For bass fishermen, it sometimes seems that rod building has evolved into the highest levels of rocket science, because there's nothing simple about it anymore. Not only has the composition of our favorite sticks changed dramatically in the past decade, so has the way the resins and glass/graphite/titanium are mixed. Every year new terminology is invented just to describe these changes.
Most bass fishermen don't pretend to understand the technicalities of how their favorite fishing stick was created. A rod becomes a favorite for a lot of reasons, most of which occur on the water rather than in a lab.
Still, it is the lab work that in the end allows a rod to perform to an angler's particular needs, and at this year's ICAST Show in Las Vegas, a lot of intense lab work for the past year was highly evident. It's hard to imagine, for example, a flipping stick that weighs just 3 ounces, but it's here, and it's a beauty. Remember the earliest titanium rods just a handful of years ago? Those first ones were stiff, heavy and expensive, and few thought they'd survive. Now, the lab techs have figured out how to integrate titanium with graphite — producing rods that will unquestionably become personal favorites on the water in the months ahead.
There's more, too. Here's a quick look at the new rods you'll be seeing soon:
1. AIRRUS RODS (www.rodsbyairrus.com; 702-395-2173) — Airrus won the Best of Show award in the rods category at ICAST for three consecutive years, and although the award went to another company this year, Airrus has plenty for bass fishermen to look at in the N-SYNC series. The eight rods (four casting, four spinning) provide increased sensitivity because the blank itself and the grip are a continuous wind. Construction innovations also have made the rods stronger, pound for pound, than titanium or steel. The rods feature black sapphire guides, which company President Ken Whiting says are lighter, stronger and even resistant to saltwater corrosion.
2. ALL STAR (www.allstarrods.com; 800-347-3759) — New here is the Platinum Rod series, which is designed with thinner-than-ever blanks and fast tapers, making the rods so sensitive you can feel a bass even before he hits your jig or lizard. Other features in the nine casting and seven spinning models include Fuji Alconite guides, graphite reel seats and premium cork handles. Of particular interest are the slightly swelled handles on the casting rods that provide better hand comfort. The rods are technique-specific and include casting sticks for jerkbaits, topwaters, spinnerbaits and others; the spinning rods offer the same, but also have special drop shot and wacky worm models.
3. AMERICAN RODSMITHS (www.americanrodsmiths.com; 713-466-7849) — If you're truly serious about bass catching, plan to look closely at the H3 Titanium series here. These rods feature titanium, graphite and carbon fibers blended throughout the rod blank, not just in certain sections. What does that mean? It's an 87 million-modulus blank that's light, strong and extremely sensitive, but without the brittleness high modulus usually brings. The handles are designed so no matter how you hold the rod, you're touching the rod blank, too. Five baitcasters are offered, ranging from a 6-6 topwater to a 7-foot Carolina rig model, along with a 6-9 spinning rod. If you're planning on fishing saltwater, there are also seven additional models designed for trout and redfish.
4. CAMOCREEK (www.camo creekrods.com; 888-917-2266) — The first thing you realize when you see a CamoCreek rod is that you'd better not lean it against a tree or put it on the ground, because then you won't see it again. The rod finish is a camouflage pattern rather than the traditional black or brown. The rods themselves feature intermediate modulus graphite construction and high performance guides. Bass fishermen will be interested in the two Okeechobee series baitcasters that have fast actions and are available in medium to extra-heavy power. A total of 10 rods are available. There also are six rods offered in the Okeechobee spinning series, all with fast actions and in either medium or medium-heavy powers.
5. DAIWA (www.daiwa.com; 562-802-9589) — New here are the Team Daiwa-S rods, a series of nine technique-specific baitcasters designed for topwaters and twitch baits, worms and jigs, spinnerbaits and crankbaits, and flipping and pitching. Contoured reel seats and cork grips, exposed-blank handles, and HSD graphite construction are standard. If you're a crankbait user, the TD-5701MRB should suit your needs; it's a medium power, regular action 7-footer that will handle lures ranging from 1/4 to 3/4 ounce in weight.
Another new series, the Procaster-A rods, includes eight spinning and seven baitcasters as well as a 7-6 heavy flipping/pitching stick. These are IM-7 graphite rods with Fuji aluminum oxide guides and cork grips.
6. EAGLE CLAW (www.eagleclaw.com; 720-941-8700) — This year Eagle Claw targeted the rod/reel combo market, introducing its Premium Pak combinations that include a 5-6 high modulus graphite rod with cork handle, a choice of spinning or spincast reels, a selection of terminal tackle, and a jar of dough bait.
7. G.LOOMIS (www.gloomis.com; 360-225-6516) — If you haven't learned the technique of drop shotting by now, you're way behind, but you can catch up quickly with the new G.Loomis GLX 820S rod, a 6-10 featherweight rated for lines of 4 to 8 pounds and lures up to 3/8 ounce. If you're already a drop shotter, but are having trouble detecting fish at deeper depths, this one will help eliminate that problem.
Smallmouth fans will like the new Bronzeback 822S GLX graphite rod, too. It also comes in at 6-10 with an extra fast tip and stiffer butt that will let you handle lines up to 12 pounds and fish up to your wildest dreams.
8. KISTLER (www.kistlerrods.com; 281-259-8033) — Without question, one of the most talked-about rods at ICAST this year was the Kistler Helium 2 LTX rod. You may remember how light the Helium LTA's were that have been around for several years now; the LTX's are even lighter — a flipping stick, for instance, weighs in at just 3 ounces. Nothing is sacrificed in strength, durability or sensitivity. There are two crankbait rods, three for spinnerbaits, two topwaters and five for worms and jigs. Actions are medium, medium-heavy and heavy, and tips are fast — you have to fish one to believe it. Additionally, there are two 6-9 spinning rods in the Helium 2 LTX series, in medium and medium-heavy actions.
9. LAMIGLAS (www.lamiglas.com; 800-325-9436) — All new here is the XMG 50 series, designed over the past three years for anglers who are absolutely serious about their bass fishing. Small diameter blanks with high modulus graphite construction, American Tackle titanium guides, and Lamiglas' own graphite handles are standard. The XMG 50 series includes five casting and six spinning rods; all the baitcasters are either 7 feet or 7-2 with fast or extra-fast actions. The spinning rods range in length from 6-6 to 7-2 and likewise have fast or extra-fast actions.
10. LUCKY CRAFT (www.lucky craft.com; 714-241-8484) — This year the Japanese lure maker added the LC-Magnum series of rods to its lure lineup. The series is designed to let you fish Pointers or a Sammy more effectively. Included are seven casting rods ranging from 6 to 8 feet, medium to medium-heavy, but fast tips.
11. OKUMA (www.okumafishing.com; 909-923-2828) — New here is the EVX Specialty Rod series, a collection of 15 spinning and casting sticks designed for specific bass techniques, including drop shotting, crankbaiting, worming and flipping. All have IM-8 graphite construction, Pac Bay guides, Fuji reel seats and cork grips. Actions range from medium-light to extra heavy and all have lifetime warranties.
Okuma also offers the new Monterra series of rods featuring OC9 Carbon Matrix construction, Fuji reel seats and aluminum oxide guides. A total of 20 spinning and casting models are available.
12. PFLUEGER (www.pfluegerfish ing.com; 800-347-3759) — This year when you think Pflueger rods, think reels, too, because the company is offering some exceptional rod/reel combinations. One that should interest bass anglers is the Purist Low Profile Combo, which features a Purist low profile reel matched with either a 6-6 medium or medium-heavy high modulus graphite rod with a cork handle and touch-through reel seat for added sensitivity.
Also available is a Criterion Low Profile Combo, which includes a 6-6 medium-heavy action IM-6 graphite rod matched with a Criterion baitcasting reel.
13. PINNACLE (www.pinnaclefish ing.com; 803-794-8521) — In the Scion Titanium Graphite HIC 97 series, Pinnacle offers 16 technique-specific rods designed for drop shots, spinnerbaits, flipping, floating worms and just about any other way you want to catch a bass, and they'll make it easy for you. The blanks feature High Intensity Carbon 97 cross-woven with titanium to create a strong, light and ultrasensitive rod. Add Fuji Concept Guides and reel seats along with a premium grade cork grip and you have a package bass fishermen can't resist.
14. POWELL PRODUCTS (www.powellco.com; 415-382-9745) — For the past 95 years, the Powell Company has been making world-class fly rods, but this year they're entering the bass rod market. Top Western BASS pro Gary Dobyns is helping design the 26-rod MAX series, which includes 18 technique-specific baitcasters and eight spinning sticks. The key feature of these rods is fast action tips, which means more accurate casting and increased sensitivity; of interest to many will be two glass cranking rods. Fuji Concept guides and reel seats are standard, as is an unconditional lifetime guarantee.
15. QUANTUM (www.quantumfish ing.com; 918-836-5581) — For years, Quantum has quietly been making special, highly customized rods for its bass tournament pros, and this year those rods are at last being offered to the public. Known as the Tour Edition PT Signature series, the 11 rods include two each by Kevin VanDam, Shaw Grigsby and Gary Klein, along with individual specialty sticks by Gerald Swindle, Dean Rojas, Randy Howell, Mike Wurm and Paul Elias.
If you recognize these pros, you also know what the rods will be like: Elias has a 7-6 medium action deep cranking rod; Mike Wurm's is a 7-foot medium action spinning rod for drop shotting and finesse worming; and of course, KVD's two are medium/heavy spinnerbait rods. All feature HSX62 graphite blanks (one of Klein's is E-Glass), Fuji Alconite Concept guides and cork handles.
16. ROGUE RODS (www.rogue rods.com; 877-352-7624) — Serious bass fishermen should carefully consider Rogue's new 7-11 series of seven rods (including a flipping stick), each of which is 7 feet, 11 inches in length. All are fast actions, while power ratings range from light to medium-heavy. If you've been looking for a slightly longer rod that will get your crankbaits a little deeper or give you a better hookset, these are the ones to try.
17. SHAKESPEARE (www.shake speare-fishing.com; 800-347-3759) — Among the new rods here is the Agility series, featuring a remarkable 38 different spinning and casting models. All offer IM-8 graphite construction for light weight and sensitivity, stainless steel/titanium guides, cork handles and blank-through-handle construction. In addition, the Agility casting models have a Soft-Touch coating on the reel seat that makes them more comfortable to hold.
The Synergy Supreme IM-6 graphite rods have new cosmetics that include a high gloss finish with holographic labeling. Features include IM-6 graphite blanks with stainless steel guides and cork handles. Four casting and 14 spinning models are offered.
18. SHIMANO (www.shimano.com; 949-951-5003) — It's been a busy year for Shimano, as the company has redesigned some series and added new models to several others. The Compre series of spinning and casting sticks is one that's been re-done — there are new actions and power curves that make these technique-specific rods even better than in the past. Among the 43 spinning and 12 casting choices available, you'll find exactly what you need to throw jigs, crankbaits, topwaters, jerkbaits and anything else a finicky largemouth could want. These are IM-8 graphite rods with Fuji Concept Hardloy guides, Grade A cork handles, and featuring exposed blank reel seats on some models.
For spinning fans, two new rods have been added to the Stimula graphite composite line-up. These include a 6-foot medium power, fast action rod and a 6-6 medium power model; either can be used with soft plastics.
19. SNAG PROOF (www.snagproof.com; 800-762-4773) — It had to happen sooner or later. Snag Proof's head honcho, Harry Ehlers, now offers a rod to use when fishing his world-famous frogs. Designed by BASS pro Mark Rizk, two models are available; a 7-2 heavy action Frog Stick and a lighter action 6-10 model (when you need to imitate Rizk's famous "walk the frog" retrieve). High modulus graphite blanks, titanium carbide guides and Portuguese cork handles are standard.
20. ST. CROIX (www.stcroixrods.com; 715-762-3226) — Among the new rods offered by this well-known Wisconsin rod maker are seven new models in its Legend Tournament Bass series. Among them are the Small Cranker, a 7-foot medium power stick designed for those little bitty crankbaits everyone throws these days; the Big Cranker, a 7-foot medium-heavy stick for those bigger crankbaits that really do catch bass; and the Swim Bait, a 7-9 fast-tipped rod that everybody will be using when they discover how good real swimbaits really are. In the spinning category, the series has added Shakin', Split Shot and Tube rods. All feature high modulus SC graphite, Fuji Alconite Concept guides and reel seats, and cork handles, as well as the St. Croix lifetime limited warranty.
In other St. Croix news, the Premier series of casting and spinning rods have been redesigned. They're lighter and faster, and feature a new gloss black color. The full series includes more than 60 models, so there's something for every bass angler here. Even if you don't end up buying a St. Croix rod, the catalog is worth reading.
21. GARY YAMAMOTO (www.baits.com; 800-645-2248) — If you fish soft plastics, these rods may be what you've been looking for. Designed by Gary Y himself, there are two new 7-foot light and medium action baitcasters, as well as two 7-foot spinning rods with similar actions. High modulus IMX graphite blanks, Fuji SIC guides and Hypalon handles combine to provide power, sensitivity and user comfort. While the world has been throwing his Senkos for the past several years, Yamamoto has quietly been fine-tuning these rods in Bassmaster Tour competition throughout the country.
22. ZEBCO (www.zebco.com; 918-836-5581) — New here is the 33 Platinum Combo, featuring the new 33PL spincast reel along with a 6-2 medium action graphite rod. The 733 Platinum Combo matches a 733 spincast reel with a medium-heavy graphite rod. For young racing fans, the company offers NASCAR Spinning Combos matching a Zebco 33 spincast reel with a 6-foot medium action rod; both rod and reel bear the numbers and color schemes of two of NASCAR's best — Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.