2016 8-weight shootout

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

By George Anderson

With comments by James Anderson, Capt. Jamie Allen, Capt. Skip Zink, and Dusty Sprague

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

James Anderson Captain Jamie Allen  Capt. Skip Zink  Dusty Spraig

 

              James Anderson           Capt. Jamie Allen               Capt. Skip Zink                  MCI Dusty Sprague

 

With some great new rods on the market, we felt that it’s time for another 8-Weight Shootout.   And everyone wants to hear about them right now, getting primed for that bonefish trip to warmer climates.  

 

As in our last 8-weight shootout, back in 2014, we brought all the rods with us to sunny Florida where we could cast as well as fish some of the best rods.  Here we can test the rods in more tropical environment.  It’s hard to straighten out the stiff tropical lines in Livingston when there is snow on the ground.  And the big bonus of doing our Shootout in Florida is having friends here in Boca Grande that are guides and FFF casting instructors to help out. These are guys that know what a good 8-weight rod needs to do since they are using them here all winter, fishing for redfish, snook, speckled trout and even baby tarpon.  They also know which ones hold up over time and which ones don't.   

 

I spend a lot of time here in the winter, fishing the waters of Charlotte Harbor on Florida’s SW coast.  So my son Jamie, who is the boss at the Yellowstone Angler now, flew down to help with the Shootout.  My fishing buddies who live here, (Jamie Allen, Skip Zink and Dusty Sprague) were also able to join us. Jamie Allen participated in our last 8-weight Shootout so he knows the drill.   Skip and Dusty were really anxious to see the new crop of 8-weights and what they could do as well.  These guys are all expert anglers as well as guides and FFF casting instructors so you’ll want to hear their comments on the rods as well as mine and Jamie Anderson’s.  You’ll find their comments and contact information by clicking on their photos.  And of course if you are looking for a good guide here on Florida’s West coast, these guys are some of the best.  They guide here year-around.  Not just now in the fall and winter, for snook, redfish, and speckled trout, but all the way through the tarpon season that ends here in late summer. There is nothing in fly fishing that is more exciting than being hooked up to a 100 pound plus tarpon.

 

Once again we are grateful to the Gasparilla Inn for allowing us to use their soccer field and dog park for our casting activities.  We couldn’t have a nicer set-up as the park is big enough we can set the casting line in any direction to help us handle the winds we are getting on our casting days. Another bonus here in Florida is having winds that are very light compared to what we can have in Livingston.  It is almost impossible to judge what these rods can do if you have strong or gusty winds.  But a little wind is good and shows you the capability of the rods to handle normal fishing conditions.


George Anderson testing performance

We have found that doing our casting on a good mowed lawn is far superior to doing the casting on water.  This way we can have 2-4 rods laid out in front of each person with the fly line out there on the grass 35-60 feet away and then just pick up one rod after another, taking a few casts with each to determine the often subtle differences between rods that help us rate them for performance.  While we may not get the "water load" on our back cast, it is much easier and more effcient to compare rods head-to-head.  




Adding a new performance category – 100 feet!

 

This year for the first time, we decided to add a new performance category, and score all these rods at 100 feet.  As in the past we’ll rate these 8-weight rods at longer distances than we rate the 5-weight rods.  The distances we’ll use are 35 feet, 60 feet, 80 feet and now... 100 feet.   

 

The best 8-weight rods need to perform well at all these distances in the hands of a skilled caster. Lots of people will say that they are never going to be fishing at 100 feet, but for expert anglers that are good casters, the ability for a rod to perform well at extreme long range can make the difference between catching fish or not.

 

Let me tell you a short story -  A few years ago I was fishing in Cuba for bonefish in the Jardines de la Reina, where there are a lot of soft shallow flats.  On a low incoming tide, we had several big fish tailing so far up on the flat that the water was just barely covering their backs.  My guide Coki poled the Super Skiff up as close to the fish as he could on the muddy bottom, but we were stuck in 7 inches of water and still a long way from the fish.  Getting out of the skiff to wade was not an option as the marl here was so soft that one step out of the skiff and you would sink in up to your crotch. The only way I was going to catch any of these fish was to make a cast close to 100 feet and get the fly and leader to turn over.  Ninety feet wasn’t going to cut it.  I grabbed my 9 foot #8 Loomis NRX, as this was the only rod in the boat that could get it done with its explosive power at long range.  In the next fifteen minutes I caught two nice bonefish that I would have never gotten if I could not have launched that fly over 100 feet.  


George Anderson

 

In this Shootout, you will read about rods that are excellent at short to mid-range but at long range don’t have the power to get the job done.  Just remember this – you may never be fishing to fish at 80-100 feet but you are gong to need this kind of power when you are trying to reach a fish that is only 50-60 feet away in a stiff wind, and to catch that fish, you need to have enough power and drive to get both your line and leader to turn over.  Rods that perform well at long range also tend to have good power when playing fish, allowing you to land and release them quickly.

 

Picking the best 8-weight rod

 

I think that the real meat of our shootouts is how a rod performs.  So be sure to take a careful look at our separate table with only the performance scores.  To put more emphasis on performance, we double the points in these categories.  And for the first time we are now rating these high performance 8-weight rods at 100 feet.  Some may argue that 100 feet should only be awarded 10 points, but for the reasons above 20 points is warranted.    

 

In our 8-weight shootouts we are looking for the best strong 8-weight rods for powerful saltwater species like bonefish, redfish, snook, smaller stripers etc.  But these must also be good rods for slinging streamers for big trout worldwide, and rods that can be used for salmon and steelhead as well as bass.  Of course for salmon and steelhead double handed and switch rods have pretty much taken over, especially on larger rivers. 

 

A good saltwater 8-weight rod needs to be strong enough to fire 40-60 foot casts into a hard wind, and hit 80-100 feet with ease in calmer conditions.  But it also needs to be extremely accurate, and delicate enough to present a fly to spooky tailing bones at 25-30 feet.  It needs to have a securely locking reel seat that won’t work loose with larger, and heavier saltwater fly reels.  A full wells cork grip is our preferred style for power casting and playing good fish, and it helps a lot to have larger guides that the inevitable line tangle will pass through when you are playing that bonefish of a lifetime.    

 

An overall winner must be judged on many other things too, like price, craftsmanship, warranty, overall weight and swing weight.  Swing weight, or the weight you feel in your hand with the rod held horizontally, is so important this is now part of our performance scores.   Then for fun we add in categories like “Fun to fish, Got to have” as well as “Perfect 8 Performance," which gauges the best all-around rods.    

 

Fly rods get better and better every year.  Now, only subtle differences separate all these rods in our Shootout.  If you pick any one of the top dozen rods in this shootout, we are confident that you will be delighted.

 

Keep in mind that what you are reading are only our opinions.  I’m sorry if we have offended some people or manufacturers.   We are just trying to call it like we see it, in an unbiased manner.  We know we are on the right track since 90% of the anglers that take the time to give us their feedback on these Shootouts agree with our findings.  I know that you will enjoy reading everyone’s comments, and we hope that these will help you when you are ready to buy your next 8-weight rod. 

 

As in the past, you will be amazed at how well some of the inexpensive rods so compared to rods that cost hundreds of dollars more.  We’ll also give you our picks for the best mid-priced rods as well as the best inexpensive rods. 

 

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.  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 later with 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 enjoyed helping rod manufacturers like Sage, G.Loomis, Scott, and Tom Morgan in the design process, helping design rods like the Sage LL series, the Loomis StreamDance GLX series, the new Scott Meridian, and doing the final casting and prototype work with Tom Morgan on his lovely Rodsmiths 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 Jamie is a real fly fishing fanatic, as well as a great caster, and has been an integral part of helping in all of our rod shootouts and tackle comparisons.  He also enjoys fishing the salt as much as I do when he can break away from his every day job of running the Yellowstone Angler.

 

For this 8-weight shootout, I also enlisted the help of several of my good fishing buddies here in Florida.  Jamie Allen and Skip Zink are two of the best SW Florida Captains and fishing guides while Dusty is another angling partner and one of the top FFF casting instructors in our area.  

 

These guys are out there fishing for snook, redfish, trout and baby tarpon a great deal of the time, and they have their clients using 8 and 9-weight rods on a daily basis.  We all use and enjoy the one-piece rods from both Hardy and G. Loomis.  If you don’t need a 4-pc rod to travel with, be sure to consider these one-piece rods.  They are often lighter than their 4-pc counterparts, fun to fish with, and you’ll never have to worry about the ferrules getting loose or losing a tip section (or more) when they work loose, and that big fish breaks your line.    

 

Be sure to click on each angler's photo or name at the top of this page to see their casting notes, opinions, and ranking of each rod. 

 

fly rods

 

The best 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.  The best example is the TFO BVK.  We were all impressed with this rod.  It’s light, it casts impressively well at all distances and saving $500- $600 is nice too.  You can use the money you saved on a nice reel and line.  But if you want the best in performance, looks, and durability, plan on spending $800 or more.  There is no question that the craftsmanship is better on the best rods.  And they do perform better, and will make you a better angler.  But are they $600 better?  You’ll have to make that decision.  Part of your justification is the wow factor as the best rods are a status symbol.  Are you comfortable showing up with a $250 rod on your next $6000 bonefish trip when all your buddies have the hotest $800 rods?  My advice is that if you can afford it, buy the best.  You’ll never regret it.  

 

Great anglers design great rods

 

Over the past fifty years, it has become very apparent to me that the best rod designers are guys 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 - be sure to check out his new saltwater 8-weight coming up soon), 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, Don Green who started Sage, Jim Bartschi at Scott, and Lefty Kreh who has worked with TFO to give us those wonderful BVK rods.   

 

Our testing procedures – trying to eliminate the variables

 

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 8-weight shootout, we had 10 identical Nautilus G-7/8 reels set up with our favorite bonefish line, the standard Scientific Anglers Mastery Bonefish Taper in WF-8-F.  On the lines we used our own 12-foot Yellowstone Angler hand tied bonefish leaders since they simply cast better and more accurately than any of the knotless leaders.  And using a long 12 foot leader really shows you how well the best rods will turn over a long leader. Rather than use a fly, we use a fluorescent yellow yarn indicator at the end of the tippet.  This allows us to judge the casting accuracy, even at the longest distances.  And we cut the yarn indicators large enough to provide plenty of wind resistance that makes them nearly as hard to turn over well as an actual fly. 

 

By having all the rods set up identically, it makes it easy to take a few casts with one, lay it down on the grass, 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 the five of us could be comparing two to three rods at once at our individual casting stations.  Casting all these rods on a heads up basis is the only good way to 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 comparisons.  

 

Reels:   The Nautilus G-7/8 reel

Nautilus NVG reels

buy now

The Nautilus G-7/8 is our reel of choice on any 8-weight rod, when you need the ultimate in performance to handle sizzling fast bonefish runs or the bulldog like power of a big Louisiana redfish.  Yes there are cheaper reels, but you won’t find one that is better.  The G-7/8 is just a step down from the G-8/9 Nautilus that won our 2014 8-weight Reel Shootout.  These wonderful reels have a very wide arbor spool with a big handle that you can grip very easily.  They are light in weight yet have a totally sealed drag system that utilizes four sets of ball bearings and a carbon fiber disc drag that provides a very smooth and strong drag, with a wide amount of adjustment.  The Nautilus reels also have a lower start up inertia than any of the reels we tested.  The G-7/8 has the capacity for a S.A. WF-8-F Bonefish line and 200 yd. of the Hatch 68 lb. backing.  With 20 lb. micron backing you’ll have capacity for 170 yards, all without overloading the reel.  Like the Tibor reels we’ve used in the past,  the Nautilus reels are bulletproof and will provide a lifetime of enjoyable service.

 

Our pick for best WF-8-F Bonefish Fly Line:  Scientific Angler's Mastery Bonefish (untextured)

 

Scientific Angler's Mastery Bonefish line

Scientific Anglers Mastery Bonefish line

Scientific Anglers Mastery Bonefish line

buy now

We have yet to find a tropical fly line that we have liked better than the Scientific Anglers Mastery Bonefish Taper.  This line is designed for tropical conditions and utilizes a braided monofilament core that remains fairly stiff, even in very hot weather.

 

The belly and front taper have a fairly traditional design, allowing for nice loops at long distance and a standard front taper to help present the fly the delicately and accurately at shorter distances. We’ve found that some of the new lines with shorter front tapers and heads like the Rio Bonefish Quickshooter, are just not well suited for flats fishing when you need both accuracy and a very delicate delivery.    

The new textured lines from SA are better but still not as good as the standard smooth finish Bonefish Taper.  All these new S.A. Bonefish tapers are now coming with welded loops on both the back and front of the lines that make it easy to change leaders or loop to loop the line to your backing.  

 

For cold-water applications you’ll want to switch over to a line like the new SA MPX.  The anglers fishing for stripers etc. use a lot of intermediate lines.  Throwing streamers for trout, you are going to want a line like Rio’s Density Compensated 250-300 grain, 24-foot sinking head fly line. For shallower, slower running water, the 10-15 foot sink tips make more sense.

 

 

 

12' 1X (14.5 lb) Y.A. Handtied Bonefish Leaders  $6.95 

Yellowstone Angler Bonefish Leaders

buy now

 

We have been tying our own bonefish and permit leaders for years, using Mason’s hard nylon for the butt and midsections and then adding Seaguar Grand Max fluorocarbon for the final two tippet sections.  I designed these leaders with very stiff butt and midsections, and with a short taper so that they will turn over extremely well, even in a harsh wind.  Our 12-foot bonefish leaders will turn over far better than any of the knotless tapered leaders on the market.  These leaders are all hand tied by ourselves here at the shop or by some of the guides during the off-season.   

 

Rod Deflections


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 6.2 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 (as most people assume).  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.  

 

Click on the photo below for more deflection boards, including the best 8-weight rods, the best mid-priced 8-weight rods, the best inexpensive rods, and the one-piece rods... 


 

8 weight rod deflection boards

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. 


 

Objective Observations

 

 

Explanation of the points categories

 

Price – 10 points available

This is easy - The least expensive rods get the highest points.  Sure this is one thing to use for basing your decision on buying a rod, but keep in mind that the high priced rods are usually worth it in the long run, even if you have to take some time to save up the money to buy the one you really want. We see so many people that think they should buy an inexpensive rod when they are just starting out.  That is often a mistake.  Too often a person starts out with an inexpensive outfit and quickly sees that the better rods will help them improve much more quickly.  Then they jump in and buy a better outfit, but they have already “wasted” the money on the first outfit.  Usually they just pass it on to their kids though or use it as a backup.  Buy the best you can afford and you will never regret it.  

 

Craftsmanship – 10 points available

We are pleased to tell you that craftsmanship has improved steadily over the past ten years, and today’s rods, even the inexpensive ones made in Korea are really very good.  But craftsmanship still varies to some degree.  We look at lots of things to determine this.  What kind of guides are being used and how are they wrapped and finished?  To our way of thinking, the very best guides for saltwater 8-weight rods are the nickel/titanium unbreakable snake guides that are fairly large in diameter to allow line tangles to pass through.  But these are expensive guides and you won’t see any cheap rods using them.  Look at the coatings on the rod wraps.  The best are done with multiple coats of finish, rather than one thick coat.  Check out the Orvis or Scott rods if you want to see wraps and finish that is just about perfect.  Too many manufacturers try to get by with a one-coat epoxy that is often way too heavy, adding weight to the rod.  The quality of the cork in the handle is a big factor too.  The best cork handles are laid up with individually selected, near perfect cork rings, then sanded down to size.  Too many manufacturers are using cheap pre-shaped grips that need a lot of filler and it still doesn’t look very good.  Reel seats should have good solid locking systems to hold larger saltwater reels without working loose.  And the rings should be easy to grip and tighten.  Lots of people get a 9 for Craftsmanship, but there only two perfect 10’s – Orvis and Scott.


Warranty – 10 points available  

Every manufacturer now has some kind of “Lifetime warranty” now.  Well, Orvis is only 25 years.  But manufacturers are getting burned on this big time.  Now most of the manufacturers see that this was a mistake, but they are stuck with it.  However most are now charging a “handling” fee of $50-$60 to repair or replace your rod.  But then it is going to also cost you $15 or more to ship the rod in for repair or have your dealer do it for you.  We looked at all the warranty policies in detail as some have changed slightly and awarded them scores based mostly on the lowest repair charges and the quickest repair turn around getting the highest scores.  As you’ll see, most rate a 9, which means that it costs  $40-$60 for the repair or replacement.  We downgraded a few companies to a score of 8 because of our experience of a repair taking a month or more to be returned to us or the customer. If your favorite rod breaks in the middle of the summer and you don’t get it back for a month and a half, you are going to be very angry!  Loomis gets a perfect score of 10 for their excellent Expeditor repair program that charges you $100 but you get a brand new rod, not a repaired one, in just a few days.  And they send you a Fed Ex or UPS call tag so that you don’t have to spend any money to send the broken rod back.  For broken rods that are not registered to the original owners, most companies are going to charge you $150 or more to get these repaired.  

 

Fun to Fish / Got to Have – 10 points available

I got this category from the Car and Driver early automobile shootouts.  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 some ingenious way to sneak it into your stash without the little lady (or husband) finding out.    

 

Overall Weight – 10 points available

Manufacturers usually list the weight of their rods on their websites but we like to confirm this with our own “Official” US postage scale.  We round up the weight to .1 of an ounce to make it easier for everyone to figure out and compare one rod to another.  You can find all this info in our table on Objective Observations.  Overall weight is one factor, but the swing weight is far more important.


James Anderson casting

 

Double points awarded for performance categories

Here is the real meat of our shootouts – performance.  So we double the scores in these categories.   For the 8-weight rods, we are now rating the performance at four distances - 35 feet, 60 feet, 80 feet and 100 feet.  The very best 8-weight rods are high performance rods that need to perform well at all these distances. 

 

Swing Weight – 20 points available

You know all about this term 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 postal scale, that produces meaningful and believable results.  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.  A little waggle helps you to feel this.  Rods with a light swing weight are pleasant and effortless to cast.  Ones with a heavy swing weight feel like a club in your hand and they are not going to be pleasant to cast all day.  


Here is the way we did it for our 2016 shootout:   First, we zero out the scale with a small foam pellet in the center of the scale, which we will use for a fulcrum on which we will rest the grip of the rod.  Now we position the grip over the foam pellet so that the pellet is centered under the exact spot where you will most likely hold the rod with your hand.  For most full wells grips this will be at the midpoint in the swell, in the center of the grip.  However on some rods like the Scott Meridian, where the swell is slightly forward of dead center, we move the fulcrum to that point.  The idea here is measure the swing weight at the middle of where the palm of your hand is likely to sit on the grip.  Once the grip of the rod is placed precisely on the foam pellet, we make sure the rod is in a horizontal position and apply finger pressure to the very end of the extension butt, usually by just holding this with a fingernail, and then reading off the weight of pressure on the scale in ounces.  It often takes a little time for the rod to “settle down” from all this movement so we do this procedure 4-6 times and then take the average weight we are getting from the scale. 

 

This is a test that anyone can duplicate.  Just keep in mind that all these measurements must be made the same day with the same room temperature.  I’ve found that fluctuating temperature and humidity from one day to the next can make a difference of .2-.3 oz. 

 

In past shootouts we tried measuring swing weight in other ways, including calculations for the Moment of Inertia, or weight all 4 sections individually and then plugging these figues into an equation.  But these methods and calculations proved to be incorrect from what we were actually experiencing in our hand - so we have gone back to our tried and proven method above.   

No matter what method you use to determine swing weight, the important point is to achieve a consistent and believable result that you can use to gauge one rod against the next.   

 

Performance at 35 feet – 20 points available

We stretch this close distance from 25 to 35 feet for the 8-weight rods.  The best rods need to be able to cast both very accurately and delicately at this distance.  The top scoring rods are easy to cast off the tip of the rod with very little effort.  At short distance, casting accuracy is the key to catching fish and the number one factor I use in evaluating these rods.  Some rods, especially the ones with softer tips will give an angler much more feel and the ability to consistently put the fly just where you want it, and do it delicately.  Bonefish can be very spooky in slick water when there is little wind, and I’m often trying to sneak in at very close range to tailing fish, even down on my knees casting to the fish that may be only 15-20 feet away.  In situations like this, keeping the rod low to the water while you are casting will help.  The Scott Meridian took the only perfect score here.

 

Performance at 60 feet – 20 points available

Here is the range that I consider the most important of all for these 8-weight rods.  The rods that score well in this category, with scores of 19 or above, can really drill them in there, even in a hard breeze.  With the best rods I was consistently hitting within 24 inches of the dead center of our pizza plates that were about 18 inches in diameter.  At this distance you need the rod to have the power to rip a good back cast and fire it in there on the forward stroke without much of a double haul and not shooting any line.  Rods with a wimpy butt and mid-section need not apply.  The rods that did the best job of zinging them in there time after time at mid-distance were the Meridian the NRX, both getting perfect scores.  But look at all the rods that I rated 19.5 points or better and you won’t go wrong with any of them.

 

Performance at 80 feet – 20 points available

Any good 8-weight rod needs to be able to hit 80 feet with ease. Some of these rods were just a whole lot better and a lot more solid at long range than others.  There are not many times you are casting at these distances for bonefish or any species in either fresh or saltwater, but the best rods do it easily and consistently.   

Performance at 100 feet – 20 points available

As I mentioned at the beginning of our Shootout, this year we felt that we needed to rate all these 8-weight rods at 100 feet.   Some rods that perform well at shorter distances just run out of gas at extreme long range or when you have to drill a bonefish fly fifty feet into a 25 mph wind.  Here’s the category that separates the men from the boys - the contenders from the pretenders.   

 

“Perfect 8 Performance” – 20 points available

As in the past, we felt that a separate category was needed to reward the very best #8 line rods for their overall superiority – With a #8 line!  These are the rods that you pick up, and make just one cast and you know they are something special.  They give you the confidence to put the fly where you want it at any distance.  Rods that are only good at close to medium distances are not going to win.  Other rods that are great out long but not quite so good in close are not going to win this one either.  We’re looking for the very best rod at all distances with an 8-weight line. As you’ll see only four rods scored a 19 or better -  The Scott Meridian, the Loomis NRX and CrossCurrent, as well as the St. Croix Legend Elite SW.   And they are all made here in the USA. 


Final Results 8-weight rods


Performance Only 8-weights

 


 

#1.   Scott Meridian   9 foot #8   $865.00

Scott.Meridian

buy now

Scott.Meridian.saltwater.rod

Big news - Scott gives us an 8-weight rod that clobbers everyone.  And it isn’t even close!  For four years the Loomis NRX was our 8-weight champ, and it was going to take a hell of an effort from someone to knock them off that top step on the podium.  Well Jim Bartschi at Scott had this vision of a new, lightweight rod that could pull it off, and they did it in style with this new Meridian.  I knew about this new rod all along, as Jim had asked me to help him tweak the final design and of course I agreed to help.  He sent me several prototypes, which I cast and fished, mainly for bonefish in Cuba, but also for trout here in Montana.  His new rod was delightfully light and responsive.  I was impressed as I’ve been a big Loomis NRX fan for years.  But the early versions of the Meridian still needed a bit more power in the butt and midsections to contend with the NRX.  I kept asking for more power and Jim kept giving it to me, tweaking this until he came up with the final version, which was perfect.  

 

Immediately when you pick up the Meridian, you notice how light it is in your hand.  Only one rod has a lower swing weight, the Orvis Helios 2 - but the Meridian has far more power, and really sends them at long range.  At close range, this rod is just magical.  Casting off the tip requires almost no effort compared to most of the other rods.  There was a remarkable difference between the Meridian and the NRX at shorter distances.  The Meridian was much more pleasant to cast in close and also much more accurate than other rods. Like the best rods we’ve cast lately in any weight, it has a softer, more flexible tip. It also blew away the Orvis Helios 2, which was our previous close distance champ.  I gave the Meridian the only perfect score of 20 points at both 35 feet and 60 feet, only the NRX matched it at 60 feet!  But what surprised all our casters was how well the Meridian handled the longer distances too – right out to 100 feet!  Throwing extremely tight loops with this rod is just effortless.  And with its extremely light swing weight, you’ll be able to do it all day without any effort.   

 

Jim went all out in giving us the absolute top components for this rod too.  It uses what I feel is the finest guide set up you’ll find today on any saltwater fly rod - Large size Fuji Titanium SiC stripping guides with good sized, flexible, nickel/titanium snake guides the rest of the way, ending up with an extra-large tip top that will help clear most tangles.  The handle is a very comfortable full wells, but the swell has been moved forward of center, so that you are always gripping the rod in the right spot, with your thumb close to the top of the grip.  I love the feel of this grip!  The anodized aluminum seat has the sliding band marked with the size of the rod, which is slick, and then there are two beefy locking rings, that you can really get a good grip on to tighten up your reel.  Better than Sage, better than Loomis and 1000% better than the TFO BVK!  Then as a crowning final touch, Scott uses a nice big extension butt with a wider end that won’t stab my belly like the narrow one on the NRX. 

 

This rod is finished in the natural gray graphite color and retains the natural tape wrap marks that have been a characteristic of Scott rods. Most other manufacturers sand these off.  By not doing this, Scott claims that they can retain more breakage resistance yet still end up with an extremely lightweight rod.  The wraps are a complimentary gray with attractive two-color blue trim wraps. 

 

George’s casting notes:
 

Performance at 35 feet:  20 points out of 20

Nothing even comes close!  The very light swing weight gives it a beautiful touch and feel at short range.  The accuracy was superb – as good as it gets.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  20 points out of 20  

Tracks beautifully, even in a breeze.  The NRX was as solid and as accurate but the Meridian was far lighter in my hand.  The accuracy was amazing.

 

Performance at 80 feet:   19.5 points out of 20 

Almost a 20 but not quite as good as the NRX.   I could line the cast up at 60 feet and shoot the rest with beautifully formed, tight loops.

 

Performance at 100 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

The Meridian hits 100 feet with ease and those tight loops keep the accuracy on the money.  Not quite the authority of the NRX or CrossCurrent though at extreme long range.  


 

#2  G. Loomis NRX   9 foot #8    $805.00

G. Loomis NRX

buy now

G.Loomis NRX

Just because the Meridian won, you don’t want to overlook the previous winner of our last two 8-weight Shootouts.  This rod still is amazing, especially at long range. And if you are in a spot where you need that final 5-10 feet to reach a tailing bonefish, this rod will get it done.  I’ve used the NRX rods in sizes from 8 on up to 11 each year, fishing for big tough fish in both saltwater and freshwater, and I’m convinced that these are the toughest rods on the market.  They take everything you can dish out and then some, without breaking.  A lot of this has to do with the way Loomis has used the nano-resins, developed back in 2010 by 3M.  This allowed G. Loomis to build rods that were both lighter and far stronger than anything they had in the past.  

 

Steve Rajeff has done a marvelous job designing these NRX rods, giving us some of the very best casting rods we’ve ever seen.  They are not quite as feather light as some, but their reserve power is just awesome.  When you really have to lean on an NRX to launch something long or into the wind, these rods just come up with explosive power that is amazing.  But Steve has also designed these rods with progressively softer tips that bend much more than most other rods.  This is why they still have such great power but cast so well at shorter distances.  

 

At middle to long distances, you cannot find any rod that is more solid or casts better than the NRX.  It does give up a little feel and accuracy in close though, but only to two rods in our shootout – the Meridian and the Helios 2.  But at long range, nothing can match the NRX.   

 

The craftsmanship on the NRX rods is excellent.  In the past you could get both gray and green rods but from now on, all the saltwater NRX rods will be their flat graphite gray finish with robin’s egg blue wraps.  They use a comfortable full wells grip and the new reel seats utilize a gray graphite insert, and have an additional locking ring to secure the reel.  A short, fairly narrow extension butt is used.  I much prefer something larger like the one on Scott’s Meridian.  For guides two unbreakable recoil stripping guides are used and then the rest are black pearl nickel/titanium flexible snake guides with a large size tiptop.  I love these flexible snake guides and you’ll probably never have to replace one.  

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Excellent accuracy, and easy to cast off the tip, but I’m working a lot harder than with the Meridian or the Helios 2, with a lot more swing weight.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  20 points out of 20

This is one of the most solid rods you can put your hands on at mid-range.   Tracks perfectly and throws very tight loops.   Equal to the Meridian here.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 20 points out of 20

At long range, nothing is better.  I love the power, especially in the wind.  Blasts them out there like you won’t believe.  I can carry more line in the air at long range than with other rods. 

 

Performance at 100 feet: 20 points out of 20

For sure, and with ease and authority!  Only the CrossCurrent was equal to the NRX at long range. 

          

 

#3  G. Loomis CrossCurrent   9 foot #8    $690.00

G. Loomis CrossCurrent GLX

buy now

G.Loomis Cross Current GLX

It is easy to overlook the CrossCurrent in the Loomis line-up since the newer NRX has gotten all the press.  But the fact remains that this is one of the best long-range weapons you can lay your hands on.  The swing weight is heavier than the NRX though, and it is not nearly as pleasant to cast in close as the Meridian or the Helios 2.  At long range you are working harder and don’t notice the weight difference much.  What you do notice is how adept the CrossCurrent is at punching tight loops into the wind and ripping them out there at really long range. Like the NRX rods, these CrossCurrent rods are tough and very difficult to break.  I’ve put these Crosscurrent rods thru hell with almost no mishaps. Like the NRX, this rod has very good butt and mid-section power with a progressively softer tip.  Another bonus is the price.  You’ll save $100-$150 over the other top rods. 

 

This rod is finished in an olive/brown color with dark brown wraps.  They use a modified full wells design grip that is a little smaller below the swell than above.  Another Steve Rajeff innovation that seems to work well.  The reel seat is a green anodized aluminum double uplocking ring seat with a complimentary olive/brown graphite insert.  The locking rings are big and easy to grip.  A nice short extension butt is used.  The guides are two unbreakable wire recoil guides with the rest large diameter, flexible nickel/titanium snake guides.  A nice guide set up.  

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Good, just not great.  The heavier swing weight makes it a little more work to cast than some of the other top rods.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Almost as good as the NRX at mid-range.  Tracks nicely and throws very nice tight loops with good accuracy.   A very solid performance.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 20 points out of 20

Superior control at long range is the CrossCurrent’s strong suit.  Tracks beautifully making long casts a pleasure.   

 

Performance at 100 feet: 20 points out of 20

Perhaps our long bomb king of the shootout.  Casting 100 feet was easy and consistent with this rod, and FUN.     


 

#4-tie   Sage Motive    9 foot #8     $450.00

Sage Motive

buy now

Sage Motive

If you were a fan of the XP or Xi2, you are going to love this rod.  In fact, all of us liked it better than Sage’s Salt, their dedicated saltwater rod that replaced the Xi3.  The Motive has very nice usable power and really surprised me with its ability to track well, and with its accuracy.  This rod also seems to have a slightly faster action than the Salt, which is good, but it was also a little heavier in swing weight.

We all loved the color – a striking hot blue with complimentary blue wraps.  I have to give it to Sage, they sure come up with some snazzy colors.  And their craftsmanship is typically Sage –simply excellent.  They use a very comfortable full wells grip with a black anodized double uplocking aluminum seat.  A nice big fighting butt is used with a big rounded off rubber butt cap.  Comfort city when you are cranking on big fish with this butt cap in your gut.  The guides are two SiC stripping guides, with the rest big, heavy-duty hard chrome snake guides that don’t look like they would bend if you ran over them with your F-150.  If you are a dyed in the wool Sage guy, take a hard look at this rod – it’s a good one!

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

A little heavier than the Orvis Recon, but with good accuracy in close.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Nearly as good as the best rods, the Motive was impressive at mid-range.  Tracks well and feels great.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

Well-balanced and good accuracy but now I’m beginning to feel the swing weight when compared to the Orvis Recon.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 19 points out of 20

Sure, no problem at all, but not with the authority of the G. Loomis rods.

 

 

#4-tie  Orvis Helios 2 – Tip Flex   9 foot #8    $850.00

Orvis Helios 2

buy now

orvis h2

In our last 8-weight Shootout, the Helios 2 finished 2nd, right behind the NRX so it is no surprise that it is right up here near the top once again.  This is a very good rod and also one of the very lightest rods in our Shootout for both overall weight and swing weight, taking perfect scores in each category.  At short to medium distances, this is a wonderful rod with very nice feel and superb accuracy.  At long range though we felt that this rod just runs out of gas compared to the best rods.  This year our added 100-foot performance category, hurt the Helios 2 more than some of the other rods.  If they could beef up the power in the butt and mid-section a little and leave that nice soft tip the same, this would bring it more in line with a rod like the new Meridian.  But we’ve learned that throwing long, and doing it well, is essential for 8-weight rods.  People will say that they are not interested in casting 100 feet and never will.  But when you are trying to cast to a bonefish that is 60 feet away in a 15-knot headwind, you’ll see why this kind of power capability is needed.  Orvis has done a great job of giving us a very light rod but I’d trade off a little of this lightweight to get better long distance performance. 

 

I’ve always loved the Orvis craftsmanship, and in all of our shootouts, Orvis has been right at the top in this category.  These are beautiful rods with very good-looking reel seats and perfect cork grips.  The color of the blank is a deep midnight blue with complimentary blue wraps trimmed in silver.  Very classy.  The full wells handle is just right and the quality of the cork is as good as it gets.  The reel seat is an attractive dark gray anodized aluminum design with a dark blue graphite insert.  Good big double locking rings are used with a nice larger diameter fighting butt.  The guides are two titanium SiC strippers and the rest the flexible nickel/titanium snake guides.  My only gripe is that I’d like to see slightly larger diameter snake guides on this rod. More like the size that G. Loomis uses on their NRX.  The finish coatings on the wraps are excellent, with very little excess epoxy like you are apt to find on other less expensive rods.  You can tell that a lot of love and care goes into the building of these rods in Vermont.   

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Excellent in close, but not as light or as crisp as the Meridian.  Even though they both had perfect scores for swing weight, I felt that the Meridian was slightly better. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Excellent balance, tracking and accuracy. But both the Meridian and NRX were better.   

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

This is when the Helios 2 starts running out of gas.  Both the Meridian and the NRX were WAY better at long range.  

 

Performance at 100 feet: 17 points out of 20

To cast this far you are going to have to really work for it and have the wind at your back.  

 

 

#4-tie  Orvis Recon    9 foot #8     $450.00

Orvis Recon

buy now
Orvis Recon

You might ask why would someone pay $850 for a Helios 2 when they can get essentially the same performance for $450 with a Recon?  Well, the Helios 2 looks a hell of a lot better for one thing, but if you are not concerned about good looks or the status symbol pricing, then the Recon is your rod.  What it delivers is big time performance, and it’s still an Orvis rod.  Yes, it’s slightly heavier in both overall weight and swing weight than the Helios 2, but it is still one of the very best rods in either category. 

 

It’s not that the Recon is ugly, it just isn’t as striking as the Helios 2.  All the components are downgraded slightly.  They give you a pretty cheap aluminum anodized double locking seat, but with no fancy design and no graphite insert. But in the long run, it will probably function just as well.  A short extension butt is used and this looks fine.  The full wells handle is similar to the one you’ll find on the Helios 2, with a series of very narrow width cork rings.  Guides on the Recon are the good titanium SiC strippers but then they give you the cheaper hard chrome snake guides.  The color of this rod is a medium olive/brown with complimentary brown wraps.  Conservative accountant types will love this rod.   


George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Nice feel and very good accuracy. But not as good as the Helios 2 in close.  Matched about what I was feeling from the Pro 4x.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Here is the sweet distance for this rod. Felt almost as good as anything!   Better than the Pro 4X or either of the Winston rods.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19 points out of 20

At long range, the Pro 4x was definitely better, especially in the wind.  Like the Helios 2,  it’s starting to run out of gas but I felt that it was better than the Helios 2 at this distance.  

Performance at 100 feet: 17.5 points out of 20

Now the lack of guts becomes a factor.  Like the Helios 2 more butt and mid-section power would help a lot.  

 

 

#4-tie  TFO BVK     9 foot #8              $279.95

Temple Fork Outfitters

buy now
temple fork outfitters BVK

Once again, the BVK turns in a superior performance and is easily the very best rod you can buy for under $300.  I love the power that you have on tap and how well this rod casts at all distances.  For this kind of performance I can gladly overlook the failings like the crappy reel seat and the fact that they don’t give you any hard case with this rod. When you get this rod in your hand and make a few casts, you think, WOW, this thing really zings them!!  In our 2011 Shootout, the TFO BVK finished 2nd!  The thing that really helps the TFO scores is the fact that it picks up perfect scores in overall weight and also in the warranty category.  However, it’s a good thing that this rod has a good cheap warranty replacement program as a lot of them break.  Like twigs compared to an NRX. But I’ll hand it to TFO.  If this rod breaks, they send you a brand new rod or a replacment section for $35 and you get it very quickly.  Personally I’ve taken several of these BVK’s on bonefish trips as a backup rod and have never had any problems.  I think if you are careful, you’ll be fine.

 

I do like the deep olive green color of this rod and they use slightly lighter dark green wraps.  The handle is a nice full wells design.  The reel seat is an anodized aluminum skeleton seat with a green graphite insert.  The thing that bugs me is the two, small locking rings they use - it is almost impossible to get a good grip on them.  If you buy this rod, spring for another $10 for a pair of cheap vice grip pliers.  You are going to need them. The guide set up is two large SiC strippers followed by good-sized hard chrome snake guides.  Lefty Kreh helped TFO with the design of these BVK rods, and he can be proud of this one.  It really delivers big performance for a very small price. 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Very good accuracy but not nearly as much feel as the best rods.  The heavier swing weight hurts here. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Surprisingly good – almost as good as the NRX or CrossCurrent!   Nice loop control.  This distance is the sweet spot for this rod.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19 points out of 20

Again, we were impressed.   At long range this cheap BVK buries a lot of other rods.  

 

Performance at 100 feet: 19 points out of 20

For sure!   And it does it with ease. 

 

 

 

#5 Hardy Zephrus     9 foot #8      $689.00 

Hardy Zephrus

buy now

Hardy Zephrus SWS

 

The Zephrus is a new rod from Hardy.  This rod replaces the ProAxis in Hardy’s saltwater series.  I immediately liked this rod when I saw and cast it at ICAST last July.  It is lighter and more responsive than the Proaxis.  I liked the color too – a pleasing blue with dark blue wraps.  Like the Proaxis and older Zenith rods, this rod is built in Korea but designed in England by my friend Howard Croston – one of the best casters and anglers around.  This is a fast action rod with a powerful butt and mid-section and a lighter, softer tip.  A good-sized full wells cork grip is used and the reel seat is a gray anodized aluminum double lock, uplock seat with an attractive blue graphite insert that matches the rod.  The guides are two wire recoil stripping guides with the rest large diameter flexible nickel/titanium snake guides.  About the only gripe I have here is the fact that they used way too much epoxy coating on the wraps.  In contrast if the Orvis Helios 2 wraps finish is a 9 out of 10, these are about a 4.  Howard, tell the crew they can do better.  Frankly I expected this rod to turn in a better performance after my first introduction to it last summer.  But in our Shootout, there was no question - both the Meridian and the NRX blew it away. 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

About like the NRX at short range but with a lighter swing weight.  Accuracy was good but not great.  The Meridian was far better in both feel and accuracy. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Excellent accuracy.  Tracks very well.  Only the NRX and Meridian were better.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19 points out of 20

Again, a solid performance.  It was easy to form nice tight loops at long range and it handles the wind well.  Still I have to give the edge to both the Meridian and NRX.   

 

Performance at 100 feet: 19 points out of 20

No problem!  Tight loops and very smooth.   FAR better than the Helios 2. 

 

 

 

#6-tie   St. Croix Legend Elite SW  9 foot #8     $490.00

St. Croix Legend Elite

buy now

St. Croix Legend Elite SaltWater

Here is one of my favorite saltwater rods.  It simply does everything well.  The action is about perfect, with lots of butt and mid–section power and a soft tip that helps this rod give nice accurate presentations at all distances.  St. Croix developed their own new FRS nano-resin system that they feel is even better than the 3M silica matrix used in the past.  In tests the FRS has produced even tougher rods than ones using the 3M nano-resin. 

 

The most impressive thing about this rod is the price.  Here’s your leader in the mid-price category.  The Hardy Zephrus is close to $700 and it’s built in Korea.  The Legend Elite is $200 less and it’s built right here in Park Falls, Wisconsin.    

 

This is a very attractive rod, finished in a dark blue with slightly lighter blue wraps trimmed in silver.  A very comfortable full wells grip is used with extremely high quality cork.  The reel seat is anodized aluminum, double uplocking ring seat.  A short fighting butt is used with a nice rubber butt cap.  The guide set up is two SiC stripping guides and the rest very large diameter hard chrome snake guides that will pass all but the worst tangles.  

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Nice accuracy and very good feel, just a lot heavier in swing weight and not as pleasant in close as the Meridian or Helios 2.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Very good loop control was giving me nearly as good performance as the NRX with terrific accuracy.   These mid distances are the sweet spot for this rod.  

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

Tracks beautifully, allowing me to form nice tight loops.  And overall excellent performance.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 19.5  points out of 20

This rod will hit 100 feet with ease, but with not quite the authority of the NRX.  


 

#6-tie  G. Loomis Pro 4X    9 foot #8      $360.00

G. Loomis PRO4x

buy now

G.Loomis Pro 4x

Here is another great rod for the money in that mid-price range.  The G. Loomis Pro 4X has the same wonderful action as their NRX – it’s just a little heavier due to the lower modulus graphite used.  This rod has a nice fast action but I noticed that it just felt heavy in my hand, compared to the best rods.  Its swing weight is about like the CrossCurrent.  The Recon was far better.  But if you can get past the weight issue this rod does cast very well. 

 

I’m not very enthusiastic about the color of the coating Loomis uses on this rod.  The best way for me to describe it is slime green.  Then they use lighter olive green wraps.  I guess if you are into the camo look, this rod will be delightful but to me it is pretty drab and uninspiring.  Loomis could use a little help from the Sage graphics/color team and spice things up.  They use a nice full wells cork grip with a good anodized aluminum double uplocking reel seat.  A short extension butt is used, much like the one on the NRX. Guides are two SiC stripping guides with the rest large single foot hard chrome guides. The Pro 4X, along with the Orvis Recon and the St. Croix Legend Elite are the best rods in this mid price class.  And for $360 the Pro 4X is half the price or less than the best rods, which leaves extra money for a great saltwater reel...

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Pretty good accuracy, but far heavier in Swing Weight than the Recon. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19 points out of 20

Again, the Recon proved to be definitely lighter and the accuracy was slightly better too. 

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

At long range the Pro 4X felt more solid and cast better than the Recon.   Nice tight loops and good control.   

 

Performance at 100 feet: 19 points out of 20

Now the power of the Pro 4X shines as it easily overpowers the Recon at extreme long ranges.  

 

 

 

#7  Sage Salt              9 foot #8                   $850.00

Sage Salt

buy now

sage salt

I’m disappointed with the Sage Salt.  What I was looking for was a much faster action rod like a Method or Sage ONE, with big saltwater guides.  What we got was a slower action rod with a tip that is too stiff.  The Motive has a faster action, but it’s a lot heavier too. Still, the Sage Motive is a better rod than the Salt, even in saltwater applications.  If you are a Sage fan and take a Salt off the rack and go fishing and you’ll be happy with it, just not thrilled.  Just don’t compare it heads up to the best rods in our shootout or you will lose some of your enthusiasm.  

 

What you will find in this rod is Sage’s typical excellence in craftsmanship and components.  The rod is a pleasing bright blue with black wraps trimmed in silver.  They use a very nice full wells grip that feels just right.  And the reel seat is WAY better that what you’ll find on the Motive.  It’s a flat black anodized double uplocking seat, but the locking rings are big and you can get a really good grip on them to secure your reel.  Like the Meridian and Winston BIII Plus, they designate the line size on the sliding band, which is a thoughtful touch.  A nice big rubber tipped extension butt is used, similar to the Motive.  The guide set up is two big chrome plated SiC stripping guides followed with good hard chrome snake guides.   

 

My best advice to you if you must have a Sage rod is to buy the Motive, save $400 and stick that into a good saltwater reel!  

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Decent accuracy, but no feel compared to the Meridian.  The stiffer tip kills it at short range.  The Helios 2 was far better, as were a lot of rods.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Nice and smooth, the Salt seems to track well, but not the pop and zip of the Meridian or the NRX that own this distance. 

  

Performance at 80 feet: 19 points out of 20

Now the Salt starts running out of steam.  It needs a bit more butt and mid section power.  Good, just not great.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 18 points out of 20

The lack of power is making it difficult for me to consistently throw this long without a lot of extra effort.  

 


#8   Fenwick Aetos            9 foot #8            $189.95

Fenwick Aetos

buy now

Fenwick Aetos

Before our Shootout if you told me that the Aetos at under two hundred bucks would score within a half point overall with the Sage Salt I would have told you that you were nuts.  But now this is reality!   It’s not that the Sage is so bad, it is more the fact that the Aetos is so good.   Originally derived from the Hardy Gray’s rods, the Aetos has a very nice fast action, is nice and light in overall weight and had consistently good scores across the board in performance.  The Fenwick Aetos IS the winner for our best inexpensive rod in our Shootout.  Yeah, the BVK is better, but it is going to cost you another hundred bucks at $280 and you’ll have to pay another $30 to get a decent hard case.

 

The Aetos is an attractive rod finished in a deep midnight blue with black wraps.  They are using a full wells pre-formed grip and the quality of the cork is pretty crappy but what do you expect for such a pittance?   The reel seat is nothing of beauty either, but it is certainly functional.  A plain double uplock anodized seat with a short fighting butt is used.  The stripping guides are pretty weird looking SiC’s but they will get the job done.  The rest are large diameter black chrome snake guides that look good.   

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good, but nothing more.  And not much feel when I was comparing it with the Recon.

  

Performance at 60 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Not even close to the BVK!   It felt mushy compared to the crisp feeling of the BVK.  Swing weight was fairly heavy too. 

  

Performance at 80 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

Again the BVK was a lot better at long range but the Aetos is certainly acceptable and turns in a pretty solid performance for a cheap rod. 

 

Performance at 100 feet: 18 points out of 20

Yes, the Aetos will throw long, but you’ll have to work for it and not have much wind to deal with. 

 

 

#9-tie   Loop Cross S1               9 foot #8            $765.00 

Loop Cross S1

buy now

Loop Cross S1 

Here is a rod that has a big following in Europe and I’m surprised that it finished this far back in the pack.   It is a nice looking rod in a subtle flat black finish with jet-black wraps.  Excellent craftsmanship throughout.  The thing that kills it for me is the lack of short distance feel or accuracy.  The tip of this rod is just way too stiff.  At mid to long range it was much better.  This is another rod that utilizes the 3M nano silica resin, so it is going to be strong.

 

This rod has a very comfortable, good looking full wells cork handle.  The reel seat is a little odd looking, but it gets the job done with good large size double locking rings and a big extension butt that will be comfortable fighting big fish.  For guides, they use the unbreakable wire recoil stripping guides followed up with top of the line nickel/titanium snake guides like you’ll find on the Meridian or NRX.   

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Little feel compared to the Helios 2 or Meridian.  And noticeably heavier in swing weight.   The stiff tip hurts short range accuracy.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19 points out of 20

A good performance, just not great.  Several rods were much better and the top rods were far better.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19 points out of 20

It was more difficult for me to get the same kind of tight loops or the accuracy I was getting with the NRX

 

Performance at 100 feet: 19 points out of 20

This rod definitely has the power to hit it long, but the swing weight is going to wear you down if you are casting it long all day.

 

 

#9-tie   Mystic Reaper       9 foot #8            $249.00

Mystic Reaper

buy now

Mystic Reaper

My initial impression of this rod was that it would finish a lot higher than it did.   When you first pick it up, it’s nice and light with a very light swing weight.  The action is about perfect too, with good butt and mid section power yet a nice soft tip.  The thing that hurt was its lack of overall power, that severely limits it’s ability to chuck it long with the best rods.  The sweet spot for this rod is at closer distances.

 

This is a handsome rod, finished in an attractive medium brown with darker brown wraps.  I was impressed with the attention to the coatings on the wraps too.  They are just about perfect, and FAR better looking than the coatings on the Hardy Zephrus.  This rod is made in Korea like a lot of the less expensive rods in our shootout, but the craftsmanship is almost as good as the best rods.  They are using a comfortable full wells grip, with a silver anodized, double ring uplocking seat with a short extension butt .  Rod Guides start with two good Fuji SiC strippers, followed up with large size hard chrome snake guides.  If they had used a larger tip top it would be even better. 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Very nice feel at short range.  Just about as good as the Helios 2, and better than the Recon. This could have easily been a 19.5.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Smooth with nicely formed loops.  Tracks well but when the wind came up it stumbled. This is about the max distance you’ll want to fish this rod.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18 points out of 20

OK with little wind, but when the wind came up, long range capability and accuracy were lacking.  

 

Performance at 100 feet: 16 points out of 20

Lack of guts at long range makes this a no go for 95% of anglers.

 

 

#10-tie    R.L. Winston BIIIx     9 foot #8            $895.00 

R.L. Winston BIIIx

buy now

RL Winston BIIIx

After casting the BIII Plus at ICAST I really felt that this new rod was going to be the best 8-weight for Winston.  But in casting these two rods heads up in our shootout, the big difference was the much lighter swing weight of the BIIIx.  This made it a much more pleasant rod to cast.  But the Plus is definitely better at longer distances so for many anglers, especially anglers with bonefish in mind, the stiffer Plus will be a better choice.   

 

The Winston rods are perhaps the most beautiful rods in our Shootout, finished in a gorgeous emerald green.  The craftsmanship is really almost as good as Scott and Orvis.  The one thing that I noticed and downgraded Winston on was the coating over the wraps.  These are too heavy and need improvement.  The coatings on the lowly Mystic Reaper are better.  I’d also like to see them ditch the hard chrome snake guides and go with the more expensive unbreakable nickel/titanium snake guides that are used by Scott, Orvis and Loomis.  Winston's cork handles have always been superb.  A full wells grip is used.  The reel seat is a stout silver anodized aluminum double uplocking seat with easy to grip rings.   

The guides are two SiC strippers followed by the hard chrome snake guides. 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Surprisingly the heavier BIII Plus was more accurate in close.  The BIIIx's lighter swing weight felt a lot better though.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

OK, but could use a little more punch and power, again the Plus edged it out.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18 points out of 20

Just OK but nothing to write home about.  Many other rods were much better at long range.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 17 points out of 20

I’m going to say no for most casters.  A maybe if you have a good tail wind. 

 

 

#10-tie    Beulah Opal        9 foot #8            $620.00

Beulah Opal

buy now

Beulah Opal

I like this rod a lot.  Cosmetically it is superb.  Beulah’s use of different types and colors of cork in the grip is striking.  The rod itself is a pleasing gray color with blue/gray wraps trimmed in silver.  If you place a high value on BIG guides in a saltwater rod, you will salivate when you see this rod!  This rod easily has the largest guides in our Shootout.  These babies will clear a bird’s nest with ease.  Two huge titanium SiC strippers start it out followed up with some monstrous diameter, black colored hard chrome snake guides it looks like you could drive a truck through.  I like the action too – a nice fast action with decent butt and mid-section power and a slightly softer tip.  But as I found out when casting this rod, precise timing was required to get the best performance out of this rod, especially at long distance.  This is another fine rod made in Korea for Beulah, but I felt that the price was a bit high.  The Loomis Pro 4X at $360, built right here in the US is a lot better value.     

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Good, but the Pro 4X seemed to track better.  The Opal had slightly better feel though. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

OK, but not even close to the Recon.  The Pro 4x was also better at this distance .

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19 points out of 20

Very good but your cast timing had to be on the money.  The Pro 4X was definitely better.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 18 points out of 20

You bet, but your timing has to be good or it all goes to hell in a hurry.

 

 

 

#11-tie    R.L. Winston BIII Plus         9 foot #8            $895.00

Winston BIII Plus

buy now

RL Winston BIII Plus

If this rod was lighter in both overall weight and swing weight, it would have scored a lot higher.  Maybe it’s time for Winston to give up on the Boron butt concept as this rod needs to go on a diet.  The action is quite good and the stiffness over the BIIIx makes for better overall performance.  I was surprised at how accurate this rod was at 35 feet despite the heavy swing weight.  

 

Like the BIIIx, this is a very attractive rod, finished in the classic Winston emerald green that we just love.  In bright sunlight it just sparkles like no other.  Craftsmanship is very good but the same concerns I have about the BIIIx apply to the Plus.  The finish on the wraps is not as good as the best rods, and although the guides are larger, they are also heavy and this hurts performance.  Thankfully they are not as heavy as the old BIII-SX.  Still, I feel that if they used the much lighter nickel/titanium snake guides like G. Loomis is using on the NRX, this rod would perform much better.  Guides start out with very large titanium Sic Strippers followed up with large diameter, hard chrome snake guides.  At least they also have a big tip top, that will help clear any tangles.  Winston uses a nice full wells cork grip with excellent quality cork.  The reel seat is an attractive green anodized seat that matches the color of the rod.  The double locking rings are easy to grip and they use a nice, large diameter extension butt that will be comfortable fighting fish. 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Amazing tracking ability produced very good accuracy but the stiffness and weight provided little feel. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19 points out of 20

The Meridian and NRX were FAR better.  The BIII-Plus' extra weight is creating a real workout.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

The weight is now becoming a huge factor.   It felt like the Meridian required half the effort to hit 80 feet.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 18 points out of 20

Yes, 100 feet is possible, but you had better work up a good program for going to the gym and lifting weights!

 

#11-tie      Fenwick HMG       9 foot #8         $159.95

Fenwick HMG

buy now

Fenwick HMG

Here is another surprisingly good rod at a very attractive price.  The HMG has a tad more butt power than the Aetos, with a faster tip that made it more pleasant to cast.  It also performed better at mid-range than the Aetos.  This is a simple rod with less expensive components but I think it looks great with the flat black finish combined with shiny black wraps.  They use a full wells cork grip, but like the cork grip on the Aetos, it uses a lot of filler.  The reel seat is a complimentary gray anodized double ring uplocking seat with a shorter fighting butt than you’ll find on most of the other rods we tested.  They use a nice guide set up though with two SiC stripping guides and then large diameter, but lighter wire black chrome snake guides.  The small tip top seems to handicap the guide set up though.  Hopefully they will give us a larger tip top in the future.  Fenwick does use a nice system for aligning the sections with dots and a straight line on the male part of the ferrule that make it easy to get everything lined up straight. 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18 points out of 20

Not a lot of feel, the Aetos was better in close.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19 points out of 20

Now the power kicks in and this feels and casts a lot better than the Aetos at mid-range. 

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

Very good with nice loops and good tracking capability.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 18 points out of 20

Yes, but nothing like the best rods.


 

#12   Echo Base         9 foot #8         $99.99

Echo Base

buy now

Echo Base

We weren’t as enthusiastic about the Echo Base as we were the top ten rods in our Shootout, but when you factor in the price at under $100, this puts a whole different light on things.  Yes, it is heavy, verging on what we would call a clunker, but it still casts a pretty decent line.  But for a beginner, I’d recommend they spend just a little more money, like $189.95 and get the Fenwick Aetos.  The Aetos has a lighter swing weight and performs a lot better at short distances.  Casting the Base all day is going to be tiring, but at mid to long range it still scored 18’s, which isn’t too shabby.  What the Base will be is a great rod for guides that want to have some extra rods on hand for clients.  And the Base looks like it will be tough.  If it breaks, Echo has one of the best warranty programs, and you’ll get another rod at minimal cost.  Cheap and tough are the main criteria that most guides love.  Years ago you had a heck of a time finding the blank and components to build a rod and not spend a hundred bucks.  Now you can buy the finished rod for that price, and Echo even gives you a case!  (TFO are you listening?) 

 

The Base is nothing fancy but it’s not all that bad either.  The color is a very dark blue, almost black, with black wraps trimmed in silver.  The handle is a standard full wells and seems comfortable enough.  The quality of the cork is not that great, but what do you expect for a hundred bucks?   Echo uses a decent black anodized double locking, uplock seat, which is pretty much standard these days, and a short extension butt with a nice rubber butt cap.  The guides are two SiC stripping guides followed with good-sized hard chrome snake guides.  

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  17 points out of 20

The stiffness and heavy swing weight didn’t make this rod too pleasant to cast in close.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18 points out of 20

Decent, but nothing to write home about.   Both the Imperial and Predator were better

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18 points out of 20

Ok, but you are going to get a workout.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 17.5 points out of 20

You can hit 100, but with a tremendous amount of effort.  Both of the Fenwick rods do it a lot more easily.

 


 

#13  LTS Explosive           9 foot #8           $645.00

LTS Explosive

buy now
LTS Explosive

These new LTS rods are like other good rods that we see being built in Korea.  Like the Hardy rods, built in Korea at the same factory, the craftsmanship is excellent but their performance of these LTS rods was somewhat lackluster.  They have to be pretty proud of these rods to charge this much money, especially if they are coming from Korea, when you can buy extremely good casting rods like the Loomis Pro 4X for $360, or the St. Croix Legend Elite for $490, and they are made right here in the USA.  I did like the looks of this rod, in a bright golden color, with gold wraps to match.  The action was slower than I’d prefer and the stiffer tip didn’t allow for much feel or accuracy at close range.  But out long, this rod performed nicely.  It also has a relatively light swing weight, making it pleasant to cast.  One minor gripe I had is that the full wells handle seemed a shade too fat.  They did use some good-looking cork though.  The reel seat is one of those space age designs that you are going to love or hate.  It is a black anodized double uplocking affair, but rather than a more traditional spacer, you can look in and see the blank itself.  A good-looking extension butt is used with a large diameter rubber butt cap.  The guides are two SiC strippers with the rest hard chrome snake guides.

 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18 points out of 20

Good, but the softer Zalt was better.  About like the Imperial in close.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18 points out of 20

Again, the Zalt proved to be slightly smoother and more accurate at mid-range. 

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

Now the extra power of the Explosive is paying off and I’m forming nice loops with good control.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 18 points out of 20

No problem, but nothing like the authority of the Pro 4X or the BVK.

 

 

 

#14-tie    LTS  Zalt           9 foot #8           $625.00

LTS Zalt

buy now

LTS Zalt

The Zalt is somewhat similar to the Explosive in terms of the components.  But this rod is bright silver with matching silver wraps.  I think the color is so bright that I’d be reluctant to wave this in the air casting to spooky bonefish.  For those brave enough to use it, you will find a rod that is bit softer than the Explosive which makes it cast better at short range, but at long distances, it runs out of gas.   

 

Like the LTS Explosive, the craftsmanship is excellent.  A full wells grip is used and the reel seat is double uplocking affair, similar to the Explosive, other than the fact that it is silver anodized to match the rod color.  The open design allows you to see the blank.  The same nice extension butt with a large rubber butt cap is used.   Two SiC stripping guides are used and the rest are hard chrome snakes.  I see that they label this rod an 8/9 but you sure won’t want to use a #9 line on it.  The Explosive is a lot stiffer.

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Decent accuracy and better than the stiffer Explosive, but the Pro 4X and Recon were far better in close.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Smooth enough with pretty good accuracy but this rod was a lot heavier in my hand than the Recon.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18 points out of 20

At long range this rod lacks the power to get it done.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 17 points out of 20

No way, unless you have a tailwind...

 

 

#14-tie    St. Croix  Imperial     9 foot #8      $260.00

St. Croix Imperial

buy now
St. Croix Imperial

Here is a rod that we labeled the best inexpensive rod a few years ago.  It still does a pretty good job and the price is right.  But today we are seeing new inexpensive rods built in Korea like the Mystic Reaper that are better, using higher modulus graphite, giving us a rod with a much lower swing weight.  But if you are looking for an inexpensive 8-weight made in the US, the Imperial is still a good choice.  The Imperial is a handsome dark cherry red rod with complimentary red wraps.  They use a nice, comfortable full wells grip with a gray anodized, double uplocking seat that has nice big locking rings that are easy to grip.  An extension butt is used with a nice big rubber butt cap.  Guides are two SiC stripping guides with the rest hard chrome snake guides.

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18 points out of 20

Middle of the road in feel and accuracy. The best rods are far lighter in swing weight.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good, but the HMG was better and more accurate.  And the BVK blew it away.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18 points out of 20

I can force it but I’m not getting very good accuracy.  Again, the HMG was better. 

 

Performance at 100 feet: 17 points out of 20

Going yard is not easy and you won’t be doing it with any wind.

 

 

 

#14-tie    Redington Predator        9 foot #8          $279.95

The Predator

buy now
Redington Predator

Since one of my nicknames is the predator I should like this rod, but I don’t.  It is heavy as an anvil in my hand, and not at all pleasant to cast.  Here is another rod from Redington that has a horrendous swing weight.  It’s brother the Vapen was worse though, and didn’t make the cut.  The Predator has a more standard full wells cork grip than the rubber golf grip style they use on the Vapen, which was the one thing I liked about the Vapen.  The Predator uses carbon fiber weave in the butt section and also at the ferrules for improved strength, but you pay for it in extra weight.  This rod does look stout tough, and it should take some serious abuse. 

 

This rod is dark graphite gray with wraps to match.  They use a bright anodized double ring, uplocking seat with an extension butt and rubber butt cap.  The guide set up is two somewhat odd shaped SiC stripping guides and then the rest hard chrome snake guides.  Bottom line - If you have $280 to spend, you can do a lot better than this rod.  Like the St. Croix rods, the Predator comes with a hard case but no cloth bag.

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  17 points out of 20

The anvil like weight killed its short distance performance and feel.  Not pleasant to cast in close. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

A lot better at mid-distance, but not even close to the Pro 4X or Recon.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18 points out of 20

With the stiffness you would think it would get better out long but it doesn’t.   Again, the Pro 4X and Orvis Recon were far better.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 17 points out of 20

Yeah this rod can hit the hun, but not without a whole lot of effort!


 

#15   Douglas DXF           9 foot #8          $395.00

Douglas DXF

buy now

Douglas DXF

I loved the Douglas DXF rod as a 5-weight, but I’m a lot less enthusiastic about it’s big 8-weight brother. For one thing, the 8-weight just didn’t have the power needed to perform well at the longer distances.  I do like the cosmetics with its flat, non-glare green finish with black guide wraps.  This is a very handsome rod.  The craftsmanship is excellent.  At present these rods are being built in the orient, but we hear rumors that Douglas has plans to produce them at their plant in western New York, in the future. 

 

For components, Douglas uses a comfortable full wells design cork grip and an anodized double lock, uplocking seat with a green color that compliments the rod.  A short extension butt, with a large diameter contrasting cork butt cap is used.  The guides are two SiC strippers and the rest hard chrome snake guides. 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Just so-so.  Not much feel and only fair accuracy.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  17 points out of 20

Didn’t want to track well in a breeze and the accuracy suffered.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 16.5 points out of 20

Even worse at long range.   The lack of stiffness hurts here.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 16 points out of 20

Forget it, unless your last name is Rajeff.

 

 

#16  TFO Impact          9 foot #8             $349.95

TFO Impact

buy now
 TFO Impact

In every Shootout, there is going to be one rod that is dead last and you are looking at it.  TFO has given us some great rods like the BVK but they have also given us some below average rods.  After reading all the prose in Flip Pallot’s blog, and the TFO website about this wonderful new rod, we were excited to see it.  Here’s what the TFO website says:  “Impact rods are designed to exceed every angler’s expectations with a level of excellence that will set new industry standards.”  Well ladies and gentlemen, this is a good example why we started doing these Shootouts – to cut through all this kind of BS from the manufacturers and give you our honest opinion and evaluation of these products.  Here is a rod that is slow in action, heavy in swing weight, and performs badly at all distances.  

 

This rod is smaller in diameter than all the other rods we tested.  Maybe this is one reason it was so gutless.  It is finished in matte black, with black wraps and emerald trim.  The 8-weight comes with a smoke gray aluminum, double lock uplock seat with a short extension butt.  The full wells handle is what they call “reduced profile burl cork” but I call it weird.  They are using two SiC stripping guides followed up with hard chrome snake guides.  And as far as we can tell, like the other TFO rods, it doesn’t come with a hard case.  Sure, we can sell you one for an extra $29.95 but why not include it to begin with?

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  17 points out of 20

This rod is heavy in swing weight, with almost no feel and very little accuracy.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  16 points out of 20

After casting fast action rods like TFO’s BVK, this rod just feels awful.   If there is any wind, you are done. 

 

Performance at 80 feet: 15 points out of 20

The cast timing is so slow that you could smoke a cigarette between your back cast and forward cast. Loop control is getting ugly.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 12 points out of 20

Are you serious?  No way.

 


 

 

One Piece Rods

One-piece rods make a lot of sense, especially if you are leaving them in your boat or ovehead rod vault. These one-piece rods offer the advantages of being lighter than the 4-piece rods as well as being more sensitive.   And you’ll never have to worry about those ferrules working loose or if your sections aren't on perfectly straight.  Both the G. Loomis and Hardy one-piece rods have proven to be extremely tough too and harder to break than their 4-piece counterparts.  I have used both G. Loomis and Hardy 11-weights for tarpon for the last several years and have landed a lot of huge tarpon on them and I have yet to break one.  These one-piece rods are not 9 feet but 8 feet 10 inches.  This sounds odd, but the manufacturers have found out that if they can keep the overall size of the shipping package under 9 feet, it costs only about $20 -$25 to ship these by UPS or Fed Ex rather than over $100.  When these are shipped, both Hardy and Loomis put extra high-density foam around the tips and secure them well.  We have yet to have one arrive broken.  Other rod companies like Orvis and Echo are now making one-piece rods as well and we tried to get a hold of these for our shootout but they never showed up.

 

 

#1   G. Loomis NRX  Pro 1     8 foot 10”#8       $725.00

G. Loomis NRX Pro1

buy now

G. Loomis NRX PRO1

If you are looking for the best one-piece 8-weight rod, this is it!  The NRX was just magical in my hands at short distances where I gave it a perfect score.  But it was very impressive at all distances, scoring 19.5 in all the rest.  Like the 4-pc NRX, this rod has power to burn and when you ask it for more, it delivers.    The NRX felt more balanced in my hand with the reel on.  Definitely lighter than the CrossCurrent. 

Like the 4-pc version, Loomis uses Nano-silica particles in the resin and the result is a very sensitive rod that is almost impossible to break.  If somehow you do break it in your skiff, by stepping on it in the rod rack (like I have somehow managed to do 3 times now - Damn!), G. Loomis will replace it under their great Expeditor repair policy for $100.  If they have the rod in stock you will get a brand new rod in just a few days.  And when you return the broken rod, you can just bust it up into little pieces rather than sending it back in that long shipping tube.

 

Loomis uses the wire recoil guides but with a smoke coating that is supposed to reduce noise and shoot line better.  They use the good nickel/titanium snake guides the rest of the way and a big tip top.   A full wells grip is used along with the same uplocking seat and extension butt that you’ll find on the 4-pc version.  

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  20 points out of 20

Nice and light and smooth as silk.  Even though I gave both 20 points I felt that the one-piece NRX had a slight edge in accuracy over the Meridian.  

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Excellent performance - very solid but I felt the Meridian felt lighter in my hand, had more feel and was more accurate. 

 

Performance at 80 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

No question about it - the CrossCurrent edges it out at long range, and is our long bomb king. 

 

Performance at 100 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

The NRX cranks out these long casts with ease and authority.

 

 

#2    G. Loomis CrossCurrent Pro 1   8 foot 10”#8    $460.00

G.Loomis CrossCurrent Pro1

buy now

G. Loomis CrossCrueent Pro 1

 

If your are looking for a great one-piece rod at a very reasonable price, take a good look at the CrossCurrent.  No, it doesn’t have the NRX technology, but it is only a tiny bit heavier and I liked the larger reel seat, the larger double uplocking rings and the larger fighting butt too.  The grip is a comfortable full wells cork grip.  This rod is the same olive/brown color as the 4-pc version, with brown wraps.  Guides are the silver wire recoil strippers with the rest large diameter flexible nickel/titanium  snake guides.  Although the CrossCurrent is really a GLX without the 3M Nano-silica resins, it has proven to be extremely tough too.

 

This rod is slightly heavier in swing weight and slower in action than the NRX.   It’s also heavier in my hand than the Meridian.

 

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Good but the NRX has a lot more feel and is a lot lighter in swing weight.  The accuracy I’m getting is not nearly as good as the NRX in close. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Equal to the NRX here, and better than the Hardy.  Tracks better than the Hardy Zephrus and is more accurate.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 20 points out of 20

At both the longer distances, this rod is a real weapon.   Totally solid with nice tight loops.   I love it at this distance. 

 

Performance at 100 feet: 20 points out of 20

You can’t beat the CrossCurrent at extreme long range.   Makes it easy to fire long bombs all day long.

 

 

 

#3  Hardy Zephrus SWS  1 Pc.   8 foot 10”#8    $789.00

Hardy Zephrus 1 pc

buy now

Hardy Zephrus SWS one piece rod

 

When I first picked this rod up at the ICAST show last July, I was really impressed with its feather-light swing weight.  And it cast well too.  But when we cast it heads up with both of the G. Loomis one-piece rods, there was no question that they had a lot more power on tap, especially at long range.  This rod has an unusually fast action and soft tip.  This gave me an odd feeling while casting.  The NRX had a better action, tracked better, and felt more balanced.  

 

This is a good-looking rod, the same cosmetics and components as the 4-pc Zephrus.  A high quality cork full wells grip is uses along with the gray anodized double ring uplock seat with blue graphite spacer they use on the 4-pc rod.  Guides are two wire recoil guides followed with the good nickel/titanium snake guides.

 

George’s casting notes:

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

The tip is so light and soft, I’m not getting the kind of accuracy I get with the NRX.   The Meridian was a lot better too.  Still, I felt it cast better in close than at longer distances.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19 points out of 20

The Hardy isn’t tracking as well as either of the G. Loomis rods, and the accuracy suffers accordingly.

 

Performance at 80 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

When I am trying to push it, I’m getting an odd feeling - probably that very soft tip.  It’s not in the same ballpark with the G. Loomis one piece rods, or even the older Hardy ProAxis one-piece for that matter.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

Yes, it will hit 100 but not very easily.   No question that the G. Loomis one-piece rods were both better long.


We need your support! 

We hope you have enjoyed reading our latest 2016 eight-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