#5 Hardy Zephrus 9 foot #8 $689.00
The Zephrus is a new rod from Hardy. This rod replaces the ProAxis in Hardy’s saltwater series. I immediately liked this rod when I saw and cast it at ICAST last July. It is lighter and more responsive than the Proaxis. I liked the color too – a pleasing blue with dark blue wraps. Like the Proaxis and older Zenith rods, this rod is built in Korea but designed in England by my friend Howard Croston – one of the best casters and anglers around. This is a fast action rod with a powerful butt and mid-section and a lighter, softer tip. A good-sized full wells cork grip is used and the reel seat is a gray anodized aluminum double lock, uplock seat with an attractive blue graphite insert that matches the rod. The guides are two wire recoil stripping guides with the rest large diameter flexible nickel/titanium snake guides. About the only gripe I have here is the fact that they used way too much epoxy coating on the wraps. In contrast if the Orvis Helios 2 wraps finish is a 9 out of 10, these are about a 4. Howard, tell the crew they can do better. Frankly I expected this rod to turn in a better performance after my first introduction to it last summer. But in our Shootout, there was no question - both the Meridian and the NRX blew it away.
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 35 feet: 19 points out of 20
About like the NRX at short range but with a lighter swing weight. Accuracy was good but not great. The Meridian was far better in both feel and accuracy.
Performance at 60 feet: 19.5 points out of 20
Excellent accuracy. Tracks very well. Only the NRX and Meridian were better.
Performance at 80 feet: 19 points out of 20
Again, a solid performance. It was easy to form nice tight loops at long range and it handles the wind well. Still I have to give the edge to both the Meridian and NRX.
Performance at 100 feet: 19 points out of 20
No problem! Tight loops and very smooth. FAR better than the Helios 2.
#5 Hardy Zephrus 9’#8 $689 77/80
I had some of the highest hopes for the Hardy Zephrus, seeing how Hardy has been producing some of my most favorite rods of all time (the Hardy Zenith 9’#5, Hardy Artisan 9’#5, Hardy Wraith 9’#5, Zenith 8’6”#4 and Zephrus 8’6”#4). I thought the Zephrus SWS 9’#8 was a really good rod, but something held it back from being a great rod like my all time favorites.
The Zephrus felt very light in hand and was very smooth up to 60 feet. Like the Orvis H2, the Zephrus is an excellent in-close rod. For me, it took more effort to get this rod to perform beyond 60 feet compared to the Meridian (who’s deflection is surprisingly less stiff) or the rods that placed above it. I think if Hardy beefed up the backbone of this rod but kept the nice soft/fast tip they’d have a winner. I do like this rod a lot more than the ProAxis 4 pc, which was much heavier and stiffer. If you already own a ProAxis you might still consider picking up a Zephrus 8-weight. With both of those rods in your boat you would have all your bases covered.
The Zephrus is a sharp looking rod. The titanium recoil stripping guides are similar to the NRX and the light wire titanium snake guides are similar to the Meridian. The reel seat looks classy and without any extra cutouts will be very good for cleanup at the end of the day. The cork grip is top quality and the perfect size.
I wish Hardy had put the same saltwater components on the Wraith, which feels like it is significantly more powerful (yet still feels very light in hand). I think Hardy missed an opportunity here because the Wraith 9’#8 feels like the better rod, but unfortunately due to the smaller guides is unusable for nearly all saltwater situations. Maybe Hardy can make a running change to the Wraith’s components, which would make for another great rod...
Performance at 35 feet: 19.5 points out of 20 Light, smooth, accurate, great feel. Very much like the Orvis H2 and Scott Meridian. The more I cast it the more I like it!
Performance at 60 feet: 19.5 points out of 20 Still great feel matched with good power. This rod feels very balanced at this distance, although I’m not quite able to get the same accuracy out of it as the Meridian, NRX, CCGLX, or St. Croix Legend Elite.
Performance at 80 feet: 18.5 points out of 20 Finally I’m feeling like this rod is a touch power depraved. Although I’m not tailing as bad as the H2, Mystic, Imperial or Impact, I really have to concentrate on my timing to make an accurate cast.
Hit the Hun? 18.5 points out of 20 Yes, but for me not every cast. This rod doesn’t give me as much confidence out long, which is where the Wraith excels.
Capt. Jamie Allen:
#7 (tie) Hardy Zephrus SWS
Both of these rods (G. Loomis CCGLX and Hardy Zephrus) don’t lack in power. They will handle heavy wind well but they both feel on the heavy side. Where they didn’t shine was in accuracy. Maybe over lining would help that.
Capt. Skip Zink:
#4 (tie) Hardy Zephrus 57.5/60
Slightly heavy, good power, 100ft cast made easy.
#4 Hardy Zephrus $689 76.5/80
Feels heavy in my hand - good power at all distances.