips fit perfectly. The guides will be put on and custom work added, including names, specific color patterns or paints.

"It used to take me about six hours to do one rod, and now I can do about four in one day," he said.

With all the custom orders Port O'Connor Rods receives, Klesel refers to his business as a specialty shop.

"I love everything about it," he said. "People come in here and show me pictures of their fish and share stories of fishing. How could I ever get tired of it?"