Obviously, you should look for a rod maker with a good reputation. Bear in mind though that reputaion isn't everything. The rod maker you're considering might not have a reputation at all, - especially if they're up & comming. That's okay. You might find that you can get a great rod at a much lower price from a maker who's trying to establish themselves. Also keep in mind that in today's world of the internet & annonimity on the web, one bad apple might say something negative about a rod maker they never would have said in person. Don't let one bad report spoil you on any business.
I think you're going to enjoy the process of buying a rod from a rod maker if you find one you connect with. So interact with the different rod makers whose work you're interested in. These days this is mostly done by email or over the phone. Contact them & ask questions - even questions you think are dumb. You deserve answers to any questions you have. If you're considering having this individual make a rod for you, then you should feel comfortable contacting them. Keep in mind that if you're buying a rod from someone, you're not bothering them by asking questions from time to time.
It's your money & you deserve good customer service. That means in addition to answering all your questions, the rod maker should never pressure you into buying, never ignore your requsts, & keep you updated about the progress of your rod as it's being made. Wait times are something you'll have to content with when having a rod made for you. Some rod makers have longer wait times than others. Many times this is because some makers sit around waiting for orders to pile up so they can fill them all at once & make rods by the batch. For some makers, their work is in high demand & they can truly be back-ordered by a year or two. No matter what the situation, the rod maker should inform you of how long you'll have to wait & keep you updated as the time goes by.
I would suggest, no matter how "big" a name someone has, that you never buy a rod from someone who acts like they're doing you a favor by making a rod for you. No one is that good. Treating clients anyway less than fair is unprofessional, regardless of how long they claim to have been making rods. In addition, immediately dismiss any rod maker who implies that you don't know anything. It's your rod. You'll be the one fishing with it, not them. Remember that old saying, "the customer is always right"? A good maker will want to offer suggestions to you & will tell you if they think you might be making a mistake with your choices, but in the end they will always leave it up to you & give you what you want.
So look for a rod maker who is kind, friendly, & helpful. Look for someone who's going to treat you like a friend & not just a paycheck. You not only want to happy with the rod you're buying, but also with the process of having it made for you. If you find one of the many rod makers who strive to treat their clients honestly & fairly, you'll more than likely have also made a friend.