This rod is absolutely the winner for our “Best Buy” (best inexpensive) 4-weight Rod. Nothing else is even close.
What is a cheap rod like this doing up here with all the far higher priced rods, many of which cost $700 more? Certainly the Aetos wins points in the price category, but the biggest reason is its performance. If you look at the performance scores, you’ll see that the Aetos finished in 11th place here also.
I wish that we could have tested an 8’6” Aetos, but this rod is only available in an 8 foot #4. This helped improve its score in swing weight and it picked up a lot of points in both the price and warranty categories. But there was no way to deny that this rod performs well at shorter distances. A lot of this can be attributed to the nice action – good butt and mid section power combined with a lighter, softer tip, much like the Zephrus. The soft tip also earns it one of the best scores in light tippet protection.
Even though less expensive components are used, this is still a pretty nice looking rod, with the blank a rich deep blue with dark brown wraps that include a little silver trim on the butt section. The epoxy coatings on the wraps are a little heavy, but I’ve sure seen worse. The cork handle is a half wells design and the quality of the cork is not nearly as good as the best rods and a lot of filler is used. The double uplocking reel seat is plain anodized aluminum –dark gray with silver rings and not nearly as attractive as the better skeleton seats with good-looking wood inserts. Guides start with a hook keeper and then one SiC stripper, followed with fairly thin diameter black hard chrome snake guides. Some good alignment dots and lines are used.
The perfect line: SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity in WF-4-F
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 25 feet: 19.0 points out of 20
Nice and light in hand and the softer tip is giving me pretty good feel and accuracy, about as good as the DXF. The Shadow and Pure were far better.
Performance at 40 feet: 18.5 points out of 20
The action seems about right and I’m getting nice loops. The accuracy was good but not as good as the DXF or all of the best rods.
Performance at 60 feet: 7.5 points out of 10
Now the lack of butt power becomes evident and it is hard for me to get any decent accuracy.
I’m always surprised by how well the Fenwick Aetos rods place in our Shootouts, although at this point I shouldn’t be. The Aetos has consistently proven to be our “best buy” (best inexpensive rod) in nearly every Shootout it has been in; including the best inexpensive trout switch rod, best inexpensive 5-weight, best inexpensive 6-weight, and the best inexpensive 8-weight. In short, the Fenwick Aetos series has been dominating the inexpensive market for years, and the 8’#4 is no different.
Light in hand and effortless to cast, you simply can’t beat the Fenwick Aetos’ performance for the money. In fact, several testers had the Aetos outscoring rods that cost 2-5 times as much money! The quality of the components was inferior to the better rods, and the swing weight was not as light as the best rods, but this is far from a beggars can’t be choosers proposition.
Cork quality is pretty poor, although the shape of the grip is good. Cheap looking reel seat but the nice burled double lock rings work well. I thought it would feel a little lighter in hand for an eight-foot rod, but the swing weight is still pleasing. Large black chrome guides are used, with alignment dots and an 804 designation on each section (handy for people who own more than one Aetos rod). I liked the action – very nice flex and feel, especially for the money!
Performance at 25 feet: 18.9 points out of 20
Light, easy to cast, nice flex and decent accuracy. This rod probably could have scored even higher, but the competition was fierce.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.3 points out of 20
This rod has a very nice blend of power and feel. I was really blown away by how accurate and fun this rod was to cast. I’m getting very nice loops. Only the Zephrus, Pure, Helios 3F, and G series score better.
Performance at 60 feet: 7.7 points out of 10
Not as much reserve power as I would like, but not bad and better than the Hardy Ultralite. Accuracy suffered, and I had to concentrate on applying the power smoothly to make good casts.
Logan’s Comments: 45 out of 50
Here’s my pick for the best rod for under $200. The Fenwick Aetos is an extremely enjoyable 4-weight to cast. Its shorter length makes it incredibly responsive and lively. If you are looking for a fun 4-weight that doesn’t break the bank, the Aetos is your rod.
Logan’s Casting Notes: 45 out of 50
Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 out of 20
The Fenwick has a surprising amount of power for an 8-foot rod. It lacked some feel that hurt its performance at 25 feet.
Performance at 40 feet: 19 out of 20
The Aetos was zipping line out no problem at 40 feet. It was accurate and a lot of fun to cast.
Performance at 60 feet: 7.5 out of 10
At 60 feet the Aetos didn’t quite have the gas to power it to the plate every time. I had to work harder to get accurate casts at 60 feet.
The Fenwick Aetos is another rod that punches in way above its price point. Lively and responsive, the Aetos was my favorite rod in the shootout for under $200, and I even favored it over a lot of the more expensive rods. I liked the nice blue blank, but the components were not as good as the better rods. Still a very good performance for the price.
Performance at 25 feet: 18.5/20
I really liked how smooth and responsive the Aetos felt in close. This was the best distance for the Aetos.
Performance at 40 feet: 18/20
Accurate, with a nice light touch at the mid distances.
Performance at 60 feet: 8/10
Not as much juice in the tank as some of the more powerful rods. I could hit the longest mark but not with much accuracy.
Don’t let the price tag fool you, the Aetos is hands down the best performing inexpensive rod in our Shootout! It held its own among the top rods that cost exponentially more. The Aetos is the perfect option for anyone that is looking for a rod that performs well, but one that doesn’t break the bank.
Performance at 25 feet: 18 out of 20
The Aetos has a softer tip, which helped it rank high at our shorter distance. It cast accurately and maintained finesse throughout the casts.
Performance at 40 feet: 18 out of 20
Even with a softer midsection and tip, the Aetos did not lose much at 40 feet. It still casts consistently well at mid-distance and gave me good presentations.
Performance at 60 feet: 7.5 out of 10
I really only started to feel a noticeable decline in performance at 60 feet.