2018 8-weight shootout best fly rod test

2018 8-Weight Shootout

Comments by JG (Josh Green)

 

The 2018 8-Weight Shootout was my favorite to participate in so far.   It was also my first 8wt. shootout, and many of the rods that we tested were new to me.  I fish with an 8-weight rod fairly often here in Montana, so having the opportunity to cast all the rods side by side really helped me determine how they compare to one another. I was easily able to see the strengths and weaknesses of each rod. 

 

 

My Shootout Favorites

 

G. Loomis Asquith – Tight and accurate, this rod does it all well.   

Douglas SKY – Again, I’m amazed at the versatility in the SKY lineup.

Beulah Opal – This rod surprised me because of its great action for short casts while retaining the power to hit 100 feet.

Orvis Helios 3F – This rod is so ugly that I hadn’t cast it much before the shootout.  I’d cast this same rod in the 5-weight, and didn't care much for it.  However, after getting to know the 8-weight 3F, it’s now one of my favorites… at least in the performance category.

 

 

 

Notes About my Casting Notes 

 

While I cast and fish 8wts a lot, there are not many times I have had a need to cast 100 feet.   But we know this is important, especially with an 8-weight rod that will be used in saltwater situations. I decided to include my notes for 100’ even though I didn't give the rods a score at 100 feet.  I felt that my input about making casts at maximum distance would allow people a little more insight into how and why I feel a certain way about a particular rod. 

 

I also think it’s worth mentioning that while this is an 8-weight Shootout, a lot of the information that we gather is pertinent to 7 weight rods as well.  If you feel like an 8wt. may be a little too much rod, consider looking into the 7 weights as well and ask us for our advice.   

 

 JG's Performance Only

 

JG’s Casting notes

 

1.   G. Loomis Asquith   60/60   $1100.00

G. Loomis Asquith

G. Loomis Asquith

 

 

By now most flyrodders are aware of the Asquith, whether it be the curious name, price tag, or both.  This rod’s performance, however, is not just G. Loomis’ marketing hype.  This rod uses radical new manufacturing techniques, and some of the lightest, highest quality components available.  It all adds up to an expensive rod but one who’s performance matches its price tag and lets you forget the enigmatic name.  What made it the winner for me was that it possessed all the qualities I look for in a fishing rod.  It may not be the “best” in every category but it puts everything together in an overall package that’s tough to beat.  My biggest gripe with this rod is its price; you will have to decide if you can or want to pay the extra price for this top performer.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  20

Light in hand feel with a supple tip and supportive backbone make the Asquith a great rod for casting short distances.  I was accurate and precise casting at 35 ft. without getting a splashy or harsh landing.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  20

At 60 ft. the Asquith’s soft tip and powerful mid section couple to make a fantastically smooth, powerful, and accurate fly rod.  Casting is effortless, thanks to its light weight. I felt the grip was the perfect size, which helped with control.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  20

I really like airing the Asquith out a little bit.  It’s a really easy rod with which to generate line speed and it seems to just rocket line from the tip.  I was able to get great accuracy with this rod at the longest target and not break a sweat doing it.  Feel and power are not mutually exclusive here.

 

Performance at 100 feet: 

This was one of the easiest rods with which to hit 100 ft. accurately.  The lightweight blank doesn't fight you and the taper as well as the Spiral-X construction, make sure that you’ve got all the horsepower to do the job.

 

 

 

2.  Douglas  SKY   59.5/60   $695.00

Douglas Sky

Douglas Sky

  

The SKY lineup of rods from Douglas Outdoors has been one of my favorites since they started to produce them a few years ago. The craftsmanship is excellent, as are the components. I like these rods because they have a great amount of power but also are competent at short range, making them extremely versatile. The 8-weight is similar to the other SKY rods in this respect, and quickly came through as one of my top picks, particularly considering that it still has a sub $700.00 price tag.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19.5

The SKY doesn't have the most feel at 35 ft., but being a stiffer rod this is expected. I think that the lack of weight in the hand really helps with presentation in close gaining some of the ground it lost because of stiffness.  The SKY has a lot of power, but I was getting great accuracy. I docked it only slightly because the presentation was not as good as some. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  20

I have a note in my write up that says, “really F-in windy for this test but still niiiiice”.  That pretty much sums it up.  I liked the SKY a lot at this distance; wind or no wind and I could still easily hit the target.  The rod gave me great feel and power, making my timing and delivery super easy when the wind was up. Once it calmed, casting this rod was that much better.   

 

Performance at 80 feet:  20

I liked the SKY a lot at 80 ft.  I gave it top marks here and would say that of all the rods this was my favorite for making casts past 70-80 ft., along with the Asquith and NRX.   Line speed is way up and the SKY nearly has the power to pick up the entire 80 ft. of line and recast it, something I couldn't do as well with any other rod.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

When I was reaching out at long distance, I noticed how well this rod loves to shoot line. I think I over-cast the target with this rod more than any other until I got the feel for it. That said, 100 ft. was easy to hit.  Even in light wind I was able to consistently cast this far with acceptable accuracy.

 

 

 

3. (tie)   G. Loomis NRX    58.5/60   $805.00

G.Loomis NRX Saltwater fly rod
G.Loomis NRX Saltwater fly rod

 

This rod needs no introduction. It has won two of our prior 8-weight Shootouts. It’s been around for a while and has been featured by us in many shootouts in various weights.  It’s always a top performer; that alone should tell you something about this great rod.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5

The NRX is definitely geared more toward power and distance than finesse.  It lacks the feel and delicacy to get top marks at 35 ft., but I felt it was still very accurate.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  20

Once you start to gain some distance you see why the NRX is such a good rod.  At 60 ft. it really comes into its own delivering great casts to the target every time.  Wind is no issue for the NRX’s power, and it is perfectly capable of picking up 60 ft. of line and laying it back down accurately to another target if you find yourself needing to make a quick second cast.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  20

The NRX still shines at 80 ft. and on out to 100.  You can create a lot of line speed really easily with this rod.  This helps to control tailing loops, since I don't have to cast as aggressively as with some rods.  The higher line speed also deals with wind really well, and helped to produce good accuracy when I’m really reaching out there.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

Just like at 80 feet, the NRX is one of the best rods at making the longest casts.  This was one of the easier rods for me to reach 100 feet, while still retaining enough accuracy to let myself think that if there was a permit out there that I would have gotten an eat, (editor’s note: dream on!)

 

 

 

3. (tie)  Scott Meridian     58.5/60   $865.00

Scott Meridian saltwater fly rod

Scott Meridian saltwater fly rod

 

 

The Meridian was the winner of our last 8-weight Shootout.  It's a great rod, light, fast, and accurate. Personally I still prefer a couple of rods to this one, but the Meridian is definitely one of the top rods in our Shootout.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19.5

I like the Meridian a lot at close range.  It’s got a really nice softer tip that keeps you from splashing your cast.  I liked the feel I was getting from this rod, but I was just slightly more accurate with others.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  20

60 ft. is really easy to hit with the Meridian.  It is super-accurate, and gave me great feel and control.  60 feet was by far my favorite casting distance for this rod, and I gave it top marks.  You’re splitting hairs to find a better rod at 60 feet.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

The Meridian performed really well at 80 ft.  I was able to get good accuracy and didn't have any issue with the distance.  I noticed that it didn't fare as well in the wind as a couple of the best rods in our test, but there are only a few that best the Meridian at long range.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

The long bomb is definitely do-able with the Meridian, however I was able to get more accuracy and consistent distance with the Asquith, SKY and NRX. 

 

 

 

 

5. (tie)   Orvis Helios 3F     58/60   $898.00

Orvis H3F

Orvis H3F

 

 

The Helios 3F from Orvis had a lot to overcome for me.  I really don't like the way that this rod looks.  The white on the butt section is just too much for me.  It reminds me of a tennis racket or a golf club or something.  Luckily for the H3, thanks to awesome accuracy and great feel, its performance is much better than its aesthetic appeal.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  20

One of my favorite 8wts for casting in close, it’s got a great action and the perfect flex for accurately and delicately placing flies on the mark.  I also gave the Asquith a score of 20 in close, but I would give the edge to the Helios 3F. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5

I liked the Helios 3F at 60 feet a lot.  I didn't give it a perfect score because if the wind kicks up there are better choices.  However you really have to split hairs to find an issue with the rod at 60 feet.  I had the best result carrying about 45-50 ft. of line and shooting the last 10-15 ft. to the target.  I found that if I carried too much line in the air, the H3 would bog down a little, hindering its performance.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18.5

If there is no wind and everything is perfect, the H3 can hit 80 ft. easily and accurately.  I docked some points because at this distance even a breath of wind hurt the accuracy. It doesn't like to carry a lot of line in the air either, making it harder to hit long shots.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

100 foot casts are definitely doable with the Helios 3F.  I just felt that there were other rods that were a lot better at the longest distances.

 

 

 

 

5. (tie)  Hardy Zephrus    58/60     $729.00

Hardy Zephrus

Hardy Zephrus

 

 

The Zephrus is a light, powerful rod that is a pleasure to cast thanks to its lack of weight.  It’s so easy to cast that to me it feels like a shorter or lighter weight rod throughout the casting stroke.  This rod performed well at all distances. I think it’s a fantastic looking rod as well.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19.5

It was great in close, just missing the top marks.  I liked it for its great accuracy and feel at 35 ft., but docked it because it feels almost too light.  This is more of a personal feel thing for me but something worth noting. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5

I like the Zephrus a lot at 60 feet.  It’s almost as good as the top performers at carrying line in the air, which I think is important in an 8 wt. to help with quick second shots.  It shoots line very well too, in case you need to quickly readjust your aim.  The Zephrus proved to be a good rod in the wind, but I wouldn't say it’s this rod’s forte.  Look for this rod to make pleasing, accurate casts at mid ranges without wearing you out.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

The Zephrus loses just a tiny bit of steam casting to 80 ft.  It still gets the job done, but doesn't handle hard wind nearly as well as the NRX or SKY.  If the wind was calm or light, there was little to no issue with presentation, accuracy, or distance.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

I was able to get the Zephrus out to 100 ft. fairly easily as long as there wasn't much wind.  If there’s too much wind, then all bets were off.   

 

 

 

 

5. (tie)  Beulah Opal   58/60    $620.00

Beulah Opal Saltwater fly rod

Beulah Opal Saltwater fly rod

 

 

The Opal was a big surprise for me.  I love the way that Beulah rods look but often find them to be a little underpowered, at least for my taste.  I did like the smooth action, and especially the feel I was getting from this rod.  The Opal performed great in close and surprised me with its ability to cast well at both mid to long range.  I felt a faster action would help increase line speed and accuracy at the longer distances.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  20

The Opal was one of my favorite rods for casting in close, where it delivered both great feel and accuracy. It’s a little heavy in my hand but at short-range I had a blast casting this rod and hardly noticed its heft.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

The Opal would get top scores here if it were just a little lighter.  I still loved the rod’s action, its feel, and got great accuracy from it.  The weight was more noticeable here than when casting in close.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

For a rod that casts so well at 35 ft., I was really surprised to find that it did a great job at 80 ft. as well.  The Opal definitely flexes more than many of the rods in our test.  But the medium action still gave me plenty of power, making it easy to hit 80 ft.  It was fairly accurate, not the absolute best, but it was far from the worst rod I tested.  If it were lighter I would have given the Opal a 19.5 at both 60 and 80 ft. 

 

Performance at 100 feet:

I was able to get the Opal to hit 100 feet, no problem.  Accuracy was not as good as some of the other rods, but it wasn't bad.  A faster action would give the rod the oomph it needs to perform better at the long distances, however it would kill what makes this rod sweet everywhere else. 

 

 

 

5. (tie) Douglas  DXF   58/60   $395.00

Douglas DXF

Douglas DXF

 

 

I’m a huge fan of the Douglas DXF.  This is another great rod from Douglas that has the ability to achieve beautiful smooth casts, especially at the middle distances.  This rod has more of a medium fast action than the faster SKY.  This makes it a great freshwater 8-weight for throwing streamers, or a great salt 8-weight for people who may not prefer the fastest actions.  The grip is a little large for me, and the snake guides are big, which hurts the swing weight.  Overall the performance is great, especially considering the price tag of $395.00

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5

The DXF is a little heavy and has too stiff of a tip to get top marks at the short-range targets. My casts were just a bit splashy but the accuracy was excellent.    

 

Performance at 60 feet:  20

I think that 60 ft. is the perfect distance for the DXF.  I thought that the weight was less noticeable here than at closer distances. It was extremely accurate, and casting the DFX at mid-range distances was a breeze.   Delivery was great as I could smoke the fly in rapidly if it was windy, or gently lay one down if it was calm.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19.5

Once I start to air the DXF out a little bit I can feel its weight come back and I was working harder. I was still able to control the rod well, and it was giving me great accuracy and presentation.  Wind was no issue with the DXF, with its ability to throw tight accurate loops.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

I found that it wasn't too hard to get 100 ft. from the DXF.  I wasn't as accurate as with some rods, but I’d say the DXF was mid pack for 100 ft. casts. It would be a lot better if it were lighter.

 

 

 

9. (tie) Sage Motive  57.5/60    $499.00

Sage Motive fly rod review

Sage Motive fly rod review

 

 

The Motive is my favorite rod that Sage has produced in quite a while.  It’s got a great action that produced very good performance for me at all distances. The price is another thing to like for the quality and cast-ability the Motive provides.  I love the Motive’s good looks, but especially the great casts it gave me.  Here is a solid mid-priced contender for anglers that want a rod that performs well in both salt and freshwater.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19.5

Thanks to its fast action and softer tip, the Motive does a great job of casting in close.  It’s a heavier rod so the in hand feel isn’t the best, but it’s a really accurate caster at 35 ft.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

The reason I didn't give the Motive a better score here is that when it was really windy, I didn’t feel I could get the super tight loops I was getting with other rods like the Asquith and NRX. 

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

With less weight and more power, the Motive would be a fantastic long distance caster.  I was able to still get good accuracy and presentation from it even at the long-range targets.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

The Motive isn’t my first choice for distance casting due to its weight, however it will make the distance, especially if the wind cooperates.

 

 

 

 

9. (tie) Orvis Recon   57.5/60    $450.00

Orvis Recon

Orvis Recon

 

 

The Recon from Orvis is a rod that has impressed me with excellent performance at a great price.  It has always been in contention for the best mid-priced rod in our other Shootouts.  I liked the awesome power on tap, combined with this rod’s light weight in my hand.  It tied for the lightest in overall weight, and was also one of the best rods we tested in swing weight.      

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19

The Recon is accurate and super light in hand.  At short-range it delivered really accurate casts, but with a more aggressive presentation than I liked. That cost it full honors, but all in all I liked it in close.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5

The Recon formed nice tight loops that helped it punch into the wind. I was able to get good accuracy at this distance also.   I think mid-range is where the Recon performs best.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

I lost a little accuracy moving out past 60 ft. It didn't drop off terribly, but it was enough to cost the Recon a point here.  It still has good power to reach 80 feet, but I got more accuracy with other rods.   The light weight makes it less fatiguing than heavier rods, making the Recon a pleasure to fish all day.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

Has the power to hit 100, but with less accuracy than the better rods. 

 

 

 

9. (tie)  Hardy Shadow  57.5/60    $389.95

Hardy Shadow AWS best inexpensive streamer rod

Hardy Shadow AWS best inexpensive streamer rod

 

 

This rendition of the Shadow by Hardy is the first time that they’ve used their Sintrix Nano resin in the rod’s construction, giving us a lighter rod.  It features a blank with less stiffness than a lot of other rods in the Shootout, making it a great choice for beginners.  While I really liked the way it cast, I still think the Shadow is a little on the soft side, especially for an 8wt bound for the saltwater.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  20

The Shadow is a great rod for making short-range casts. Accuracy, feel, and presentation quality are way up with this rod.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

I like the Shadow a lot at 60 ft. also.  I was able to get very good accuracy and feel from the rod, although going past 60 feet it started to fall off.  It didn't like casting in the wind, but did really well in calm conditions. I knocked its score down here because despite the accuracy, I didn’t think the Shadow handles this distance nearly as well as the better rods. 

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18.5

My feelings at 60 ft. are pretty similar to how I felt at 80 ft.  It’s a good feeling rod but it just doesn't produce the power that the other rods have, making it feel a little under-gunned.  I can hit this distance, but it just doesn't feel like a good 8 wt. to me.  And if the wind picks up you are going to have problems.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

This was one of the rods that I just couldn't get to reach out to 100 feet.

 

 

 

 

9. (tie)  Scott Tidal  57.5/60    $495.00

Scott Tidal

Scott Tidal 

 

The Scott Tidal has a more moderate action to match its price tag - mid range.  This makes it an easy choice for just about anyone who is unsure about what they want from a rod.  This is a great rod for beginners, and one that will allow them to improve over time. You get a lot of great components, and it can work for anything from bones to redfish as well as trout.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19

For top marks I want a little more accuracy, still the Tidal handled short-range casts really well. It’s not too aggressive and feels good in hand.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19.5

Good feel, power, and very good accuracy for making mid-range casts.  This distance was the Tidal’s bread and butter.  The thing that stood out to me here was the Tidal’s smoothness and how easily it laid in 60 ft. casts.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

The Tidal wasn't the most powerful rod in our Shootout, but it didn’t have a problem hitting 80 ft.  To get top marks it just needs a little more power.  I got decent accuracy and good presentations, but if the wind kicked up it didn't fare nearly as well as the more powerful rods.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

100 can happen, but I wouldn't choose this rod for making the longest casts.

 

 

 

 

 

9. (tie) T&T Exocett   57.5/60   $895.00

T&T Exocett

T&T Exocett

 

 

The Exocett from Thomas and Thomas is a beautiful rod that hits the “salt” action right on the head.  I felt it was a little too stiff for close targets, but did great at long range.  I think the stiffness made it feel heavier than it was, but looking at the weight, it had one of the best swing weights in our Shootout.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5

The Exocett is a powerful rod.  At our shortest target I found it was a little too aggressive to get top scores although it was accurate.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  20

At 60 feet I was getting fantastic accuracy and great presentation.  I was really pleased with the rod’s in hand feel.   The way the line loaded and unloaded made timing and presentation easy.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

It still feels good and has plenty of power for the distance but compared to 60 ft., my accuracy dropped considerably, so I docked it some here.   

 

Performance at 100 feet:

I had a really similar experience with this rod at both 80 and 100 ft. It definitely has the power to cast that distance but I didn't have the best accuracy while doing it.

 

 

 

14. (tie)  Sage X   57/60     $899.00

Sage X

Sage X

 

 

The X is a nice evolution from the One.  I still think that the X needs a softer tip and a touch more stiffness in the mid section.  But I think Sage has gotten the action more dialed, and this new X seems easier to load and less timing-critical than the One.  Overall I like the Motive better but I think this is a move in the right direction.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19.5

I was really surprised with the X at short range.  I expected it to be good at long range and not so good in close.  But I liked both the feel and accuracy it gave me at 35 feet.  I was able to put the fly right where I wanted it. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

I liked the X at 60 feet a lot as well.  I got really good accuracy out of the rod and noted that the feel was particularly good.  I docked it a little, because in the wind I lost a lot of the control that I had when it was calm.  Not a deal breaker, but something important for an 8wt., especially one intended for saltwater use.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18.5

The X lost some of its “oomph” here.  It felt underpowered when I tried to narrow my loop and drive a cast into the wind.  If conditions are good it was still accurate but I was disappointed with its lack of power at long range.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

To say that the X got to 100 ft. would be a stretch for me.  I could get it there sometimes, but there was no level of accuracy. Unless conditions were perfect, it just wasn't happening. 

 

 

 

14. (tie)  Loop Cross SW Fast   57/60    $849.00

Loop Cross SX

Loop Cross SX

 

 

The Cross SW is a really powerful rod.  I liked the feel in hand thanks to its good grip, although it was a little heavy compared to others.  I docked it for its stiffness and lack of feel for close range targets.  However I was still able to accurately hit the marks without being overly aggressive.  At longer range I didn't give it full marks because it felt like I was working too hard, most likely due to the rod’s stiffness and heavier swing weight.  I think Loop is really close with this rod. It just needs a small amount of tweaking to be really good.

 

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19

I thought the Cross SW was good here.  It’s a little too stiff at short distance to get top marks, but I was getting good accuracy and a decent delivery. 

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

I liked the Cross SW at mid-range distances.   It cast well, with good accuracy and a good amount of feel. I docked it a half point here because it just doesn't create line speed as well as some of the other rods.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

The 80 ft. targets left me with a really similar impression to the 60 ft. targets.  I felt the rod cast well enough, but I was working too hard to get the results I wanted.   This made it tough for me to cope with the wind if it started to kick up. 

 

Performance at 100 feet:

This was one of the rods that I had trouble with hitting the longest distance.

 

 

 

16. (tie) TFO  BVK  56.5/60   $279.95

TFO BVK 8 weight fly rod

TFO BVK 8 weight fly rod

 

 

Maybe the best budget bug slinger in our Shootout.  The BVK has lots of power, is light in weight, and performs very well at all distances. The best thing is its cost effective price tag.  This rod has performed well in our past 8-weight Shootouts.  It’s a great back up rod for pros, but also one that beginners will like.  Along with the Recon and Sage X, this is the lightest rod in overall weight.   In swing weight the BVK is a lot heavier though, and this hurt at the longest distance. 

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5

The BVK is a powerful rod and while it’s probably not the heaviest rod we tested it’s definitely not the lightest.  Still, it’s got a pretty good tip on it and I had a fine time casting it at our short-range target, getting good accuracy and acceptable presentation.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

I like the BVK a lot at 60 ft.  I think it’s got a good amount of feel which helped me make accurate casts.  It’s still a little heavy but that doesn't get in the way much.  It’s also got a great amount of power making it super easy to achieve the distance.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  19

I like the BVK at 80 feet for the same reasons that I like it at 60 ft.  It’s a powerful, accurate rod that put the fly on target easily for me.  Wind wasn't much of an issue thanks to the power.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

The weight is the biggest thing that hurts the BVK here.  It’s got plenty of power and is surprisingly accurate. Casting it a lot at long distance became very tiring though, due to its heavy swing weight.

 

 

 

 

16. (tie) Fenwick Aetos  56.5/60    $189.95

Fenwick Aetos best inexpensive 8 weight fly rod

Fenwick Aetos best inexpensive 8 weight fly rod

 

 

 

You’ve got to love the Aetos for many reasons.  It’s nice and light in hand, it casts very well at short to medium distances, it costs less than $200.00, and it has a terrific warranty. The Aetos doesn't get treated to the top materials or components used on more expensive rods, but to many anglers on a budget, this won’t matter.  What else do you need to know?

 

Performance at 35 feet:  19

I like the Aetos a lot, and had great results with it at short-range targets.  I was able to get accurate casts out of this lightweight, responsive rod.  I docked it slightly for splashy landings, but the feel in hand is really good.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

The Aetos gave me pleasing results at 60 ft.  I was getting accurate casts combined with great feel.  The presentation and performance here were as good as the Sage X.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18.5

At long range the rod didn’t give me as much return for my input as it did at close range.  It still feels good and has decent accuracy, but it’s just not as easy to hit 80 feet as with the high-end rods that use ultra-light components and proprietary resin systems. 

 

Performance at 100 feet:

I had mixed results getting the Aetos to 100 ft.  If everything went well, and there was little wind, I could get there, but I had issues with power application causing tailing loops.

 

 

 

 

18.  Loop Q   56/60    $229.00

Loop Q fly rod

Loop Q fly rod

  

I thought the Q was a smoother casting rod than the Loop Cross SW.  Looking at the huge difference in price- over $600.00, the Q has a lot going for it.  The Q is not quite as stiff as the Cross SW, and little lighter in both overall and swing weights.  I did notice a lack of feel and accuracy and this is what cost this rod a better score.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5

The Q wasn't bad at short range.  I liked the flex and feel, but the accuracy was not as good as I had expected. The Q felt heavier in hand than some, which I would say, hurt my accuracy more than anything.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

I liked the Q the most at mid-range.  The accuracy improved and it still had good flex and feedback.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18.5

80 ft. was about the max distance for this rod.  Accuracy dropped off too, but wasn't terrible.  Being a little softer than some rods in the test probably hurt it most here.  There were many other rods like the BVK that were much better at long range.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

This was one of the rods that I just couldn't get to hit 100 feet.

 

 

 

19. (tie) St. Croix Legend Elite SW  55.5/60  $490.00

St. Croix Legend Elite

St. Croix Legend Elite SWS

 

 

When The Legend Elite Saltwater came out it was a great rod.  It still is, but it’s getting a little long in the tooth, and I feel like it’s ready for an update.  With all the advancements manufacturers have made with higher modulus graphite, resin systems, and components, this rod risks being left behind.  I didn't like the way this rod feels in hand with all that swing weight, and this made it hard for me to enjoy my experience with this rod.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5

The LE SW is a good caster at close range.  It’s a little stiff for my taste and it felt really heavy to me, which is why I gave it a lower score here.  Despite being aggressive and heavy, it was fairly accurate at the short-range target.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

I liked the LE SW the most at this range.  It gave me good feedback and produced tight loops that gave me good accuracy.   

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18

Performance at our 80 ft. target was not too bad.  I was able to deliver my fly consistently with a good level of accuracy.  But to do this, I had to work harder than with other rods.  

 

Performance at 100 feet:

I was able to hit 100 ft. with the LE SW but that’s about it.

 

 

 

 

19. (tie)  Sage Salt HD   55.5/60   $950.00

Sage Salt HD fly rod

Sage Salt HD fly rod

  

The Salt HD is a strange rod.  Sage lists it as a fast action rod however, after deflecting it, we saw that it was one of the slower rods in our test.  It’s very stiff, especially in the tip, and I think this is why it has a slower action than a rod like the Sage X.  The wiggle test left me with a disappointing initial impression.  A little heavy, but it seemed like it might still perform well.  Once I got it lined up, and did some casting, it fell on its face.  For me it was mostly a lack of feel, combined with its poor performance.  Casting this rod in the Shootout was critical for me, since after reading all the hype that has been written about the Salt HD, I was severely disappointed with its performance.   There are definitely far better rods than this for the money.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18

The Salt HD left a lot to be desired.  If I were spending this much money I would want a lot more feel, less weight, and a better presentation.  Accuracy was just OK.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  19

This was my favorite distance for the HD.  I liked it here because it had good power, combined with decent feel and accuracy for the distance.  But the weight is a big issue for me on a rod this expensive.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18.5

The Salt HD certainly has the power to hit long distances.  I took points from it here because fishing is about more than just hitting the distance.  The HD doesn't present a fly well, it’s tiring to cast, and doesn't give the angler much feedback.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

I could cast the Salt HD 100 ft. but there was no degree of accuracy. I continually found that my cast would cut to the left of the target, not tracking as well as the best rods.   

 

 

 

 

21.  Mystic Reaper   55/60     $279.00

mystic reaper fly rod

mystic reaper fly rod

 

 

The Reaper is a nice rod with a nice price tag.  You aren’t getting anything special here but it’s a good rod, with an action ideal for throwing streamers. It might not be my first choice for good salt water 8-weight, as I think it would need more power.   But as a budget streamer stick it’s a good choice.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18.5

The Reaper did pretty well at 35 ft. for me. I was able to get reasonably good accuracy and presentations.  I docked it a little because the grip is so bulky though the swell, and this made it uncomfortable after only a few casts.  This is annoying, as this reduced the amount of control, and hurt everything else.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18.5

Like 35 ft., 60 was easy to hit with good accuracy.  I liked the feel of the rod as the action and flex work well together to make a good package.   However the comfort and controllability are down because of the grip.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18

Again the grip and lack of control were my main gripes.  I knocked an extra .5 off the score since it does loose some steam and accuracy at long range due to its relative softness.  

 

Performance at 100 feet:

This was another rod that didn’t hit 100 feet for me. 

 

 

 

22. (tie)  Redington Crux   54/60      $399.95

redington Crux fly rod

redington Crux fly rod

 

 

The Crux is a new rod from Redington.  It’s a fast action rod with a good price, but for the money I think it’s a bit heavy and inaccurate.  I thought that for a similar price the Douglas DXF had much better performance.  The Crux does look good though.  I thought it stood out just the right amount.  The biggest problem I have with this rod is the Redington marketing hype that I feel is really misleading. Overindulgence in a product’s description is something we often see, and the Crux is a good example. The grip for example is no different than any other full wells grip ever made in terms of comfort - it just has some faux cork at the front of the grip.  

Redington also says, “Increased connectivity between the tip, middle, and lower sections for an all-around superior feel.”  This is a mystery to me since the rod features the same slip over ferrule design featured on almost every rod produced today. The action seems fine to me but this rod is just heavy in hand compared to a rod like the Recon for only $150 more.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18

Accuracy was good enough at 35 ft. but the heavy swing weight gave me a really heavy and unresponsive feeling.  

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18

The Crux has the power to reach out to 60 ft. and beyond, but the accuracy was poor, which I attribute to the heavy in hand feel and overly stiff blank.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18

I was able to get the distance out of the Crux to hit 80 ft., but with little accuracy and wrist wrenching weight.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

Another rod I just couldn't get 100 ft. from.

 

 

 

22. (tie) TFO Axiom II   54/60    $339.95

TFO Axiom II

TFO Axiom II saltwater fly rod

 

 

This new rod from TFO is a nice step up from their last new rod we tested, the Impact.  The first thing you’ll notice is that this TFO comes with a hard case, something that, until now, TFO has left out of all of their rod sales.  As far as performance goes, I think it needs a little work, but it has a good softer tip on it that makes short-range casting pleasant.  If the mid section were softened up just a tad I think it would be just the change needed to really move this rod up the list.  Overall I felt that the BVK was much better.

 

Performance at 35 feet: 18

I liked the Axiom II most at the short-range target: it has a good tip for casting in close.  The weight of the rod and of lack feedback made it hard to get good accuracy.  

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18

I had better accuracy at 60 ft. thanks to having more line out of the rod, getting it to load better.  The feel is still not great and its lack of power becomes evident.  

 

Performance at 80 feet:  18

Going past 60 with the Axiom II is doable, but I found that I was working a lot harder than with many of the other rods.  The accuracy was not so hot either. There are better rods in this Shootout for long shots.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

100 feet was not going to happen with the Axiom II. 

 

 

24.  Mystic Inception   53.5/60     $120.00

Mystic Inception fly rod

Mystic Inception fly rod

  

The Mystic inception is the most affordable rod that we tested at $120.00.  It’s also the heaviest, and the performance was noticeably lower than many of the rods we tested that were in that $190-$300 range.  This was another rod in our Shootout that I felt had an awfully large grip.
I specifically noted being uncomfortable, and ready to put the rod down after only 10 casts due to its weight and grip shape.

Because of the low price it gives the budget-conscious angler another choice that compares well with what Redington offers at twice the price. 

 

Performance at 35 feet:  18

Decent feel is what I liked most about the Inception.   It laid in gentle casts fairly accurately, but loses points at this distance for being heavy and cumbersome.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18

The Inception was still a fair performer here, giving me acceptable accuracy and presentation. But the weight was a killer. 

 

Performance at 80 feet:  17.5

It was really just too much work to consider using the Inception much past 60 ft.  The rod becomes tiring and inaccurate due to the heavy swing weight.  

 

Performance at 100 feet:

There was no way I was going to get close to 100 feet without a huge amount of effort. 

 

 

 

25.  Redington Vice   52.5/60     $199.95

Redington VICE fly rod

Redington VICE fly rod

  

The Vice from Redington is a pretty good deal at just under $200.00.  I think this rod and the Crux had much more in common than the price would suggest, making the Vice a much better deal.   However it still falls short when compared to better rods like the Aetos.

 

Performance at 35 feet:  17

Weight, stiffness and a lack of feel really hurt the Vice.  It was hard for me to get any accuracy and delicate presentations were impossible.

 

Performance at 60 feet:  18

The Vice has the power to reach 60 ft. but it’s all over the place.  The accuracy gets destroyed if the wind kicks up.

 

Performance at 80 feet:  17.5

As at 60 ft. the power is there, but that’s about it.  I had poor accuracy and felt uncomfortable trying to hit 80 feet.

 

Performance at 100 feet:

Another rod that I just couldn't get to hit 100 feet.

 

 

 

Thoughts About a Purchase

 

If you are thinking about buying a fly rod, we suggest reading one of our Shootouts for the line size rod you want.  You’ll find these on our Yellowstone Angler website home page.  If your local shop stocks the rods you are interested in, by all means visit them, try a few rods and purchase an outfit from them.  

 

If you cannot find or cast the rods that interest you, we are here to help.  Call us at 406-222-7130, and we will discuss your needs and wants.  If you happen to be looking for an 8-weight, we hope that this Shootout has been informative.  With our combined input, I’m confident that we can come up with the perfect rod or outfit that best fits your needs.  Normally if you are getting both the rod and reel, we’ll throw in an $85 line for free, and also ship it to you for free as well.  And since we are in Montana, there is no sales tax.

 

When you get the rod, do some casting on the lawn, and if you feel it is not just what you want, and it has not been fished and looks 100% new, we’ll allow you to return it to us for a full refund, less the shipping charges.  

 

These Shootouts take a lot of time and effort, so if you like what we are doing the best way to thank us is to buy a rod, reel, or outfit from the Yellowstone Angler.  Use this link to go to our Favorite Fly Rod Outfits.  Here you'll find our recommendations in three price ranges:  Best Buy, Mid-Priced, and the Ultimate Outfit.  

 

 

 

If you get to Montana, we invite you to stop at our shop and do your own mini-Shootout right on our lawn.  We have several reels rigged up with the various line sizes, and leaders, all ready to go. We’ll come out with you and give you some help to fine tune your casting stroke, or just help you with the basics.   And once you’ve picked out the perfect rod, stay and enjoy a few days on the water with one of our top guides.   

 

We value your comments about the shootout and invite any questions you might have about it or your tackle needs.  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, James, and the rest of the Yellowstone Angler crew

 

 

 

JG Josh Green Salmon