I’m surprised that both Sage rods are well down the list, but their performance scores were just not good enough to rate them higher. The Sage X is light in overall weight, but far heavier the most in swing weight. Rods that were very light in swing weight like the Zephrus, Avantt and Helios 3F blew the X away in both feel and performance.
The X is a medium fast action rod built with Sage’s KonneticHD technology that they say delivers greater blank recovery and good dampening. This rod has a stiffer tip than many of the best rods, and I felt this hurt both feel and accuracy at the two shorter distances.
The amount of power seems to be about right, and it performed best at the longer distances where I could punch it hard without throwing tailing loops. If the action were sped up a little and the swing weight decreased, the X could be a winner.
The X is an attractive rod with the same fine craftsmanship that we have come to expect from Sage. The blank color at first glance looks black, but is a very dark green called “Black Spruce.” The thread wraps are dark green, trimmed with metallic gray on the butt section. The epoxy coatings are good but too heavy for my liking. It was even a little sloppy on the tip sections. For this we downgraded the craftsmanship a half a point. We can attribute this to the use of one-coat finish rather than multiple coats as seen on the T&T rods.
The cork handle is what Sage calls a snub nose half-wells. There is not much swell in the middle of the grip and it tapers just slightly forward. It does feel very comfortable to me when I’m casting it. They use a stack of thin diameter cork rings and the quality of the cork was good.
The reel seat is a black anodized, single uplocking skeleton seat with a dark wood insert. They inscribe the sliding band with the line size, which is a nice touch. The guides are one hook keeper; a single SiC stripper and then all the rest are hard chrome snake guides that are durable but heavy. I wish they would had used the lighter, flexible nickel/titanium snake guides found on the Helios 3F, or even better, the nickel titanium single-foot guides found on the Hardy Zephrus, which would have improved its heavy swing weight.
The perfect line: SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity in WF-4-F
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 25 feet: 18.8 points out of 20
Heavy in hand! The stiff tip didn’t allow me much feel but the accuracy was decent. Head to head, the Radian and Avantt were better.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.0 points out of 20
With more line in the air I’m getting nice loops and good accuracy. Casting head to head, the Scott rods and the Helios 3F were both a lot better.
Performance at 60 feet: 9.0 points out of 10
Now I’m getting nice tight loops and I can punch it hard into the breeze. But the accuracy was still not as good as the best rods. Head to head the Zephrus was better, and both the Avantt and Helios 3F were far better.
In our last 4-weight Shootout I had the 8’6” Sage ONE on the podium as one of my favorite all around 4-weight rods. I was hoping the Sage X would follow suit, but unfortunately it did not. The two things that hurt the X the most were its heavy swing weight and its stiffer/slower tip, which can be seen on the deflection chart and felt when casting.
Cosmetically, I like the dark, stealthy look of the X. In the shade or inside the rod looks black, but in the sun you can see its dark spruce hue shine through. I love the size and shape of the X’s snub nose half-wells cork handle. I wish Sage used the lighter, more expensive nickel/titanium guides rather than the thicker, heavier hard chrome snake guides. The epoxy coatings over the guide wraps are some of the sloppiest in the Shootout and disappointing to see on a $900 rod.
Feels heavy in hand with a stiffer tip than most, yet powerful. 4-weight rod designation on hood of reel seat slide is a nice touch. The cork handle feels good in my hand. Pleasant dark olive blank (nearly black) with matching thread make this a cool looking rod. I’m still seeing some sloppy epoxy work on the large chrome snake guides.
Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20
Heavy swing weight, but overall this rod feels pretty good.
Performance at 40 feet: 18.8 points out of 20
Effortless to cast, but harder to obtain really tight loops than with the rods that had softer tips. I think for many anglers this rod has a wide sweet spot.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.2 points out of 10
Pretty good. Rod still feels a bit heavy. I was also expecting the rod to have a little more power.
Logan’s Comments: 45 out of 50
The Sage X is my favorite Sage rod in the Shootout. I felt it was also the one of the better all-around rods in our shootout. It wasn’t the best at any one distance, but it performed well at all three distances we tested. It has good power and would be a great 4-weight for someone looking for a good rod that performs well at all distances.
If you cast the X on its own, not next to other rods you would instantly want one, but heads up with the best rods you can see it’s just missing something.
Logan’s Casting Notes: 45 out of 50
Performance at 25 feet: 18 out of 20
The Sage X had just a little too stiff a tip for it to shine at 25 feet. It was nice but I felt it could have been better
Performance at 40 feet: 19 out of 20
40 feet was the best distance for the Sage X. I felt like I couldn’t miss at this distance.
Performance at 60 feet: 8 out of 10
I felt the same way about the Sage X at 60 feet as I did at 25 feet. It just could have given me a little more in order to make it a great rod.
The Sage X was another rod I thought might place in the top 5 before we started the Shootout. It has a medium fast action and has tons of power, but the tip is perhaps a little stiffer than the best rods. It is light enough in overall weight but has a surprisingly heavy swing weight, which hurt the feel in close. Once I was able to cast the X heads up with the other top rods like the Zephrus and Helios 3F, it felt heavy while casting, and didn’t perform nearly as well. This is a really nice looking fly rod, with very good craftsmanship. The build quality and components used were top notch and what you would expect on an expensive rod.
Performance at 25 feet: 18/20
The excess power seemed to hurt this rod when dealing with delicate casts 25 feet and closer. Very little feel.
Performance at 40 feet: 18.5/20
This is the sweet spot for the X. Now it is more accurate and sensitive, and it feels well matched with the SA Infinity line.
Performance at 60 feet: 9/10
Plenty of power to get it out there, but it couldn’t match the accuracy of either the Helios 3F or the Avantt.
As an expensive, high quality rod, I thought I would like the Sage X. But when I was casting the X, I had trouble forming tight, dependable loops. It was one of the stiffer 4-weights and its stiff tip didn’t allow me to get any consistent accuracy at close range. I also had trouble with getting delicate presentations.
This is another rod that performed better for me in the higher line weight classes.
Performance at 25 feet: 16 out of 20
Close distances are not this rod’s strong suit. It was hard to form loops and get any decent accuracy. I thought getting more line out and casting further would have helped but it didn’t.
Performance at 40 feet: 17 out of 20
Even with more line out and casting nearly twice as far, it was still hard to form tight loops and hard to make any sort of delicate presentation with this rod.
Performance at 60 feet: 7.5 out of 10
Of course as a stiffer rod, it was able to cast 60 feet of line easily. However I felt there was some loss of consistency, feel and flow at long distance.