R.L. Winston BIIIX Rod Review

New Winston B3X

Rod Review

By: George Anderson

What Winston is saying:

"Incredible" is the only way to describe this new series; they are arguably the finest fly rods ever made. Utilizing higher modulus third generation Boron/Graphite composite, B3x rods offer unprecedented performance. They have an even broader casting range that lets anglers control line speed for long casts directly into the wind or gentle presentations up close. They feature a stronger butt section for lifting more line off the water. They are highly responsive and very powerful, yet lightweight with great feel and liveliness. In the words of our technical advisor Joan Wulff, "Boron IIIx rods are an amazing combination of speed, power and Winston smoothness." Boron IIIx rods come with our new, striking lightweight graphite rod tube.

What George is saying:

The new Winston B3x rods – An excellent new rod replaces the popular BIIx.

We recently had an opportunity to cast several of the new Winston B3x rods here out on our lawn at the shop.   This gave us an ideal chance to do a little mini-shootout, and to compare the Winston B3x with the older BIIx rods as well as other rods that we have considered the finest casting 5-weight rods we’ve been able to find.   Other rods we included in this casting comparison were our 5-weight shootout winner, Sage’s Z-Axis, the terrific Loomis StreamDance GLX as well as the highly anticipated new Loomis NRX.  All rods were 9 foot #5 4-pc. models.

We have found that we can tell more about how one rod compares to another by casting them on the lawn for fifteen minutes than by fishing these rods over a period of days.   Certainly, how a rod fishes is a big part of the equation, but if it feels good in your hand, casts smoothly with excellent accuracy, and has the power needed to fight the wind and play fish, then it’s bound to be a good rod out on the stream.

We liked the original BIIx rods.  Their lightweight boron composite butt sections made them lighter in your hand than a lot of other rods, and they were pleasant to cast.   Accuracy was good but not great, partially because we felt the tips of these rods were just a bit too soft.

After a few casts with the new Winston B3x rods, we were like – WOW, these are some of the very best performing new rods we’ve seen and cast to date!   The new B3x rods still utilize boron in the butt section, which is a big factor in maintaining their light weight, but that sloppy, softer tip of the BIIx is gone.    It is amazing how a few tweaks to the rod design has turned the B3x into a real contender for the best casting, light trout rod on the market. 



In talking to Woody Woodard, Winston’s CEO, I found out that both he and Annette McLean were primarily responsible for the design and production of the new rod. Having an engineering background, Woody refined the BIIx design somewhat, wanting a rod that was quicker and more powerful than the BIIx, but not as strong as their BIImx. He started with a new 3rd generation Boron composite in the butt section, that would make the butt even lighter, but then he also made some design changes in their ultra-high modulus graphite that resulted in the stronger mid-section and more powerful tip section.  Annette McLean refined these changes in the manufacturing process, changing the patterns as needed, working the new boron composite and graphite to come up with the final prototypes.  Then after a lot of feedback from the good casters there at Winston along with their Rep. Chris Hart and other good anglers testing the prototypes, designs were finalized and production began. 

The new Winston B3x rods are very similar in appearance to the older BIIx, which is great since Winston has pretty much set the standard for beautiful rods for the past thirty years!  Craftsmanship on the new B3x rods was excellent in every respect.  The rods were simply gorgeous with their elegant green finish, top rate cork grips with a classy nickel silver up-locking reel seat that utilizes a fancy burled wood insert.  On the 7-10 weight rods, which may be used primarily in salt water, a featherlight anodized aluminum seat is used. Cigar cork grips are used on rods up to line size #6, while their popular Full Wells handle and cork fighting butts are used on the larger rods. 

All of the Winston B3x rods are 4-piece, like the BIIx, making traveling far easier than with the older two or three-piece rods.  With the slipover ferrule design that most manufacturers use now, actions have been perfected to the point that these rods bend just like a one-piece rod.

In casting the rods here at the shop, we could see that the B3x has a bit more stiffness in both the mid-section and the tip section.  This has slowed the action down just slightly, but for the better.  The rod feels light and lively in your hand but the new smoothness and resulting improvement in accuracy is dramatic.     We spent quite a bit of time casting both the 9 foot #5 and 9 foot #6 line rods and both were excellent. They loaded perfectly using Scientific Anglers GPX lines in the same weight that the rod called for.  

The new, highly anticipated Loomis NRX had more overall power than the B3x, and there was no question at mid to longer distances this NRX was one sweet rod.  But in the hand it was definitely a bit heavier than the B3x.  If I’m picking a 5-weight rod to do a lot of casting with all day, especially fishing dry flies at short to medium distances, this new B3x is going to be hard to beat.    



Building the best fishing rod

As most experienced anglers have found out over the years, the best fishing rod is not necessarily the one that casts farther than all the rest.   More importantly, is how it performs at short to moderate distances like 25-50 feet.  This is the range that most anglers are fishing the majority of the time with a 5-weight rod, fishing either dry flies or nymphs.  At these distances, the new BIIIx was delightful.  It was nice and light in the hand, with minimal swing weight compared to most other rods.  Casting tight loops, even off the tip at short distances was effortless.  The accuracy we experienced seemed to be on par or even a little better than Sage’s Z-Axis, our previous 5-weight shootout winner, or the Loomis StreamDance GLX. At longer distances, the B3x was no slouch.  It had plenty of butt and mid-section power to blast 100 feet of line out there with ease.  Accuracy was still very good at long range, and the rod felt well balanced with a Scientific Anglers WF-5-F GPX line. 

With the new slightly stiffer mid section and tip, the B3x also performs far better in a strong wind than the older BIIx, especially with more wind resistant flies like hoppers.    It also has more than enough power for slinging split shot and indicators while fishing nymphs, or chucking smaller streamers when the need arises. 

Winston has always built a classy, good-looking rods, that have performed well, and this B3x is no exception.  The new lightweight rod tube is graphite rather than Aluminum, and finished in that same striking Winston green to match their rods.

We will have a new 5-weight shootout soon to compare all the best 5-weight rods on the market, but this new B3x is definitely going to be a strong contender for top honors. 

George Anderson

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