5 weight shootout

Josh Green (JG)'s Comments 

 

 

Unfortunately I was in Washington state the day the rest of the crew were casting.  Upon my return we still had the rods so I decided to cast as many as I could and give you my impressions.  Here's my list and how I stacked the rods I was able to cast.

Josh Green Performance only 5 weight shootout

 

#1.  G. Loomis NRX L.P.  - 60/60

G.Loomis NRX LP

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It’s hard to beat the way this rod feels in hand.  It’s light, crisp, balanced, and attractive.  It comes in two colors, a solid emerald green and grey with blue wraps.  George really likes the green but I like the blue one the best. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:   20 points out of 20

At 25 feet the LP (light presentation) tip really makes this a great rod to cast.  Flex the tip and let the cast go, it’ll land right where you want it with excellent control.

Performance at 45 feet:   20 points out of 20

Once you get enough line out to flex the rest of the rod the NRX LP really comes to life.  It is accurate every time, light so you know that you have control and it gives the angler a great sense of what’s happening at the end of your line.  If your fishing is anything like mine, most of your casts will be right there around the 45 foot mark.  This rod is any excellent tool to fish just about anything you can think of and mid-range casts are where I think most people will appreciate it the most.

Performance at 70 feet:   20 points out of 20

That’s not to say that at longer ranges like our 70 foot test distance the NRX LP doesn’t do very well.  It still has fantastic power, excellent accuracy, and great sensitivity to keep you connected with your fly even at long ranges. 

I also think it should be said that the G. Loomis rods are some of the most durable out there.  I can use them and abuse them and they hold up better than anything else I’ve ever fished.

 

 

#2.  Hardy Wraith   - 59.5 /60

Hardy Wraith

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This rod was an odd one for me, after the first cast I was ready to write a bad review on it.  However, after a few casts I got used to how light the rod is, (its extremely light) and it became a real performer.  Because of how light the rod is the feel is outstanding and gives the Wraith fantastic accuracy.  In terms of in hand feel, power, and accuracy this is an outstanding rod in every category I can think of. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

At our shortest test distance my initial thought was to put this rod in the “left pile,” (the ones I didn’t like).   After a few casts I got used to it and it seemed like a light switch turned on.  At 25 feet it’s a little fast to be perfect but its darn close.  Tip casting is easy and accuracy is fantastic.

Performance at 45 feet:   20 points out of 20

At 45 feet the Wraith is a prefect rod.  Its concise, accurate, and tight, without a doubt my favorite rod at mid ranges.  The rod has enough flex to load deeply apply power and unload with lots of line speed without making you feel like you worked very hard to get it and because it’s so light you’ll be making those laser casts all day without wearing yourself out. 

Performance at 70 feet:   20 points out of 20

The Wraith really performs at 70 feet and beyond as well, it was one of the easiest rods in the test for me to pick up at 45 feet and lay down again at 70 with out false casting.  The Wraith has a lot of power.  Accuracy and feel are still great at long distance and the rod doesn’t get bogged down with having a lot of line out. 

 

#3.  Loop Opti Stream  -  59/60

Loop Opti-stream

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The Loop Opti Stream is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated rods ever made.  I think that everyone should have one of these rods.  It might lack just a little power when throwing bigger streamers and nymphs but if that’s all your doing you’ll be looking at a heavier rod.  I think that the Loop Opti Stream has just the right amount of flex, power, sensitivity, and accuracy, at $532 I think that it’s one of the best bargains in the business.

 

Performance at 25 feet:   20 points out of 20

At 25 feet the accuracy is perfect.  Targets aren’t a huge challenge to hit at 25 feet but you haven’t cast an accurate rod until you’ve picked up the Opti-Stream.  You can feel the rod flexing and working to get your cast just right, which is something that a lot of rods don’t have at short distances.

Performance at 45 feet:   20 points out of 20

At 45 feet accuracy is again the name of the game and the Loop Opti-stream is one of my favorite rods at this distance.  It has the ability to just pick up the line and lay it right back down just where you want it, no false casting, no fuss.  Casting this rod at 45 feet lets the angler know how a rod should feel. 

Performance at 70 feet:   19 points out of 20

The Opti-Stream is still a great rod as you move beyond 45 feet and start to stretch your casts out a little bit, just not quite as good.  It still has all the feel and responsiveness that I like from the shorter ranges, it just lacks some of the power.  I don’t really think that this is all bad.  I feel that some of the 5wts are to powerful for their own good, If you want a rod that can cast articulated streamers you wont be looking at a 5 wt.  For what I would use a 5 -weight for I feel that the Opti Stream is one of the most well rounded well balanced rods on the market. 

 

 

#4.  Tom Morgan Rod Smiths  -  58/60

Tom Morgan Rodsmith

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We were lucky enough to have Tom bring out a couple new rods for us to test this year.  He brought a finished 4pc. 5-weight as well as an unfinished 4pc. 6-weight.  The finished 5-weight is the one in the shootout but I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished 6-weight as this one cast like a dream.  

 

Performance at 25 feet:   20 points out of 20
At 25 feet the 5-weight from Tom Morgan Rodsmiths was amazing.  I can't thing of one thing I didn’t like about the rod for short range targets.  It has a buttery smooth action and is supremely accurate in close.

Performance at 45 feet:   20 points out of 20

At 45 feet the rod continues to be dead on accurate.  Its got the power to make these casts with ease and it makes you look good and feel good while you’re doing it.  Casts from 25-50 feet are the bread and butter for this rod.

Performance at 70 feet:   18 points out of 20

At 70 feet you notice that the rod is not as powerful as some of the others on the market but its still smooth and with some concentration the Morgan still delivers the goods without much fuss.  

 

 

 

#5.  Scott Radian  -  57.5/60

Scott Radian

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The Radian is one of my all time favorite rods despite my lower scores in close.  It’s got the full wells grip that I prefer, it's light, and it looks great. It really gives the angler the utmost in control and response.
 

Performance at 25 feet:   17.5 points out of 20

The Radian is a little fast for me on the 25 foot mark but is still manageable and can even be delicate if you’re careful.  Still, it was more work for me to hit the plate accurately than the other tops rods which were effortless. 

Performance at 45 feet:   20 points out of 20

The longer ranges are where this rod explodes with energy.  The action is really well suited for casting out to and far beyond 40-50 feet.  The full wells becomes part of your hand and your fly becomes a laser guided missile that’s set out to destroy trout.  Accuracy and range come pretty easy with this rod especially at our middle test distance of 45 feet, tracking is good and it has plenty of reserves to fight the wind and reach longer casts. 

Performance at 70 feet:   20 points out of 20

At 70 feet everything I like about the Radian becomes that much more apparent.  There are many rods that cast to 40 or 50 with out any fuss but the closer you get to the backing knot the more finicky rods get and the more noticeable your mistakes are.  The Radian has the power and accuracy to help even the lowliest caster reach the pockets that the others can't quite get to.

 

 

 

#6.  Hardy Zephrus  - 57/60

Hardy Zephrus

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I liked the look of the Zephrus right off the bat.  It sports a nice green blank with dark olive accent wraps and a very attractive burled green hardwood reel seat that stands out.  Luckily its not only the looks of the Zephrus that Hardy got right.  The rod feels great in hand, balancing out well and giving me a great feel for where my fly was going to land. 

Performance at 25 feet:   19 points out of 20

In close the Zephrus has a soft enough action that the rod still flexes a little bit allowing for a natural casting stroke and really accurate casts.  I noticed that it was really easy to go from one target to another with this rod, its very "point and shootable." 

Performance at 45 feet:   20 points out of 20

At mid-range targets the same accuracy, feel, and ease of presentation is still part of the equation but with more of the rod working for the caster, you really get a feel for how much power the rod has.  It can drive through the wind with ease or delicately present a dry fly.  The Zephrus is a very versatile rod especially at this distance.

Performance at 70 feet:   18 points out of 20

At our longest test range (70 feet) the Zephrus continued to deliver the goods.  It retains a really nice feel at long range and keeps the angler feeling very connected, something that many rods lose at long ranges.  The power of the rod is smooth and easy to handle, there is plenty of it though, making long casts happen without too much trouble. 

 

 

#7.  G. Loomis Pro 4X LP  56.5/60

G. Loomis Pro4xLP

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The Pro 4X LP is a great rod, especially when you consider that it comes in at under $400.00.  It feels a lot like the NRX LP but a little heavier.  Think Michael Jordan for the NRX and Denis Rodman for the Pro 4X LP.
 

Performance at 25 feet:   19 points out of 20

The Pro 4x casts really well at 25 feet.  Like the NRX the soft tip gives the Pro 4X great feel and accuracy in close, I like the Pro 4X just a little bit better than the NRX at this distance. 

Performance at 45 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

At 45 feet this rod performs really really well.  It’s accurate, feels good in my hand and puts the fly exactly where I want it.  This rod’s slightly heavier than the NRX but at this distance I don’t feel that weight is much of a factor yet. 

Performance at 70 feet:   18 points out of 20

At 70 feet the swing weight of the rod becomes a little more noticeable.  Not so much as to really hinder the castability of the rod but enough to notice that it’s got a little more weight than some rods.  It’s got plenty of power to reach the 70 foot mark and beyond.  There may have been the slightest drop in accuracy and feel do to a little extra weight.

 

 

 

#8. Scott G2  18.50  - 55/60

Scott G2

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The Scott G2 can be summed up with one word.  Smooth.  This is a great rod for someone who prefers a more moderate action.  It still has power to reach out but it really performs the best at short to mid range targets.  Its spigot ferrule design enhances the rod's feel.

Performance at 25 feet:   19 points out of 20

At 25 feet you can already feel this rod working for you.  It loads and unloads really well at close range, giving you great accuracy in close and is really easy to lay your fly down gently.

Performance at 45 feet:   20 points out of 20

At 45 feet this rod is fantastic.  If the G2 felt the way it does at 45 feet at every distance it would be the best rod on the market.  I felt really connected to the rod and put the fly right where I wanted it every time.  Line control is phenomenal.

Performance at 70 feet:   16 points out of 20

Moving out to 70 feet pushes this rod a little bit so the accuracy falls off drastically.  If the rod were a touch lighter and more powerful it would perform better at long rangers but I’m sure that would have and adverse affect on how it performed at close range so I’m glad they made it how they did.  How often do you find yourself casting 70 feet to trout anyway?

 

 

 

#9. (tie) Fenwick Aetos  54/60

Fenwick Aetos

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Good finish, good looks, good componentry, good feel, good action, good grip, good price, Ya know what?  The Aetos is a good rod!  Definitely a top contender for rods under $300.00. 
 

Performance at 25 feet:   18 points out of 20

At 25 feet The Aetos is light and crisp feeling.  I was able to be really accurate with this rod and liked the feel of it a lot better than some of the much more expensive rods.

Performance at 45 feet:   18 points out of 20

Moving out to 45 feet the Aetos is still a really nice rod.  It can make nice accurate casts and maintains a nice feel, not to heavy which can be a problem with less expensive rod.

Performance at 70 feet:   18 points out of 20

It loses a little juice at the longest ranges but in general, it has a great action and will make every cast that you’ll find yourself making in the real world.

 

 

 

 

#9. (tie) Thomas & Thomas Spire - 54/60

Thomas and Thomas Spire

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The Spire by Thomas & Thomas is a really pretty rod.  I like the color of the blank, the reel seat and the overall aesthetics of the rod.  It was a little heavy and clunky in close but it has tremendous power and feels great at distance.  This would make a great rod for lake fishermen/float tuber.

Performance at 25 feet:   16 points out of 20

It lacks some feel in close but is accurate enough but this rod was made for other things.

Performance at 45 feet:   18 points out of 20

The Spire really comes into its own at longer distances.  It is really easy to deliver a cast at distance with this rod, it’s like it has turbo charged line shooting abilities.  One of the problems I had with the spire at 45 feet was that it kept over shooting the target.  This rod really loves to go the distance.

Performance at 70 feet:   20 points out of 20

70 feet is this rods comfort zone.  Its got power for days to make the longest casts on the water.

 

 

 

#9. (tie) Orvis Recon  - 54/60

Orvis Recon

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The Recon is a nice rod at a nice price.  There is nothing that is exceptionally good about the rod but there is nothing exceptionally bad.  It’s just a good rod.  It casts pretty well, it feels pretty good, and is well suited and priced to be a mid-range rod. 

Performance at 25 feet:   17.5 points out of 20

At 25 feet the Recon was a little to stiff for me and felt a little bit unresponsive.  It was hard to judge just where your fly was going to land because of the lack of sensitivity.

Performance at 45 feet:   19 points out of 20

Despite being a little off in close Orvis’ Recon was great at the 45 foot mark.  It still lacks a little sensitivity but is accurate and has the power to make longer casts.  I really liked the action of the Recon especially at the mid-range targets and thought that timing my cast was effortless.

Performance at 70 feet:   17.5 points out of 20

I didn’t like the Recon as much at 70 as I did at 45 feet.  It was still a good rod but lost some of the feel again at longer ranges.  It did have plenty of power and was pretty accurate, so was still enjoyable. 

 

 

#9.  (tie) Beulah Guide Series II  - 54/60

Beulah Guide Series II

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The Beulah Guide Series II was a pretty sweet rod and when considering it costs less than $300.00.  A zero "frills" rod, it reminds of of the G. Loomis Classic 2-pc rods that were built to fish, not to impress people with superlative cosmetics.  


Performance at 25 feet:   17 points out of 20

At 25 the rod was just a little too stiff and vague for me.  Hitting the target was not a problem, it's just that I didn't get much feel out of the rod. 

Performance at 45 feet:   19 points out of 20

At 45 feet the rod felt much better and could go head to head with several of the other best mid-priced rods.

Performance at 70 feet:   18 points out of 20

At 70 casting became slightly more cumbersome but still far better than a lot of the rods in this price range. The Guide Series II doesnt have the best feel further out but it does have the power.

 

 

 

 

#9. (tie) Winston BIII Plus  - 54/60

Winston BIII Plus

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Winston gets good marks for going full wells and the aesthetics of a Winston fly rod are always second to none, I think the stamped butt cap is a great touch and love looking at the rods they produce.  The BIII plus is not exception, I think that it’s a great looking rod that has a nice crisp action and a lot of power.  I’m usually not a huge fan of Winston rods, at least as an all-arounder, but this one was pretty nice.
 

Performance at 25 feet:   17 points out of 20

It was a little stiff to get full marks at out 25 foot test distance but it was still castable and accurate.

Performance at 45 feet:   19 points out of 20

At 45 feet you start to get more of the rod working for you and it really comes to life in your hand.  You’ve got great control thanks to the full wells and with the power that the rod has you’ve got a good platform for making powerful, accurate casts. 

Performance at 70 feet:   18 points out of 20

At 70 feet the BIII Plus continues to perform. I felt pretty connected with the rod even at our farthest test range.  It’s not a very forgiving rod, if I lost my concentration it was easy to blow a loop or to throw a tailing loop but when you’re on it so is the rod.

 

 #9. (tie) Mystic Reaper   - 54/60

mystic reaper

 

buy now

The Mystic Reaper is another great inexpensive rod.  I really liked the wood insert and silver  uplock reel seat, complimentd by the silver widing check and highlight wraps.  Although George didn't really like the grip, I liked it as it allowed me to choke up on the grip comfortably.   

Performance at 25 feet:   18 points out of 20

25 feet was a good distance for the Mystic.  It's blanced action and feel allowed gentle strokes off the tip of the rod giving me tight, accurate loops.

Performance at 45 feet:   18 points out of 20

The Mystic perfromed equally smooth at mid-distance.  This would make a great dry fly rod for anyone fishing smaller streams or just for anyone who might prefer more of a medium action.

Performance at 70 feet:   18 points out of 20

Even at 70 feet I could feel the Mystic's smooth flex come through.  While it didn't have the power of the Hardy Wraith, Radian, or Loomis NRX, it still got it close to the target and was enjoyable to cast most of the time. 

 

 

 

 

#10. Orvis Helios II  - 53.5

Orvis H2

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The Helios II by Orvis is a really attractive rod.  It’s really light and feels pretty good in the hand. I just wasn’t super stoked on the grip shape.  If it were a little narrower in the middle and wider at the top I think I would feel more connected with the rod. 

Performance at 25 feet:   18 points out of 20

Despite an off feeling with the grip 25 foot casts were good.  The rod is really light and very sensitive even at close ranges, its just a little stiff for the close game.  If the tip were softer you’d get a lot more flex out of the rod and probably a lot better performance. 

Performance at 45 feet:   18.5 points out of 20

At 45 feet the Helios II was a great rod.  I liked it most at the middle ranges and found that the rod felt really balanced.  The rod just works at this distance, I even forgot about the odd grip.

Performance at 70 feet:   17 points out of 20

I really didn’t like this rod at the 45-50 foot mark.  My accuracy really fell off and I just couldn’t get the rod to do what I wanted.  It had strange timing for me and seemed like I had to put way much energy into the rod. 

 

 

#11. R.L. Winston BIIIx  -  53/60

Winston BIIIx

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Like the Winston BIII Plus, the BIIIx score big in terms of good looks.  With top of the line cork, a boxelder burled wood insert, silver anodized up-lock reel seat and an incredible emerald green finish the BIIIx just looks awesome.  Even the details like the hand writing on the rod or serial numbers on each section are beautifully done.  While the BIIIx seems like the perfect dry fly rod, I wish it had a little more power for all-around fishing which often includes throwing a nymph or two under a bobber and the occasional streamer.

Performance at 25 feet:   18 points out of 20

At 25 feet the Winston BIIIx had a ton of feel, much like the Scott G2.  Still, even at this distance I struggled to put the yarn exactly in the middle of the plate everytime.  It seemed like the line didn't track quite as well as the best rods that also had great feel at 25 feet. 

Performance at 45 feet:   18 points out of 20

Again a solid performance, the BIIIx was smooth and threw nice, easy to cast loops.  Again I struggled with accuracy and dialing my cast.  It seemed like most of my casts were left up to chance rather than the input my casting stroke gave the rod.

 Performance at 70 feet:   17 points out of 20

Here's where the BIIIx's softer tip started to hurt it's overall performance.  It's too soft of an action for this distance, and even in the slight breeze this rod was difficult to control.   

 

 

 

 

#12 Sage Bolt  - 52.5/60

Sage BOLT

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The new Bolt by Sage is a nice rod.   The action is great and it has a lot of power with accuracy.  If you’re familiar with Sage’s lineup of rods in the past you may recognize that it feels a lot like the XP.  It could be better though if it were just a little lighter.  If this rod lost a few ounces I would love it.  I feel like the extra weight kills a little bit of the feel and sensitivity of the rod but that’s my only problem with it. 

Performance at 25 feet:   17 points out of 20

At 25 feet The Bolt casts pretty well.  You can feel the rod bend, load, and unload it just feels heavy and a little unwieldy.  Its good enough at this distance just a bit of a clunker.

Performance at 45 feet:   18 points out of 20

I really like the Bolt at this range.  It gets out to 45 feet without a problem and does so with great accuracy and boat loads of power.  The weight, which is my biggest problem with the rod, is not much of a factor here.  The rod just feels right at mid distances.

Performance at 25 feet:   17.5 points out of 20

At 70 feet I couldn’t quit thinking about the weight of the rod.  The Bolt still has good power and accuracy but because of how heavy it is the feel goes out the door.  It kind of just feels like you’re guessing about where the fly will land.   

 

#13. (tie) Fenwick HMG  -  51/60

Fenwick HMG

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If you like Fenwick Aetos you'll like the HMG as well.  The HMG is slightly more forgiving than the Aetos but it also feels a bit less responsive.  It would be an excellent choice for someone starting out and a great rod to learn with.  For expert or advanaced anglers this rod will seem a little bland both in terms of looks and performance. 

Performance at 25 feet:   17 points out of 20

The HMG was consistently accurate for me in close for me although it was slightly vague in feel.

 Performance at 45 feet:   17 points out of 20

At 45 feet the HMG wasnt great but it wasnt terrible either.  I was getting good line speed when I double hauled and accuracy was good as long as I was adding a haul.

Performance at 70 feet:   17 points out of 20

At this distance the HMG wasn't nearly as good for me as others. It just doesnt have the power.

 

 

 

 

 

#13. (tie) Temple Fork Outfitters BVK -  51/60

TFO BVK

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Temple Fork Outfitters have made a good nitche in the market for making good performing rods at a reasonable price.  The BVK series embodies those same characteristics, but of all the BVK models, the 5-weight might be the most in need of a re-make in order to make it a great all-around rod.

Performance at 25 feet:   16 points out of 20

At 25 feet the BVK feels more like a broomstick than a fishing rod.  It is both heavy in the hand and the action is far too stiff to allow me to dial in any kind of accuracy.  

Performance at 45 feet:   17 points out of 20

At 45 feet the BVK starts to feel a lot better.  Having some extra line in the air helps the rod to flex more, and while the rod isn't as light in hand as others, at least my loops are tight and end up pretty close to the plate.

Performance at 70 feet:   18 points out of 20

Much better at the long bomb, the BVK feels like it is more in it's element.  I could see this rod being a good guide rod where lots of split shot and mending is required.  Power for sure, but I don't get the feel that the best rods offer along with their power.

 
 

 

#13. (tie) Douglas DXF - 51/60

Douglas DXF

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Let me start off by saying I own a Douglas DXF 590 and after fishing it I have a few things I really like about it and I found some spots that could use improvement.  The DXF is a really good looking rod at a great price.  I really like the color of the blank and reel seat and the wraps really finish it off nicely.  It was a good performer for me and I noticed that I liked it better if I choked up on the grip a little bit.   

Performance at 25 feet:   16 points out of 20

At 25 feet the DXF left a little to be desired.  It was a little stiff and it just felt unresponsive.  I had to guess where my casts were going to land but its light enough and the grip works. 

Performance at 45 feet:   18 points out of 20

At 45 feet I like this rod a lot, it did have an interesting feel though.  It had a lot of power and the accuracy was good I just didn’t get a lot of feedback out of it.  It reminded me a lot of riding a pair of really damp skis.

Performance at 70 feet:   17 points out of 20

At 70 feet the DXF is still a really good performer.  It doesn’t have the ability to pick up and lay right back out like some rods but throw a haul in there, get some line speed going and it’s not too much of a chore to throw tight accurate loops.

 


#14. (tie) Sage Mod  - 48/60

Sage MOD

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First of all let me say that the Mod looks fantastic, its got a really attractive bright green blank with slightly darker wraps, nice light cork and a nice wooden reel seat.  

Now for how it casts… The Mod would be great if your longest cast was 30 feet and your largest fly a size 14.  It just has too weak of a mid section to be very effective beyond that. 

Performance at 25 feet:   18 points out of 20

At 25 feet it’s a good enough rod.  At really short ranges it has great feel, flex, balance, and decent accuracy.  I liked it a lot at shorter distances and think that if you’re a fisherman who prefers fishing things like the small spring creeks here in the Valley that this rod would be a good choice for you.

Performance at 25 feet:   16 points out of 20

At 45 feet the odd action really makes itself known.  You can feel the mid section bend way too deeply in comparison to the tip.  It feels like the rod is going to fold in half.  This hurt tracking and accuracy in a bad way.  It’s the only rod in the shootout that I’ve cast, where getting it past 40-50 feet was a chore.

Performance at 25 feet:   14 points out of 20

At 70 feet the Mod exhibted the same problems at 45 feet, even more magnified and apparent.  

 

 

 

 

#14 (tie) Redington Vapen  - 48/60

Redington Vapen

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At first glance the Vapen is a kind of cool Darth Vaderesque type of rod but pick it up and it immediately turns into a clumsy Dark Helmet.  The first thing you’ll notice is that the swing weight is really heavy, making in hand feel terrible and sensitivity almost nonexistent.  The next thing that I noticed about the Vapen was that the black rubberized grip, the one that looked cool walking up to the rod, feels really cheap once you get a hold of it and while it does stick to the hand well I don’t think that it will be a durable enough material over time. 

Performance at 25 feet:   16 points out of 20

At 25 feet the Vapen is too heavy to be sensitive and too stiff to be delicate.  It will cast the distance but what rod won't. 

Performance at 45 feet:   16 points out of 20

At the mid range, 45 feet, the Vapen’s problems of weight and insensitivity are even worse.  A caster can get the fly to 45 feet but the rod just doesn’t have the sensitivity to be accurate.

Performance at 70 feet:   16 points out of 20

At 70 feet.  Well, at least it got there.  Consider rotator cuff surgery after a day on the water with this rod.