Growing up in Royal Center, Indiana, Walton Rod’s co-founders Brad Smith and Mike Malchow, have fished together their entire lives. As a matter of fact, they were college roommates. However, that’s when their paths separated. Brad stayed in college and eventually went into law enforcement but Mike enlisted in the Army and joined the 75th Ranger Regiment. From there, he served over a decade with the Rangers while completing multiple tours of duty all over the Middle East. It wan’t until an injury eventually forced him out that he found his way to Colorado.
Through all this, Brad and Mike stayed close. A few years later, they were fly fishing together complaining about the high prices in the fly fishing industry and how it’s a shame most everything is made overseas. It’s because of this they decided to do it their own way and start a fly rod business.
Prototype rods were created and developed through manufactures right here in the USA. Mike, now being a full time trout guide in Colorado, put every one of them through a battery of tests. Eventually, one design stood out and it was decided upon to bring that rod to market. However, they still didn’t have a name for the company.
Brad and his wife Lindi were expecting their first child. He decided to be born a little early though and was delivered at 30 weeks and just over two pounds. During this process, Brad and Mike’s rod company was nearing their launch and the name was still missing. Brad and Lindi named their son Walton. Throughout the 41 days Walton spent in the NICU, Brad and Mike kept brainstorming names to help Brad take his mind off everything. However, it was Lindi who actually suggested naming the rod company after their son. Brad pitched the idea to Mike and a few others, and Walton Rods was born. It just fit. Walt battled through the NICU like a rockstar and is now a toddler just living life and growing every day.
Since that time, Walton Rods has also grown in a big way. After launching the C9 and N7, Mike went back to work on a new rod. He wanted a rod that was fast action, but not too fast like a lot of today’s foreign-made rods. He also wanted it light but still have the ability to stand up to abuse and many years of catching fish. After completing this task, Mike named the rod after his dog and best fly fishing friend, Sully. The Sully fly rod has now become our best selling rod to date. We also have an updated design to this series in the works, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Today, Walton Rods is still growing. An apparel line has launched that only uses fabric that is created 100% out of plastic bottles taken from rivers and streams right here in America. Branded gel floatant and shake powder is now also available where proceeds are directly donated to wildlife law enforcement K9 programs around the US. Many more things are in the works, but it’s all a process being built one customer at a time.
From humble beginnings to a true budding rod business, one thing has remained the same; every rod Walton Rods makes will always be handcrafted right here in the USA and they will always put their customers first. This is an honor and privilege that they do not take lightly.