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#6.  Sage X      9 foot #8      $899.00

Sage X
Sage X 8 weight fly rod
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 George’s Notes:

The more I cast these X rods, the more I like them.  For one thing, they are very light rods and far, far lighter than Sage’s new Salt HD.  The X was in a tie with the Recon and BVK for the lightest overall weight and only a half point from matching the winners in swing weight.  It didn’t have quite the power of the new Salt HD, but the only distance where it faltered was at 100 feet.  To me, the Sage X is a much more pleasant rod to cast and fish all day than the Salt HD.

This is a fast action rod, built with Sage’s latest KonneticHD technology.  But a glance at our top rods deflection board will show you that the X has a much stiffer tip than the Orvis Helios 3F and even the Asquith, and this is the main reason it didn’t perform as well at 35 feet.  At 60 and 80 feet though, it hung in there with the best rods.  At these middle distances I found that I was getting very nice tight loops and good accuracy.  Only at long range did the X seem to run out of gas.  

The craftsmanship is the typical Sage excellence we have seen in the past.  This is a bad ass looking rod, almost black at first glance, finished in deep dark green they call “Black Spruce.” Similar colored wraps are used that are trimmed with a little silver on the butt section.

The cork handle is Sage’s version of a full wells, with a smaller swell in the middle than found on most other full wells grips. I found it very comfortable.  The black anodized double uplocking seat works well enough but the rings are smaller and much harder for me to grip than the ones on say the Asquith or Helios 3F.  The rings on the Salt HD are bigger but still not that easy to grip.  A heavier knurl would work wonders.  I did like the line size designation on the sliding band of the reel seat.  A comfortable, short fighting butt is used that has a good wide rubber end similar to what we found on the Salt HD.  The guide set up is two hard chrome SiC strippers; the rest Sage’s traditional hard chrome snake guides.  The snake guides and tip top are slightly smaller than we found on many of the 8-weight rods. I prefer the flexible nickel/titanium guides found on the five top rods in our Shootout.  They won’t break and are a lot lighter than hard chrome snake guides, which helps reduce the swing weight.  The Sage rods are built at their plant on Bainbridge Island, WA. 

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

Pretty good feel and accuracy – far better than the Salt HD! The Asquith was noticeably better.  A softer tip would help the X to match the Helios 3F and Meridian at short distance.

Performance at 60 feet:  19.4 points out of 20  

A solid performance at mid-range.  Good loop control with good accuracy.  The NRX was slightly better.

Performance at 80 feet:  19.5 points out of 20 

I was surprised at how well the X performed at 80 feet. Part of this was the ability to form nice tight loops. Equal to the Meridian, Helios 3F and Exocett here with only the Asquith and NRX better.

Performance at 100 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

At the longest distances the X lacks the power of the best rods.  Here the Meridian and Exocett were noticeably better.

6.   Sage X 9’#8 4pc $899

Sage X
Sage X
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James’ Notes: 

I’ll start by saying this is easily the best Sage 9’ 8-weight I have ever cast.  What changed?  The X is lighter in swing weight with a faster/softer tip than previous models, making it a much better all-around rod as opposed to just a great rod at the longer distances.

Not only does the X have one of the lighter swing weights, it is also one of the lightest rods in overall weight.  This makes it especially pleasing when you pick it up off the rod rack and give it a “wiggle test.”  Likewise, it is very agreeable while casting at all distances.  Big props go out to Jerry Siem, Sage’s head rod designer with the X, specifically the 790, 890, and 990 models.  Aside from the 389LL, 590 Z-Axis, and a handful of excellent switch and spey rods, the 9’ 8-weight X has become one of my favorite Sage rods.

This was the kind of performance I was hoping for when we first tested the X in our 6-weight shootout.  I think if Sage shaved off a little material in the tip and made it slightly softer/faster it would have received perfect scores at 35 and 60 feet.  It was however, fantastic at 80 feet, with only the Asquith and NRX better for me.  The X is a great choice for both fresh and saltwater.  If you are a diehard Sage fan, get this rod while you can – it is going to be one of the Sage’s GOAT rods.

1st impressions:  “Man the X feels light!”  This rod feels great in my hand. Guide epoxy work looks much better now than it has in the past.

Performance at 35 feet: 19 points out of 20

Very accurate and light in swing weight, however not nearly enough feel for a perfect score in close.  Still, this is perhaps Sage’s best attempt yet at an 8-weight rod that performs well at all distances and not just at long range.

Performance at 60 feet: 19 points out of 20

Now I’m starting to get more feel out of the tip.  This rod feels MUCH lighter and easier to cast than the Sage Salt HD.  In the end the Asquith, Meridan, 3F, and NRX felt like they had a little more “pep” to them.

Performance at 80 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

Easily the best Sage rod in the shootout, the X is light yet very powerful.  It has the power required to carry a lot of line in the air, albeit it is no Method or TCX.

Performance at 100 feet: 19 points out of 20

As they say in the The Big Labowski, “Does the Pope $#%^ in the woods?”  Fantastic long range performance. Only the Asquith, Recon, Loop Cross SW, Motive, and DXF were better.

#6. (tie)  Sage X     $899.00

Sage X
Sage X
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Logan’s Notes: 

The Sage X is a great 8-weight rod, and for me the best Sage rod in our Shootout.  This rod was very light in hand and reminded me of the Sage ONE, only much better.  The X was a pleasure to cast in close, but also had plenty of power for the long game.  The Sage X is one of the lightest rods in the Shootout in both overall and swing weights.

Performance at 35 feet: 19.5 out of 20

The Sage X was a great rod at closer distances like 35 feet.  It had a good amount of feel really making it a nice rod for this casting range.

Performance at 60 feet: 19.5 out of 20

At 60 feet the X was superb.  This was one of the smoother rods at this distance.  It wasn’t the most accurate but as far as “smoothness” goes it’s right at the top.

Performance at 80 feet: 19 out of 20

The Sage X handled these longer distances surprisingly well, solidifying its spot as one of the best rods on the market.

14. (tie)  Sage X   57/60     $899.00

Sage X
Sage X
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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. 

Sage X
Sage X
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