New products target the budget angler
|Photo by CATCH CORMIER|
Of the many new products featured at the recent Southern Fly Fishers Conclave, the most intriguing was the Sage Casting Analyzer. Here, Sage representative Cary Marcus (left) uses it to evaluate Shawn Taylorís cast.
Not sure how Santa will react to this one. At least he wonít have to spend a lot. Many of the rods and reels for 2006 featured at both the recent Fly Tackle Retailers Show in Denver and the Southern Fly Fishers Conclave in Arkansas were in the moderately-priced category.
Leading the way once again was Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO). Acclaimed for their outstanding series of value-priced saltwater rods, theyíve raised the bar again with their new Lefty Kreh Finesse Series.
The Finesse can cast as effectively and accurately at 5 feet as at 65 feet. Casting legends Lefty Kreh and Ed Jaworoski worked with Rick Pope, TFO founder and president, to create a light-presentation rod that casts effortlessly, and delivers smooth, accurate and delicate presentations.
Finesse rods have a deep olive finish and are appointed with rosewood reel seats. They come in 2- to 5-weight models, all four-piece, for $179.
I had the opportunity to cast the 7-foot, 9-inch, 3-weight model at the recent Southern Fly Fishers Conclave in Arkansas. It was everything as advertised. Iíve been saying for years that Korean-made rods such as the TFO may offer excellent workmanship and value, but casting-wise they lack the ďsoulĒ of the best-made American rods.
The Finesse has soul: It casts as well as my Sage Lightline.
With TFO sales red hot, you knew the competition would respond. Last year, Sage introduced the Launch series. Already, the 8-weight model of this $200 rod has become a popular choice for deep-marsh redfishing.
A few years ago, Sage bought Redington, a Korean-sourced maker of rods, reels and apparel. With the purchase, Sage has upgraded the product line and overall quality. Redingtonís new CPS rod is garnering lots of kudos on Internet forums. At $280, this is actually Redingtonís top-of-the-line rod.
In test casts, I found the CPS very fast ó perhaps too fast for my tastes. Make no mistake: This is a rocket launcher! If you fish windy conditions, you should definitely try this rod.
The rest of the Redington line is something you penny-pinchers should take a serious look at. Their Crosswater 8-weight outfit offers a saltwater-capable rod and reel, along with fly line and backing, for $99. Their large-arbor CD series and Brakewater series reels can handle marsh and offshore duties, respectively.
Both are made with anodized barstock aluminum, and offer cork disc drag systems.
The Budget Pioneer
I mentioned TFO was not the first to corner the value-priced, lifetime-warranty market. That distinction belongs to Wisconsin-based St. Croix Rods. For years, their Imperial and Avid series have been at the top of the sub-$200 market.
Last year, St. Croix expanded their offerings in this category by introducing the $99 Premier. The Premier also comes as a complete outfit for about $150.
In 2002, St. Croix introduced their Integrated PolyCurve (IPC) Technology to their premium line of fly rods. I wonít explain what IPC is, rather what it does: It turns a good multipiece rod into one with the smoothness and in-hand feel of a great two-piece rod.
Last year, they added IPC to their mid-range Legend Ultra ($300). I was absolutely floored as to how smooth their 5-piece, 8-weight Legend could cast. It loaded as easily with 15 feet of line as it did with 40 feet of line, a formidable task for a five-piece.
For 2006, theyíve added IPC to their $200 Avid lineup. Theyíve also replaced the longtime popular Imperial series with a new series called the Reign. Neither rod has been available for me to test cast, but as soon as Iíve done so, Iíll give a report.
Competition Heats Up
TFO, Redington and St. Croix arenít alone anymore. In recent years, thereís been a surge of value-priced competition with names such as Echo, Albright and March Brown.
Echoís lineup of $140 rods has been a major competitor the last two years to TFO. For 2006, theyíve added a higher priced series ($210) that offers two tips per rod. The ĎAí tip is for accuracy; itís a moderate action tip. The ĎDí tip is for distance; itís a fast action tip.
In my test casting of a 6-weight model, I found the D tip was indeed faster ó it added about 10 feet more to my longest cast. However, I question whether you need two different tips for a rod. Either you enjoy casting slow or casting fast, but probably not both.
The dominant names among premium rod makers arenít ignoring the value trend. I already mentioned Sage and their Launch series. Diamondback has an outstanding rod series in the Americana ($159), and Scottís V2 series ($179) certainly has its fan base.
But now comes Winston for 2006 with their new $179 Ascent series. This seems so foreign; itís like the word ďWinstonĒ and any amount under $500 are never heard in the same sentence. Also in the lineup is a new Vapor series for $300.
Both cast very well. However, both are Chinese-made rods. When it comes to imports, the Koreans and Europeans are usually a couple notches in quality above the Chinese. Weíll wait and see before making a call on these rods.
Perhaps the most fascinating new item at both shows ó and the one that garnered most attention ó wasnít any rod, reel or other tackle. In fact, you canít even buy this. Itís the Sage Casting Analyzer.
The Casting Analyzer is a gyro device attached to the end of a special rod, for which itís programmed. It feeds a small microprocessor unit that plugs into a Palm Pilot.
The student makes several casts, while the processor gathers data. The processor then does a scientific analysis of both forward and backward cast, including line speed, acceleration (smoothness), velocity vector, casting arc and much more. It then compares them to the ďidealĒ cast. Results are plotted graphically to better assist the student.
This SCA comes as a kiosk that can give the student a printout of results and what he or she needs to improve on. Dealers are ecstatic about the fact thatís itís only available to the specialty fly shops. After losing sales to Internet stores for some years, they finally have a weapon to bring customers back in.
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