Chief Rod Designer/Production Manager
When you mention the name Randy Penny to most people who are in the Southern California fishing industry, they immediately think Seeker Fishing Rods. He’s “The Man” when it comes to the contemporary designs of saltwater fishing rods. He is the brains behind the development of the Super Seeker series, the Hercules, and nearly everything that Seeker has introduced for the past 10 years. He is a very low key, unassuming gentleman who takes his fishing and his fishing rod design very seriously and handles most situations with patience and compassion. Those are the traits that have helped him establish himself as the key to Seeker’s success.
Randy was just 11 years old when he began fishing the local piers, jetties, and breakwaters of the South Bay. Most of his time was spent in those early days at the end of the Redondo Beach Pier fishing for legal sized halibut. Whatever time was left, he was visiting local tackle shops like Hermosa Tackle Box, Red’s Bait & Tackle, and TC’s Bait & Tackle. It was during those visits that he developed an interest in wrapping fishing rods. Like so many of those days he started with a blank, a few guides, and Gudebrod Rod Varnish in the glass bottle for finish. Of course, as he began to cut his teeth on rod building technique, he tried many different things. At 12, he wrapped his first diamond wrap. At the age of 13, his sister was working on a project that required the use of a two-part epoxy. He liked the way her project turned out; he coated one of his rods with it. Without making any factual claims, he may have been the first to use a high build high gloss epoxy resin to finish a rod. This was back in the late 60’s or early 70’s.
Around that same time, he was starting to make trips down to the Redondo Beach Harbor to fish and to get to know the guys working out of the marina. He remembers distinctly the trips that he took aboard the ¾ day boat the Dinah Lee. It was men like Rick Effinger, who now owns and operates Marina del Rey Sportfishing, the late, great John Dipley, Craig Marino, and Pat Conklin who mentored young Mr. Penny into the right ways to fish and to live. He was a fixture on the ½ and ¾ day trips departing from Redondo Sportfishing. His passion or maybe obsession for fishing was so deeply rooted and profound, that he could be found on the boats during the school week! It created such a problem with the school and impacting his education to such a degree that the principal of his high school made a special trip out to the boat where Randy was working. He was greeted there by Captain John Dipley and proceeded to give the captain a verbal warning that if he allowed Randy aboard the boat during school hours once more, he personally would bring charges against him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor! Randy’s weekday fishing jaunts were over…so to speak. It was his quick thinking that made it possible for him to continue his weekday excursions by taking the night shift on the boat when they would leave the dock to catch bait for the morning trip. Randy would be up all night, making bait with the crew, sleep on the way back in, and head directly off to school once the boat hit the dock. Nothing got in the way of his fishing!
To say that Randy is a custom rod builder is a bit of an understatement. He was taught by some of the most respected rod builders ever. He wrapped custom rods or repaired rods for stores like Red’s, Jerry’s, and TC’s. One day he was working and saw that Mike Stocker, custom rod builder for TC’s had brought in a load of rods and was setting them up in a rack. Randy said this was a pivotal moment for him as he confronted Mr. Stocker with a rather profound question. He said, “OK…so what exactly makes your rods “Custom”? Why do your rods get to be called custom when you use the same guides as we do, the same thread we do, and same blanks as we do? How do you know if your rod is a custom rod or not?” That is when he knew that he wanted to continue building custom rods for people just as they wanted them…to their specifications.
At 18, he took a leap of faith and moved to San Diego to begin working with the overnight fleet down there. He worked on the sportboat “Avanti,” the “Vagabond,” the “Coral Sea,” the “Tradition,” and the “New Lo-An.” Even with the amount of time he had on the water, he didn’t pursue his captain’s license. Instead, he worked the deck and galleys of these boats, working with the passengers, and helping people have a great time on their trip. He worked the fleet from the age of 18 until he was almost 24 years old. At that time in his life, he had just about filled his quota of being on the boat and working so he ventured off into different areas like auto repair, auto parts clerk, Hot Wheels collector/dealer, and entrepreneur.
At the age of 30, he chose to go north and try his hand at commercial fishing for Albacore. The boat that he worked on was based out of Westport, WA. It was a commercial jig fishing boat and travelled thousands of miles to search down and catch as many Albacore as possible. The boat went as far north as Canada, as far west as 1000 miles, and as far south as San Pedro to drop the catch for processing. This affair lasted two seasons and he was done. After seeing water that he never cares to ever see again, he chose to return to his roots in Southern California. There he continued his commercial fishing career and stepped aboard the New Sunbeam to work as part of their bait operation for Redondo Beach Sportfishing. He would also take stand-in shifts aboard the Scotia and Carnage when their market squid seasons went into full gear.
In 1996, Randy was contacted by a good friend of his, Paul Panzer. He was told that the Perfection Tip Company was looking to hire an operations manager. They were looking for someone who knew rod building, the product line, and how they were used. Of course, Randy being nearly a lifelong rod builder knew everything there was to know about the Perfection Tip product. He had been using them for years. He took the job and was doing well in that capacity when he got the itch to take his rod building to an even higher level. Since Perfection Tip was also owned by the manufacturing group from Parrish Enterprises, and located directly across the street from his office, he started spending his lunch hours and his spare time chatting with Phalla Thach who was the Blank Department Supervisor. Both Randy and Phalla collaborated in their time off on special projects that eventually would become the bread and butter of the company. Before Randy was even employed by Seeker, he developed one of the most popular long range rods in history. He designed the iconically popular 7’, 40lb test, 6470. The original rod was build out of heavy wall E-Glass, where later versions of the Black Steel and the Super Seeker became composite configurations. Although John Grabowski’s name has appeared on that application for years now, it was Randy Penny’s innovative spirit that gave us this fantastic rod. In late 1999, Randy was made the Production and Plant Manager for Seeker Fishing Rods. At that time he was still working weekends on the ½ day boat out of Redondo Sportfishing. He was literally working 7 days a week and all at a level of responsibility he had never had.
In 2000, the already popular Black Steel line of composite rods, originally designed to compete with other composite rod lines of the era, were being reconfigured with different guides and different wraps. The Southern California traditional style was to build a high strength heavy walled parabolic bending rods. With the addition of Graphite fiber in the mix, Randy was able to create a rod blank that was lighter, with faster action tips all the while being incredibly durable. The process of rebuilding the Black Steel line was a two year adventure. The work was exhausting and the number of prototypes was significant, but now represents different actions that make up other products in the extensive Seeker lineup. By the end of the rebuild of the Black Steel line, Randy then dove into the East Coast product as well as the value line the American Series. From 2003 to 2005 represented the rebirth of the Seeker product. To date, that was the biggest product revision process in company history but the story isn’t over yet.
In 2006 the Super Seeker was developed as a brand new high tech product line utilizing the highest quality materials in the entire fishing industry. Randy’s vision was to once and for all remove all doubt that Seeker had the finest fishing rod available. He took two unrelated materials and combined them in a fishing rod blank for incredible power, strength and action. Unlike all of the products that Seeker had produced to that point, the Super Seeker was literally one notch above everything else available.
In 2008, Randy began working on a new project. This would be a collaboration between the East Coast and West Coast. Randy would be working with Mr. Billy Vivona of Staten Island, NY, to develop a Seeker line of Deep Drop Jig blanks. The very first prototype of the Hercules 60H blank was based on a rod that was once available from a now defunct American rod manufacturer. This fact has sparked rumors that the entire line was copied but in fact, materials, diameters, actions, and finishes are all significantly different. After this initial research and a fundamental direction for the prototyping of the Hercules line, and of course with the input from Mr. Vivona, the Hercules line of rods was developed. Mr. Penny has been at the forefront of the development of every rod and blank that Seeker has offered for the last 10 years!
Today, Randy is no longer a fixture on the local fishing boats. Instead, he is a fixture at Seeker spending countless hours working with his design engineer to produce yet more cutting edge products to grow the company.
As you can imagine, he has tallied some impressive catches over the course of his 40 or so years of fishing. He’s bagged a 62lb White Sea Bass while fishing out of Redondo Sportfishing aboard the ¾ day trip. He has consistently been the jackpot winner or has had a true contender for the pot. In fact on one trip to Guadalupe Island in September 2002 aboard the Spirit of Adventure with Captain Mike Keating, he took 1st place, 2nd place, and also 3rd place jackpots. He has been awarded the “Expert Angler” award on 5 different long range trips sponsored by Seeker. He is looking forward to adding to that total in 2012. You might think with all of that background and experience catching trophy tuna that they would be his favorite fish where in fact, his affinity for Albacore and White Sea Bass certainly take top honors.
When asked about his favorite product that he has ever developed, there are many that come to mind for him. However, he definitively says that the Super Seeker 670 is his favorite to fish with. “It’s the versatility of that model that makes it a fantastic addition to anyone’s arsenal. You can easily fish 25lb test up to as much as 40 or 50 depending on the situation and conditions. Even more, the model in the Super Seeker line is so incredibly strong and has so much recoil that it truly helps the angler raise the fish to within the reach of the gaff” is what he says about his choice. With as many successful developments in rods, it must be difficult to come to one choice. Other favorites for him also include the Super Seeker Ulua, the Super Seeker 6465XH, and one his latest innovations the Super Seeker 2×4.
When asked why he has spent so many years with the company his answer is simple, “I love designing and building rods that work! I plan to complete my career with Seeker Fishing Rods. There is a very positive direction that the company has taken in recent months and the team and I are all looking forward to great things in the coming years. Although we’ve developed some of the most innovative products in my 15 years here, we are bursting at the seams with a very creative atmosphere in our shop and offices. The company focus is not only on high quality but also high value. We are meeting our fishermen and women right where they are today. We want them to all know we understand their love for fishing and need for the right tackle and we want to make it possible for them to remain loyal to Seeker even in these tough times.”
Randy Penny has been and will remain a key component to the growth and vitality of Seeker Fishing Rods. His efforts are not only appreciated by the fishermen and women that use the rods he has designed, but by the company. Seeker is looking forward to a bright future with Randy Penny developing rods, fishing them, and innovating.