2017 5 weight shootout

2017 5-Weight Shootout

by James Anderson

 

This year I did my casting a little differently than in past Shootouts.  I had 10 rods, each with 25 feet of line and leader stripped out and lying on the lawn.  I would pick up a rod, make a few casts at the target with it and then place it back on the lawn in order of which rods I thought performed best, (both in terms of feel and accuracy).  I placed the best rods on the left and the rods I didn’t care for as much on the right.  This helped me organize the finishing order at each distance and made it easier for me to score them appropriately.  

 

It also gave me less time to see which rod I was casting, so it felt more like a “blind” test even though it really wasn’t.  If I had two or three rods that were very close in performance, I was able to cast them head to head to really figure out which got the edge.  I then repeated the process at 45 feet and 70 feet.

 

If you have the time and place to enjoy your own “mini-shootout” I would encourage you to do so.  Just make sure you are casting the same line and exact same leader (often these will get tangled and shortened so you have to keep an eye on this and make sure they are still the same length as 9 or 10 foot leaders turn over better than 12 foot leaders ). 

 

If you don’t have the luxury to cast a handful or rods and compare them yourself, then I hope our comments and Shootout notes will suffice in helping you choose a rod that is right for you.

 

James Performance Only

 

James’ Rod Notes:

 

 

#1 (tie) - G. Loomis NRX LP 9’ 5-weight   $755.00 – 49.5/50

G. Loomis NRX LP

 G. Loomis NRX LP

 

It’s safe to say no one wanted this rod to win.  We didn’t want it to win, (since so many of our customers already own one), G. Loomis didn’t want it to win, (since the Asquith is more advanced and more expensive), and obviously none of the other rod manufacturers wanted to see it win for the 4th consecutive Shootout. 

 

In the end, however, was hard to deny the NRX LP the win!  Since Steve Rajeff designed the NRX Lite Presentation back in 2012-13, the LP has been our favorite rod, for many good reasons. With the LP’s stiffer butt section but softer tip, the LP can do just about anything you ask of it.  Size 20 tricos on the Horn?  Check.  BWO’s, PMD’s, Caddis, perhaps an emerger dropper?  Check.  Pop your dry midge emerger on the nose of a rising spring creek brown?  Check. Throw a Chub/Rub? Check.  Fish a Hopper Dropper?  Check.  Use an indicator, rubberlegs, plus tungsten bead dropper?  Check.  Have the power to cast a 10-foot sink tip and a size #6 leadeye bugger?  Check.  Cast the whole line to impress you friends?  Check.   

 

We really hoped the technological advances behind the Asquith, or some other rod, would raise the bar enough to knock the NRX LP off the podium, but it didn’t happen. 

 

At the end of day, the G. Loomis NRX LP’s action is the action we like best for a rod that can do it all. This is the most-rounded 5-weight, with both the feel and power we are looking for.  

 

The LP’s soft tip does more than just feel good when casting in close.  The softer tip allows you to throw some amazing “mini mends” which keep your hopper on track past that corner on the cliff wall.  It also protects lighter tippets when you hammer them after the indicator goes down.  The powerful butt section drives the hook in hard while the softer tip dampens the blow.  We’ve found you can be aggressive with this rod and not break fish off on 6X like you would with a stiffer tipped rod.  Nothing can be more frustrating than fishing dries and breaking 3 or 4 fish off in a row with a stiffer tipped rod. 

 

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  Too often do we see rod manufacturers come up with the perfect rod, which sells well for a few years, only then to discontinue it from the lineup.

 

When G. Loomis decides to discontinue the NRX LP, we hope they will upgrade the reel seat (like the Asquith or of similar quality), or perhaps give the blank color the kind of shimmer we see in the Asquith, and also upgrade the cork as on the Asquith. Ha, I guess we just described an Asquith LP…

 

Performance at 25 feet:  20 points out of 20

Easily the nicest feel, and most accurate, of all the 5-weight rods.  I never felt the need to slam it in there in order to be accurate as with the stiffer tipped rods.  The soft tip here is the key to the LP’s success versus the others.  Only the Hardy Zephrus felt as good to me at this distance, although the Loop Opti-Stream, and Scott Radian were as accurate. 

Performance notes at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Smooth, light, and great feel.  The balance of the rod really makes it effortless to cast at this distance.  It was fun to dial in accuracy with this rod, I was able to hit the plate more often than with other rods.  I also enjoyed the feel of the rod better than stiffer tipped rods that were equally as accurate. 

Performance at 70 feet:  9.5 points out of 10

Not as good as the Douglas Sky, G. Loomis Asquith, Thomas & Thomas, Hardy Wraith to name a few.  With the perfect application of power (starting slow and accelerating to a stop) or no wind, I would have scored this rod higher.  For me personally it required more concentration to get it to perform where other rods felt more forgiving.  With any amount of headwind or bad timing I had problems with tailing loops.

 

 

#1 (tie) - Scott Radian 9’ 5-weight  $795.00 – 49.5/50

Scott Radian

Scott Radian

 

For the third time in a row, I have the Scott Radian tied for first place.  The Radian is one of the most well rounded 5-weight rods ever made, and as such it is a great tool whether you are fishing a spring creek, a small mountain stream, a tail water river, a freestone river, or a lake.  The rod feels good in close and will protect light tippets (6-7X) yet still has the beans to throw a streamer and the entire fly line.

 

The Scott Radian is the perfect for the Yellowstone, Madison, or Big Hole where fishing often involves a large dry (like a Chubby Chernobyl or hopper pattern) followed by a rubberleg or tungsten beadhead dropper.  Yes, a 6-weight rod might be better but this is one 5-weight that can do it all.  The Radian’s stiffer butt section has plenty of power to turn over a wind resistant rig, yet the tip is soft enough that it mends exceptionally well and still feels fun to fish.  The only 5-weight rod I’ve liked better on the Yellowstone for this type of fishing was the Hardy Zenith, which has now been replaced by the Zephrus.

 

The Radian has also proven itself while fishing the Missouri and Bighorn, where we are typically fishing small mayfly dries like tricos.  When the bugs aren’t coming off however, (and the fish aren’t rising), we’ll often be fishing nymphs with long, 12-14 foot leaders. Our typical rig would be a couple of sow bugs, scuds or mayfly nymphs under an indicator as well as small split shot.  Not many 5-weight rods have the power to do this. The fact that the Radian does it all easily eliminates the reason to bring along an extra rod.

 

A few standout points for the Radian – first and foremost is the quality build and craftsmanship.  You can tell that Scott’s rod makers pride themselves on attention to detail.  The epoxy coatings on the guides are better than we see on Sage, G. Loomis, and nearly all other rods.  Hats off to Scott here.  Second, is the interesting shaped grip with the swell well above the center of the grip.  Once you have gotten used to it, you’ll love it.  And this also reduces the swing weight slightly.   Third, the Radian 9’ 5-weight comes in two color choices, the original bright orange wraps or blue with purple wraps.  Last but not least, I like the 12 and 20 inch marks, which make measuring fish quick and easy, and allows you to keep the fish wet and less stressed for a more responsible release. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19.8 points out of 20 

Feels great but not quite as much feel in close as the G.Loomis NRX LP.  I have to punch it a little harder to get a tight loop and turn the 12’ leader over, but when I do the result is usually a bull’s eye.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

I’m impressed by the Radian’s incredible feel and accuracy – This rod doesn’t miss!  Nothing was better for me at this distance, although the NRX was equally delightful.  I felt the NRX LP had a tad more feel, but I was a bit more accurate with the Radian.

Performance at 70 feet:  9.7 points out of 10

This rod made me feel confident that I could put the fly a yard or less from the plate or less at 70 feet, which most rods here could not.  Going the distance with this rod was fun since I didn’t have to punch it as hard as others, I just loaded the rod, and it would do the work for me.

 

 

#3.  Loop Opti-Stream  9’ 5-weight   $429   49.1/50

Loop Opti Stream

Loop Opti Stream

 

You don’t see rods go DOWN in price too often.  This year the Loop Opti Stream dropped $103 from $532 to $429!  What the Opti Stream did not drop, is finishing on my podium, with it’s third consecutive number three finish!  This is by far the best bargain in the top performing rods.  The Loop Opti-Stream is now only $80.00 more than our favorite mid-priced rod, the Douglas DXF, which comes in at $349, making it even more obtainable than before. 

Like the G. Loomis NRX LP and Scott Radian, the Loop Opti-Stream is one of the best all-around 5-weights.  With its stiffer butt section but nice, softer tip the Opti-Stream can handle it all, from small dries to medium size streamers.  And do it all while protecting your tippet, and punching into the wind with excellent accuracy and feel.     

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19.8 points out of 20

Excellent feel and loop control.  Delightful to cast, and very accurate.  Only the G. Loomis NRX LP, Scott Radian and Hardy Zephrus felt as good in close.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.8 points out of 20

Nearly a perfect score, this rod really does a great job.  Effortless to cast with no tailing loops or tangles.  I’m not feeling any extra weight here either. This is a light rod. For only $429, the Opti-Stream is proving it can hang with the best…

Performance at 70 feet:  9.5 points out of 10

Here is where the Opti-stream falls short.  If you try to push this rod too hard and punch it, you’ll get a tailing loop. If I really concentrated in order to make a perfect cast, it was possible but not frequent.  Not great into the wind, but better than most.

 

 #4.  Hardy Zephrus 9’ 5-weight  $699  48.9/50

Hardy Zephrus

Hardy Zephrus

 

Like the Loop Opti-Stream, the Hardy Zephrus has been a consistent podium finisher.  In 2016, the Zephrus finished 3rd overall, and tied for second place for my own Performance Only casting scores.  Looking back at my 2016 scores, I gave the Zephrus a perfect 20 at 45’ and only a 19 at 25 feet. 

 

This year however, I felt the Zephrus was sweetest in close.  All I can think is that this is a slightly different rod, as all rods of a specific length and line size vary a little.  But it could have also been other factors like wind or even the new Amplitude line.  Either way, I scored the Zephrus a perfect 20 this year in close because it felt incredibly smooth and was also amazingly accurate.  Only the NRX LP felt as sweet at 25 feet.

 

The Zephrus is a fantastic all around 5-weight, with plenty of feel for small dries, yet enough strength to cast 70 feet (and beyond) with confidence.  I really liked this rod at all distances; it is fun to cast and is even more fun to fish.

 

Dry fly fanatics, especially spring creek anglers, will love this rod.  I think anglers who are on the Henry’s Fork, Missouri, Bighorn, or other great small dry fly streams will be hard pressed to find a more accurate, smoother casting 5-weight for the money.

 

To be honest, my all time favorite Hardy 5-weight was the Zenith, followed by the Hardy Artisan.  Of Hardy’s current lineup, the Zephrus is still the best all-around 5-weight model, but I wish Hardy would consider bringing back the same powerful action as the Zenith or another rod that was as smooth as the Artisan.  

 

Performance at 25 feet:  20 points out of 20 

Amazing feel and accuracy.  Only the NRX LP was as good.  Time and time again I was hitting the plate.  This rod feels great, tracks well, and turned over the 12’ leader perfectly for me.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.2 points out of 20

I expected the Zephrus to pull off a perfect score here but it wasn’t nearly as accurate for me as the Scott Radian or G. Loomis NRX LP.  This is where I miss that more powerful Zenith, which was perfect. 

Performance at 70 feet:  9.7 points out of 10

A nice surprise as I thought the Zephrus wasn’t going to be able to hang with the other top rods, but I was wrong.  This rod just seems to work with my natural casting stroke and I was able to punch it (even into the wind) without throwing a tailing loop.  The best scoring rods were just a little more powerful and consistent for me, but for someone who places a high priority on feel, this is a great rod, even throwing long!

 

 

#5. Douglas Sky   9’ 5-weight    $695  48.6/50

Douglas Sky

Douglas Sky

 

Since the Douglas Sky won our 2016 6-weight shootout, we all were excited to see if it would beat the NRX LP, but it was just a little too stiff in the tip to be the best all around 5-weight. 

 

The softer tipped rods like the NRX LP, Radian, Opti-Stream, and Zephrus had a lot more feel in close, and were able to turn a 12 foot leader over better with feel and accuracy.  I could get the Sky to be accurate, but it felt like I had to force the cast in there with extra power, so it wasn’t as delicate as the top three rods.  I don’t think it has the ability to protect 6-7X tippets as well as the softer tipped rods like the NRX LP or the Zephrus.  That being said, I loved everything else about the Sky. It was dead on at mid to long range and would be the perfect rod for throwing a chub/rub combo or hopper/dropper rig.  

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19.2 points out of 20

Similar to the Cross SX, the Douglas Sky is stiffer but still feels relatively light in my hand and very accurate. It was fun to cast but the G.Loomis NRX LP and Scott Radian were much smoother and had more feel.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.6 points out of 20

Again, very light and accurate.  This rod is smooth, much like the Douglas DXF but it is even lighter in hand.  Sweet, tight loops.  Terrific feel and accuracy at this distance.

Performance at 70 feet:  9.8 points out of 10

Not bad!  The Douglas Sky was punching them out there very well at long distance.  Even when facing a headwind, it still performed well.  Two thumbs up.

 

 

 

#6.  Orvis H2 Covert Tip Flex 9’ 5-weight $850 48.3/50

Orvis H2 Covert

Orvis H2 Covert 

 

The Orvis Helios 2 Covert Tip-Flex uses the exact same blank as the original Orvis Helios 2 Tip-Flex, but only has 1 layer of epoxy finish as opposed to 3 layers on the original.  This makes the Orvis H2 Covert feel a little lighter in hand and little faster.

 

I thought the Covert felt a little stiffer than the original H2, which hurt it in terms of feel in close but made it even more powerful at 70 feet.  The Covert seems to be a little more accurate to me, and recovers more quickly.  I really enjoyed the slightly “crisper” action of the Covert over the original H2.  Not that the 3 coats of finish deaden the original H2, but the Covert really did seem to be more lively. 

As the all-black “murdered out” color suggests, this rod is a serious weapon and demands recognition.  So far Orvis offers the Covert H2 rods only in the 9’ 5-weight tip flex, and the 9’ 8-weight versions.   

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.6 points out of 20

Strangely, this rod feels stiffer in the tip to me than the original Orvis H2.  But it was still better than the Hardy Wraith, T&T Avantt, and Sage X.  The top rods had more feel at this distance.  Surprisingly, not nearly as sweet as the blue Helios 2 in our last Shootout. (At least at this distance).

Performance at 45 feet:  19.8 points out of 20

Another near perfect score.  What the H2 Covert lacked in close, it quickly made up for at mid-distance with laser-like loops.  The H2 Covert has an incredible amount of power and hangs right with the best at 45 feet.

Performance at 70 feet:  9.9 points out of 10

A pleasant surprise – this for me, was one of the best rods at 70 feet.  Only the Wraith was better.  The Orvis H2 Covert was very accurate with tons of reserve power. Hardly any tailing loops no matter how hard I pushed it.

 

 

#7.  Edge Gamma Alpha 9’ 5-weight  $855  48.2/50 

 Edge Alpha

Edge Alpha

 

 

We were impressed by how the new Edge rods by Gary Loomis performed, especially the Gamma Alpha.  The Alpha felt light in my hand, likely a result from the lack of coating on the blank. Similar to the finish style on the old G. Loomis Classic GLX rods, the Edge Alpha is built for speed, resulting in a crisp casting rod with a quick recovery. 

 

The Edge was amazingly accurate for me at 25 feet, although it was noticeably stiffer in the tip than the NRX LP and others.  It also felt great at 45-55 feet. 

 

It was only at 70 feet that I was having difficulty, not getting very good accuracy.  Tailing loops were also a problem, even when I was concentrating hard to apply the power more slowly and smoothly.

 

Still, as an all-around 5-weight I think the Edge Alpha is a great rod.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19.6 points out of 20

The Edge Gamma Alpha felt light and exceptionally accurate.  I would have liked to have more feel, but over all I liked the mix of power and accuracy enough to forgive the stiffness.  Somehow the rod still was able to turn over a 12-foot leader very well for me.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.2 points out of 20

Great power with better feel.  Every once in a while I would have an off cast, and it wasn’t nearly as accurate for me as the other top rods.  Still, good performance and a very pleasant casting rod.

Performance at 70 feet:  9.4  points out of 10

With its stiffness, I thought I was going to be able to really punch this rod, but if I did, the result was a tailing loop, similar to the G. Loomis NRX LP or Asquith.  I really had to concentrate hard with this rod to get it to perform well at 70 feet.

 

 

#8. Thomas and Thomas Avantt 9’ 5-weight $825 48.1/50

T&T Avantt

T&T Avantt 

 

For me, the biggest surprise of the test was the new Thomas and Thomas Avantt.  I have always felt that T&T has made some of the best quality rods.  Their craftsmanship and attention to detail are second to none.  While T&T’s impeccable quality build has always been nothing short of perfect, I haven’t always enjoyed T&T’s past parabolic actions and heavy swing weights.  The Avantt bridges the gap between T&T’s tradition and what a great modern fly rod should be.

 

If you are looking to fish spring creeks with 7X, then the Avantt might be better left in its case.  But if you are looking for a laser of a rod that is light, accurate, and has tons of power, and one that will handle a sink tip, streamer, and a 20 mph. headwind, you’ve found your rod! 

 

Think of the Avantt as your dressed up, made in America Hardy Wraith, with a slightly softer tip.  The T&T Avantt is a superb rod, and deserves a serious look. Even though it may not be the best all around 5-weight, what it brings to the table in terms of sheer power, light weight and terrific craftsmanship is impressive.  

 

In terms of playing big fish on larger tippets (like 2-4X) the Avantt’s stiffness really allows you to put the heat on them, allowing you to land fish more quickly.  Although many people enjoy a longer fight, I would rather land fish quickly and release them in better shape.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.4 points out of 20

Not bad, but certainly on the stiffer side of the top 10 rods.  Not quite as stiff as the Hardy Wraith, and slightly better feel than the X.  But not nearly as much feel as the Orvis H2, G. Loomis NRX LP, Scott Radian, or Loop Opti-Stream. The Avantt feels nice and light in hand and is very accurate.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.6 points out of 20

Commanding is a good way to describe this rod.  You simply tell it where to cast and it obeys!   Although this rod still feels a little stiffer than others, I thought it tracked beautifully, and produced excellent accuracy.    

Performance at 70 feet:  9.9 points out of 10

Another bomber performance!  The Avantt is a powerful weapon and at long range its stiffness now pays big dividends.  You can really punch this rod without collapsing the loop.  One of the best rods at long distance, or when casting in the wind.  Only the Hardy Wraith was better.

 

 

#9. (tie) G. Loomis Asquith   9’ 5-weight  $1000 48/50

G. Loomis Asquith

G. Loomis Asquith

 

 

The G. Loomis Asquith series reminds me a lot of the CrossCurrent series, just significantly lighter and far less fatiguing to cast all day. We have yet to do an 8-weight Shootout that includes the new Asquith, but I’d be highly surprised to find a better 8-weight than the Asquith.  In the 9’ 5-weight model however, the Asquith feels a little too stiff for an all around 5-weight, especially for spring creek and flat water fishing, where feel, accuracy, and a delicate delivery are the keys to success.

 

That being said, there are some things I love about this rod.  The “Lexus steering wheel” style bamboo barrel insert is pleasing to the eye. The high quality locking rings on the reel seat perform as well as they look.  Of all the reel seats in the test, this is my favorite.

 

I also love the strength of this rod, due to the unusual opposing spiral wraps of graphite used in the construction of the blank.  Have you ever bought a new rod only to break it a week later and then wait half the summer for it to get repaired?  I have, and it sucks.   G. Loomis won’t commit to the exact percentage that the Asquith is stronger than the NRX, which in our experience has been the toughest rod on the market.  They claim the Asquith is significantly stronger, and of course you can use the G. Loomis Expeditor service, and get it replaced with a brand new rod in only a few days.  I’ve always felt the G. Loomis rods could take a beating, especially the Cross-Current and NRX series, which I’ve used a lot. When Loomis says the Asquith is a lot stronger, this means a lot, as they have proven themselves to me in this department. 

 

In addition to the performance and strength, I love the appearance, and the way the dark green blank shimmers in the sunlight.

 

I think that if G. Loomis came out with an “Asquith LP” they’d have the best of all worlds - a super light, yet powerful and durable rod with an action that can truly do it all. 

  

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

The Asquith is certainly on the stiffer side of the equation and as such it didn’t perform as well or have the same feel as the G. Loomis NRX LP, Scott Radian, Hardy Zephrus, and others at short range.  It really did feel light however, and the accuracy was excellent.  

Performance at 45 feet:  19.4 points out of 20

Similar to the Hardy Wraith, with perhaps a little more feel.  I really liked this rod, as it was accurate and fun to cast.  I’m surprised it didn’t score better, there are just a lot of great rods out right now and this is where I felt the Asquith landed for me personally. 

Performance at 70 feet:  9.6 points out of 10

This rod has a lot more power at long distance than the NRX LP but I still found other rods like the H2, Sky and Radian that had slightly better punch and seemed better in the wind. 

 

 

 

#9. (tie) Douglas DXF   9’ 5-weight   $349   48/50

Douglas DXF

Douglas DXF

 

If you are on a budget but want the best 5-weight performance you can find, check out the Douglas DXF.  In the past, the DXF has been our pick as the best mid-priced rod.  It still is, with the exception of the Opti Stream at its new lower price of $429.

 

The DXF has a great all-around action, is nice and light, and really feels like a rod that costs twice as much.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

Reminds me a lot of the Douglas Sky, just a little heavier.  Very accurate and also plenty of feel.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.4 points out of 20

Again, nearly as nice as the Douglas SKY, just heavier.  Perfectly formed loops with great accuracy, an incredible rod for the money!

Performance at 70 feet: 9.6 points out of 10

Not bad at all, albeit with extra weight.  Not ot as much power as the Douglas Sky. I had more tailing loops when trying to push it.  Still better than many other rods at 70 feet. 

 

 

 

#11.  Fenwick Aetos 9’ 5-weight  $189.95 47.9/50

Fenwick Aetos

Fenwick Aetos

 

If your budget won’t allow for a rod over $200, there’s no question, the Fenwick Aetos is your best option.  No, it’s not made in America, so if you are looking for a comparable rod that is made in the USA, be prepared to pay $425-$475.  The St. Croix Legend Elite, Orvis Recon, Sage Pulse, or Scott Flex are all possible options. 

 

But honestly, I like the action and swing weight of the Aetos better than many of these American made rods!  If you want an all-around 5-weight rod that performs better than the Aetos, plan on spending more than $350. 

 

The Aetos is a great rod for all skill levels.  Sure, experienced anglers will appreciate a nicer rod, with better cork, a fancier reel seat, better guides, and higher craftsmanship than the Aetos offers.  But I honestly feel that even expert fly casters would be impressed at how well the Aetos performs.

 

This probably isn’t the last 5-weight you’ll ever buy, but it will certainly get the job done, and when you are ready to purchase a nicer rod you’ll have a great back up rod, or a rod that you can lend to friends or pass on to an appreciative child.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20 

Feels better than other inexpensive and several mid-priced rods.  Great power and accuracy, although it could have a little more feel.  The Aetos performs like a much more expensive rod.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.4 points out of 20

Light swing weight and powerful, this rod crushed the other inexpensive rods in terms of both feel and accuracy. Nice, clean tight loops.  Bravo!

Performance at 70 feet:  9.5 points out of 10

Well surpassed my expectations for an inexpensive rod.  I could punch it quite hard without getting a tailing loop, similar to the TFO BVK or Orvis Recon.  There is tremendous value here. 

 

 

#12. Loop Cross SX 9’ 5-weight     $759    47.8/50

Loop Cross SX

Loop Cross SX

 

The Loop Cross SX is a powerful stick.  I absolutely loved the SX 9’ 6-weight model, which I had tied for 1st place in terms of the best 6-weight on the market, along with the 9’ 6-weight Douglas Sky.  Like the 6-weight SX, the Loop Cross SX 9’ 5-weight is also an aggressive rod with the best performance at mid to long range. 

 

Here’s another no nonsense stick that will hammer out 60’ plus casts with ease.   But I think the SX is just a bit too stiff to be a perfect all around 5-weight.  For anglers looking to fish shorter distances or more critical situations like the spring creeks or flat-water for rising fish, using small flies and light tippet, the Loomis NRX LP, the Scott Radian and the Loop Opti Stream are better options.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19.2 points out of 20

Although this rod feels stiffer than most, it is very accurate and feels nice and light in hand. Accuracy is so good it makes up for lack of feel.  But if you are looking for more delicate presentations at short range, think G. Loomis NRX LP, Scott Radian, or Hardy Zephrus.

Performance at 45 feet: 19 points out of 20

Powerful and accurate, this is a great rod, but I’m not getting as much feel or accuracy as I was getting with the NRX LP, Scott Radian, or other top rods.

Performance at 70 feet: 9.6 points out of 10

I was expecting the SX to crush it at 70 feet, especially since I love the 9’ 6-weight Loop Cross SX so much.  This rod did very well at long range, compared to most rods, but I wasn’t getting the kind of accuracy I got with the Scott Radian or Orvis H2.

 

 

#13.     Sage X      9’ 5-weight      $895      47.7/50

Sage X

Sage X

 

I liked the Sage X 9’ 5-weight significantly better than I liked the 6-weight.  Where I felt that the Sage ONE was a better 6-weight than the Sage X, I feel the Sage X is the best 5-weight Sage has made since the Z-Axis. 

 

Have no fear, you XP and ONE lovers – you will like this new X.  Take a glance at the deflection board, the X has a lot of backbone, and plenty of power like the XP.  The new X has a slightly softer tip and a slightly faster action than what Sage has offered in the past.  But they could do even better.   I think if the Sage X had a tip and second section just a touch lighter and quicker; they would have pinned down a podium finish.  Still, as is, the X is a great rod and well rounded aside from being not the most delicate for spring creek style fishing.  If you are fishing a tail-water or freestone river out of the boat, the X will be a great rod for you. 

 

The main difference between the X and my podium winners is the X required a little more effort to get going, and it suffered at short distances, which I think has to do with the stiffer tip.  The good part about it is once the train has left the station, the line tracks well and the X really zings them in there.  It just takes a little more energy to get it all in motion.  If Sage is able to come up with an “X-LP” I think they’d really be cooking with gas.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.4 points out of 20

The tip feels a little heavy and stiff compared to the other best rods, all of which had a lot more feel in close.   Comparable to the Hardy Wraith but only a little more accurate, and required more effort than with the softer tipped rods.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.6 points out of 20

Wow.  Now I’m getting some great performance.  Accuracy was good although the stiffer tip makes me work a bit harder.   But I can punch it hard, with little or no risk of a tailing loop.  This rod means business, like the T&T Avantt.   Once you get it going there is no stopping it.  I liked the Sage ONE better in a 6-weight, but I like the Sage X better in the 5-weight as an all around rod. 

Performance at 70 feet:  9.7 points out of 10

I was impressed by this rod’s power versus weight, and its excellent performance at longer distances.    On occasion I would throw a tailing loop, but only when pushing the limits of what this rod can and can’t do.  I think for many anglers, this will be one of their best rods for throwing long or into the wind.

 

 

#14. (tie) Hardy Wraith FWS 9’ 5-weight $849  47.6 / 50

Hardy Wraith

 Hardy Wraith

 

Another line ripper, the Hardy Wraith reminds me of a lighter Sage TCX, ONE, or Method.  It is stiff and powerful and built with distance, heavy wind, and streamers in mind.  If you like fishing streamers on a floating line, this could be a good second 5-weight rod for you.  While most people are looking at a 5-weight for fishing dries and nymphs, the streamer addict is looking for a rod that will be more fun casting into riprap bank holes, under the willow holes, and into the shallow riffles early in the morning before sunrise. 

 

Forget about fishing the Wraith with 6-7X during your next blue wing olive hatch.  Like a 6 weight XP, you’ll break off every fish on the hook set.  The Wraith is a good nymphing rod, with the power to handle some beefy double nymph rigs, along with split shot, under a big indicator or balloon.

 

Light and powerful, this is the samurai sword of all 5-weight rods.  It will cut through the Livingston wind like no other rod in the shootout.  When it comes to throwing the entire fly line, in a 5-weight, there is nothing that can match the Wraith.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.2 points out of 20

Nice and light, just very stiff in the tip.  Deadly accurate but in order to get the accuracy I had to slam the leader and yarn indicator in hard.  This is not the rod to get if you are looking for delicate presentations at short distances.    

Performance at 45 feet: 19.4 points out of 20

Very light and accurate at mid-distances.  Fun to cast despite the fact that it is clearly stiffer than others.  I thought the T&T Avantt was a little more accurate whereas the Douglas Sky and Sage X had a touch more feel.  The G. Loomis NRX LP, Scott Radian, Loop Opti-Stream, and Orvis H2 Covert had the edge on both accuracy and feel.

Performance at 70 feet: 10 points out of 10

Absolute perfection.  The Hardy Wraith was everyone’s favorite rod for throwing the long bomb.  If I had to make a long cast with a 5-weight rod and the camera rolling, I’d want the Hardy Wraith in my hand.  It performed great even in a stiff headwind.  Nothing was better. 

 

 

 

#14. (tie) St. Croix Legend Elite 9’ 5-weight $460 47.6/50

St. Croix Legend Elite

St. Croix Legend Elite

 

Although the St. Croix tied with the Wraith in my performance only scores, the Legend Elite is a far better all around 5-weight rod.  It’s also made in the USA, in Park Falls, WI.

 

We’ve always felt the action of the Legend Elite is nearly perfect.  On our deflection board the Legend Elite has strong butt and mid sections, with a softer and more flexible tip.  This is what makes the Legend Elite feel nice and smooth in close but also allows it to throw the whole fly line with ease.   

 

The only thing holding the Legend Elite back from a top finish is the heavy swing weight.  Its overall weight is fine but it’s one of the heavier rods in swing weight.  And this hurts, especially when I’m casting in close. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.8 points out of 20

Nice smooth action, and very accurate.  The only thing I didn’t like was the heavier feel in hand than with the best rods.

Performance at 45 feet: 19 points out of 20

Feels good at mid-range and my loops are tight and well controlled.  But I was a bit more accurate with most of the other top rods, I think in part due to the heavy swing weight of the Legend Elite.  

Performance at 70 feet:  9.8 points out of 10

Although it’s a little heavy, once you get the St. Croix Legend Elite in motion, the train has left the station!  Great “punch able” power without getting many tailing loops.

 

 

#16. Orvis Recon 9’ 5-weight $425 47.5/50

Orvis Recon

Orvis Recon

 

Of all the USA made rods in our 2017 5-weight Shootout, the Orvis Recon is the least expensive and best performing rod.  The Recon’s action is on the stiffer side, and probably shouldn’t be considered if you are planning on fishing spring creeks or flat water and 5-7X tippet most of the time.  If you are fishing larger rivers, especially nymph fishing under an indicator or throwing streamers, the Recon is an excellent choice.

 

You won’t find the latest advancements in terms of cork, guides, graphite, or an overly fancy reel seat like you do on the Helios 2, but what you do get with the Recon is a smooth casting, accurate rod with ample power. 

 

In my opinion, the Recon is a huge step up in terms of performance and feel from the now discontinued Orvis Access and Zero Gravity models.  Orvis is building rods today with far better actions than in the past.  If you can’t afford their $850 top of the line Helios 2 or the Helios 2 Covert, then the Recon is a very sensible purchase.

 

Like the Helios 2 rods, the Recon is built from the ground up in Manchester, Vermont.  

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.8 points out of 20

Nice Loops and solid accuracy.  A bit heavier feel than the Aetos, but better than most all other inexpensive rods or mid-priced rods.   

Performance at 45 feet: 19 points out of 20

The good feel and power and a solid performance.  On par with the Sage Pulse, Loop, Cross SX, Winston BIIIx, and Beulah Guide Series II.  I like it.

Performance at 70 feet: 9.7 points out of 10

Nice – I’m impressed!  This rod has the power to launch them long. Very good loop control, and almost no tailing loops, even when punching it hard into a headwind.

 

 

 

#17. R.L. Winston BIIIx   9’ 5-weight   $845   47/50

R.L. Winston BIIIx

R.L. Winston BIIIx

 

The R.L. Winston BIIIx may have finished further down the pack than Winston would like, but there is more to this rod than just raw performance scores.

 

A couple of things set the Winston BIIIx apart from other rods.  First and foremost is the quality build and craftsmanship.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a production rod with as much time put into it.  From the handwritten serial numbers on each section, to the classy winding check and nickel silver uplocking reel seat with its fancy birdseye maple insert, this is one gorgeous rod.  And that beautiful green blank for which Winston, really sets it apart from other rods.

 

The other thing that I’ve liked about the BIIIx is its “soul” which has to do with its sweet, Zen-like feel.  This isn’t something that can be measured in terms of performance or how many times you are able to hit the plate in a row.  It’s about being connected to the rod and having fun with it.  I wish the scores could somehow reflect how smoothly and delicately this rods casts and feels.   

 

Performance at 25 feet: 19.4 points out of 20

Other rods were more accurate for me, but the Winston BIIIx did deliver the yarn indicator delicately with excellent feel.  Anglers with a more relaxed casting stroke will likely enjoy this rod a lot.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Good feel and very pleasing to cast.  Again, I was more accurate with other rods but few other rods had the kind of feel I was getting.  The BIIIx had me smiling at 45 feet.

Performance at 70 feet:  8.9 points out of 10

Doable, but clearly not the BIIIx’s specialty.  It took a lot of concentration to get this rod to perform well at 70 feet, and even then tailing loops were the common denominator.  

 

 

 

#18. (tie) Beulah Guide Series II 9’ 5-weight $295 47.2/50

Beulah Guide Series II

Beulah Guide Series II

 

The Beulah Guide series II is a fantastic rod for the money.   The GS II is faster in action than the Beulah Platinum, and while it doesn’t have as much feel in close as the Platinum I think it is a better all around rod, especially for setting the hook while nymph fishing or casting on windier days.  

 

We’ve had good luck with the Guide Series II holding up well with very little breakage.  Usually the lighter, inexpensive rods are more prone to breakage problems, but this hasn’t been the case with the Guide Series II rods.

 

Honestly the only issue we’ve had with this rod and the Platinum is keeping them in stock.  They are popular rods for us but since they are built in Asia, once Beulah runs out of stock, it often means a lengthy wait to get more.   

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.8 points out of 20

Of the less expensive rods, only the Aetos felt better to me.  The Beulah Guide Series II produced some tight loops and was able to turn over the 12-foot leader just fine.  Excellent accuracy and power although significantly less feel than the softer Beulah Platinum. 

Performance at 45 feet: 19 points out of 20

Lighter and faster than the Beulah Platinum.  The Guide Series II was a more accurate rod for me, especially when the wind picked up.   Not bad!

Performance at 70 feet: 9.4 points out of 10

Light in hand, this rod felt great, but I just couldn’t punch it and get the kind of performance at long range as I did with the TFO BVK, Orvis Recon, and Sage Pulse.  Still, I liked this rod, even at 70 feet.

 

 

 

#18. (tie) Sage Pulse 9’ 5-weight $450 47.2/50

Sage Pulse

 Sage Pulse

 

I was kind of hoping the Sage Pulse was the Z-Axis in a neon green sheep’s clothing.  But the Z-Axis was much sweeter and a better all around rod.  If anything, the Sage X is closer to the old Z-Axis

 

The Pulse wasn’t bad though, especially at mid to long range.  In close, however, the Pulse’s stiffer tip made it much harder to produce tight loops at 25 feet, or turn over a 12-foot leader without having to blast it in with extra effort and power.

 

At mid-distance the performance was just average, but the Pulse was still pleasing to cast.  At long range, the stiffness of the Pulse helped it score well above average and now it felt quite good.

 

If you are looking for an inexpensive Sage rod, the Pulse is a great option. We think it is more versatile than the Bolt ($650), which is more powerful but has even less feel in close. 

 

The lime green candy “pear” paint job looked nice. While this color may turn some anglers off, it was actually one of my favorites to photograph. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.6 points out of 20

The stiffer tip made it harder to turn over a 12-foot leader than the top rods.  Like the X, the swing weight was pretty heavy in my hand. 

Performance at 45 feet: 19 points out of 20

Very good and on par with the Orvis Recon, Beulah Guide Series II, Winston BIIIx, St. Croix Legend Elite, and Loop Cross SX.  I thought the Fenwick Aetos felt a little lighter and was more accurate.

Performance at 70 feet: 9.6 points out of 10

Heavier in hand for sure, but good, solid, punch-able power.  This rod didn’t produce very many tailing loops, even into the wind.  I think this rod was nearly as accurate as some of the best but I had to work harder dealing with the heavy swing weight. 

 

 

#20. R. L. Winston Air 9’ 5-weight $945  47/50

R.L. Winston Air

R.L. Winston Air

 

The Winston Air was probably my biggest disappointment of the Shootout, only because I really had high hopes for it.  Nothing would please me more than to see a company that makes rods here in Montana win or do very well in our Shootout. 

 

The advertising claims that Winston makes to promote the Air are perhaps too good to be true.  “Winston AIR rods feature a revolutionary new design that combines our new SuperSilica™ resin system with high modulus Boron for significantly less weight, more liveliness, an extremely broad casting range, and higher responsiveness for optimum presentation.”

 

After reading this, I really thought the Air was going to be lighter than the BIIIx, but unfortunately both the overall weight (3.5 vs. 3.3) and swing weight (9.9 vs. 9.5) were heavier!   I’m not sure what happened here, but I could feel the difference in weight when casting the two rods together.  The Winston Air just didn’t feel as “sweet” as the BIIIx, a rod that we have come to love as one of Winston’s great dry fly rods.  

 

Looking at the deflection chart, the Winston Air was our softest rod in the test.  I think adding a little more stiffness to the butt and mid-section, but keeping the nice soft tip would help the Air’s performance.  But that would also add more weight to an already heavy rod.  

 

In our 9’ 6-weight shootout, I gave the Winston Air a perfect score at the closest distance (30 feet), but the 9’ 5-weight version didn’t feel nearly as nice to me as the BIIIx or many of the other top rods at 25 feet. 

 

I did like the Air at 45 feet however.  At this distance it felt like the Air had a good blend of feel and power.  It was more accurate for me than the BIIIx.  I also scored it better at 70 feet than the BIIIx, although it was still inferior to most of the other best rods.   

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.8 points out of 20

I was surprised that the Air was not turning over my 12-foot leader very well.  I tried different power applications, and a gentle casting stroke seemed to work best, but nothing gave me the accuracy I had expected.

Performance at 45 feet: 19.2 points out of 20

I liked the Winston Air a lot at 45 feet, even more so than the BIIIx.  Tight, effortless loops with lots of feel.  I would have scored it even higher, but it didn’t cast nearly as well the G. Loomis NRX LP and Scott Radian in the wind.

Performance at 70 feet: 9 points out of 10

About the same results as I was getting with the Winston BIIIx, even a little better.  I had to be really careful not to punch it, but with a smoother stroke, this rod performed well.  Again, when casting into a headwind this wasn’t the best rod.

 

 

#21. Livingston Rod Company YS Fast 9’ 5-weight $745 46.7/50

Livingston Rod Company

Livingston Rod Company

 

The Livingston Rod Company YS Fast is a very powerful rod, designed along the banks of the Yellowstone to cast a chub/rub fly combination, even in Livingston’s perpetual wind.   To that, I’d say mission accomplished – and in style…

 

We have known Dusty Smith for a long time, mostly as a fiberglass rod builder and designer since that is his specialty.  One thing that has impressed me about all of Dusty’s rods is the flawless craftsmanship.

 

He imports his own high-grade cork rings, and chooses only the best rings for his uniquely modified grips.  His impeccable epoxy work on the rod wraps is much like what we see from Tom Morgan Rodsmiths and Thomas and Thomas.  We wish other rod companies would take a little more time to get their epoxy coatings as perfect as what we see from the Livingston Rod Company.

 

We were so impressed with Dusty’s work that we asked him to build our Sage 389 LL 2pc banks that we bought from Sage years ago.  Thankfully he agreed, and we now are able to offer up to 5 rods a year to anglers who want to purchase one of the greatest 3-weight rods of all time.

 

Getting back to the YS Fast, it is a great rod, especially at longer distances.  It is just not a great all around 5-weight rod.  Dusty plans to tweak the taper for next year and come up with a rod that will cast better in close with more feel, yet still have the same butt power to throw long into that Livingston wind. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20

This rod is deadly accurate but I just wasn’t getting much feel out of it.  I felt like I was trying to force an accurate cast to the plate rather than letting it land delicately on the plate.  If you fish small tippet on spring creeks quite often, this isn’t the rod for you.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Again super accurate, just feeling a little stiffer and heavier than the Douglas Sky, G. Loomis Asquith, or the Scott Radian.

Performance at 70 feet:  9.7 points out of 10

One of the better rods at long distance in our Shootout.  Awesome loop control and lots of power made it easy to cast 70 feet and beyond.  The only thing holding it back from a near perfect score is that best rods felt a little smoother.  Still, this rod means business and will deliver, even when punching into a stiff headwind.

 

 

#22. Beulah Platinum  9’ 5-weight $425  46.6/50

Beulah Platinum

Beulah Platinum

 

The Beulah Platinum is a terrific rod, and while it may not have produced especially high accuracy scores, it does have a wonderful feel to it.  Think of the Beulah as a less expensive Winston BIIIx, that embodies a certain kind of “soul” to it that stiffer rods often lack.

 

If Beulah could figure out a way for the Platinum to keep its same amazingly smooth action, but reduce the weight a little, they would have a podium contender.

 

For anglers looking for a superb medium action rod that is smooth as silk, the Beulah Platinum is a great choice.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.6 points out of 20

Very smooth, with great turnover and feel despite the heavier feel in hand.  This rod impressed me, but others were more accurate and lighter.

Performance at 45 feet: 18.8 points out of 20

Well-balanced and quite smooth. Good accuracy also, at mid-distances. If it were just a little lighter then we’d really be cooking with gas!

Performance at 70 feet: 9.2 points out of 10

Here the softer action is impeding performance and accuracy.  The weight doesn’t help matters either.  If I wasn’t extremely careful, the Platinum wanted to throw a tailing loop.

 

 

#23. Mystic Reaper 9’ 5-weight $279 46.5 /50

Mystic Reaper

Mystic Reaper

 

 

If the Beulah Platinum is a less expensive Winston BIIIx, think of the Mystic Reaper as a less expensive Beulah Platinum.  The Mystic Reaper rod series really reminds us of the old Winston Passport series, which had softer, delightful actions that embodied more feel than power. 

 

If you want a dry fly rod with lots of feel, you’ll love the Mystic Reaper.  It’s not as fancy as the Beulah Platinum, and has more of a medium-fast action. If you can afford a Winston or the Beulah then by all means go for one, but if your budget calls for a rod under $300 the Mystic Reaper is a wonderful option.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.8 points out of 20

Nice feel!  This rod will appeal to anglers who prefer a softer tip. The Mystic Reaper gave us good delicate presentations at short distance, but other rods were more accurate. 

Performance at 45 feet: 18.6 points out of 20

A lot lighter feel in hand than the Echo Base or TFO BVK.  The Reaper was smooth enough, and pleasant to cast but I struggled in the wind getting good accuracy.   It reminds me a lot of the old Winston Passport series.

Performance at 70 feet: 9.1 points out of 10

Similar to the Beulah Platinum this rod is just a little too soft to brew much confidence at long range.  Tailing loops were common, especially in the wind. 

 

 

 

#24. Echo Base    9’ 5-weight    $89.99    46.1 / 50

Echo Base

Echo Base

 

 

Here is a bare bones rod from Echo that performs a lot bigger than it should for such a low price.   It was heavier than many of the rods that use higher modulus graphite, but that was to be expected.   On the other hand the heavy swing weight hurt the performance, but more at close distance than out long.  The medium-fast action seemed about right.

 

The components were less impressive than on the more expensive rods, but overall we were impressed at how good this rod looked and performed when you consider the ridiculously low price.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.4 points out of 20 

Heavier feel in hand than most rods, but still smooth casting and accurate.  Other rods just felt significantly lighter with faster recovery.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.4 points out of 20

Not bad!  A nice smooth action, with solid accuracy. I could get tighter loops out of other rods, but I was surprised at the decent accuracy I was getting, even hitting the plate here and there. I still can’t believe this rod only costs $89.99; it should be twice that if not more…

Performance at 70 feet:  9.3 points out of 10

Better than the Beulah Platinum, Mystic Reaper, Winston Air, and Scott Flex.  This rod proved it can hang in there with the much more expensive rods at long distance. 

 

 

  

#25.  Scott Flex   9’ 5-weight   $475   45.2 /50

 Scott Felx

Scott Felx

 

The Scott Flex is really the only rod in the Shootout who's action I didn't care for.  It was slow and very tip heavy.  And perhaps I’m being hard on Scott since I know what they are capable of – near perfection.   The Scott Radian and Meridian are two of our all time favorite rods, and the G2 has always been one of the smoothest casting dry fly rods we can think of.  Unfortunately the Scott Flex is not in the same class as our other favorite Scott rods.

 

I liked the Flex more at shorter distances than out long.  At 25 feet it was accurate enough, but its heavy swing weight eliminated any feel.  At 45 feet the Flex was OK but many of the less expensive rods had better feel, accuracy, and power.  At 70 feet the Flex really started to unravel. 

 

Aside from the oversized grip, (which could be sanded down easily enough), the craftsmanship on the Flex is excellent.  The Flex is made in Colorado, together with the Scott’s other rods.  I liked with the overall finish, and the epoxy coatings on the guide wraps.

 

The Scott "Flex" easily has the best name of any new fly rod... 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 19 points out of 20

The grip seemed big.  Other than that, the Flex is pretty accurate in close with a decent amount of feel. The Flex felt much heavier than the Mystic Reaper and Beulah Platinum, both of which are less expensive.

Performance at 45 feet: 18.4 points out of 20

It was more difficult for me to turn over a 12-foot leader into the wind at 45 feet, than with the Orvis Recon or Sage Pulse.  Accuracy wasn’t nearly as good as most rods either, and a polar opposite of the Radian, which was a laser.  

Performance at 70 feet: 7.8 points out of 10

I just couldn’t get this rod to perform well for me at all at long distance.  Any time I tried to apply the power required to cast 70 feet the Flex would buckle and I would throw a tailing loop. Slowing my casting stroke down and applying the power more smoothly helped, but my maximum distance achieved, into the wind, was only about 55-60 feet. 

 

 

#26. TFO BVK 9’ 5-weight  $259.95 44.4/50

Temple Fork Outfitters BVK

Temple Fork Outfitters BVK

 

 

Normally this is the part where we tell you that every Shootout has a loser, and you’re looking at it. But in this case we actually like (and recommend) the BVK as a guide rod for nymph fishing out of a drift boat. 

 

Sure, it’s heavy, and yes it’s stiff, but the BVK has a ton of power which is great for setting the hook, casting into the wind, turning over a large indicator with two heavy nymphs, and throwing streamers.

 

If you are planning on fishing small dries and spring creeks, then avoid this rod like the plague.  But if you like to nymph for large trout in big rivers I’d say go for it.  Ditto if you like fishing streamers or need a rod that will handle a lot of wind.

 

Temple Fork Outfitters has one of the least expensive warranty fees, ($35) as well as one of the fastest turn-around times, (usually back to you in a week).  The fact that you can break your rod and have it back in a week or so at a very low repair fee is priceless.

 

The other thing that really impresses me about the BVK is how well it will throw long.  If your fishing requires longer casts from 50-100 feet (maybe you love high mountain lakes and the fish cruise by the a ledge that is 60 plus feet away from the shore) then the BVK is a great weapon.  Sure, if you can afford a Hardy Wraith or T&T Avantt, definitely go that route. But if you have a strict budget, and need a rod with a ton of power, give the BVK a look.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 16.4 points out of 20

The BVK felt much heavier than all other rods, and it is really stiff.  This made it nearly impossible to be accurate and still have any kind of delicate delivery.  If you were casting a hopper or chubby, where a little splash might look good, you’re set.  But if you want a nice rod for fishing small dries, this isn’t it.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.2 points out of 20

Tons of power, but I can feel all that weight in my hand.  Most rods were more accurate and had a lot more feel. Guides love it for nymphing the Yellowstone River, since you are doing less casting and more mending, and the BVK has plenty of power to set the hook.

Performance at 70 feet:  9.8 points out of 10

A solid comeback in the bottom of the ninth!  The BVK has a ton of power at long range, and really launches.  When casting 70 and beyond the BVK’s heavier swing weight didn’t really bother me, although you might want to bring along some Advil for the end of the day!  Truly awesome power and great accuracy. I would have given the BVK a perfect score but the Orvis Helios 2 Covert, Thomas & Thomas Avantt, and Hardy Wraith were better as well as a lot lighter.

 

Best 5-weight rods of 2017 

Finding the Right Rod for You

We hope our Shootout has helped you zero in on which 5-weight rods you think you might like.  We always recommend casting a rod before you purchase one, rather than taking anyone’s word for it.

Having read the Shootout or other reviews on line or in magazines, go to your local fly shop and ask to cast the rods you are interested in.  Always load up at least 2 or 3 rods so that you can compare them against each other quickly, or against your own older 5-weight. 

 

Everyone’s casting style and skills are different, as are their personal preferences for what makes casting (and fishing) fun.   Find the rod that makes you smile.  If it costs a pretty penny you may have to earn it and save up for it.  If it is less expensive, count your blessings and enjoy it.

 

My Fly Shop Doesn’t Carry the Rod I Want

 

If for some reason your local fly shop doesn’t have the rod you think you want in stock, then we’d love to have your business.  We’ll be happy to send you the rod you are interested in, and as long as you do not fish with it (only cast it on the lawn, and return it in new condition) we will allow you to return it for something different, or give you a full refund less the shipping charges. This way you don’t risk buying a rod that you don’t love.  Give us a call and we can send you a rod today!  406-222-7130.