2017 5 weight shootout

2017 5-Weight Shootout

by JG (Josh Green)

 

JG Performance Only

 

1.  NRX LP      59.5 points out of 60

G. Loomis NRX LP

G. Loomis NRX LP

 

The NRX LP is still the nicest 5-weight on the market.  The NRX LP has finished first in so many past 5-weight Shootouts, that some people think we be on G. Loomis’ payroll.  The truth is, G. Loomis has a winning recipe with the NRX LP that hasn’t been matched yet, and that’s the bottom line.  For a do-it-all 5-weight the LP’s soft tip and powerful butt section mix perfectly to give me what I consider is the perfect action, and it does everything well.

25 Feet – 20 points out of 20
Good tip flex and light weight allows it easily to make delicate, accurate casts.  The tip of this rod is light and supple and gives great tippet protection and also allows the angler to make really delicate short distance casts.

45 Feet –20 points out of 20
At middle distances, the mid section of the rod begins to load to help produce more line speed and power. Accuracy is great and the rod feels light and nimble in my hand.  The NRX is an awesome rod that casts, mends, and fishes like no other. 

75 Feet -  19.5 points out of 20
Despite being less powerful than many of the rods we tested, the NRX still performed great at long range giving me very consistent accuracy.

 

2.  Douglas Sky     59.2 points out of 60

Douglas Sky

Douglas Sky

 

 

Most people will recognize the Douglas Sky from its stellar performance in our last 6-weight Shootout. The 6-weight Sky is one of my personal all-time favorite rods.  And the 5-weight does a great job as well, and was one of my favorite rods in this Shootout, thanks to its light swing weight, power, and outstanding accuracy.

25 Feet – 19.7 points out of 20
The Sky put in a good showing here as a 5-weight.  It’s extremely light and controllable, which helped me get great accuracy, and the tip is just soft enough that I could get delicate presentations.

45 Feet – 20 points out of 20
I really liked the Sky a lot here.  I thought that it cast effortlessly and accurately even if the wind kicked up.  In hand the feel is good and helped give me confidence that my casts would find their mark. 

70 Feet – 19.5 points out of 20
The Sky 5-weight has the power to hit 70’ with little trouble and thanks to its top-notch design it does it accurately and without wearing out the angler.

 

 

3. (tie)  G. Loomis Asquith  58.9 points out of 60

G. Loomis Asquith

G. Loomis Asquith

 

 

I loved the looks of the Asquith as well as its amazing performance at the longer distances.  This is a new design from Loomis that incorporates spiral wraps of graphite, (“Sprial Wrap technology TM”) in opposing directions, that make the finished blank extremely light, responsive and durable.

25 Feet – 18.9 points out of 20
The Asquith is a super light rod that feels great but it’s just too stiff to be very good at short range.  I didn’t get much feel from the rod and my presentations were rather harsh.

45 Feet – 20 points out of 20
At mid range targets the Asquith is awesome.  It’s light in hand, nimble and lively.  That spiral wrap construction really seems to work.  Accuracy is no problem thanks again to its light weight and ability to track straight and true.   

70 Feet - 20 points out of 20 
A great choice for distance casters, the Asquith hits the 70’ mark easiest of all the rods.  It never feels heavy or cumbersome and makes smooth casts to 70 feet a breeze.

 

 

3. (tie)  Edge Alpha     58.9 points  out of 60

Edge Alpha

Edge Alpha

 

 

The Edge was the biggest surprise for me in this Shootout.  It was definitely designed to be fishy not flashy.   I thought the blank was well balanced and comfortable in my hand.  It had great power and although it wasn't the best in close I thought it was a solid all-around performer.

25 Feet – 19 points out of 20
In close, it was a little on the stiff side.  I was able to get accurate casts but because of the stiffness of the rod I didn’t get a lot of feedback here.  It was a little on the splashy side if I wasn’t very careful.

45 Feet – 20 points out of 20
Once I got a little line in the air the Edge really shone.  It makes smooth accurate casts that glide off the tip and find their mark with ease.  I got great accuracy and the rod felt amazing, effortlessly hitting the mark.

70 Feet – 19.9 points out of 20
This is one of those rods that makes 70’ happen without any fuss.  Plenty of power to reach long distance targets with great feel.  The action is really nice and really launches casts without having to overpower the rod.

 

5.  Thomas and Thomas Avantt   57.7 out of 60

T&T Avantt

T&T Avantt

 

 

The Avantt is a great looking rod, with some of the finest fit and finish on the market today.  The beautiful matte blue blank packs a lot of punch and is very accurate at longer ranges.

25 Feet – 18 points out of 20
The tip on this rod is a bit on the stiff side.  The Avantt looks beautiful and feels great in my hand but just does not do the best job at 25’.  It tends to be a little too powerful with not much feel at close range.

45 Feet – 19.8 points out of 20
I loved the Avantt at mid- range.  The tip is still stiff but it makes for crisp, tight casts that find their mark easily.  It’s got great power and would be a great choice if you find yourself making long casts or fighting the wind.

70 Feet – 19.9 points out of 20
Long range casts can be a tall order for a lot of 5wts.  With tons of power and an aggressive tip, the Avantt punches out long distance casts with ease. The tight loops I was getting with the Avantt produced excellent accuracy at longer distances.

 

 

6.  Loop Opti Stream   57.6 points out of 60

Loop Opti Stream

Loop Opti Stream

 

 

The Loop Opti Stream is one rod that gets high marks from us year after year.   It’s a great casting, light weight rod, especially if you don't find yourself needing to reach out to far off fish all that often.  The icing on the cake is that this rod dropped in price this year!

25 Feet – 19.5 points out of 20
I think that the Opti Stream is a nice casting rod for short-range targets.  Its action isn’t as fast as some, which makes it easy to make delicate accurate shorter casts without spooking fish.

45 Feet – 19.5 points out of 20
At 45’ the Opti Stream makes nice smooth casts thanks to its softer action, I got good accuracy and noticed that the rod tracked really well.  This rod would do a good job at protecting light tippets.

70 Feet – 18.6 points out of 20
I didn’t like the Opti Stream as much at 70’.  It doesn't quite have the power to accurately deliver flies at that distance.  Although you can get the rod to cast that far, it’s not the most accurate and you have to work hard at it.

 

 

7.  Scott Radian       57.3 points out of 60

Scott Radian

Scott Radian

 

 

Despite not having the most delicate presentation in close, the Radian is a great rod.  I really liked its smooth delivery to mid range targets and the way the grip fit comfortably in my hand.  The Radian is a real looker too, aesthetically pleasing to all of us.

25 Feet – 18.1 points out of 20
I really like the Radian, but just not for short-range targets.  The full wells grip feels great in my hand.  A softer tip would help this rod, a lot as I found I didn’t get the best accuracy, and my presentations were not very delicate.

45 Feet – 19.7 points out of 20
I like the Radian very much at 45’.   The action is perfect for a versatile 5-weight.  Here it loads deeply enough to give me great feel, which made my cast timing effortless.  

70 Feet – 19.5 points out of 20
The Radian is a nice rod at 70’.  It’s got the kind of power and accuracy I like at long range. I found that it cast best at the longest targets when I used a very aggressive casting stroke.

 

 

8.   Douglas DXF     57.1 points out of 60

Douglas DXF

Douglas DXF

 

For mid-priced performance it’s really tough to beat the DXF from Douglas Outdoors.  The rod has a beautiful green matte finished blank and a nice burled wood reel seat.  It’s got a nice action that is softer than many of the other rods, but it still managed to produce good power and accuracy in a lightweight, affordable package.

25 Feet -  19.5 points out of 20
The DXF’s action is not as fast as some and, as a result, it does great casting to short-range targets.  Both accuracy and feel were on par with the best rods.

45 Feet – 19.2 points out of 20
The DXF continues to be a great casting machine at 45 feet.  I really like how this rod loads and unloads. It’s very smooth and feels great at mid-distances.  I had great accuracy and felt in control of my fly line.

70 Feet – 18.4 points out of 20
70 feet is a little harder to hit with the DXF than with some of the other stiffer, rods.  It can make the distance but my accuracy was down a little bit.  Most anglers are rarely casting at 70 feet with a 5-weight rod, so I think the DXF is a fine choice since it is so good at short and mid-range, and does it at a fraction of the cost of most rods.

 

 

9.  Beulah Platinum      57.0 points out of 60

Beulah Platinum

Beulah Platinum

 

 

The Platinum is a really sweet looking rod.  The first thing you’ll notice when you pick it up are the fine aesthetics, especially the variety of cork styles in the handle, and the nice dark finish of the blank. The action is a little slower than most rods, but if looks are important and you don’t plan to fish past 60 feet, this is a good rod.

25 Feet – 19.6 points out of 20
I got really good accuracy out of the Platinum.  At short range the casts don't splash down, and I could put them just where I wanted them.

45 Feet – 19.4 points out of 20
The platinum hits 45’ well and with good accuracy.  Short to medium range targets are the sweet spots for the Platinum.  The softer action of this rod will help to protect light tippets as well as deliver flies softly and gently to their mark.

70 Feet -  18 points out of 20
I was able to reach our longest targets without much trouble, however I didn't have the best accuracy.  This is a great rod but maybe not the best choice for anglers who want to reach the farthest targets.

 

 

10.  Beulah Guide Series II 56.8 points out of 60

Beulah Guide Series II

Beulah Guide Series II

 

 

 

Some of the guys in the shop actually prefer this rod to its more expensive counterpart, the Platinum.  I like the Platinum a little better, but the G.S. II is a really nice rod that follows closely in its big brother’s footsteps.

25 Feet – 19.6 points out of 20
Although the G.S. II felt a little heavy in my hand I thought that it had a great action for casting in close, where it gave me great accuracy and good feel.

45 Feet – 19.2 points out of 20]
Mid range targets felt really good with the G.S. II.  I was able to get good accuracy and enjoyed the casting thanks to a nice smooth action.

70 Feet – 18 points out of 20
The G.S. wasn't the best here.  It just didn't have the power to accurately hit long-range targets with much consistency.

 

 

11.  (tie) Orvis Recon     56.7 points out of 60

Orvis Recon

Orvis Recon

 

 

The Recon is another great all-around performer that doesn't break the bank.  Personally I liked it better than the much more expensive Helios II. 

25 Feet – 18.2 points out of 20
At 25 feet the Recon was a little too stiff for me.  It didn’t give me the same sense of feel or accuracy I was getting with the Beulah rods.

45 Feet – 19 points out of 20]
I liked the Recon a lot at 45 feet.  I think that its action is better suited for longer-range casts. I got very good accuracy and good feel at the mid-range targets.

70 Feet – 19.5 points out of 20
As far as mid-priced rods go, it’s hard to beat the Recon if longer distances are your main concern.  I was able to get reliable accuracy at distance.

 

 

11. (tie)  Winston Air    56.7 points out of 60

R.L. Winston Air

R.L. Winston Air

 

 

I really like Winston rods, but they aren’t necessarily the all-around performers that we see from some other manufacturers.  They are made to perform best at shorter distances, and this they do well.  Casting feel and quality builds are the name of the game for Winston, and the Air delivers.

25 Feet – 19.7 points out of 20
As with most Winston rods the short-range performance is really good. Accuracy and feel is top notch.  I had an easy time delivering delicate casts that found their mark.

45 Feet – 19.5 points out of 20
Mid range targets worked out really well for the Air.  It gave me accurate and delicate presentations and would be a nice dry fly rod.  But it won’t do well throwing streamers or heavy nymph rigs.    

70 Feet – 17.5 points out of 20
This just isn’t the rod that I would choose if my main concern was casting and fishing at longer distances.  The Air lost a lot of accuracy and delicacy at long range because of how much effort it takes to reach the 70-foot mark.

 

 

13. (tie)  Hardy Zephrus      56.6 points out of 60

Hardy Zephrus

Hardy Zephrus

  

 

The Zephrus is a beautiful, and very light rod.  I just didn't get very good feel from the rod in close, and felt that the action was a little too stiff to be a great all-rounder.

25 Feet – 18 points out of 20
I had a tough time liking the Zephrus in close. It’s light and agile, and very accurate but in hand the feel just didn’t turn me on.  I wasn’t getting as much feedback as with some of the other rods, and that made short range casts more difficult.

45 Feet – 19.3 points out of 20
I liked the Zephrus at mid-distances.  It’s a powerful rod, so having more line out really helps me load the rod.  The overall feel was good too. The loops are tight, with good accuracy, and the rod was light in hand.

70 Feet – 19.3 points out of 20
Lots of power helped the Zephrus punch out long casts.  It makes 70’ happen without much fuss.  The rod tracks well, giving me good accuracy and feel.

 

 

13.(tie)  Livingston Rod Co. YS Fast  56.6 points out of 60

Livingston Rod Company

Livingston Rod Company

 

 

Dusty Smith, a rod designer here in Paradise Valley is following in the footsteps of predecessors like Tom Morgan and doing a great job at it.  Dusty designs his own blanks, which are made in New Zealand, and then builds the rods himself here in Livingston, MT.  His finished rods showcase some of the finest craftsmanship we’ve seen from a modern rod builder.  He designed the YS Fast to perform here on the Yellowstone where we often use multi fly rigs that are heavy and tough to cast.  When it comes to fishing big bugs from a drift boat the YS Fast is a solid performer.

25 Feet – 18.4 points out of 20
Because of the rod’s stout action in close, casts can be a little aggressive.  I was able to get good accuracy but the delivery was not as delicate as I’d like.

45 Feet – 19.1 points out of 20
Longer shots are easy for this rod. The tip, a little on the stiffer side, makes it easy to lift and control heavier rigs.

70 Feet - 19.1 points out of 20
The YS Fast has a lot of butt section power making it easy to deliver the goods to fish at longer distances.  I got good line speed and accuracy even at 70 feet.

 

 

15.  St. Croix Legend Elite    56.1 points out of 60

St. Croix Legend Elite

St. Croix Legend Elite

 

 

If you are looking for a top of the line, American made rod the Legend Elite, at only $460.00, is a great choice.  This has been one of our more popular 5-weights for the past several years. 

25 Feet – 18 points out of 20
A little heavier than some premium rods and stiffer too. Its performance at short range reflected that.  The Accuracy was good but delicacy was a little off.

45 Feet – 19.1 points out of 20
Mid-range performance is pretty good. Still feels a little heavy, but the rod loads well and I’m getting better feedback than I did at short distance.

70 Feet - 19 points out of 20
The Legend Elite wasn't super accurate for me out long, but it had the muscle to make these long casts easily. 

 

 

16. (tie) Fenwick Aetos    56 points out of 60

Fenwick Aetos

Fenwick Aetos

 

 

For the price you pay - $189.95, the fit and finish of the Aetos is great.  And its performance makes me think that I’m casting a far more expensive rod.

25 Feet – 18.8 points out of 20
At short targets the Aetos is pretty good.  It’s a little aggressive but not overly so.  The rod is light, feels good in my hand and gave me good accuracy.

45 Feet – 18.8 points out of 20
The Aetos is a really good rod for mid-range targets.  Its light in hand feel and smooth medium-fast action make hitting the mark easy.

70 Feet – 18.4 points out of 20
The Aetos loses some muscle at long range but would still reach the longer targets with decent accuracy.

 

 

16. (tie) Hardy Wraith     56 points out or 60

Hardy Wraith

Hardy Wraith

 

The Wraith is a really powerful rod that would be a good choice for someone who wants a light rod that can cast heavy rigs or hit long-range targets.

25 Feet – 18 points out of 20
I thought that this rod was a little too powerful for short-range casting, I didn't get great accuracy and the casts were not very delicate.

45 Feet – 19 points out of 20
The Wraith is good at this distance.  I got better accuracy and feel as the distance of my casts increased.

70 Feet – 19 points out of 20
The light feel of the Wraith helps with making long cast after long cast.  It has great power, and that made hitting farther targets easy.  The rod tracked well and gave me very good accuracy.  

 

 

 

18.  Loop Cross SX     55.9 points out of 60

Loop Cross SX

Loop Cross SX

 

 

The Cross SX is a powerful rod that feels great in my hand and looks sleek and stealthy.  Like the Wraith, this rod performs better at long range than at short distances.

25 Feet – 17.8 points out of 20
The SX is a little too stiff to get top marks at 25 feet. Because there isn’t much flex in the tip, the rod doesn't load well in close and that hurt the accuracy. 

45 Feet – 18.9 points out of 20
From mid range on out the SX is really nice.  If you’re looking for a rod that has more power than most 5’s the SX is a good choice.  I had to be careful not to hammer the delivery or risk what would have been a hard splash. landing. 

70 Feet - 19.2 points out of 20
It’s easy to produce a lot of line speed with this rod thanks to its fast action and stiffness. Tight loops were a breeze. This rod zings casts out to 70 feet with good accuracy.

 

 

19.  Winston BIIIx     55.6 points out of 60

R.L. Winston BIIIx

R.L. Winston BIIIx

 

Winston has always stayed true to their roots and I applaud them for that.  They don't necessarily do well in our Shootouts because they give up a lot at long range, but that’s OK. They aren’t built to be your do-it-all kind of stick.  They are made for dry fly fishing and they do that very well.

25 Feet – 19.6 points out of 20
The BIIIx, as in years past, has proven that it is a great performer in close.  These rods load and unload well at short distances.  They have wonderful feel and excellent accuracy at short to medium distances that help the dry fly angler get perfect presentations.

45 Feet – 19.5 points out of 20
I still liked the BIIIx very well at our mid-range targets.  Accuracy is good and feel is way up.  I can feel exactly what this rod is doing and it gave me confidence in placing my fly.

70 Feet – 16.5 points out of 20
Not the best choice for long bombs, the BIIIx is really only good out to about 55 feet.  Past that you have to work very hard to get close to the mark. I didn't get very consistent accuracy and it was tough to get the full 70 foot distance.

 

 

20.  Echo Base  54.9 points out of 60

Echo Base

Echo Base

 

 

Everyone has heard the saying, “You get what you pay for”.  The Base takes that adage and throws it right out the window!  At $89.95 you can’t expect to get the best cork or top of the line hardware.   But the bones of this budget rod and the way it performs, make you think you’re fishing with a rod that has a far higher price tag.

25 Feet – 18.5 points out of 20
The Base was pretty good for me in close, despite its weight.   Its slightly softer action helped, and I found that it wasn't clunky or aggressive at short range.

45 Feet – 18.6 points out of 20
The base is surprisingly good for such an economical rod.  I was getting consistent accuracy, and the action was great.

70 Feet – 17.8 points out of 20
The Base wasn’t one of my favorite rods at 70 feet.  It just doesn't have to power to reach out to the longest targets, and it lacked accuracy.  

 

 

21.  Mystic Reaper   54.8 points out of 60

Mystic Reaper

Mystic Reaper

 

The Mystic Reaper is a good rod at an attractive price.  It’s not the greatest of the exceptional crop of rods that we had this year, but it still performs well, especially at short to medium targets. 

25 Feet – 18.4 points out of 20
There was not a huge amount of feel for me at short range. It was accurate enough, but I felt it didn't have much delicacy landing short casts.

45 Feet – 18.4 points out of 20
Good feel and control helped me to get better accuracy and better presentations at mid-range.

70 Feet – 18 points out of 20
I didn't like the Reaper at long distance.  It wasn't powerful enough to hit the mark with any regularity, and lacked accuracy compared to the Legend Elite or the Cross SX.   

 

 

22.  Orvis Helios 2 Covert   53.3 points out of 60

Orvis H2 Covert

Orvis H2 Covert

 

 

This new rod from Orvis is an offshoot of the extremely popular H2.  Orvis uses a new full wells grip that feels great in my hand.  Its all-black finish isn’t my style but if you’re into the all-black thing you’ll love it.  Thanks to the different finish on this rendition of the Helios, we actually saw lower swing weight numbers.

25 Feet – 17 points out of 20
At short distances the Covert is a stiff rod that I didn't like much. I couldn't sense any flex or feel from the rod, which made accuracy and delicacy hard for me.

45 Feet – 18.2 points out of 20
At 45 feet I liked the Covert much more.  It’s still a stiff rod, which isn’t a great thing in a 5-weight, by limiting the feel and sensitivity, which are necessary for accuracy.  The Covert has no problem with power but hitting the mark was harder for me than with either of the Winstons.

70 Feet – 18.1 points out of 20
My favorite distance for the Covert was in between our mid and long-range targets.  It has a real sweet spot at about 55-60 feet.  At 70 feet it’s still really nice, and I did like the feel a lot better at long distance than in close. If that’s your M.O. this would be a good choice.

 

 

 

23.  Sage X     52 points out of 60

Sage X

Sage X

 

 

I was really hoping that I would like the 5-weight X more than I did the 6.  There’s just so much hype around the rod that it has to be good right?  Unfortunately, for me this was not the case.  At short distance it felt lifeless and stiff, and not a whole lot better at the other distances.

25 Feet -16 points out of 20
The stiff tip overpowered my shorter casts, making accuracy and presentation tough, and giving me very little feel. 

45 Feet -18.1 points out of 20
Accuracy was better for me at mid-range, but the feel of the rod was still not quite right.  At mid-distance it did feel a lot better than in close, and became a rod I could hit the mark with.   

70 Feet – 17.9 points out of 20
The X has enough power to go the distance for long shots.  Accuracy was still a little low, due to the lack of feel and feedback from the rod.

  

 

24.  Scott Flex  51.6 points out of 60

Scott Felx

Scott Felx

 

 

I was looking forward to casting the Flex, as I thought that a good mid-priced rod from Scott would be a great choice for people who wanted a smooth, traditional rod without breaking the bank.  Unfortunately, it proved to be an awkward rod for me largely due to the funky grip shape, and a lifeless action that was much slower than Scott’s impressive Radian.      

25 Feet – 16.9 points out of 20
I didn't get much feel or sensitivity from the Flex while making short casts.  It was hard for me to present the fly with much accuracy or delicacy.

45 Feet – 17.6 points out of 20
The Flex wasn’t as bad at 45 feet, but still was not what I was hoping for.  It still lacked the feel needed for good accuracy.

70 Feet – 17.1 points out of 20
Unfortunately more of the same here. The lack of feel and distance to the target only compound problems for the Flex.

 

 

25.  Sage Pulse  51.0 points out of 60

Sage Pulse

Sage Pulse

 

 

The Pulse is a really good-looking rod from Sage that has a comfortable grip and produces a lot of power.  The green blank really makes it stand out in the crowd.

25 Feet – 16 points out of 20
The Pulse wasn’t a top performer in close.  If felt really heavy with a stiff tip.  That combination doesn’t do well for me for casting in close.  I found that it was hard getting any delicacy or accuracy.  

45 Feet – 17 points out of 20
I liked the Pulse a lot better at this distance, but it still wasn’t great.  It’s still a heavy rod, but now the accuracy wasn’t bad, and it has good power if you like to fish heavy rigs.

70 Feet – 18 points out of 20
Again, having plenty of power to hit the mark, this rod would be a good choice for someone who finds themselves casting more at long distances, or casting heavy rigs.

 

 

26.  TFO BVK   48.6 points out of 60

Temple Fork Outfitters BVK

Temple Fork Outfitters BVK

 

 

The BVK is a great rod in its higher weight designations.  I particularly like the 7 and 8wts and think they are great performers, especially considering their price.   The 5-weight, however, misses the mark that the others hit very well.

25 Feet – 15 points out of 20
At 25 feet the BVK felt like a broomstick.  It was heavy and very stiff.  Accuracy was way down and delicacy was out the window.

45 Feet – 16.5 points out of 20
The BVK casts better at 45 feet but is still clunky and there wasn’t much feel or sensation of control from the rod.

70 Feet - 17.1 points out of 20
I thought the BVK was better at long distance but I had to dock points because of the weight and lack of feel.  It had enough power to reach 70 feet but accuracy was poor.