Thomas & Thomas ZONE 8’6” #4 $495.00
I loved the crisp, fast action of the Avantt and its light swing weight, but unfortunately the Zone is not nearly as nice. We like the lower price, and you can’t expect the same kind of performance as the $845 Avantt which uses a the more expensive, higher modulus graphite.
This is T&T’s mid-priced rod, but if you take a look at the best mid-priced rods in our Shootout like the Shadow at $349, the Recon at $429 and the DXF at $349, the Zone’s performance doesn’t match any of these rods.
The action of the Zone is much slower than the Avantt (and also a lot slower than the Recon or Shadow). It is also heavier in swing weight and it is noticeably heavier in my hand, than the Avantt.
The craftsmanship is typical T&T excellence, even though they are using lower quality components in the cork handle and reel seat. The blank itself is unsanded natural graphite gray, much like the Scott rods, leaving the tape marks visible. The guide wraps are in blue with some silver trim on the butt. The lower 7 inches of the butt, including the logo is also finished in a dark blue. The handle is a western style grip, without much of a swell in the middle but a flare on the lower end to accommodate the uplocking reel seat. A contrasting dark composite cork ring is used at the top of the grip. The quality of cork is pretty good, but not in the same class as Avantt.
The uplocking skeleton reel seat is silver anodized aluminum, with one good-sized locking ring and sliding band, similar to the Avantt. But then rather than a beautiful piece of burled wood insert as on the Avant, there is a plain piece of blue colored graphite that also shows the tape marks.
The guides start with a hook keeper, and then one relatively small silver SiC stripping guide, followed with hard chrome single-foot guides. The wraps are all in blue, and the epoxy coatings are all extremely well done. Like the Avantt, each section is inscribed with the serial number of the rod so that you can avoid mixing up sections if you have similar rods.
The perfect line: SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity in WF-4-F
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20
Much heavier in hand than the Avantt, and the stiffer tip is not giving me as much feel or accuracy.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.0 points out of 20
This was the best distance for me with the Zone. Here I’m getting nice loops and decent accuracy, but I’m working a lot harder than with the Avantt or the Helios 3F.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.5 points out of 10
The heavier swing weight makes casting at longer distances a workout. The accuracy suffers too. The Recon was much better.
The new T&T Zone series has received a lot of attention recently, both on social media and by winning the best saltwater fly rod at IFTD. Naturally I was excited to get a Zone in my hands and see what all the hype was about.
The Zone felt pretty heavy, but upon taking a few casts in close, it felt good, with a softer feel than the Avantt. I thought we were on our way to a new Orvis Recon. But after running the Zone through its paces at 40 and 60 feet my enthusiasm ran short. The Zone’s softer butt and midsection don’t give it much reserve power, and I couldn’t cast very accurately with the Zone’s relatively stiff tip. A solid performance, but nowhere near as good as the Avantt or the other top rods. I did like the Zone’s appearance and cosmetics.
Two tone rod (blue and grey on the butt section), and a lightly sanded blank. Decent swing weight and feel (about in the middle of the pack). Large single foot chrome guides, cork composite rings at either end of the grip for more longevity. Reel seat has better hardware than most rods. A graphite spacer is used. Handwritten rod model number and serial number on each section as well as alignment dots.
Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20
Surprisingly, I was getting more feel than the Avantt in close! The rod loads easily at this distance, not quite as light a swing weight as the best rods, but still pleasant to cast.
Performance at 40 feet: 18.7 points out of 20
The Zone’s medium action is not quite as crisp as my favorite rods, and it is not as accurate in the wind.
Performance at 60 feet: 7 points out of 10
The softer butt and mid as well as the stiff tip are starting to catch up to the Zone. I’m not getting the power I would like to see, and accuracy is not great.
Logan’s Comments: 44.5 out of 50
The Thomas & Thomas Zone is T&T’s mid priced offering. Considering that the price of the Zone is under $500, the craftsmanship is very nice, something to be expected from Thomas & Thomas.
Performance at 25 feet: 18 out of 20
The Zone was tracking exceptionally well. It was consistently accurate but lacked some sensitivity.
Performance at 40 feet: 18.5 out of 20
40 feet was also a good distance for the Zone. I was impressed with the Zone’s ability to track well and produce good accuracy.
Performance at 60 feet: 8 out of 10
The Zone had enough power in the butt section to get it out to the 60-foot plate with good accuracy.
I get what Thomas and Thomas is doing with the Zone series of rods, offering a high quality rod at a reasonable price. To me this rod just felt too heavy and clunky. Not nearly as smooth or as accurate as the Avantt, or the other top rods with a similar price point. The cork handle on this rod felt too bulky. Other components were very good, as were the rod wraps and coatings.
Performance at 25 feet: 18.5/20
Good, just not great. The larger grip seemed to take away some of the sensitivity I’d like to feel in a 4wt.
Performance at 40 feet: 18/20
My most accurate and enjoyable distance with this rod. Anything closer and I’d lose some accuracy any further and I’d lose power.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.5/10
Not enough power to give me a good performance at this distance. I struggled to make consistently good casts.
The Zone has a good mix of power and performance, but I thought it was far inferior to the Avantt. The action is slower than the Avantt, and perhaps this is why it didn’t feel as crisp. The cork handle also felt a little large and bulky for me and maybe this is why it didn’t perform as well for me at short distance.
Performance at 25 feet: 16.5 out of 20
I could make mostly accurate casts but I am not getting very much feel, I think mainly because of the larger handle.
Performance at 40 feet: 17 out of 20
Better at 40 feet, and now I’m getting a consistent and smooth action that is allowing me to make nice presentations.
Performance at 60 feet: 7 out of 10
The Zone has the power needed to make casts at 60 feet, but I’m feeling a slight loss of control and accuracy. Overall, not bad though.