Kentucky, Fly, Collectible & Big Game Fishing Reels 

 Lighthouse Point, Florida

Tom Greene

 Phone: (954) 415-2670






By Carol Bareuther

Some may call it luck, others fate, but when Tom Greene started work as a fourth-grader and 11-year-old sweeping the floor and dipping bait shrimp at Boca Tackle in Boca Raton, Florida, on June 6, 1959, his world changed forever. His passion for sports fishing became both his vocation and his recreation. It’s true to this day. Whether he’s on a collector’s hunt for antique tackle, reeling in blue marlin in any number of the world’s billfish hotspots or simply at home in Florida manning his shop or fishing for one of his fondest catches – snook – Greene is as passionate today about fishing as he was over fifty years ago when he first started.

A native of South Carolina, Greene’s family – which included his mother, father and seven siblings – moved to Boca Raton, Florida, when he was 10 years old. With only a little money and lots of mouths to feed, Greene’s father bought a fishing rod for $4.95 at the local Piggly Wiggly. The whole family shared the rod, along with several cheap cane poles, in order to put food on the table. When his father became blind and his mother took sick, Greene found himself in the role of family caretaker and breadwinner. He caught fish after school for dinner and earned money by working in the tackle shop as well as guiding for some of the early rich and famous Boca crowd. His uncanny guiding abilities caught the notice of fishermen far and wide. He also showed up on the IRS’s radar screen. In fact, Greene may be one of the few 15-year-olds to be audited by the IRS because he was head of a household with five dependents at the time.

Greene didn’t just do menial jobs when he first entered the industry after Bill Kane gave him his first job at Boca Tackle. His work in the fishing world took on a more meaningful direction when he started building and designing his own custom rods. You could say he was a tackle expert by the time he was a teenager. That’s one reason why a rep from the Palm Beach Country’s Education Program tapped him to teach a course. He taught basic skills like bait-rigging, knot-tying and how to wrap leaders as well as more advanced subjects like how to throw a cast net. Greene still loves to teach and does it everyday.

“I always say ‘tell me how smart you are this year and how dumb you are next’,” says Greene. “Fishermen need to stay open-minded. You can’t get stuck in your ways if you want to catch fish.” Greene was in his early 20s when he borrowed money from customers Joe and Barbara Munson and opened his own tackle shop.

“Joe had a 54’ Striker, the Salt Shaker, at the time and he’d invite me along to fish,” says Greene. “Of course, I outfitted his and all the boats at the time with rods, reels, tackle and bait. Since I had the tackle store to run and couldn’t be gone 6 or 7 days at a time, I’d make it only 3 or 4 by jumping on his private plane, flying over to the Bahamas, fishing the tournaments, and be back on Monday morning. Joe fished all the Bahamas Billfish Championships. We won it in 1983. We won several other tournaments too both in the Bahamas and the Keys.”

It was in the 1980’s that Greene got involved with Fred McLane and Caruth Byrd, two producers who were filming a new TV show called Fishing Fever. He, and father and son captains, Art and Andy Bellisari, did 25 shows with them in Florida and the Bahamas. The storyline followed famous stars and what they caught. James Conn, James Haggerty, Robin Conrad, Lynda Day George and Slim Pickings were a few of the star anglers Greene got to meet.

Through the years Greene has enjoyed some incredible fishing experiences.

“I fished out of San Salvador in the Bahamas in the early days, where we caught 10 wahoo all over 100 pounds in one day,” Greene recalls. “I was also one of the first Americans to fish in Venezuela in the 1970s with Capt. Barkey Garnsey, where I caught sailfish and white marlin on 4-pound test. I’ve fished with Capt. Peter B. Wright too out of Australia on the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve also fished aboard the Northern Lights out of Hawaii. I outfitted their whole boat.”

Greene got an invite to fish the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (Boy Scout Tournament) in St. Thomas in 2008 aboard St. Maarten-based Nicholas Perini’s 73’ Donzi, Somoya, after outfitting it with $100,000 worth of handbuilt rods, reels and tackle.

“I was one of three anglers,” Greene tells. “There was one purple and black lure that I built and wherever I put it we got fish. It was crazy on the first day. Thirty minutes after lines in, I put that lure in and got a 500- to 600-pounder, then another one about the same size and finally a third about 200- to 300-pounds. I was in the chair for 8 ½ hours that day. We were just off Anegada because that was where the fish were biting that year, backing down in 6 to 10 foot seas because a storm was coming. We had 14 bites on that lure.”

Greene, who has an incredible knowledge of fishing tackle and techniques, has built lures that have hooked-up 1000-pound plus blue marlin in Bermuda. In addition, in a three year period on three different boats, his custom rods have won anglers the White Marlin Open, in Ocean City, Maryland, and $3 million in prize money.

Today, he owns Custom Rod and Reel, in Lighthouse Point, Florida, where he owns likely the largest collection of antique fishing reels. Reels that date back to the 1850s and were built by gunsmiths and watch makers. He also continues to innovate. One of Greene’s latest inventions is the ‘Reel Crankie’ line winding tool. It’s a device that’s especially handy for deep-drop swordfishing. It attaches directly to the existing reel handle mechanism and isn’t used to fight the fish, but to retrieve the bait and drop-weight so as not to have to manually re-wind the line back on the reel from a deep depth.

One can only imagine how many fishing tales Greene has accumulated through the years. Late last year, with the help of editor, Steve Kantner, a book’s worth of Greene’s tales was published. The 15 stories in Net Full of Tails are a delightful chronicle of Boca Raton during the days when fishing was hip and of a young boy and man’s unbounded enthusiasm for the outside world and all manners of fish that swim in it. While the book is dedicated to his son, named Marlin, there aren’t any marlin stories. I’m sure Greene will get to those in volume two, but in the meantime snook, tarpon and bass fishermen will surely delight in and relate to these ‘tails’.

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