This page is a tribute to the late Bernie Cohen, who was a huge inspiration to me. He had such passion for building fishing rods which he combined with his magnetic personality and good heart > he was truly a man that was loved and respected by all who came in contact with him. The type of guy you meet for the first time and you walk away feeling like he was a lifelong friend. Born February 17, 1926 in Brooklyn, NY Bernie began fishing and building rods in the early 1980's. His interest in building rods began when he first spotted a sign in the window of Bernies Bait & Tackle in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn which had rod building components for sale.
I first met Bernie at a Rodcrafter's Seminar in Vernon CT in January 2001. He had a table full of INSANE fishing rods with artwork in the grips and Dec Wraps that seemed to cover the entire rod. I had only built 3 rods at the time, which also had some grip inlays and Dec Wraps and had them on display as well. When Bernie saw my work he immediately had a few rod builders at the show find out who I was and brought me over to meet him (Like the Godfather, lol). Here is a man that is at the top of the rod building world artistically who is impressed by my work. He took me under his wing from that point on - not so much in teaching me how to do this technique or that, but a general guideline on how to be happy in my life by always staying true to what I believe in and not letting anyone tear me down. He really put a bug in my ass to push forward with the artistic side of building fishing rods and to always stay one step ahead of everyone else by being unique and creative. He was also big on never doing the same thing twice, so when you see my rods you'll note that his advice held true and will continue to. He really made me feel like the "chosen one" to keep the artwork alive in this craft, and it is the main reason why I created The NERBs, and why I have tried to expand the Decorative side of this craft as much as I possibly can. I know when I spoke with him he was very proud of what I have been able to accomplish in a very short period of time, and that made me feel really good and inspires me to continue making him proud and making sure his name lives on in this craft.
It is really weird that Bernie & I shared so much in common - not only with out passion for building custom fishing rods, but outside of that arena as well. Before ewe met we both like to fish on the Flamingo in Sheepshead Bay, but we would go on different days. We knew about each other because the captain and mate would tell us about each others work. Bernie was also an excellent Baseball player, who was offered a minor league contract out of HS with a train ticket to spring training in Florida, but he was drafted into the Army. When he completed his service he returned to playing Baseball but had hurt his arm putting an end to his career. He was also a basketball player, who played for his HS team (I believe Lafayette). When we spoke about sports it was crazy to find out that I was also a Baseball player who also pitched, we both played sandlot in the famed Parade Grounds in Brooklyn (I never as offered any pro contracts though, :( lol)
Bernie Cohen hooping in the 1940's
Bernie playing basketball in Brooklyn 1940's
Fish Grips by Bernie Cohen - AMAZING!
Abstract grips on the left, USA Pride on the right
Inlays of Bernie himself (not the mermaids,lol)
Submitted by John Bumstead -
Here's another Bernie story. I'm sure Neil was involved too. It was at a RodCrafters National when we stayed at The Day's Inn near a Mack Truck assembly plant in Allentown. Lots of the old timers went to a local restaurant for breakfast. Probably a Perkins too. Bernie and perhaps eight or nine other folks left the motel and drove up the street to the place. I managed to catch a ride with other people ten of fifteen minutes later. I think Neil was in our group of maybe six.
We couldn't sit at the same table with the first group because of room, but we were close enough to talk to them. By the time we had been served our first cup of coffee, Bernie's group had already been served. They were getting ready to leave by the time we were only halfway through our breakfast. Of course they asked for their check and when it came, they divided the total by the number of people at their table, left a tip, and paid the check on their way out. We stayed and had a second cup of coffee and when we got ready to leave, we asked for our check. We were then told that our meals had been added to their check and it had already been paid. When we got back to the motel, we all thanked Bernie and his group for breakfast. You can probably imagine the look on his face. We laughed about that for years after. Remind Neil about it the next time you see him.
Statue of Liberty holding a rod - AWESOME!! Eagle swooping down on a rod!!
100 hours worth of grip inlays - Top view of Flag grips
100 hours worth of grip inlays - Bottom view of Flag grips