Wes Jordan was born May 13, 1894 in Lynn, Massachusetts. He grew up there learning how to hunt & fish in the surrounding woods & waters becoming a skilled outdoorsman. He was always mechanically inclined & as a young man had hopes of someday becoming an engineer. Because of his father’s death, Wes had to quite school in the 9th grade in order to go to work to support the family. At age 17 he went to work for General Electric, but was not happy with the job that offered no opportunity for advancement.
He soon went to work for the William Forsyth & Sons Co which was a woodworking factory. He became friends with Mr. Forsyth who saw potential in the young Jordan & began training him on all the different equipment: various saws, planes, milling machines, etc. In turn, Jordan introduced Forsyth to the sport of fishing which he quickly fell in love with. Forsyth began buying all kinds of rods, reels, lures, etc & also began taking extended trips to Maine.
It was on one of these trips which Wes was along too, that the idea of the Cross Rod Co was born. Forsyth was fishing with a new Hardy rod on this trip. One day a set of the rod’s ferrules stuck together. So, Forsyth tried heating the ferrules over the campfire to get them apart. The rod fell,unnoticed, into the fire & was destroyed by the time someone found it. Disgusted, Forsyth said that when they got back home to Lynn, Wes would begin making good quality fly rods. Never mind that Wes wasn’t a rod maker. Forsyth had faith in Wes & his abilities. So shortly thereafter, Wes began studying the construction of bamboo fly rods & working with a small plane on a few of the culms of Calcutta cane Forsyth had bought to get started with.
One of the first innovations Wes brought to fly tackle was to design a rod’s taper for a specific line weight. Before this, rods were chosen on the size of fish the angler expected to catch. The importance of this innovation is obvious, considering that now large fish can be landed on lighter tackle. You no longer needed a heavy club of a rod to safely land a heavy fish. Once Wes had this taper perfected, it was a simple matter for him to give the taper slight adjustments in order to change the action of the rod. Thus he was able to make a variety of different rod models to suit different angling needs & situations.
Soon Wes, using his mechanical inclination, had designed & built a milling machine out of spare junk parts at the Forsyth factory to cut & taper the strips of bamboo. Mass production was now possible for the new rod company which was to be named Cross Rod & Tackle co, so named after a financial investor Forsyth brought on board to help get the business up & running. Wes began serious production of fly rods. It wasn’t long before several models of fresh & saltwater rods were available & Cross rods were being sold by catalog & at various retail stores. Forsyth gave Wes free reign to experiment on different rods. Wes was working long hours & the business had a good, growing reputation. Cross would advertise that they were the largest importer of Tonkin cane in the nation. They offered many different rod models with just about any option possible. They even went into production of gulf clubs. By 1922 Cross moved out of the lumber factory to a larger building down the street & was employing tem workers.
Cross rods earned their excellent reputation because of Jordan’s inventiveness in rod design & also his perfectionism, inspecting each detail of every rod that left the factory. Every aspect of the rods was scrutinized. Wes even advanced the design of ferrules with the help of his brother Bill, who was a machinist. Wes was the first to size ferrules by increments of 64th of an inch, which is still the standard sizing system of ferrules today. Wes wasn’t happy with the slide-band style reel seat for every rod model & began to experiment. While tinkering around in his brother’s machine shop, Wes invented the first ever screw-locking reel seat! In all the years that have passed it’s amazing how much modern screw-locking reel seats look like the design Jordan invented.
W.R. Forsyth, owner of Cross Rods, passed away suddenly in 1925. More than just his boss, he had been a close friend & mentor to Wes. At the time of his death, Forsyth owned several businesses & his heirs decided to sell the Cross Rod Co. Wes was given the first opportunity to purchase the company, but didn’t have the means to raise the $12,000 needed. Eventually Cross Rods was sold to the South Bend Bait Co of South Bend, Indiana. The sale was conditional on Jordan going to South Bend for six months, along with all the machinery. He would be responsible for setting up their new factory & training the South Bend employees in all aspects of rod making. Having no other prospects for employment at the time, Wes agreed to go. Thus would begin another important chapter in the history of American fishing & the innovative Wes Jordan…