5 Weight shootout winners

 

I have been involved with the Yellowstone Angler for the past 5 years.  During my employment I have participated in handful shootouts.  Aside from comic relief; I  provide the prospective of an average caster.  George and James are both world class casters and are extremely proficient with any rod you place in their hands.  While I am not a total hack, I am certainly not in the same caliber.  With that being said, over the years I’ve became an expert on what elements dictate a good rod from a bad rod.  When casting in and producing several of our last Shootouts, I focus my attention not only on how well a rod will cast the line but also how it would preform in all fishing situations.  At the different distances tested with each rod I think about how it would fish with dries, nymphs, and small streamers. 


 

Josh Edwards performance scores


 

1. (tie)    Scott Radian - 59.5 

Scott Radian

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In my opinion, the Scott Radian is finest looking rod we’ve ever tested. The ascetics automatically drew me in last year.  We had all the rods laid out on the floor and the Radian aesthetics  just jumped off the rack. My initial thought was if they put this much time into making the rod look this good there has to be faults.  However I was impressed at every casting distance.  At the end of each shootout we often ask each other if you could have any rod in the shootout (which isn’t the case) what rod would you choose?  For two years running my answer is the Scott Radian. 


Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

I love the crisp feel at 25 feet.  The radian has a lot of “soul” along with great recovery.  It would be a perfect rod for in close sight fishing with dries and nymphs.

Performance at 45 feet: 20 points out of 20 

My favorite rod at this distance and more forgiving than the NRX LP.  I was landing the casting indicator on the plate about a third of the time.  The Radian really tracks nicely allowing for more accurate casts.  It also doesn’t throw as bad of a tailing loop when I jam the power in too fast with my forward cast.

Performance at 70 feet: 20 points out of 20 

Has the power to hit 70’ and continues to track really well.  This helped my accuracy at the further distance.  I was amazed with the amount of reserve power the Scott!  It really has the power to effortlessly cast 70’. 

 

 

1. (tie) Tom Morgan Rods Smiths - 59.5

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths 4 pc

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Performance at 25 feet:  20 points out of 20 

The two piece Morgan rod I last cast was the ultimate short-range rod, with a very soft tip and mid-section that made it easy to get delicate and accurate presentations.  The new 4-pc is very much like it!  The ultimate dry fly weapon, this is the rod we all wanted.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20  

Amazing! Perfect distance for this rod, it cast so smooth that it feels like an extension of my arm. Great control and accuracy cast after cast. This is the smoothest rod I’ve ever cast.

Performance at 70 feet: 19.5 points out of 20  

I gave the Morgan rod a 19.5 at 70 feet because it not only could cast 70’ (which took me by total surprise) it was as accurate as the NRX, Radian and Wraith.   The Morgans have really stepped up their game at this distance.

 

 

2.    G. Loomis NRX LP  - 59

G.Loomis NRX LP

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Three-Peat!  All around winner for three years running, If there is one thing we can all agree on it is this rod is incredible.  The two reasons I placed the Scott over the Loomis for two years running is overall ascetics and the fact that it is a little more forgiving than the Loomis.  The NRX is a precise piece of fly fishing equipment, if you are a text book caster like Steve Rajeff or George Anderson there is nothing this rod can't do. However I have a tendency to power my cast late giving the NRX tailing loops at times.    

 

Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 points out of 20 

This rod is fantastic for in close work! Feels amazing in tight, I liked grabbing the Radian and directly comparing the two.  While the NRX wasn’t quite as good at this distance for me, it was a very close.  I had just as much control as I did with the Radian but with a little less feel when casting off the tip of the rod.

Performance at 45 feet: 20 points out of 20  

This was by far the best rod at this distance for me.  Landing the fly six inches of the target was automatic with very little effort.  The rod creates nice tight loops with every casting stroke at this distance.  I would really enjoy fishing both nymphs and dries at this distance with the NRX. 

Performance at 70 feet: 19.5 points out of 20 

The LP excels at 70 feet, it throws tight loops with little effort and tracks beautifully. While a lot of my shots feel just short of the plate they were all very accurately.   This is one of the few rods that remain accurate at this distance and doesn’t compromise feel with a stiffer rod blank.

 

 

 

 

3.    G. Loomis Pro 4X LP  - 58.5

g.Loomis Pro4x

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Finally this rod is in production and no longer a myth.  For me this is a great rod for the price conscious angler.  While it’s not as light and aesthetically pleasing as the NRX, (or some of the other rods from Hardy or Winston), the Pro 4x is the best mid range 5 weight I’ve ever fished.  It's much like the NRX LP but a rod that is a little heavier in hand and not as crisp.

It also felt like it was a little more forgiving than the NRX.  If I punched the forward cast too much the Pro4x LP wouldn’t throw a tailing loop like I got from the other rods.  Honestly the Hardy rods are probably a little better overall but for what you’re getting at this price range it’s a no brainer.  I often tell folks if you have the money to spend on the best why not get the best but if you’re on a budget or can’t afford to spend $700+ this is the absolute best bang for your buck.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 19 points out of 20

Crisp action in close, I really enjoy the flex of this rod from its butt section to the tip. Heavier than the NRX in hand and overall swing weight but feels really nice and is very accurate.

Performance at 45 feet: 20 points out of 20  

Casts well at forty-five feet; very accurate with ample amount of feel.  Smooth as the NRX but requires a little more effort from the caster.  At this distance you began to notice the amount of reserve power the Gloomis Pro 4x LP has. 

Performance at 70 feet: 19.5 points out of 20  

Has the power to hit 70 feet without difficultly, great control at this distance and nice tight loops.  I notice the extra weight at this distance, a lot like the Sage Bolt but it cast so well I was willing to over look the weight. 

 

 

 

4. (tie)    Hardy Zephrus - 58

Hardy Zephrus

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The Hardy Zenith was near the top of my list last year and its no surprise the Zephrus has taken over as Hardy’s best all-around rod.  It’s a great rod at every distance and very easy to control. This seems to be a blind test favorite when we get customers on the lawn who are interested in a 5-weight rod.  I think the main reason this rod continues to be a favorite among new and average casters is its ability to track strait and present tight loops with a wide verity of casting strokes. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20  

Surprisingly, the Hardy Zephrus felt lighter in my hand than all the rods excluding the NRX LP.  It felt exceptionally controlled and accurate; almost every cast hit the 10-inch target.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.5 points out of 20  

Amazingly, it was just as easy to throw 45 feet as 25 feet, maybe even easier to hit the plate.  I personally think the Scott and Loomis are better rods but the Hardy Zephurs will work better for less attentive and more lackadaisical casters.   

Performance at 70 feet: 19 points out of 20  

At long distance the Zephurs was good, (not quite as good as its bigger brother the Wraith) but it had enough reserve power to hit the mark. I also noticed I threw fewer tailing loops with the Scott Radian and Hardy Wraith.  This is mainly because I have a tendency to slam the power in too quickly and the Hardy Zephurs is a little too soft in the tip to be accurate with this casting mistake. 

 

 

4. (tie)    Hardy Wraith - 58

Hardy Wraith

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The Hardy Wraith is a new fast action edition to the Hardy line up.   Imagine the sage one meeting the tip flex Orivs with Zenith technology.  I really like the Wraith, it would be a great rod for Montana, especially on freestone rivers like the Yellowstone or Madison.  It can fish dries, handle nymphs, throw streamers and combat heavy winds.  If I could describe this rod in a few words it would be a “beefed up" fast-action Zenith. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20  

I had to dump the tip a little bit to hit the plate but the rod was accurate, just not as nice as the Hardy Zephurs or Scott Radian.                                                                                                                                              

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20  

A lot more feel at this distance, can really feel the tip and mid section come to life. Line seems to float effortlessly off the tip to the target area, very crisp tight loops at this distance.   

Performance at 70 feet: 20 points out of 20  

This is the rod you want for distance!  The Hardy Wraith is smooth and very powerful, one of the few rods that I could actually get close to 100’ accurately.  If you like fishing heavy nymphs or streamers this is the rod for you.  Light, stiff but retains a lot of feel at long range. 

 

 

 

5. Orvis Helios 2 -57.5

Orvis H2

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I was not a fan of the Helios 2 when we did our 2013 5-weight shootout, however it seems that there were some in house changes because the last two years the Helios 2 has been a go to favorite of mine.  It seems like it is a stiffer version of the Hardy Zephrus.  It was not as light as the Hardy Zephrus in hand however and certainly not as good in close, but it really shined for me at 45’ and 70’.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20  

Due to the heavier, stiffer tip made it more difficult to get precise, delicate presentations than with the other top rods tested.  Accuracy was good but not great at 25’, I could feel the rod wanting to send more line.

Performance at 45 feet: 19.5 points out of 20 

Much better, this rod is built for an angler that likes a very fast casting stroke. It will cast 45’ with the slight flick of the wrist.  Tight Loops and tracked really well allowing good line control.

Performance at 70 feet: 19.5 points out of 20 

At this distance the Helios 2 feels great, this is one of my top picks for hitting the 70’ mark.  The power of the stiffer tip comes into play and I was getting tight loops that tracked extremely well.

 

 

 

 

6. Fenwick  Aetos - 57

Fenwick Aetos

buy now

This is not your Grandpa's Fenwick!  The Fenwick is here, and it is here to stay.  After being a serious player and selling a lot of these rods to folks doing their own "mini-shootouts" on our casting lawn, the Aetos is simply a great rod, especially for the money.  I’m not a fan of the first stripping guide but for the price it's not a big deal.

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20  

Not the best rod in the shootout at this distance but really crisp and accurate.  Tracks well and was delivering the fly exactly where I wanted it.  Lots of feel. 

Performance at 45 feet:  19.5 points out of 20  

The Aetos was really refreshing at this distance, maintained great line speed and tight loops with minimal effort. Very accurate at 45’.  The Fenwick Aetos is the poor mans Hardy Zephurs. 

Performance at 70 feet: 18 points out of 20 
 

I had a lot of control at this distance, nice tight loops with decent accuracy.  I fell short of the target on a few casts but the line tracked strait and I got the fly in line with where I wanted the fly to land.  It also did a good job of turning over the 12’ leader.

 

 

 

 

 

7.  (tie)   Loop Opti - 56

loop Opti Stream

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I’ve fished the Loop Opti-stream with confidence over the last few years.  Originally I was put off by the little bit larger cigar grip.  I don’t notice this as much anymore and with many 5-weight rods starting to use full wells or larger cigar grips it’s not really enough to make or break the rod.  I have had a few anglers in my boat over the last year that were fishing the new Opti-stream rods and everyone that’s used them has been able to throw large dries with long rubber leg droppers with ease.  The only downfall with the Opti-stream is we have seen a few more of these break than other rods. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20  

The first thing I noticed about the Opti Stream was how unbelievably light it was in hand.  The cork grip took some adjustment because it was larger than a lot of the other rods we tested and I have smaller hands.  However I soon forgot about the grip after a few casts in close.  With a flick of the wrist this rod was putting the yarn indicator exactly where I wanted it to go.  

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20  

The Opti is a machine when casting to 45’.  At this distance the line seemed to float right into place without much effort, a lot like the Hardy Zephurs.  I liked that the Opti-stream wasn’t too fast or too slow - it is the perfect balanced taper for a great all-around 5-weight. 

Performance at 70 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 

I had a lot of control at this distance, nice tight loops with decent accuracy.  Almost as good as the Hardy Zephurs at this distance. However it does lack the power that you’d find in the Hardy Wraith or Scott Radian.  Great rod for the money and kudos to Loop for getting this rod right.

 

 

 


7. (tie)  Sage Bolt -56

Sage BOLT

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Finally a new sage rod that feels good.  I have always been a big fan of Sage rods, much like every other fly caster on earth.  However since the Z-axis I haven’t cast a 5-weight from Sage that felt great.  The Bolt is an exception to this.  It is heavier than a lot of the rods in hand but it cast really well at all distances.  If I could have built this rod I would have used the same flex and feel but with the advanced resins and graphite used in Sage's more expensive sage rods. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20  

Not the best rod in close but not horrible, can hit the plate but lacks a lot of feel at this distance.  Feels a lot like the old XP.  Can tell early that mid to long range is its strong suite. 

Performance at 45 feet: 19 points out of 20 

Feels way better at 45’!  I took shots with both the Mod and the Bolt interchanging cast and the BOLT blew the MOD out of the water.  Very easy to cast off the tip and very accurate.  

Performance at 70 feet: 19 points out of 20 

A lot of power! Feels heavier and than the Wraith or even the Thomas and Thomas Spire but a really nice rod for hitting the 70’ mark.  The bolt tracked really well when carrying 40 to 50’ of line in the air.  I was surprised at how accurate my cast were, the only draw back was the extra weight at this distance was noticeable compared to the top rods.

 

 

 

 

8. (tie) Mystic Reaper -55.5

Mystic Reaper

buy now

Mystic is a company that many anglers are not familiar with, unless you have read our previous shootouts. Their other rods aren’t that great but the Reaper is in a totally different class.  Affordable, good looking, and overall, a great casting rod - especially for the money.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 

This rod has an exceptionally nice feel and gave me excellent accuracy for such an inexpensive rod.  A very well balanced rod with a nice light flexible tip made accurate casting in close easy for everyone.

Performance at 45 feet: 19 points out of 20 
 

The first thing I noticed at 45’was the amount of line control when false casting.  It proved itself to be a very idyllic rod to cast at this distance. Light in my hand, it delivered tight loops with accuracy. Better than a lot of the more expensive rods, yet not quite as good as the Fenwick Aetos.

Performance at 70 feet: 18 points out of 20 

Here, the lack of butt power held it back a bit. Smooth and well balance, but not able to perform as well at this range as the stiffer rods such as the Scott Radian or Hardy Wraith.

 

 


8.  (tie) Echo Base -55.5

Echo Base

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I have been waiting to give Echo a good review since we started doing these Shootouts, nearly a decade ago.  I love their spey rods and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tim Rajeff.  He has been apart of bridging a huge gap to offer fly equipment to the masses, most importantly to people like myself who financially can’t afford a month’s rent on a fly rod.  With that said, a lot of Echo’s single handed rods that we’ve cast in years past have been lackluster and bottom tier.  The Echo Base has broken that mold and has done it at a price that is incomprehensible.  At $89.95 everyone that fly fishes should own a Base rod, If nothing else to keep as a back up.  The Base is like picking up Tim Tebow - you don’t really need him but he’s not that bad as a back up and you’re not paying him as much as your star quarterback anyway, so its an ace in the hole. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 

Pretty good in close, have to dump the tip to hit the plate but is pretty accurate.  Lacks the feel you get with the Fenwick Aetos at short range. 

Performance at 45 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 

Nice tight accurate loops off the tip of the rod at this distance lacks the feel again that’d you get with other rods like the Fenwick Aetos or Mystic Reaper but for less than $100 bucks you would be hard pressed to complain about the rods performance.  Would make a great rod for a kid or first time angler. 

Performance at 70 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 

Has the power to get the distance, it did not track quite as well as the Scott Radian or Hardy Wraith but for 1/8th of the price I didn’t really expect it to.  It did maintain nice tight loops and had ample power. 

 

 

 

8. (tie) Fenwick HMG -55.5

Fenwick HMG

buy now

The HMG was a new rod for us to cast in this years shootout. Like it's counter part the Fenwick Aetos, it offered a lot of power.  This rod is what I would call the poor man's Wraith.  It certainly not as good as the Hardy Wraith but it has a lot of the same characteristics for a much lower price.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20 

Lacks the feel that the Fenwick Aetos or Mystic Reaper have at close distance but is very accurate when cast off the tip.  I can barely feel the rod loading, seems like its going to be better at longer distances.

Performance at 45 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 

Much better at this distance, I can really feel the rod come to life with more line in the air.   Line seems to float effortlessly off the tip to the plate.  Tight loops at this distance and the line tracks extremely well with the rod.

Performance at 70 feet: 19 points out of 20 

This is best inexpensive rod for distance!  Feels very similar to the Hardy Wraith at this distance, just heavier in hand.  This would be a great rod If you like fishing heavy nymphs or streamers.

 

 

 

9. R.L. Winston BIIIX - 55

Winston BIIIx

buy now

The Winston BIIIx remains near the top of my list and one of my favorite dry fly rods.   Its not the best all-around rod but it feels great in close and at mid distance. If you are a Winston fanatic and like the aesthetics along with great feel then the BIIIx is your best bet. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20  

This rod has a wonderful feel in my hand, loads perfectly, and has a very light swing weight.  The Loomis NRX and Radian have the upper hand at 25’ though.  But feels nice with a light dry fly.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20  

An absolute treasure to cast and fish at this range.  It was easy to maintain tight loops and accuracy was excellent.  When aiming for the plate I envisioned a pod of rising fish on the Missouri, lets just say the plate didn’t take the dry and run with the same gumption as those big rainbows. 

Performance at 70 feet: 18.5 points out of 20  

The overall power is not quite enough to match the more powerful NRX LP, Scott Radian or Hardy Wraith, all of which threw tighter loops.

 

 

9.  (tie)  St. Croix Legend Elite  -  55

st. croix legend élite

buy now

The Legend Elite remains a great rod at a great price.  It’s not the best rod but its pretty darn good, made here in the USA by the great folks at St. Croix.  I’ve sold a lot of these rods over the years because it’s a rod I continue trust and know will preform well for all anglers.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20 

A softer, more flexible tip a lot like the older Loomis StreamDance GLX rods gives the Legend Elite great feel and accuracy. This light, responsive rod made putting the fly where I wanted it fun and easy.

Performance at 45 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 

Silk smooth with a nice light feel at this distance. Very well balanced with good loop control and impressive accuracy. Not very different in performance than most of the top rods in the shootout it’s just not nearly as light in hand. 

Performance at 70 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 

This rod just doesn’t have the guts and power needed to perform with the Radian, Wraith and NRX LP but it’s still nice and smooth with decent accuracy at 50 to 60’. 


 

 

10.  Thomas And Thomas Spire - 54.5

thomas and thomas spire

buy now

Thomas and Thomas is a company that has had a cult like following for years.  They’ve went silent for a few years with rod production but they have released a few new rods this year.  They sent us the Spire to test as their flag ship rod for 2016.  I was actually impressed with the rod as I haven’t been a fan of Thomas and Thomas rods in the past.  

Performance at 25 feet:  17 points out of 20  

Lacks feel in close and difficult to hit the plate when casting off the tip.  Can hit the plate when dumping the rod.  Great looking rod. 

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20  

Way better at 45’!  Feels smooth but it is different then the other rods we cast.  Feels like the rod lags a bit at first and the power comes in late through the forward cast.  Once you make a few casts with this rod you figure out its sweet spot. 

Performance at 70 feet: 19 points out of 20  

Despite feeling different it certainly has the power to hit the mark at 70’.  It has the power quality of the Hardy Wraith and Scott Radian but not as light in hand.  Also at this distance the lag in power of the rod is extremely noticeable.  It’s tough for me to explain but you don’t feel like your cast is going to hit the plate until your well into the forward cast and then it comes on strong. Kind of like the original Porsche Turbo with big turbo lag.  

 

 

 

11. (tie)  R.L. Winston BIII Plus - 54

winston biii plus

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The R.L. Winston BIII Plus is a big step up from their BIII sx. Unfortunately it’s the sign of the times that these powerful new fast action rods easier to cast at longer distances than they do at the shorter ranges we often fish.  I feel like Winston is on to something moving into producing better fast rods but they still have a few kinks to work out. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20  

Tough to hit the plate in close for a Winston, this is usually where they excel.  This rod feels like early efforts to create a light but powerful rod. 

Performance at 45 feet: 18 points out of 20  

It will hit the plate with a cast off the tip but lacks the famous Winston feel.  I think the BIIIx is more crisp and carries tighter loops to 45’. 

Performance at 70 feet: 18 points out of 20 

Can hit this mark easily, and has a lot of power! Better than the BIIIx at this distance.  This is clearly what Winston was shooting for when designing this rod.  It’s just not quite as good as the other top performers at 70’. 

 

 

 

11.  (tie) Beulah Platinum - 54

beulah platinum

buy now

The Platinum is one of my favorite looking mid-priced fly rods with a clean design with some new school flare on the cork.  I have been really impressed with this series of rods since we discovered them in the 2012 4 weight shootout.  This is a good rod for any one that doesn’t want to break the bank but wants an aesthetically pleasing rod that also performs well. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20  

Great balance and feel. When casting at short distance I could cast right off the tip on the rod and place the yarn where I wanted it.  Really smooth loops that roll out extremely well. 

Performance at 45 feet: 18 points out of 20  

This is the bread and butter distance for the Beulah.  There is still plenty of reserve power left at this distance. I would love to fish this rod with salmon flies in Yellowstone Park.  45’ drifts are all you need to catch fish all day during this hatch.

Performance at 70 feet: 18 points out of 20 

I had to work a little bit more with my hauling to get the distance, but accuracy was never compromised.  It was a little more tiring after casting this distance because the taper is slower than some of the other rods. 

 

 

12.  (tie)  Beulah Guide Series II -53

beulah Guide series 2

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The Guide Series II did not impress me as much as the platinum series rods. I think the slower recovery speed of this rod threw me off.  I know George liked it quite a bit more but I found it to lack power.  I also found myself wondering how well it would preform on a windy day. 

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20  
 Accurate but a little slower, and the recovery on my back cast had me waiting on the rod.  Dry fly enthusiasts and small creek anglers would enjoy this rod at shorter distances.  

Performance at 45 feet:  18 points out of 20  
Nice if there was little wind, but with a hard wind in your face or from the side, there are going to be problems.  

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20  
A better caster, like George or Jamie, can certainly reach 70 feet easily, but I had a lot of difficultly getting this rod reach out this far.  

 

12.  (tie)  Douglas DXF - 53

Douglas DXF

 

buy now

The DXF is another new rod from the guys at Douglas Outdoors.  I thought that it was a pretty good rod at the medium to longer distances.  I really think that Douglas is going to be a big player in the rod market once they get a few minor kinks worked out. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 17 points out of 20   My immediate reaction was it felt stiff into the third section of the rod.   Due to the stiffer tip, I felt that this made it more difficult to get precise, delicate presentations than with the other rods tested.  Accuracy was good but not great.

Performance at 45 feet: 18 points out of 20  Better, but still not great.  This rod is built for an angler that uses a fast casting stroke. After adjusting my casting stroke I was able to control the loops and accuracy better.

Performance at 70 feet: 18 points out of 20  At this distance the DXF feels great and is one of the better rods for hitting the 70’ mark.  The power of the stiffer tip comes into play and I was getting nice tight loops. The rod also tracked extremely well.

 


13. Sage Mod - 52.5

sage mod

buy now

I had really high hopes for the Sage Mod but it was a pure disappointment.  Its a lot like watching RG3.  You know he could have been a great player but the elements just weren’t right for him.  Same with the Sage Mod, they have all the technology to make the best rod on the market, they have a great rod designer, and yet for some reason the rod just really isn’t good when stacked up against the competition.  Its very soft in the middle and the line doesn’t track very well. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20  

The Mod has more feel than a lot of the rods we tested this year at 25’.  It’s fairly accurate when casting off the tip and feels well balanced in hand.   The mid section feels soft even at this distance that takes some getting use to.  

Performance at 45 feet: 17 points out of 20  

Not nearly as good at 45’.  If you were fishing small dries with no wind this rod might preform well.  However add a little cross or head wind and the accuracy diminishes completely.  We had a slight 8 to 10 MPH wind at times while testing these rods, which is a very real world scenario and I couldn’t control the loop and get the fly where I wanted it to go.  

Performance at 70 feet: 17 points out of 20 

Pretty much a joke for me to try and touch the plate at 70’ with the Sage Mod.  I watched as even George and James struggled to get an accurate presentation at this distance.  I really wanted this to be the new z-axis but it was far from it. 

 

 

 

 

 

14.Orvis Recon - 52

Orvis Recon

buy now

The Orvis Recon isn’t a bad rod, however with a lot of new rods at half the price coming in much lighter and less expensive the Recon took a hit.  I’d like to see this rod revamped; lighten it up and given a softer tip. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  17 points out of 20 

This rod just feels heavy, accuracy suffered at short distance mainly because of the stiffness and lack of feel..

Performance at 45 feet:  17 points out of 20 

Getting better but the Recon still feels too stiff.  Also, much heavier in my hand than the top rods in the shootout.  I had to put more effort into my cast to get tight loops with good control.

Performance at 70 feet: 18 points out of 20

Pretty good accuracy but I could not control the loops as well as with the Radian, NRX LP, or Helios 2.

 

 

 

 

 

15. (tie) Scott G2 -51.5

scott G2

buy now

I am a big fan of the Scott G2 in the lighter line series; it is a really fun rod with a lot of feel.  With that being said it leaves a lot to be desired in a five weight.  It seems like this rod is for the niche guy who only wants a soft, dry fly rod... and in that case it would be perfect! 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 17.5 points out of 20 

I’ve always liked the feeling of the Scott G2, especially for short to medium distance work.  A lot of people are put off by the un-sanded blank, and the black up-lock seat, but I think it makes the rod that much more desirable.  The softer action incorporated into this rod allowed me to feel the rod load better, which made casting in close very easy.

Performance at 45 feet: 17 points out of 20  

The G2 cast nice loops at this distance, however it did not have the overall line control of the top rods in our shootout.  This is one of the most fun to fish rods that we tested.  Hook an 18 fish on the Missouri with this rod and your reel will be singing sweet songs of draganomics. 

Performance at 70 feet: 17 points out of 20  

This rod is built for short-range fishing.  The slower cast timing doesn’t develop the line velocity I needed for accurate casting at this distance.  However if you slow it down enough and don’t punch it like Mayweather you might make the distance. 

 

 

 

15. (tie) Redington Hydrogen - 51.5

redingston Hydrogen

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Not bad not great.  Redington has struggled to produce a really great rod ever since the CPX series.  I like the idea behind the brand offering great technology at affordable price but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of companies doing this now and their rods are much better. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 17.5 points out of 20 

Better than the Vapen but that’s not really a complement.  Has a lot of feel and can hit the target but there are a few rods that feel a lot better for the same price. 

Performance at 45 feet: 17 points out of 20

Feels a bit more clunky at 45’ than it did at 25.  The tip feels a little too soft at this distance and my loops were prone to collapsing. 

Performance at 70 feet: 17 points out of 20 

The Hydrogen can hit the 70’ mark but lacks the feel that the Aetos and Reaper have at this distance.  Better put the rod is okay but nothing special. 

 

 

 

 

16. (tie) TFO BVK - 51

temple fork outfitters bvk

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The BVK is a great series of rods!  I use 6 weight BVK’s as guide rods, the 7 is my go to streamer rod (even though I own rods that sell for three times as much) and the 8 is my go to when I saltwater fish (which has become extremely seldom since moving to Montana).  The 5-weight BVK though is really more like a 6 than a 5 which is why it’s so low on my list of rods. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 16 points out of 20

The stiffness hindered the BVK at short range. The rod is nice and light but has very little feel with the #5 line and the accuracy suffered accordingly.

Performance at 45 feet: 17 points out of 20

Once more line was in the air, things got much better. Now I could form nice tight loops with good control. A nice light, crisp rod at this distance.

Performance at 70 feet: 18 points out of 20

At this distance the performance was as good as some of the very best rods. It shows that a guy who can really send a lot of line through the air designed this rod. At long range the BVK felt well balanced and very solid. Great performance here for an inexpensive rod.

 

 

 

16. (tie)  CD XLS-II - 51

CD XLS II

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I knew nothing about the CD brand before casting it in the shootout.  To be frank, I know about the same amount after casting the rods also.  They seem like middle of the road fly rods that could be easily replaced for the money by some of the better rods we’ve tested in the shootout. 


Performance at 25 feet: 17.5 points out of 20 

It feels pretty good in close, real soft and sweet.  Cast well off the tip and would be a good rod for small dry flies at this distance.  Also would be a good option for a longer small stream rod.  

Performance at 45 feet: 17 points out of 20 

Still smooth but you start to notice that any distance greater than 45’  is going to be challenging.  Almost feels more like a stiff four weight than a light five. 

Performance at 70 feet: 16.5 points out of 20 

The XLS is not very accurate at 70’, as a matter of fact my attempts to hit the plate were futile.  The closest I got to the 70’ mark with an accurate tight loop was about ten feet shy of the plate. 

  

17. Limit Creek - 50

 Limit Creek

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Performance at 25 feet: 17 points out of 20  The Limit Creek handled the short-range casts well, but it didn’t feel as smooth as the other good price point rods.  I also had to work a little harder to load the rod at this range, probably because of its stiffer tip.

Performance at 45 feet: 16.5 points out of 20 This rod held tight loops and was fairly accurate. Still not better than the Echo Base or Gloomis Pro 4x.

Performance at 70 feet: 16.5 points out of 20 The Limit Creek had some trouble tracking at this distance, making the angler focus on his stroke and power distribution. For the money either the Fenwick Aetos or HMG would be a better investment.

 

 

18.  Echo 3 - 49.5 

Echo 3

buy now

Echo makes some of the best Spey rods I’ve had my hands on, however with the exception of the Base where the price really shines brighter than the performance I haven’t found a single hand rod I like.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 16.5 points out of 20  

I must cast with a very short stoke at this distance, directly off the tip of the rod to have any accuracy.  I didn’t like how this rod preformed in close. It felt too stiff to place the fly where I wanted it.

Performance at 45 feet: 16.5 points out of 20

 Still required a short stroke but I felt as if I was gaining control at this distance. This rod seems as if it was designed for distance and not short to mid-range fishing.

Performance at 70 feet: 16.5 points out of 20 

 A decent rod at long range but not as good as the Scott, Hardy, or Loomis.  It didn’t feel as accurate as the other good rods at this distance, nor did it track as well.

 

 

 

20. Carbon Pro River Ridge - 49

 Carbon Pro

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The Carbon Pro didn't get me too excited.  Maybe because there were so many better rods at less money.

 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 16.5 points out of 20  This rod was decent in close. Not great but not bad either.  It could hit the target when cast with a flick of the wrist, however this rod did not have as much feel as some of the other less expensive rods.

Performance at 45 feet: 16.5 points out of 20 Again this rod cast fairly good at the mid-range, however it lacked the feel provided by the Aetoes or Reaper.

Performance at 70 feet: 16 points out of 20 Can hit 70 feet, but lacked the control of the HMG, it also required me to double haul harder to hit this distance.

 

 

25. Redington Vapen - 48

Redington Vapen

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The golf grip used on the Vapen has grown on me a lot since its introduction, however the overall feel hasn’t grown on me at all.  Really this rod is a total dog and I hate to say that about someone's hard work. And I have read a lot of hype over the last few years about how certain people love this rod and either they don’t know what a great rod feels like or they are being paid to like it. 

 

Performance at 25 feet: 16 points out of 20 

This rod is too stiff and heavy to have good feel in close. Shifting up to a #6 line might helps but not enough to feel right. 

Performance at 45 feet: 16 points out of 20

Heavy and clunky.  Suprisingly enough it does not track well, even though it is one of the stiffest rods we tested.

Performance at 70 feet: 16 points out of 20  

Finally, with a lot of line in the air, the Vapen comes to life a little bit, however it still doesn’t feel good.  I would rather have a 5, 6 and 8 weight Echo Base for the price of one Vapen.