5-weight shootout

A comparison of this year’s best five-weight fly rods

By George Anderson

 

With comments by James Anderson, Logan Brown, Josh Edwards and JG

(Click on their names or photos below to read their opinions)

       James Anderson   Logan Brown   Josh Edwards   JG - Josh Green

                      James Anderson                         Logan Brown                            Josh Edwards                         Josh Green (JG)

 

Another 5-weight shootout?

Normally we wouldn’t do another 5-weight in the same year, but a lot of great new rods hit the market this summer at the ICAST show in Orlando, so we wanted to give you a more detailed look at the best new rods and compare them to some of our old favorites.

 

And best of all, we are getting a jump on it this year, doing the shootout outside at the park in Mid-October, with nice weather, on a beautiful fall day with the temperature in the high 60’s.  By doing the shootout outside, we can easily cast the longer distances and a little breeze makes the casting more like conditions you would experience out on the water.  

 

There was big news this year several rod companies –Sage, introduced several good rods but the best are their new MOD and BOLT.  XP fans are going to love this new Bolt.  Hardy totally revamped their line up.  The wonderful Hardy Zenith rods are now gone, but replaced with two excellent new rod lineups – the Zephrus and the Wraith.  Both use the sintrix technology and are lighter than the Zenith.  Thomas and Thomas introduced a couple of new rods that look good too.   And maybe the biggest news is that Tom Morgan Rodsmiths, who have produced such wonderful rods in the past, now have a new 4-piece graphite rod. 

 

Once again, we are seeing a lot of good new rods from a variety of smaller manufacturers that are having these rods built in both Korea and China.  The new Hardy Zyphrus and Wraith rods are a prime example, with all their rods being designed by Howard Croston in England but manufactured for them in one of the best rod manufacturing plants in Korea.         

 

Best Fly rods

Are these new rods good enough to unseat the very best rods from 2015 - The Loomis NRX LP and the Scott Radian?   Read on and you’ll find out…

 

As in the past, we have sought out the best rods available worldwide, not just rods available here in the US.  I apologize to the manufacturers that we have not included.  There are so many new rods coming onto the market worldwide that we didn’t include them in our shootout because either we don’t know about them or they have not performed well enough to make the cut.  We wanted to limit the number of rods in the shootout to no more than thirty.  

 

In the future, any manufacturers that want us to test their rods simply need to inform us, and then send their rods to us to test and we’ll return them after our next shootout.   But we must be the ones to make the final judgment on which rods make the cut and which do not.  We will try to give you our comments on many of the rods that did not make the cut and tell you why.  As always, feel free to give us a call if you want to talk rods or want our recommendations about a specific rod for you. 

 

Remember, in doing these shootouts, we are giving you OUR opinions. But we know from reader’s comments that 90% of anglers are in general agreement with our findings.  

 

The anglers doing this test are all Yellowstone Angler employees, expert anglers and casters.  We feel that to involve anyone other than expert anglers while trying to judge rods is a huge mistake.  Also, when testing rods, it is also impossible to do any kind of blind test.  Any good angler can take one look at the rod- the color of the blank, the handle style and shape, wraps, guides and reel seat, and tell you exactly which manufacturer made the rod.  

 

Also, we want to know which rod we are casting, so that we can better evaluate one against the other in heads up casting.  We are taking a good look at the handle and guide set up, as well as the overall craftsmanship and other factors that enter into our scoring system. If you like blind tests, go to Cigar Aficionado.  They do the only ones that make sense to me.  

 

The results of our 2016 5-weight Shootout

Interestingly, if you look at the bottom line from our last 2015 shootout, it is very similar to the 2016 edition.  

 

1. Incredibly, the G. Loomis NRX LP wins again, but against some very stiff competition from the Scott Radian, the new Hardy rods, and the new Tom Morgan Rodsmiths 4-pc.

2. The Scott Radian is again our 2nd place pick in a very tight finish.

 

3. The Douglas DXF at $349 is still our favorite mid-priced rod in the $300-$450 range.

 

4. The Fenwick Aetos remains the best in expensive rod at $189.85 but Echo’s new Base model at $89.95 offers a decent rod under $100.

 

 

What we are looking for in a 5-weight rod

For trout fishermen, five weight rods are, by far, the most popular fly rod on the market.  But to our way of thinking, the best 5-weights are rods that must do it all.  They must cast very accurately, and provide delicate presentations at shorter distances with dry flies. The best rods here have softer tips and a fast action.  They must have the power in the butt and mid-section to chuck double nymph rigs, even with some split shot and an indicator. Good butt and mid-section power will also help you land big fish quickly, especially when you can use heavier tippets.  And they must have the guts to go long; throwing an occasional bead head wooly bugger at ranges right out to 80 and 90 feet.  

 

When most anglers try out fly rods, the first thing they do is to strip all the line off the reel and see how far the rod can throw.   Knowing this, rod manufacturers often build rods that are right at the upper end of the spectrum in strength to throw a #5 line.  This is also why you see more people fishing with lines like Scientific Angler’s GPX or their new MPX, or a Rio Grande, that are ½ a line size heavy.  If you’re smart, you will first see how the rod casts and performs in that 25-60 foot range, since these are the distances you are casting 95% of the time.  Yeah, then strip all the line off and go for it.  The best 5-weight rods will hit 100 feet no problem in a competent caster’s hands. 

 

Why trust our opinions?

After being in the fly fishing business as a guide, store manager and shop owner for the past forty five years, I’ve learned a lot about fly rods and what it takes for them to perform well.  I learned to fly fish when I was about 13, but really got into it when I went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  My friends said I spent more time on the South Platte R. learning nymph fishing techniques than I did in the classroom.  But I really fine-tuned my casting after moving to Montana in 1972, with help from both Mel Krieger and Steve Rajeff. 

 

Since then I’ve gotten a pretty good reputation as both a caster and angler in both fresh and saltwater.  In 1989 and 1990 I had back-to-back overall wins at the Jackson Hole One-Fly that helped solidify my reputation as a nymph and dry fly fisherman.  I’ve always loved helping rod manufacturers like Sage, G. Loomis, Scott, Winston, and Tom Morgan in the design process, helping design rods like the Sage LL series, The Loomis StreamDance GLX series, and doing the final casting and prototype work with Tom Morgan on his graphite and glass rods.  I’ve been fishing for bonefish, tarpon and other saltwater species for the past thirty years throughout Florida, the gulf coast, and throughout the Caribbean.   

 

My son James (Jamie) is a real fly-fishing fanatic, and great caster, as well as a great angler.  He is now an integral part of all of our rod shootouts and tackle comparisons.  He is a gifted photographer too, and all his superb photos really make our shootouts click.   He enjoys fishing the salt as much as I do but his real love is catching big trout on streamers.  The other comments you will read here are from our staff employees.  These guys are all top anglers, great casters and excellent guides.  I value their opinions so be sure to give their comments a read as well.  Their finishing order will be different than mine, which is fine.   On the whole though we were pretty much all in agreement on which were the top 4-5 rods.  

 

Great fly rods are not always the most expensive

As you’ll read again this year, there are some outstanding rods that have beaten out rods that are two to three times as expensive. Good examples of this in our least expensive rods category are the new Fenwick Aetos at $189.95 and the Mystic Reaper at $229.  At the very low end, it is hard to beat the new Echo Base for $89.95.   Looking at mid-priced rods, the new Douglas DXF at $325 and the G. Loomis Pro 4X LP at $375 are the ones that look the best to us.  But if you want the best, your credit card is going to take a hit for $750 to $850.  Is that high priced rod really $600 better?  Only you can make that decision.  

 

If you are not going to do much fishing, then one of the inexpensive or mid-priced rods may be the best choice.   For experienced anglers that can afford the best rods our answer is YES.  Our advice has always been that if you can afford the best, buy the best.  You’ll never regret it.  And this goes for beginners too.  One of the best rods will allow you to advance much more rapidly.  The key to catching fish is casting accuracy.  But having a nice light rod (in swing weight) in your hand all day pays big dividends, in terms of fatigue.  There is also a certain lust factor going for the expensive rods.  Part of this is the wow factor.  The best rods have almost become a status symbol.  Are you comfortable showing up with a $200 rod when all your buddies have those hotshot $750-$900 rods? It’s nice to look down at your rod and reel and appreciate their function and craftsmanship.

 

We see so many people that want to economize getting into the sport and buy less expensive equipment.  Then shortly after getting started, they realize that the higher priced rods will allow them to improve more quickly so they but a more expensive outfit and essentially end up throwing away the money they spent on the cheaper outfit.  At least they can hand it down to a friend or family member but why not make the correct purchase the first time? We hope the shootout helps you do so.

  

Great anglers design the best rods

Over the past fifty years, it has become very apparent to me that the best rod designers are people that are also great anglers.  From their fishing experiences, they know just what is needed for specific fish and the fishing conditions that we are likely to encounter.  They can take a design and fine tune it to perfection, making a few tweaks and design changes along the way to end up with that perfect rod for the specific fish and fishing conditions.  A lot of people come to mind.  Fellows like Steve Rajeff (G. Loomis), Tom Morgan (Tom Morgan Rodsmiths), and Howard Croston (Hardy) are guys I’ve spent time fishing with on small streams, big rivers and in the salt.  Then there are a lot of other guys I know that are also great anglers like Jerry Siem at Sage, Jim Bartschi at Scott, Tim Rajeff at Echo, the late Jimmy Green, who gave us the first graphite rods from Fenwick, and of course Lefty Kreh who has worked with TFO to give us those wonderful BVK rods.    

 

 

Our testing procedures – trying to eliminate the variables – keeping it apples to apples.

As in all our prior shootouts, we have strived to eliminate the variables by setting up the rods with the exact same reels, lines and leaders.  For this 5-weight shootout, we had 10 identical Ross Evolution LT #2 reels set up with our favorite trout line, the new Scientific Anglers Mastery MPX or the Mastery Trout in WF-5-F. On the lines we are using for the shootout we used our own 12-foot 4X Yellowstone Angler hand tied Clear Butt Leaders with Clear Maxima butts and mid sections since they simply cast better and more accurately than any of the knotless leaders.  

 

Just about any rod will turn over a 9-foot leader easily.  Having to turn over a 12-foot leader forces the rods to perform at a higher level.

By having all the rods set up identically, it made it easy to take a few casts with one, lay it down, and immediately pick up another rod and do the same without having to take the time to strip all the line off the rod and load up another one.  This way we could be comparing two to three rods at once at our individual casting stations.  By doing this, a good caster can easily determine the subtle differences among the rods and get a good feel for how they compare at the different distances.  It was always good to have what we felt was the top rod in the test right there on hand to make immediate heads up comparisons.   

 

 

Reels

Ross Evolution Reels

buy now

This year we are again using the Ross Evolution LT #2 reels for our shootout.  These are one of the most popular reels we sell here in our shop, and have proven to be extremely reliable.  They are light, with a good drag that is easy to operate.  The craftsmanship and finish are first rate.  With all the 5-weight rods becoming lighter and lighter, a nice light reel like the Evolution LT is a perfect choice.   The Evolution LT #2 weights 4.1 oz. empty, and approx. 5.4 oz. with a WF-5-F line

and 100 yards of 20 lb. Cortland Micron backing.

 

Lines

 Scientific Anglers MPX Lines

buy now

We have been Scientific Anglers line fans for years and this year they have a new line, the MPX that replaces the GPX.   This line is similar to the GPX and is a half-size heavier than a normal Trout taper.   The new MPX in WF-5-F has a total head length of 36 feet but he same 6.5-foot front taper that allows for a quick turnover with longer leaders and in the wind.  The new MPX is a smooth line, which we prefer and this year it is two colors – the head is one color with the running line a different color.  Personally I like the Green head with the Buckskin running line as it is more visible, but they also offer a “Stealth” color with a Willow head and Amber running line. 

 

 

 

Leaders

 yellowstone angler hand tied leader

buy now

As in the past, we prefer to set up all the test lines with our own Yellowstone Angler 12 foot hand-tied leaders.  These utilize clear Maxima butt and midsections with Rio nylon 4X tippets.  Our hand-tied leaders will turn over better than any of the 9 foot knotless leaders we’ve found.   On my own 5-weight rods, I’m normally using a 12-14 foot leader unless I’m fishing a big wind-resistant hopper, and then I’ll cut the leader down to 9 feet or less.  When I’m nymph fishing I often switch over to one of our Hot Butt Leaders that has five feet of fluorescent red Amnesia for the butt section.  In our Shootout, we feel that the 12-foot leaders give us a better feeling of how all these rods will turn over the fly, especially at shorter distances.  To make it easy to judge the turnover and fly placement we tie on a small fluorescent yarn indicator at the end of the leader that approximates casting a medium size dry fly.

 

Deflection Charts

deflection charts

 

Our deflection charts have been so popular that we have included them again this year.  These allow everyone to see exactly how each rod bends in comparison to the others.  Now you can easily see which rods have faster actions than others (the tip bends more) or ones that have more moderate, slower actions (the tip bends less steep).  To make the deflection chart, we place the rods at a 45-degree angle and then hang a weight of 3.9 oz. from the tiptop.  Then we trace the outline of the rod in different color sharpies. 

 

Keep in mind that fast action rods are not necessarily stiff rods.  The tips on the faster action rods bend more, and if you look at the top rods, you will see that they tend to be faster action rods.  We have found that this is the key to getting good accuracy in close.  On the other hand the best rods must have enough butt and mid-section power to throw longer distances with ease.  

 

fly rod deflection

In the deflection chart that shows the top 8 rods, we’ve also added the deflection patterns of a good 6-weight rod, (Orvis Helios 2 in 9 foot #6) and our favorite new 4-weight rod.  (Hardy Zephrus 8 ½ foot #4).

 

As you’ll see, the winning rod, the G. Loomis NRX LP (in blue) is almost exactly in the middle, between the #6 and #4.   The Hardy Wraith, our killer long distance #5 rod, is right at the top, and even stiffer than the #6 Orvis, in the butt and mid-section.  The Tom Morgan Rodsmiths #5 line rod was the softest of the best rods, and didn’t quite have the butt and mid-section power to throw long as well as the other rods.  

 

With over forty years of experience, I can often get a pretty good idea of how a rod will perform, just flexing it in my hand.  But the final analysis is always what it will do when matched with a reel and line. 

 

We have found that the only good way to determine if one rod is better than the other, is to cast them head to head on the lawn, set up with the exact same reel, line and leader.  Only then do the subtle differences reveal themselves.   

 

 

Explanation of Points Categories  

 

Please find the figures for price, overall weight and swing weight in our table for Objective Observations.

 

Price in US $$ - 10 points available

This is simple – the least expensive rods get the highest points.  We gave all rods under $200 a perfect 10 here.  The most expensive rod, the Tom Morgan at $1495, was a 5.   In the top performing rods, the Loop Opti Stream was an obvious bargain at $532.  Most of the top performing rods were in that $750 - $850 category.

 

Overall Weight – 10 points available

As in the past we are using our reliable digital postage scale, and round off to .01 of an ounce.  We don’t take the manufacturer’s word for stated weight.  Lighter is better here but this factor is not nearly as important as swing weight.  In the past we've seen manufactures cut overall weight by reducing the weight of the butt section only.  This actually hurts the rod's swing weight.  A good example is the Redington Hydrogen that had the lightest overall weight but a fairly heavy swing weight. 

 

Swing Weight – 20 points available

You know about swing weight, if you play golf.  It is the relationship of the club head to the shaft when you waggle the club.  Measuring this on a fly rod is not quite as easy though.  We have played around with this over several shootouts and now we have gone back to my tried and true approach, using our digital postal scale.  The swing weight of the rod is the weight you feel out ahead of your hand, when you hold the rod in a horizontal position.  Rods with a light swing weight are pleasant and effortless to cast.  Rods with a heavy swing weight feel tip heavy or “clubby” in your hand and won’t be as pleasant to cast all day.  

 

objective observations

 

Here is how we measure the swing weight, and you can do this yourself with a little practice.  First you must zero out the scale.  Then a foam-packing pellet is placed on the center of the scale, and the grip of the rod placed on this pellet while the rod is in a horizontal position with a fingernail holding only the butt cap of the rod.  The reel seat rings and band are placed at the bottom of the reel seat.  Now we position the grip over the fulcrum created by the foam pellet so that the pellet is about half way up the grip – where the center of your hand would be when you are holding the grip comfortably.  Now we are taking into consideration the approx. balance point of the rod once you have a reel on it.  Once the rod is placed precisely on the foam pellet, we get the rod in a horizontal position and apply finger pressure to the very end of the reel seat, usually using a fingernail over the butt cap.  Then we read off the weight of pressure on the scale in ounces.  This is done a half a dozen times, zeroing out the scale each time and then we take the average for the swing weight.  We have found that to obtain accurate measurements, all this must be done the same day, at the same temperature, and within a period of less than one hour. 

 

Yes, for all you engineers this does not seem too accurate, but as a practical way to measure swing weight it works fine.  The most important thing here is not how we come up with the actual figures, but how one rod compares to another.  Swing weight is such an important category, we now give it 20 points and consider it a part of our performance evaluation.

 

 

 

Warranties:  10 points available

Every manufacturer now has some kind of “Lifetime warranty”.  Well, the Orvis warranty is now 25 years.  Nearly all are charging a “handling” fee of $35-$100 to repair or replace your rod.  But then it is also going to cost you $15 or more to ship the rod in for repair or have your dealer do it.  We looked at all the warranty policies in detail as some have changed slightly.

 

To my way of thinking, the most important thing when you break your rod is getting it back quickly, not so much the price you’ll have to pay.  In this regard, G. Loomis continues to utilize their popular Expeditor policy.  Loomis will charge your credit card $100 but you get a brand new rod back in 3-4 days.  I’d gladly pay another $50 to get this kind of service.  Loomis gets the perfect score of 10 as does Echo, and TFO as these companies also send you back a brand new rod, in just a few days and the cost is only $35.  CD Composit gives you an extra tip with the purchase of each rod, which is a huge time saver and great benefit, which we also awarded a perfect score.

 

As you’ll see, most rods got a 9, which means that it costs at least $50 for the repair or replacement.  But most of these companies repair your rod, not give you a brand new replacement.  Some companies like Winston are going to charge you as much as $150 to repair the rod if you are not the original owner.  If you break a Tom Morgan Rodsmiths rod, due to neglect, it will cost you a lot more, from $275 to $325 (plus time).  We gave Sage and R.L. Winston 8’s because of the length of time it took for most repairs, especially during the busy summer months.  Often it took a month and a half to get a rod back from repair.  To us this is unacceptable.  If you live in Montana or happen to be fishing near Dillon at least Winston offers a “lender” program. Be sure to look at our section below that explains the various warranties in detail.  

 

Craftsmanship – 10 points available

One thing that all our testers this year commented on was how good the craftsmanship has become in the past several years.  Most everyone was awarded a 9’s and 8’s in this category. This year there were no 7’s.  Even the inexpensive rods have good cork, guides and wraps.  The only perfect 10 went to the Tom Morgan Rod and justifiably so. 

 

Fun to Fish/Got to Have – 10 points available

If the rod looks like a million bucks and casts like it too, any normal fly fishermen will lust for this rod.  For many, it might be seen as a status symbol.  For others, they see how this rod performs in their guide’s hands, and think that it is going to make them great anglers too and at least take them to the next level.  Surprisingly enough, they are often right.  Great rods don’t make great casters, but they can sure help an average caster get a lot better in a hurry.  Don’t let the price slow you down.  You’ll find a way to sneak it into your stash without the little lady (or husband) finding out.  

 

Performance at 25 feet – 20 points available

A rod’s ability to make delicate and accurate presentations with small flies and long leaders is the key to scoring well here.  Casting accuracy is the number one factor I used in rating these rods, and at short distances this is critical.  And a big part of accuracy is the feel you get through the handle that gives you the confidence to put the fly where you want it.  I’m convinced that the key to catching more trout and especially larger trout, is casting accuracy. Fly selection is far less important.  

 

Does the rod load well enough in close, to give you the feel and accuracy you need with little line and only the leader out of the guides?  At short range I like to cast off the tip of the rod, using mostly my wrist and very little arm movement to power the tip of the rod through the stroke.  The best rods here are almost always the lightest in swing weight, especially if you are doing a lot of false casting when fishing dry flies.  

 

Performance at 45 feet – 20 points available

Here is the most important of all the performance categories for picking the best all around 5-weight rod.  At 45 feet you want a rod that will be light and pleasant enough to do a lot of false casting, fishing smaller dry flies all day long, yet have the power to launch more wind resistant hoppers and big attractor dries into a 20 mph wind and get your leader to turn over.  You shouldn’t have to double-haul at 45 feet to get the rod to perform. The best rods will have the ability to throw very tight loops at this range with consistent accuracy. They should feel totally solid at this distance and the line should track perfectly. With the best rods, a good caster can place a dry fly within a foot of the exact target on most casts.

 

The best 5-line rods need to have excellent loop control and the ability to throw very tight loops to get the best accuracy and presentations.  But they should also be able to form the more open loops you’ll need fishing nymphs. Again, we’ve found the rods that seem to do this best are nearly always fast action rods. 

 

The best 5-weight rods make superb rods for nymph fishing, both at short and long range. But to do this, the rod needs to have enough butt and mid-section power to drive a couple of nymphs, maybe a split shot or two, and also a big, wind resistant indicator, and then put the cast where you need it at 25-50 feet.  Picking one of the lightest rods with a low swing weight will give you more sensitivity and the rod’s faster reaction time will help you set the hook more quickly. A good strong butt and mid-section will help you mend line, especially if you are fishing at longer distances like 35-50 feet, using an indicator. Faster action rods with good butt and mid-section power will also help you play larger fish more quickly, allowing you to release them in perfect shape.

 

Performance at 70 feet – 20 points available

We don’t normally ask a 5-weight to cast seventy feet and beyond, but the best rods, with an expert caster at the controls, can easily cast all the line – ninety to one hundred feet. But this also requires an angler to double-haul well and form good, long, tight back cast loops. 

 

There are not many instances that call for this kind of long range casting, with a 5-weight rod. But I’ve sure done a lot of this, firing hoppers to big fish rising along a far bank at seventy feet or more. At this distance (with little wind) a good caster with one of the best 5-weights should be able to put the fly within 3 feet of the target most of the time. The best rods will load well and produce consistently tight loops.  If they can do that, the accuracy is excellent.

 

On big rivers, when I’m fishing nymphs at long range using an indicator, a lot of mending is required. The best rods have strong power in the butt and mid-section and can get the job done easily.

Another reason you’ll want good performance at long range is chucking steamers. Sure, a 6, 7, or 8-weight rod would be better, but a good #5 rod works surprisingly well in a pinch.  Either stick a BB size split shot right on the head of your streamer and fish it with your floating line, or better yet switch off to a WF-6-F/S 15 foot type 6 sink tip line.  Now you’ll be able to launch a medium sized streamer seventy-five feet with ease.  The rod that I felt gave the best long-range performance was the Hardy Wraith, with the NRX LP, and the Scott Radian, right on it’s heels.  

 

“Perfect #5 Performance” – 20 points available

We felt that this category was needed to reward the best #5 line rods for their superior performance and that special feel that gives you total confidence in putting your fly just where you want it at any distance. We’re looking for rods that can do it all, at any distance, with a 5-weight line.  So that hurts rods that are only good in close or at short to medium distances. It eliminates rods we feel are just too stiff to be called all around 5-weight rods. A good example would be the TFO BVK or the Thomas & Thomas Spire.  There are other borderline stiff 5-weights like the Sage Bolt and Redington Vapen.   They get down rated accordingly because they don’t perform as well in close.

 

 

Warranties explained by manufacturer 

Here is a short recap of each manufacturer’s policy and what we have experienced for repair time required. 

 

 

Beulah - Original owner lifetime warranty for defects. Must be registered within 30 days.  Breakage from misuse or negligence will be repaired at reasonable cost.  $50 handling fee. Usually takes 2 weeks.

Carbon Pro – Lifetime warranty.  $20 handling fee.  Rods are replaced.  Usually within a week, unless out of stock.

Douglas – Lifetime warranty.  $35 handling fee.  Rods are repaired, not replaced.  Usually takes two weeks.

Echo - Lifetime warranty for original owner.  $35 handling fee.  Rods are replaced.  Normal time 2-4 weeks

Fenwick- Lifetime warranty.   $35 handling fee.  Rods are replaced.  Normal time 2-4 weeks.

Hardy - Lifetime warranty to original owner.  $35 handling fee.  Rods are repaired. Shipping is from their US warehouse, normally about 10 -14 days.    

G. Loomis - Lifetime warranty to original owner.  You send in rod and their warranty dept. examines rod.  If rod broke because of a defect, or while fishing, replacement is free. No handling fee.  If from neglect or any other cause you must use the Expeditor service, which charges your credit card for $100 but you get a brand new rod in 3-4 days.  If you decide not to use the expediter program the price varies with each rod ranging $75-150.  AK or HI shipping add $25.

Loop - Lifetime warranty to original owner. $60 handling fee.  Rods are repaired.  Same day or next day shipping if they have the parts in stock, if not, usually takes 2 weeks.

Mystic - Lifetime warranty to original owner.  $50 handing fee.  Rods are replaced.  Usually takes 1-2 weeks. 

Orvis - 25 year warranty to original owner.  $30 handling fee.  Rod is repaired, not replaced.  Usually takes 2-4 weeks.

R.L. Winston – Lifetime warranty to original owner, $50 handling fee. Older rods not under warranty cost $120 or more. Rods are repaired, not replaced.  Usually takes 4-6 weeks.  Winston does offer a "lender" program while your rod is being repaired but this is still somewhat of a hassle.

Redington - $30 handling fee, rods are replaced, normal time 2-4 weeks.

Sage – Lifetime warranty to original owner. $50 handling fee.  Rods are repaired, not replaced.   Usually takes 4-6 weeks.

Scott – Lifetime warranty to original owner, $50 handling fee. Rods are repaired, not replaced. Usually takes 2-4 weeks.

St. Croix – Lifetime warranty to original owner, $60 handling fee. Rods are repaired, not replaced.  Usually takes 2-4 weeks.

Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) - Lifetime warranty to original owner.  $35 handling fee.  Rods are either replaced with a new rod or the broken section is replaced.  Usually takes 1 week.  

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths - Lifetime warranty for defects.  Repairs – new tip $275, new butt with customer’s old seat $325. 

 

 

 

Some Rods didn’t make the cut, here's why…

In order to have a more manageable Shootout, we wanted to limit our 5-weight Shootout to thirty rods. In order to accomplish this, we limited each manufacturer to two rods in the shootout.  So we picked what we felt were the best two 5-weights they had to offer.  We refuse to test any private labeled rods from retail monsters like Cabelas, LL Bean, Bass Pro Shops etc.  We also don’t test rods manufactured in other countries unless they are readily available here in US fly shops.

    

FINAL RESULTS

 

Performance Only

 

 

 

#1  G. Loomis NRX LP  9 foot #5   $755.00

G. Loomis NRX LP

 

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G.Loomis NRX LP

 

This year I really thought that someone would knock off the NRX LP but it didn’t happen!  This is the third 5-weight Shootout that the NRX LP has won, starting with a surprise win in 2013.  But there is a very good reason for this - The G. Loomis NRX LP is a very special rod, with masterful performance at all distances.  At 25 feet, no other rod that could match the feel or accuracy of the NRX LP, and it got my only perfect score at close distance.  I just get the feeling that with this rod in my hand, I can put the fly exactly where I want it and do it sub-consciously.  Steve Rajeff designed this rod with a soft tip, yet it has very good butt and mid-section power, which makes for great performance at 45 feet and also 70 feet.  This rod has explosive power on tap when you need it.  Only the Scott Radian, the Hardy
Wraith, and the Tom Morgan felt as good and as solid at 45 feet.   

 

Forming tight loops at all distances is effortless, and with its light swing weight, this is a rod that you can cast all day with minimal fatigue.  Not only is it a fantastic rod for fishing dry flies, but it’s also a great nymph fishing rod.  There is plenty of power on tap to fire a double nymph rig with some split shot and an indicator, or medium sized streamers.  This has been my go-to 5-weight rod for the past three years and the softer tip allows me to use 6X and even 7X tippets fishing dries, without breaking many fish off on the hook set. 

 

The NRX LP rods are available in two colors – a nice dark green with green wraps is the most popular, and they also have a dark gray carbon colored rod with robin’s egg blue wraps.  I love the dark nickel/titanium single foot guides that are extremely light and flexible.  The unbreakable Recoil guides used as strippers are not my favorites, but at least you’ll never break one.  

 

With the S.A.  MPX WF-5-F line this rod is absolutely perfectly matched and this gives it a special feeling like no other rods in our Shootout.   

 

 

George’s Casting Notes: The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  20 points out of 20

Terrific feel and wonderful accuracy.   It casts off the tip beautifully and feels nice and light in my hand.  Better feel than any other rod.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Really shines at this distance.  So easy to form tight loops with great accuracy.  As good as it gets. 

Performance at 70 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Extremely good.  Not quite the power of the Hardy Wraith but tracks beautifully with nice tight loops.  Equal to the Radian out long.

 

 

 

#2  Scott Radian     9 foot #5   $795.00

 

Scott Radian

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Scott Radian

 

The Radian was a big hit in our last 5-weight Shootout and again this year it finishes within the top 3 in both overall and performance scores.  Scott fans love this rod.  Not only does it perform with the very best rods, but it is a very attractive rod as well – one of the most handsome we’ve seen.  I love the feel of the handle with it’s half wells style grip but the swell is forward of center, giving it a unique feel.    The reel seat is a very attractive black aluminum skeleton uplocking seat with a gorgeous, reddish, burled wood insert that compliments the orange trim wraps.   

 

The blank follows Scott’s traditional practice of finishing the rod in the natural dark gray graphite color, leaving the tape marks on the rod rather than sanding the rod smooth like most other manufacturers.  The guides are pretty much the standard set up with one SiC stipper and the rest hard chrome snake guides.  The wraps are dark gray, trimmed with lighter gray and the narrow orange trim wraps to give the rod a very classy look.  I especially like the little touches that Scott uses like adding inch marks at 12 and 20 inches.   I wish that more rod builders would do this. 

 

In performance, the Radian is almost as good as the NRX LP.  Only at short range did I feel that it wasn’t quite as good.  But it’s totally solid at mid and long range, throwing beautiful tight loops with excellent accuracy.  Everyone that has bought and fished these rods has loved them!

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Not quite as much feel or accuracy as the NRX LP, but better than the Zephrus. Nice feel, casting off the tip.  

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Wow, this is as good as it gets at 45 feet.  Tracks beautifully with terrific accuracy.  Only the Tom Morgan, Wraith and NRX LP

equaled it.

Performance at 70 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Good loop control gave excellent accuracy. Feels well matched to the line with plenty of power to bomb out long casts.  Definitely one of the best rods at long range.

 

 

 

 

#3 (tie)  Hardy Zephrus  9 foot #5   $699

 

Hardy Zephrus

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Hardy Zephrus

Hardy gave us a whole new line up of rods this year.  Gone are the superb Zenith rods but the new Zephrus and Wraith are perhaps even better.  When we first cast the new rods last spring we were impressed and knew then that they would score well in the next shootout.  I’ve now had quite a few opportunities to compare the Zephrus heads up with the NRX LP and Radian; it was obvious that at short distances, both rods had more feel than the Zephrus at 25 feet. At mid-range it’s good, but then again at long range, it doesn’t have nearly the punch of the old Hardy Zenith.

 

The Zephrus is an attractive rod, with an olive finish and contrasting dark brown wraps.  A comfortable Western style grip is used with a

uplocking aluminum skeleton seat and an unusual green burled wood  insert to compliment the color of the rod.  The guide set up is great with one SiC stripper and the rest flexible and unbreakable dark colored nickel/titanium one-foot guides.  The action is fast, but this rod doesn’t flex as much in the tip as the NRX or Radian and perhaps this is why it isn’t quite as good at shorter distances.

 

Like the Zenith rods, The Zephrus and Wraith use the 3M nano-resin technology, so the rods are light and very strong.  Howard Croston, who gave us the Zenith rods, designed these new rods in England but they are manufactured in Korea.   

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

Lighter in my hand than the NRX LP but had very little feel and was a lot more vague than the LP or Radian.  Accuracy was good, just not great.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

This rod feels light in my hand and forms nice tight loops at this distance with good accuracy.  The Radian, Morgan and Wraith are all slightly better though.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Out long the loop control was not nearly as good as the Wraith or Radian, and the accuracy suffered.        

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3 (tie)  Loop Opti Stream 9 foot #5  $532.00

loop Opti Stream

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loop Opti Stream

 

The Opti Stream has consistently performed well in our shootouts and once again it holds its own against much more expensive rods.  This is for sure the best bargain in top performing rods.   It’s pretty hard to justify spending another $200-$300 if what you are looking for is performance.  This is also a very light rod, with the top score in swing weight.  As you’ll see in the deflection chart the action is slower than most of the other good rods and the stiffer tip doesn’t allow for as much feel or accuracy at close range than we were getting with the best rods.  

 

The handle is a comfortable Western style grip, but the reel seat is a pretty cheap looking solid aluminum seat.  But it is double locking and seems to work well.  The guides are two SiC stripping guides and then some fairly large hard chrome snake guides.  This is a gray rod with darker gray wraps, trimmed in silver.  Loop is a Swedish company but the rods are produced in Korea, in the same factory as the Hardy rods.

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

Good, but not in the class of the NRX LP or Radian.   The stiffer tip hurt short-range accuracy.   

Performance at 45 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Solid.  This rod forms very tight loops with very good accuracy.  Nice and light in my hand too, which I like.  A little better than the Helios 2.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Good, but the NRX LP, Radian and Wraith were unquestionably better.  

 

 

#4   (tie)   Tom Morgan Rodsmiths 9 foot $1495.00

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths 4 pc

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Tom Morgan Rodsmiths 4 pc

 

As we reported in our 2015 5-weight Shootout, Tom Morgan has designed some new 4-piece rods in 3-6 weights, and they are simply fantastic rods in every way.  The only drawbacks we see are the price and the availability.  Most likely only a hundred or so of these rods will be built each year.   But we wanted to get these rods into our 2016 shootout as they are definitely one of the finest looking and finest performing rods you can get your hands on.  In the past, The Tom Morgan two-piece rods performed superbly in our Shootouts and these new 4-piece rods put in another remarkable performance.

Tom has worked up the designs and mandrels, and Kerry Burkheimer is building the blanks to Tom’s specs, then coating the blanks with the same beautiful deep burgundy epoxy finish found on the Tom Morgan two-piece rods. Then the finished blanks are sent to Tom and Gerri, where the rest of the rod is completed. Individual corks are laid up and sanded down to perfection.  You have your choice of a cigar or half wells grip.  Then their classy reel seats are fitted.  The nickel/silver uplock seats are preferred by most, but you can also get a downlocking seat, or slide band wood seat with a nickel/silver butt cap and sliding band.  Tom Morgan Rodsmiths cut their own wood inserts from a variety of different woods and consequently have some of the best looking inserts of anyone in the US if not the world.

Complimentary burgundy wraps are used on the guides.  The guide wraps are finished with 6 coats of epoxy finish, with light sanding in between each coat which results in the same marvelous finish we’ve seen on their exquisite two-piece rods.  The finished product is the finest looking fly rod we’ve ever seen!  The Tom Morgan rods use a real ruby red-agate stripping guide, followed with relatively small light wire nickel/titanium guides.  Even the rod case and cloth bag are stunning.  When you first glimpse the classy rod case, you know you are in for something special.  Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.  

One of the reasons this rod performs so well is that it is one-piece design, and spigot ferrules are used rather than the more common slip over ferrules.  The smoothness of this rod has to be experienced to be believed.  It’s as smooth as butter at all distances.  The only other rod in our Shootout using spigot ferrules is the Scott G-2.

The performance is exceptional at short to medium distances with terrific feel and a nice light Swing Weight.  Only past 70 feet does the performance fall off, as this is a softer rod than most others in our Shootout.  But it forms such tight loops and tracks so well at long distance that the accuracy is still excellent.

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. Trout in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  20 points out of 20

Impeccable feel and accruacy at 25 feet. Only the NRX LP could match it in terms of accuracy but even the LP couldn't touch the Tom Morgan's buttery smooth feel.  Easily the very best rod in our Shootout at this distance.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Buttery smooth, tight loops.  Just magical at this distance with awesome accuracy.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Definitely not the power of the Wraith at long range, but I could still get nice tight loops and excellent accuracy.    

 

 

 

 

#4 (tie)  Hardy Wraith  9 foot #5    $849.00

Hardy Wraith

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Hardy Wraith

 

We thought that the Zenith was the long distance King, but this Wraith is a killer rod at medium and long distances.  Nothing in our shootout comes close to matching this performance at mid and long range.  The action is slightly faster than the Zephrus, and although the overall weight is lighter than the Zephrus, the swing weight is quite a bit heavier.  This is a much more powerful rod than the NRX or Radian.  The price you pay in having a rod this strong is a decided lack of feel and accuracy at short distances.  So you really need to think about how you’ll use this rod.  If you want a nice delicate dry fly rod, forget this one!  But if you are fishing a lot at longer distances, with bigger more wind resistant flies like hoppers, or you are doing a lot of nymph fishing, or even chucking some streamers, this might be your rod.  

 

The Wraith is a good-looking rod, finished in a flat gray graphite color with darker gray wraps.  They use a Western style grip, with a nice looking burled wood skeleton, aluminum uplock seat.  The guides are similar to the Zephrus with one SiC stripper and the rest dark single foot nickel/titanium flexible guides, which are very light.  

 

With the Zephrus priced at $699, it doesn’t make sense why Hardy should charge an additional $150 for this rod, especially when it is made in Korea.   

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Almost no feel and little accuracy compared to the best rods.  You can force it in there but without any confidence.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Now the power brings this rod alive, and it really zings them in there.  Tracks perfectly with extremely good accuracy.

Performance at 70 feet:  20 points out of 20

This is the killer rod at long distance.  A rocket ship that throws nice tight loops with little effort.  I found I could carry 70 feet of line in the air – no other rod had the power to do this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#6  Orvis Helios 2- Tip Flex    9 foot #5    $795

 

Orvis H2

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Orvis H2

 

The Orvis Helios 2 in the tip-flex version has performed very well in our last three 5-weight shootouts.  And for good reason.  This is a nice light rod that performs especially well at short to medium distances, the ones that anglers fish most of the time.  Dry fly anglers will love this rod.  It is one of the very lightest rods in overall weight and also in swing weight.  The NRX and Zephrus were a tad lighter in swing weight.  Although Orvis designates this as tip-flex, it is not nearly as fast in action as the NRX LP or the Radian.  It also doesn’t have the same kind of power at long range as the top rods. 

 

This is a great looking rod in handsome sparkling dark blue. The craftsmanship is typical Orvis – meaning close to perfect.  They use a comfortable Western style grip with excellent cork, with a very nice looking aluminum skeleton reel seat with a burled wood insert that compliments the blue color of the rod. I like the guide set up - one big SiC stripper with the rest the flexible nickel/titanium snake guides.  

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

One of the best rods at short range.  Lots of feel and good accuracy.  Not quite as good as the NRX LP, but equal to the Radian and Tom Morgan. 

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Solid, and gave decent accuracy.  But several other rods were notably better, like the NRX LP, Tom Morgan, Wraith and Radian.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

At long distance the Helios 2 seems to run out of steam compared to the best rods.  And the lack of power and loop control hurts accuracy. 

 

 

 

#7   Douglas DXF  9 foot #5       $349.00

Douglas DXF

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Douglas DXF

 

I’ve liked this rod a lot since it’s introduction last year.  Douglas is a new company in New York, and at present these rods are built in Korea.  But Douglas has plans to roll their own rods in their plant in NY at some point in the future.  This is my pick as the best mid-priced rod.  The Pro 4X is close but it’s heavier swing weight hurt it.  The DXF performs as well as rods over double the price! For a less expensive rod, the DXF is surprisingly light in both overall weight and swing weight and this makes it very pleasant to cast.  The action is right on the money.  Both accuracy and feel are good at all distances.

 

I especially like the cosmetics of this rod.  It is a medium green, but with a flat, non-glare finish.  Darker green wraps are used and finished nicely, giving the rod an elegant appearance.  A nice western style grip is used along with a nice aluminum double uplock reel seat and attractive burled wood insert.  Guides are one SiC stripper and then hard chrome snake guides the rest of the way to the tiptop.     

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

Nice light feel in my hand, and very good accuracy.   This rod has lots of feel in close. 

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Pretty good feel, but both the Pro 4X and Aetos were better at mid-range.  

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

Ok, but again the Pro 4X throws nicer, tighter loops out long.

 

 

 

 

#7 (tie)  Beulah Guide Series II    9 foot #5  $295

Beulah Guide Series 2

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Beulah Guide series II

 

The Guide Series II has been a popular rod, and it’s tough to beat this rod at the price of $295.  We have liked their Beulah Platinum but this rod comes in at $100 less and performed slightly better for me.   It isn’t as fancy as the Platinum but what it does have is a slightly faster action and softer tip.  This is a dark gray rod with dark gray wraps.  They are using a Western style grip, with a silver uplocking aluminum seat and a rosewood insert.  The guides are one SiC stripper, with the rest fairly large diameter hard chrome snake guides.   If you are looking for a good rod under $300, look no further.  Overall a very good performance for a less expensive rod. 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Nice in close and even better at mid –range.  Good feel and accuracy.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

This is the sweet spot for this rod.   Nice tight loops and excellent accuracy.  This is a smooth casting rod at mid-range.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good power, and tracks well, with decent accuracy.   

 

 

 

 

 

#8 (tie)  Orvis Recon   9 foot #5    $425.00

Orvis Recon

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Orvis Recon

For sure, this is no Helios 2, but a pretty darn good rod and you’ll save $370.  The Recon was new in 2015 and very well received.  This rod is just a tad heavier than the Helios 2 with lower modulus graphite.  Orvis doesn’t use the same guides, nor do they use the same high-tech thermo-plastic resins that they use in the Helios 2.   

 

The color of the blank is a dark grey/olive with slightly darker gray wraps.  The Helios 2 is a great looking rod.  This one is pretty dull in comparison.  Craftsmanship is good though.  An excellent Western style grip and a very nice double lock aluminum uplock seat with a good looking burled wood insert.  One SiC stripping guide is used and the rest are hard chrome snake guides.  This rod has a fast action but is heavier in hand than others.

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Not as accurate in close as the Pro 4x LP, and it feels heavier in my hand than the Helios 2 and doesn’t have that same sweet feel in tight. 

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Very nice tight loops, and tracks nicely at this distance.  A solid performer here. 

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good power and casts about as well as the Helios 2, but the Legend Elite was definitely better at long range. 

 

 

 

 

#8 (tie)  Limit Creek   8 ½ foot #5    $169.99

Limit Creek

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Limit Creek

 

This is a brand new company from Spring Valley Minnesota. They have yet to offer a more standard 9 foot rod, but we were impressed with the way this rod performed- especially at the $169 price tag!  The thing I liked best is the action.  It has a nice fast action with a softer tip, much like our best rods in the shootout.    

 

This is another rod that is built in Korea and the craftsmanship is very good.  The color is dark olive, with slightly darker olive wraps. A Western style grip is used, with a good looking gray anodized double locking aluminum seat and an attractive burled wood insert with matching gray tones.  Guides are two lightweight SiC strippers with the rest black single foot hard chrome guides.  

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Decent accuracy and feels light in my hand but this rod is only 8 ½ feet. 

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Better at mid-range, but not in the same class as the Recon or Legend Elite.

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

Now it just doesn’t have the punch of a good 9 footer and the accuracy was not great either.

 

 

 

 

 

#9 (tie)  St. Croix Legend Elite  9 foot #5  $460.00

St. Croix Legend Elite

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St. Croix Legend Elite

 

The Legend Elite has always impressed us with great performance and wonderful craftsmanship at a very fair price.   For outright value, it is hard to beat this rod.   The Legend Elite has very good butt and mid-section power, as you’ll see on the deflection charts.   Yet is has a softer tip and this is why it casts so well at short range.   In scoring, it got hurt a bit in swing weight, and in our 2015 Shootout, it finished 5th, which is maybe more realistic.  

 

This is a strong rod, using a new version of their FRS resin system.   The craftsmanship is excellent.  The color is a pleasing dark green with slightly lighter gray/green wraps.  St. Croix uses a Western style cork grip with very high quality cork.  The reel seat is attractive too, with a gold anodized uplock seat and a pretty Birdseye maple insert. 

Guides are one SiC stripper with the rest single foot hard chrome guides.

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

Feels a little heavy in my hand but the accuracy is excellent.  But the Helios 2 and others are better. 

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Again, I’m seeing very good accuracy and a totally solid feel.  Tracks beautifully.  A good performance at mid-range.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

I cannot get the same tight loops in the wind like I can with the NRX LP, Radian or the Wraith but overall very good. 

 

 

 

 

#9 (tie)  G. Loomis Pro 4X LP   9 foot #5  $375.00

G.Loomis Pro4x

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g.Loomis Pro4x

 

Again this year the shop guys liked this rod and gave it higher scores than I did.  But this is a very good casting rod at a good price.  At short range I did like the Douglas DXF a bit better.  But at 45 feet, it was better than the DXF and nearly as good as the best rods.  The DXF on the other hand was much lighter in both overall weight and swing weight.  Steve Rajeff has designed a rod that casts very well, but I just wish this rod was a bit lighter.  

 

I’m not too keen on the cosmetics of this rod either.  The DXF to me looks a lot more attractive.  The color of the Pro 4X LP is kind of a slime green olive with lighter olive wraps.  Loomis uses a Western style grip with a black aluminum uplocking seat and a cork insert.   They do use a SiC stripper, which I like better than the Recoil guides, but then they cheap out using hard chrome single foot guides, which are OK but a lot heavier than the guides they use on the NRX LP.

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good, but the DXF was slightly better and it also is far lighter in swing weight.  The Pro 4X LP is not even close to the NRX LP in either feel or accuracy.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Now this rod comes alive and I’m forming very tight loops with excellent accuracy.   This is the sweet distance for this rod.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Pretty good, but the TFO BVK smokes the Pro 4X LP at long range when I was casting them head to head. 

 

 

 

 

 

#10 (tie) Scott G-2    9 foot #5    $745.00

Scott G2

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Scott G2

 

In our 2015 5-weight shootout I rated the G-2 much lower, in a tie for 13th.  But after a lot of casting and comparing this year, I gave the G-2 both 19 scores at 25 and 45 feet and this jumped it up to where it probably should have been last year.  It placed 7th in 2013, so this is more realistic.  This rod uses spigot ferrules, and this makes for a very smooth casting rod.  Like the Radian, the G-2 is finished in natural graphite gray, and unsanded but finished over the tape marks.  As on the Radian, Scott puts small inch marks at 12 and 20 inches – a nice touch that helps you measure fish.  The wraps are chocolate brown with some silver trim wraps.

 

Craftsmanship is superb on the G-2, typical of the work that Scott is doing.  The cork handle is a slim Western Style grip, different from the Radian but feels very good.  They use a black anodized aluminum skeleton seat with a beautiful birds eye maple burl for the insert.  The guides are one SiC stripper with the rest hard chrome snake guides.    This is a nice light rod in both overall weight and swing weight.  This rod performs better at the short to medium distances.

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A.  Trout in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

Very good but I’d give the Radian the edge.  Nice and smooth though and light in my hand.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Again a fine performance.  Feels well balanced with Trout taper but also worked fine with the MPX. 

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Pretty good when there wasn’t much wind but the Radian was much better as were the other top rods.

 

 

 

 

#10 (tie) Mystic Reaper  9 foot #5   $229.00

Mystic Reaper

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Mystic Reaper

 

For inexpensive rods, the Mystic Reaper is probably my favorite behind the Fenwick Aetos.  I like the action a lot, a nice fast action with a softer tip that helps it perform very well in close.  It does not have quite as much power as the Aetos at longer ranges though.    Before the Aetos arrived, we named the Reaper our “Best Buy” winner.  

 

The craftsmanship is surprisingly good and this is a good-looking rod finished in a chocolate brown, with darker brown wraps.  The cork handle is a western style grip but the swell is farther forward than you find it on other rods making the feel in your hand a little strange.  A very nice looking aluminum uplock seat in silver is used with an attractive burled wood insert.  The guides are two SiC strippers and then some good sized hard chrome snake guides. In our overall finish there are a heck of a lot of very good rods that didn’t sore as well as the Mystic Reaper, including four rods that cost over $650!   

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Every bit as good as the Aetos at short range and this rod has a nice light feel in my hand.  Shorter distances are the sweet spot for this rod.

Performance at 45 feet:  18 points out of 20

Now the softness is overall power is revealed.  It doesn’t track as well nor it is as accurate as the Aetos.  The DXF was better too but it’s a more expensive rod. 

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

Smooth but can’t get it done like the best rods.  The Aetos has significantly more punch at long range.

 

 

 

 

#11 Fenwick Aetos  9 foot #5   $189.95

Fenwick Aetos

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Fenwick Aetos 

Here is our pick for the best inexpensive rod for 2016 – just like in 2015.  The Limit Creek beat it in overall score, but this is only an 8 ½ foot rod, and the Aetos beat it in performance scores.  So the Aetos is the champ.  Now that Pure Fishing Corp. has the Fenwick brand, you are more likely to find this rod in one of the big box stores rather than fly shops, but we think that will change.  The Aetos name came from the Greek eagle that was Zeus’ personal messenger.    

 

The Aetos is a handsome rod other than the plain looking reel seat.  It is dark blue with dark brown wraps. Some silver trim is used on the butt.  The handle is a Western style grip but the quality of cork isn’t nearly as good as you’ll find on the best rods.  The reel seat is just plain aluminum with no spacer and pretty cheap looking.  But don’t let that bother you as this rod performs quite well.  The guides are one SiC stripper with the rest black small wire hard chrome snake guides.   A nice guide set up.   The fast action is pretty much on the money and a lot like the Hardy Zephrus.  The swing weight is very light, better than the Pro 4X or Legend Elite, and this will make it a pleasant rod to fish all day, especially with dry flies. 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Nice and light with good accuracy and feel at close range.     

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Very good, with excellent accuracy.  Feels as good as a lot of the more expensive rods.

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

The Aetos feels like it could use a little more butt power at long range but still performs quite well. 

 

 

 

#12  Beulah Platinum   9 foot #5   $395.00

Beulah Platinum

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Beulah Platinum

 

Beulah gives us another very nice rod, and even better looking than the Guide Series II.  The fancy cork handle is pretty wild and sets this rod apart from about every other rod you’ll see.  This rod has a medium fast action, a little slower than our best rods, but it was buttery smooth for me, especially at short to medium distances.    Less aggressive casters will be attracted to this rod, as it is more forgiving than a lot of the faster rods.  But it does throw the line at a lower velocity, and this hurts out long.   

 

The rod itself is chocolate brown with lighter brown wraps, trimmed with dark brown wraps that include some silver trim. Very nice.  The cork handle is a Western style grip with a silver anodized aluminum skeleton uplock seat and a very nice piece of burled wood as a spacer.   The guide set up is one SiC stripping guide and the rest fairly large diameter hard chrome snake guides.  

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F. 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Very pleasant to cast in close – very smooth with good accuracy.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good, but the Pro 4x was better, as was the Aetos.  

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

This rod is just doesn’t have the guts to do well at long range.  It gets it done but with a lot more effort than other rods. 

 

 

 

 

#13   Echo Base      $9 foot #5     $89.95

Echo Base

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Echo Base

 

Tim Rajeff and Echo have given us a very inexpensive rod this year, and it’s an incredibly good casting rod for the money.  It really compares favorably to rods in the $200 range and as you’ll see it beat out a lot of far more expensive rods, even a couple that were over $800!  Sage is going to be on the warpath with me as I rated the Echo Base better than either the new MOD or Bolt.  But in trying to judge all the rods in our shootout, the most important thing is performance, and in my opinion the performance scores for the Echo Base exactly matched the Sage MOD.  The big difference here is in the swing weight and the Echo Base is really heavy compared to the MOD, and the other best rods.  Sure, there are a lot better rods in this Shootout but none that come in at such a low price.    

 

So if you are looking for a rod for your son or daughter or for any beginner just starting out and you don’t want to spend much money, this is the rod for you. 

 

This is no fancy rod – but it’s a lot better than you might expect for $89.95.  The color is a very dark blue with brown wraps, trimmed with silver on the butt. They are using a Western style grip, with a plain black anodized aluminum uplock seat.  Again, not fancy but perfectly functional.  The guides are one Sic stripper and the rest hard chrome snake guides. 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Decent accuracy despite the fact that the swing weight is so heavy. 

Performance at 45 feet:  18 points out of 20

Good, but not great by any means.

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

The swing weight makes casting a chore, but this rod has the power

to go long pretty easily.  

 

 

 

 

#14 (tie)   R.L. Winston BIIIx    9 foot #5    $845.00

R.L. Winston BIIIx

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R.L. Winston BIIIx

 

In looking at where the BIIIx ended up, I’m a little surprised, as I have liked this rod a lot in the past.  In 0ur 2015 Shootout it placed 10th.   The performance scores hurt, especially at the longer distances.  This rod is very good in tight though and has been a favorite rod for a lot of dry fly anglers. 

 

The one thing you notice right away is what a gorgeous rod the Winstons are.  Second only to the Tom Morgan Rodsmiths in terms of beauty and craftsmanship.  The deep emerald green really lights up in the sunlight and just looks fantastic.  The wraps are a complimentary dark green.  Another knockout is the nickel-silver uplocking reel seat.   A lot more classy than anodized aluminum!  Winston uses a beautiful piece of burled maple also for the insert.  The handle is their very comfortable Western styled grip with very high quality cork.  Guides are one SiC stripping guide with the rest hard chrome snake guides.  

 

The thing I’ve liked most about the BIIIx is its fast action and nice soft tip - softer than just about any other 5-weight rod in our Shootout.    The soft tip makes for wonderful accuracy and feel in close and the kind of delicate presentations that dry fly anglers love.

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

Very good but the NRX LP, the Radian and the Tom Morgan were noticeably better.   Nice soft tip gives delicate presentations.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Nice but it doesn’t track quite as well or is as accurate as the Radian or NRX LP.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Pretty good, but I feel a lack of punch that I’m looking for at long range.   It gets it done but the cast timing was critical.  

 

 

 

 

#14 (tie)    Echo 3    9 foot #5    $349.95

echo 3

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echo 3

 

The Echo 3 is a nice rod that is just a bit too stiff in the tip for my liking.  The overall stiffness is about like the Hardy Wraith, but the tip is much stiffer on the Echo 3 and it doesn’t perform nearly as well as the Wraith.  Most anglers would be better off jumping this rod up to a #6 line, which would allow it to load a lot better at shorter distances.   At long range it’s fine with the #5 line.  

 

This is another good rod coming from Korea, designed by Tim Rajeff, and the craftsmanship is excellent.  The rod is a pleasing medium green color with darker green wraps trimmed in silver.  A western style grip is used along with a silver anodized aluminum uplock seat and a nice burled wood insert.  The guides are two SiC strippers followed with quite large diameter hard chrome snake guides, about as big as you’ll find on saltwater 8-weight rods.  

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

The stiff tip and heavy swing weight hurt both feel and accuracy.  This rod needs a WF-6-F in close. 

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Feels better with more line in the air and the accuracy was better too.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Now I’m getting nice tight, controlled loops and fine accuracy.  Can’t match either the Wraith or BVK though, in long distance power.

 

 

 

 

#14 (tie)    Fenwick HMG   9 foot #5    $159.95

Fenwick HMG

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Fenwick HMG

 

I really like the way this rod casts about as well as the Aetos.  If anything it has a little faster action than the Aetos and this gives it a nice feel in tight.  Both of these Fenwick rods are pleasant to cast and are hard to beat for the money.  I like the cosmetics on the HMG too - This rod has a nice flat, non-glare finish in dark graphite gray color, and they use dark brown wraps on the guides. On the butt section, the wraps are trimmed with orange wire, which looks nice.  A Western style grip is used along with a gray anodized aluminum uplocking reel seat. 

 

I was a little turned off with the grip as they used so much filler.  Certainly one of the cheapest pre-formed grips was used to keep the cost down and it doesn’t look so great.  But I’m sure it will function just fine.  Guides are one SiC with the rest nice thin wire black snake guides, which look great on this rod.  So there are a few drawbacks but it’s a heck of a rod for $159.95.  These Fenwick rods are made in Korea, like the Hardy rods.   

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

I thought the HMG had a touch more feel and better accuracy than the Aetos even though the scores here are the same.  

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Very nice loop control and a solid performance, but the Aetos ate its lunch at 45 feet.  

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

Now I can see a slight drop off in performance and accuracy.   OK but not great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#15 (tie)  Sage MOD    9 foot #5     $850.00

Sage MOD

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Sage MOD

 

It is hard for me to imagine that the Sage Mod would finish this far back in the pack.  This is a brand new rod for Sage this year, and    initially when I cast this rod at the ICAST show in Orlando, in July, I thought it was great.  But I didn’t have any other of the top rods to compare it with head to head like we do in our Shootout.  Once we did the Shootout, it was apparent that the MOD was far slower in action than the best rods like the NRX LP and Radian.  And the stiffer tip didn’t produce good accuracy or feel at short range.  Then out long, it had no guts.  As an all-around fishing tool, the new Bolt is far better even though it scored lower and feels heavier. 

 

The MOD is a snappy, light olive color, with complimentary olive wraps and some black trim on the butt section.  This is a brilliant, sharp looking rod, and everyone is going to take notice of it out on the stream.  The Sage craftsmanship is excellent, as we have come to expect over the years.  The cork grip is a half wells design, but with little swell and smaller in diameter than most.  It’s like the handles on their Circa.  The reel seat has a beautiful zebra wood insert, and a black anodized aluminum uplock seat. Guides are one SiC stripping guide and the rest hard chrome snake guides.   

 

I’ve got one gripe about the Sage rods in general.  In our experience over the last twenty years, in our shop, they break pretty easily compared to say a Loomis NRX or LP, and when they do break, it takes far too long for Sage to repair the rod and get it back to you.  Often well over a month.

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Disappointing – little feel or accuracy due to the relatively stiff tip and more moderate action.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

OK, but not even close to the best rods.   The butt and mid sections feel too soft and I have to work a lot harder at 45 feet than I do with the NRX LP, Tom Morgan or the Radian.  Feels mushy in the middle.

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

The MOD is harder to control in the wind, and has not nearly as much power or is as solid as the Zephrus or Radian. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#15 (tie)  TFO BVK    9 foot #5    $295.00

TFO BVK

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TFO BVK

 

The BVK in the 8-weight is one of our favorite rods, especially for the price.  But the 5-weight is not nearly as good.  Mainly because it is just far too stiff.  As you’ll see in our deflection charts, it is way up at the top and even stiffer than our #6 line rod as well as the Sage Bolt, another rod that needs a #6 line.  This stiffness accounts for it’s poor scores at close range.  If you slap a #6 line on it, this is better but it still won’t perform with the best 5-weight rods.

 

Many of you know that Lefty Kreh helped with the design of these BVK rods and those are his initials.  Lefty, I’m sorry but tame this rod and make it more pleasant as a 5-weight. 

 

This rod is a pleasing dark green color with slightly lighter green wraps.  They use a western style grip, and the gray anodized aluminum skeleton uplock seat uses a nice green graphite insert to compliment the color of the rod.  The guides are two BIG SiC strippers, and then good hard chrome snake guides the rest of the way.  

 

One more gripe that I throw in every year is that this is the ONLY rod in our shootout that does not come with a hard case for traveling.   WHY?  I suppose because that would take the price over $300 but almost everyone we sell a BVK to wants the hard case and that’s an extra $30.  At least you do have the option to get TFO’s excellent larger triangular travel case that takes five 4-pc rods for $49.95

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-6-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

Not good.  The stiffness killed any feel or accuracy.  With a #6 line it would be a lot better.

Performance at 45 feet:  18 points out of 20

Smooth and now with more line out it feels more balanced.  Pretty good accuracy but it’s heavy in swing weight and won’t be a lot of fun to fish all day. 

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Out long, this rod performs a whole lot better and tracks nicely.  This being said, it’s not in the same class with the Wraith or Radian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#16  CD Composite XLS II   9 foot #5  $549

CD Composit XLS II

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CD Composit XLS II

 

Another new rod this year from a company in New Zealand but manufactured in Korea.  This is an attractive rod and the big plus is that it comes with a spare tip section so if the tip breaks, you are still in business!  But I felt that the price was awfully high for a rod that didn’t perform much better.  At first it felt pretty good in my hand, and the action seemed OK and fast enough, but then out comparing it to the other rods head to head, it didn’t score too well. 

 

One other disturbing thing that I noticed was that the slip over ferrules did not have any thread wrap.  Every other manufacturer has learned that even if you get small cracks here, a good thread wrap doesn’t allow the crack to go any further up the rod and most people never see it.  But with no thread wrap, a crack could produce a disaster, splitting right up the rod section.  I would assume that this will be corrected.

 

This rod is a nice deep burgundy color, somewhat like the Tom Morgan.  They use slightly lighter red wraps, trimmed with silver.  The cork handle is a half wells design, and quite comfortable.  An interesting design gray anodized aluminum uplock seat is used, with a red graphite insert that you can see through the cut outs in the aluminum. Guides are one big SiC stripper and the rest are black single foot guides of hard chrome.

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Decent feel and accuracy but the Reaper or Aetos were better.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good, just not great.  Both the Guide Series II and Aetos clobbered it at mid-distance.  

Performance at 70 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

The overall softness in the butt and mid-sections held this rod back at long range and the accuracy was not too good.  

 

 

 

 

 

 #17  Sage Bolt    9 foot #5    $650.00

Sage BOLT

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Sage BOLT

Here is another shockingly low finish by a pretty good Sage rod.  The Bolt is another new rod from Sage, and their old XP fans are really going to like this rod a lot!  It is much faster in action than the MOD, as well as their Sage One, and feels a lot like the old XP to me but perhaps stiffer.  The stiffness and weight both hurt the Bolt scores.   The overall weight was fine at 3.1 oz. but the swing weight, at 11.5 oz. was one of the heaviest.  In my hand, this rod feels really heavy! Only the Winston BIII Plus and the Redington Vapen were noticeably worse.

 

This rod is one that will get noticed however, with it’s brilliant orange paint job.  The wraps are also orange, trimmed in black.  Sage is using the same sort of slim half wells grip that we see on the MOD.  But this one seems a little larger at the bottom.  Still very comfortable in my hand.  A dark laminated rosewood colored insert is used along with a black anodized aluminum uplocking seat.  The guide set up is one SiC stripper and the rest hard chrome snake guides.    

 

If you take a look at the deflection charts, you’ll see the Bolt right up at the very top with the TFO BVK.  In my opinion, these are actually 6-weight rods.

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-6-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

My notes say – no feel at all.  You could force halfway decent accuracy but you were working hard to get it.  This is a heavy rod in my hand. 

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Now, with more line in the air, the Bolt feels a lot better, and definitely better than the MOD.  Still not up to par with the best rods.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Good, but the Wraith just smoked it. Both the Radian and NRX LP felt a whole lot better and were more accurate at long range.

 

 

 

 

#18 (tie)  Thomas & Thomas Spire  9 foot#5  $795.00

Thomas and Thomas Spire

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Thomas and Thomas Spire

 

Thomas and Thomas came out with two new rods this year, the Spire, which is pitched as their powerful fast action rod for a variety of conditions and the Aeros, a rod that they are promoting as their premier dry fly rod, with more of a medium action, crafted for accuracy and finesse.  I cast both of these rods at the ICAST show this summer in Orlando, and the one that really impressed me was the Aeros.  The people there at T&T said they would send me the Aeros ASAP to test and fish along with the Spire.  Then someone evidently forgot about it.  We also told our T & T Rep that we needed both rods for our upcoming Shootout.  Well, unfortunately we got only one rod, the Spire.  And this was not the one I felt was their best rod.  The Spire was far stiffer than the Aeros and didn’t cast very well at shorter distances.  It is also very heavy, especially in swing weight.  Two full oz. heavier than our winner, the NRX LP.  That’s a ton in swing weight terms.  

 

The Spire is a beautiful rod and the craftsmanship is typical T&T – just superb.  They use the best cork I’ve ever seen, and the wraps and coatings are as good as it gets.  This rod is a dark blue with slightly lighter blue wraps.  The butt wraps are trimmed in silver.  The sweet cork handle is more of a cigar style grip with flare at the back for the uplocking seat.  The reel seat itself is anodized in a greyish blue to compliment the rod, and a fancy birds eye burl is used. Everything is first class here.   

 

But the performance was disappointing.  I just didn’t like this rod much. They touted it as a fast action but it is really much more of a medium action that is stiff and not very pleasant to cast.  That Aeros would have put in a much better showing.  All I can say is that we did our best to get one but it didn’t happen. 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

This rod is a chore to cast at short range, mainly due to the

Heavy swing weight.  Accuracy wasn’t very good either.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

It almost feels more like a parabolic action to me. It does track well in the wind and was fairly accurate.  

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

For a stiff rod I thought it would be better at long range, but I was expending way too much effort to get the job done. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#18 (tie)  Redington Hydrogen 9 foot #5  $299.95

Redington Hydrogen

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Redington Hydrogen

 

This was the best of the two Redington rods we tested. At first wiggle I thought I was going to like the Hydrogen.  It was nice and light and the action wasn’t bad – medium fast.  But one of the things that bothered me was the grip – it’s just too small.  It would be good for a woman, but not for most men.  Of course maybe the sample we got was not correct, but I know they are using cheap pre-shaped grips so they are probably all the same size.  Then the reel seat is a goofy looking thing for an uplock seat.  No spacer at all.  You see this kind of crazy stuff on spin rods but I didn’t expect to see it on a fly rod. But then Redington does some weird stuff like that rubber grip on the Vapen, which I actually like. 

 

This rod is a flat finished gray graphite, with gray wraps. The guides are one stripping guide of some new style, again unconventional, and the rest are hard chrome single foot guides, which are OK.  

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

The small cork handle is throwing me off stride and the accuracy and feel were not very good at all.  It is light though.

Performance at 45 feet:  18 points out of 20

OK but nothing to write home about.

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20

Now the small handle makes it hard for me to muscle it into throwing long.  Hard work and little accuracy. 

 

 

 

 

 

#19  Carbon Pro River Ridge Plus  9 foot #5  $149.99

Carbon Pro River Ridge Plus

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Carbon Pro River Ridge Plus

 

This Carbon Pro River Ridge Plus was one of two rods we received from this new company building rods in either Korea or China.  Unfortunately we don’t know much more about the company as they have no web site or other information we can access.  Like a lot of the other rods made in Korea, the craftsmanship is pretty good, just not great.  It is a pleasing rod, in a pretty blue/green color.  The handle is a Western style grip and then they use a gray anodized aluminum uplocking seat with a blue graphite insert.  The guides are one SiC stripping guide with the rest hard chrome snake guides.

 

I wasn’t too happy with the medium action of the rod and the stiffer tip didn’t help.  At short range it had little feel or accuracy.  A more or less lackluster performance across the board.  Both the Fenwick Aetos and HMG were better rods at a much lower price.

 

*Note - Long after our shootout was published Carbon Pro finally returned our phone calls and claimed that the River Ridge Plus retails for $149.95 - not $289.00.  Apparently after the shootout was published they had a lot of attention and decided to proceed with fly rod production.  They also changed their warranty to a $20 handling fee, which would be one of the best.  Had we known this at the time of the shootout, we would have rated the rod differently in terms of price and warranty.   

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

Felt soft and mushy compared to the NRX LP. Most other rods were better in close.

Performance at 45 feet:  18 points out of 20

Doesn’t track nearly as well as the Aetos or the HMG.   Felt pretty smooth though…

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Slightly better at long range and surprisingly good power.  Felt better out long with decent accuracy.

 

 

 

 

 

#20 R.L. Winston BIII Plus  9 foot #5   $855.00

R.L. Winston BIII Plus

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R.L. Winston BIII Plus

 

I like the fast action of this rod, and feel that it would have placed a lot higher if it had just been a bit softer (and lighter) tip.  I’ve cast the #7 and #8 line BIII Plus rods and they were wonderful, so I was expecting more from the 5-weight version.  The stiffness in close just killed any feel and the accuracy was lousy too.  At long range it was far better.  So if you are a Winston fan, I would try loading this rod up with a WF-6-F line and then you would come up with a much sweeter rod to fish, especially at short to medium distances.  This was a very heavy rod too, in both overall and swing weight.       

 

This is a gorgeous rod, with that sparkling emerald green finish that Winston is famous for.  Certainly one of the best-looking rods we’ve seen.  Complimentary green thread wraps are used.  Unlike the BIIIx, on the Plus they are using a half wells style grip, which is perhaps better and allows a more secure grip and application of power at long range.  Superb cork is used, and the reel seat is special too, with Winston’s nickel-silver uplocking seat and a beautiful piece of birds eye maple burl wood.  Guides are two SiC strippers and then hard chrome snake guides the rest of the way to the tip. 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-6-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  17 points out of 20

The overall stiffness of this rod hurt both the feel and accuracy.  A #6 line would be a big help in close.  The heavy swing weight hurts too.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Pretty good, but I just cannot form the nice tight loops I was

Getting with the Radian or NRX LP.   And this rod feels very heavy.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Far better at long distance – now the stiffness comes into play.  The rod tracks well and the accuracy was very good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#21  Redington Vapen   9 foot #5    $349.95

Redington Vapen

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Redington Vapen

Well, there is always one rod that ends up at the bottom of our Shootout page, and this is it.  We expected better as we kept hearing good things about the Vapen from customers.  But maybe they had just read about it and not tried it.  I will say that the golf style grip for the handle is unique and I’m sure we’ll see more of this because it was easy to grip and comfortable.  Other than that, the rod was a big disappointment.  The action was too slow to challenge the best rods, and the heavy swing weight of 11.8 made this rod very tiring to cast.  

 

This is another flat black rod, in graphite color but with black wraps.  The golf-grip style handle is trimmed with a dark cork on either end, (the grip is also available in red).  The reel seat is a black anodized aluminum uplocking seat with a black graphite insert.  The guides are a single SiC style stripper with the rest hard chrome snake guides.  This rod also got the lowest score in our Shootout for fun to fish, mainly because it is a real clunker.

 

 

George’s Casting Notes:   The perfect line: S. A. MPX in WF-5-F.

Performance at 25 feet:  16 points out of 20

This was hard work with such a heavy swing weight, and there was almost no feel or accuracy.

Performance at 45 feet:  17 points out of 20

Not very accurate and the parabolic action doesn’t help.  The swing weight is killing my wrist.

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20

It’s a good thing you can get a good grip on this rod as at long range you are going to work very hard.  

 

5 Weight shootout winners

 

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We hope you have enjoyed reading our latest 2016 five-weight shootout. While we always recommend trying (and buying) a rod from your local fly shop first, if they do not stock the rod you are interested in or are out of stock, we'd love to have your business!  With your support, we can continue to give you more shootouts and head to head comparisons on tackle and fishing equipment in the future.  But these shootouts take us a lot of time, so if you are in the market for a new rod or outfit please consider buying one from us.  We appreciate your business! Be sure to e-mail us your comments and any questions you have about the exact tackle you need for the fishing you are doing or tackle needs for a trip you are planning.  We have fished all over the world in both fresh and saltwater for a variety of fish, and we’ll be glad to help answer any questions you might have.

 

 -George Anderson