Sage ONE Rod Comparison
How does Sage's new ONE compare with the best rods we've found on the market today?
Sage unveiled their new “One” rod for 2012 with an advertising blitz, claiming that this new rod will redefine casting accuracy, the light weight trend, and be the one go to rod for most people in every fishing situation. One rod that can do it all! But is it as good as Sage says it is? And how would it compare to our 2011 Shootout winners in both the 9 foot #5 and 9 foot #8 categories? And how do their other models compare with what we have felt were the best rods in all the different line sizes?
Unfortunately, the ONE rods were not introduced early enough for us to get them into either our 2011 5-weight or 8-weight shootouts. All of us here were anxious to see if the One could dethrone our winners in these categories and there was only one good way to do it – get the rods out on the lawn again and cast them with our winners - a little mini-shootout so to speak. Then, even more importantly, we have had the chance to fish several different models of the One in situations where we could compare them directly to our other favorite rods. As we have done in our Shootouts, we equipped the rods with the exact same reels and lines we felt matched the rods best, trying to minimize the variables.
Our first impression of the ONE rods were, “Wow, these are light in overall weight, and look how powerful they are!” This was all true but in general, we now feel that Sage may have gone a bit too far in trying to build a rod that is a real cannon, like their old XP, without giving more thought to improving on the older but extremely well rounded Z-Axis, that had wonderful feel and accuracy in close, as well as enough power to throw nymphs and streamers. One thing we all agreed on – if you were a fan of the XP, you are going to love the ONE!
It seems that today, when most anglers pick up a rod off the rack, they are impressed with two things – light weight and power. Then when they go cast the rod, the first thing they want to see is how far it will cast compared to what they are now using. Stripping all the line off the reel and throwing 100 feet or more is pretty easy with a lot of these new generation rods, but an angler should be more concerned about how these rods perform at short to medium distances too - the distances we fish at most of the time.
In building the new Sage ONE, Jerry Siem, their head rod designer, wanted to come up with a light rod that would do everything well. If you read Sage’s hype about this new rod, Sage talks about their use of what they call Konnetic technology, which is their term for the use of new materials combined with pioneering manufacturing methods and processes.
Here’s Sage’s explanation: “Part of the new process includes Sage’s AMPS, a process that precisely aligns and positions carbon fiber materials to exacting tolerances for the greatest blank strength, delivering extremely efficient energy transfer throughout the shaft. In addition, using Sage’s High Compression Molding process, carbon fibers are compacted for optimum density and precise alignment while simultaneously fusing the 50 percent lighter all-carbon fiber inner core.”
“The ONE offers exceptional tracking with virtually no lateral or torsional movement, resulting in what Sage claims is unparalleled casting accuracy. Further innovations are the 70 percent lighter, low profile ferrules that help direct and carry energy through the rod without sacrificing strength, critical action and feel.”
So, now after reading all this, you might be convinced that the new ONE must be the best rod on the planet. For us, real proof came when we compared the ONE head to head with our current favorite rods...
8 ½ foot 4-weights
ONE -vs- Winston BIIIx
Overall weight: Sage ONE – 2.5 oz. Winston BIIIx – 2.9 oz.
Here, we compared one of our favorite short to medium distance dry fly rods, the Winston BIIIx to the ONE. The ONE was much stiffer than the BIIIx, with a much faster action. At distances from 20-45 feet the Winston, with its softer tip and slightly slower action provided a lot more feel and better presentations, especially with smaller flies and light tippets. The swing weight felt about the same. The softer Winston also helps protects light tippets much better, and when fishing dry flies, we are often fishing with 5X -7X tippets.
Advantage: Winston BIIIx
9 foot 4-weights
ONE -vs- Hardy Zenith
Overall weight: Sage ONE – 2.5 oz. Hardy Zenith 3.0 oz.
This summer I did a lot fishing with the Hardy Zenith 9 foot #4, which proved to be every bit as good as the 9 foot #5. It had great power but a nice soft tip that delivered extremely good accuracy. Here on the lawn I had a chance to compare the two rods – the Hardy Zenith 9 foot #4 and Sage’s 9 foot #4 ONE. I preferred Hardy’s Zenith to the ONE. The swing weight of the Zenith felt lighter than the ONE, despite the difference in overall weight. Here are my casting notes - 35 feet: The Hardy feels lighter in my hand than the Sage ONE, and is giving me better accuracy, presentation and better feel than ONE. 50 feet: The Sage is slightly stiffer and tracks well, but both rods perform extremely well with excellent presentation and accuracy, but it seems like I’m working less to get the job done with the Hardy.
Advantage: Hardy Zenith
9 foot 5-weights
One -vs- Z-Axis
Overall weight: Sage ONE – 2.6 oz. Z-Axis – 3.4 oz.
For openers, we wanted to see how the 9 foot #5 ONE compared to the great Z-Axis, which has proven to be one of the finest rods in our 5-weight shootouts. At close range, the stiffer tip on the ONE seemed to hinder feel, compared to the Z-Axis, and the overall accuracy was not as good. At 60 feet I felt that the One did track better, giving me tighter loops and more control than the older Z-Axis. At longer distances, there was no question that the ONE had it in spades. But as an all around rod I still like the Z-Axis.
Advantage: Sage Z-Axis
ONE -vs- Hardy Zenith
Overall weight: Sage ONE – 2.6 oz. Hardy Zenith – 3.0 oz.
Next up, we pulled out our 2011 5-wight shootout winner, the Hardy Zenith. Although the ONE was lighter in overall weight, the Zenith felt a lot lighter in swing weight and had a much lighter, softer tip, giving far better feel and accuracy in close in that 30-45 foot range where we do so much of our fishing. We were casting in a pretty strong breeze that day, and what surprised us most was that the Hardy had a lot more pop and zing, especially firing back casts into a strong wind. At long range, both rods were excellent. The ONE gave us smooth and fairly tight loops, but we were just working a lot harder to get them than with the Hardy Zenith.
Advantage: Hardy Zenith
9 foot 6-weights
Overall weight: Sage ONE – 2.7 oz. Hardy Zenith 3.3 oz.
The "Unofficial 6 Weight Shootout Champion" matched up with a Ross Evolution LT 3 in black and a WF-6-F GPX line.
Casting on the lawn, the ONE felt much lighter and at longer distances it had a lot more punch and power than the Zenith. At short distances they felt about equal, although I liked the softer tip on the Hardy. Unlike the 5-weights, now the swing weight of the Hardy really feels heavier in my hand than the ONE. We all had the feeling that Sage hit a home run with this rod but a day of hopper fishing on the Missouri this summer proved it. I traded off with the Hardy, set up with the same reel and line (SA WF-6-F GPX). The ONE was really amazing in this element. Casting medium to longer distances, the ONE had the ability to put the hopper exactly where I wanted it, even on a very windy day. The One just ripped it, and not only was I was impressed with the power, but with the precision and casting accuracy I was getting with the ONE. The Hardy Zenith felt heavy and unresponsive in comparison. If we had the time to do a 6 weight shootout, the ONE would win for sure.
Advantage: Sage ONE
The Sage ONE comes in two different 6 weights (shown above). While they cast almost identical, the 691 has a fighting butt, anodized aluminum reel seat, and a larger half wells grip. If there's a chance you may take your 6 weight to the salt, or if you are consistently targeting trout over 6 pounds, the 691 Sage ONE is the way to go, otherwise the walnut reel seat original 690 is probably your best bet...
9 foot 7-weights
ONE -vs- NRX
Overall weight: Sage ONE – 3.5 oz. Loomis NRX – 4.2 oz.
Like the 6-weight, the 7-weight ONE is a terrific rod. With rods like this, I’m more concerned with their power versus weight comparisons and their ability to really throw big wind resistant flies or streamers in tough conditions. Shorter distance accuracy isn’t nearly as important. A 7-weight makes a terrific streamer rod and these rods must have good butt and mid-section power. Both the Sage and Loomis had the goods here. The NRX does have a softer tip, which does help giving a bit better accuracy at shorter range. Despite the overall weight difference I didn’t notice much difference in swing weight. For overall power, and getting the job done, especially at medium to longer distances, where I’m using a 7-line rod most of the time, the Sage ONE rules.
Advantage: Sage ONE
9 foot 8-weights
ONE -vs- NRX
Overall weight: Sage ONE – 3.7 oz Loomis NRX – 4.1 oz.
I had a good opportunity to fish and trade off both the Sage One and the Loomis NRX 9 foot #8 line rods this past September in Alaska, catching big rainbows in the 4-9 lb. class. For this fishing, you need a rod with great power and both rods had that, for sure. You also need a rod that will cast well at shorter distances as well as throwing streamers on big rivers. The big difference between these rods for me was that the softer tip on the NRX gave me a lot better accuracy and feel in close, sight fishing beads to big bows at 25-50 feet. Throwing long with streamers on a big river we fish, I loved the power of the ONE, but it required very precise cast timing to get the most out of the rod. It was also harder work with the ONE, since it is such a stiff rod, despite its lighter overall weight. Swing weight felt about the same but my arm definitely felt a pleasant difference when I was using the NRX. The NRX just provided better overall feel and performance. Many of the guides up there at Enchanted Lake Lodge commented that the 8-weight ONE might make a great bonefish rod, and it would if it had the larger saltwater sized guides that Sage uses on their Xi3. Lots of people wonder where the ONE would have finished in our latest 8-weight shootout. In terms of the performance categories I think it would have finished 3rd or 4th.
Advantage: Loomis NRX
9 foot 9-weights
Unfortunately we didn’t have a 9 weight ONE on hand to test, but I’m guessing that this would have been very similar to the 9 foot #8 outcome, for many of the same reasons.
9 foot 10-weights
ONE -vs- NRX
Overall weight: Sage One: 4.4 oz. Loomis NRX 4.7 oz.
A ten-weight is normally thought about as a saltwater rod and we would have liked to see this Sage Technology applied to the Xi3 line of specific saltwater rods. The 10-weight one has tremendous power, for sure and certainly could be used in saltwater applications, but the size of the guides is the limiting factor. You are always getting tangles and birds nests while saltwater fishing and you need guides large enough for these tangles to get through, rather than break off a 30-pound permit! Almost all the rod companies have learned this, and this is why you find the larger size guides on Sage’s Xi3. In looking at the Loomis NRX, the guide size is dramatically larger. These NRX rods are really built to do the job in saltwater and this is one reason why they have been so popular. There are certainly some good applications for the Sage ONE 10-weight though, like fishing for big Peacock Bass or other very strong fish that aren’t going to run long distances, and where line tangling problems are minimal. This 10-weight ONE is a really stiff rod and most people would be happier using a #11 line on this rod. The NRX felt nice and light in the hand for a 10-weight rod and the swing weight felt way lighter, despite the small difference in overall weight. The Loomis NRX also has that softer tip that gives better accuracy at shorter ranges like 35-50 feet, which is often the distance you are at casting to permit or even tarpon. At long distance both rods have plenty of power to throw all the line, and do it accurately.
Advantage: Loomis NRX
Bottom line - if you are looking for the ultimate 6 or 7 weight rod - then the Sage ONE is your stick! While we were unable to pull off a 6 or 7 weight shootout, we are confident that the Sage ONE would have swept the competition in both line designations. Give us a call if you are curious if the ONE is the right rod for you...
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