In any creative profession, there are standouts. People whose personality, skillset or contributions set them apart. And it’s no different with rod building.
Meet Billy Vivona — a 46-year-old builder who is known not only as a master craftsman and innovator, but as an educator as well.
Vivona resides in Staten Island, N.Y., where he’s been building rods for 20 years. In that time, he’s built thousands — most of which were designed for inshore saltwater species, such as striper, fluke and blackfish. But he also builds rods for black bass.
I first met Billy in the Anglers Resource (AR) booth at this year’s ICAST show in Orlando, Fla., where he was performing various rod-building techniques for AR’s customers, media and anyone interested in the craft.
Because my appearance schedule was tight, I was unable to spend much time with Billy. What little time I did get with him, however, was well worth it. I learned so much about him and his skillset.
Teacher of techniques
As you can see by the accompanying images, the man is a master at weaving thread. His creations are spellbinding — each one uniquely beautiful and complex. But what’s more impressive is how Billy relates to people and the passion he has for sharing his craft.
Vivona authored the book Decorative Wraps, which is a must read for anyone interested in the craft of rod building.
In 2004, he founded North East Rod Builders (NERBS) — a passionate group of individuals dedicated to pushing the limits of rod building creativity. Today, with Vivona’s leadership, the group has more than 7,000 followers.
Known for his incredible speed and talent, Vivona is a virtuoso at the lathe. His wraps and inlaid EVA foam grips are stylish and unique, and from a builder’s perspective, they’re absolutely mindboggling. Yet, he readily shares his talents and knowledge with others.