Going coastal with bassin' gear

Just prior to the Toledo Bend Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, I made a stop in Gulf Shores, Ala., to spend a few days with the people at Anglers Resource (AR). They’re the North American distributors for Fuji rod components and one of my key sponsors.

The plan was to combine a little business with pleasure.

This past year, AR introduced a couple of revolutionary products: Fuji’s new TORZITE guide rings and a unique line of high-end rod blanks called Point Blank. According to AR’s marketing director, Jim Ising, TORZITE is a proprietary material that’s less abrasive, stronger and lighter than SiC, which has long been the industry standard for ceramic guides. Now with TORZITE, they’re planning to raise the bar considerably.

The concept behind Point Blank is equally innovative. By combining a super thin wall construction with a radical taper, the blanks are amazingly light, yet strong. In fact, they are easily the lightest blanks I’ve ever held.

To see how these new products would perform in the field, Ising and I planned to put them to work on some oversized bass … sea bass, that is, also known as redfish or red drum.

Although I’ve caught countless redfish in my life, most have come by sight fishing in super shallow, gin-clear water. As I would soon learn, that would not be the case on this trip.

Sight Unseen

Located at the western tip of Gulf Shores is a long underwater shoal called the Dixey Bar — a world renowned angling destination for giant redfish. The area is also quite scenic. With its sugar sand beaches, emerald green waters and rows of colorful beach cottages, it’s a setting any Chamber of Commerce would be proud to promote.

As we exited the mouth of Mobile Bay, we were greeted by stiff winds and choppy seas. Near the beach were packs of porpoise engaged in an all-out feeding frenzy. Schools of mullet showered the surface in an effort to escape. The show was entertaining, but porpoise don’t eat jigs, so we headed farther from shore in hopes of finding our target species.

The fishing started out slow. Due to a strong sea breeze and a falling tide, the water clarity was less than desirable. But we persevered and eventually got our first bite.

Here's how the new TORZITE guides stack up against SiC -- long the industry standard.

I’d caught bull reds before but it had been a while, and the power of that first fish quickly reminded me that I was a long way from boat-flipping 2-pounders on my local lake.

After a brutal, 10-minute battle, I finally pulled the big red boatside. It easily exceeded 40 inches in length, and its girth, too, was impressive. A few quick pics later, we released the fish and moved back to the bar for another drift.

Using a jig of my own design (a 1/4-ounce Hildebrandt Drum Roller), we dragged the miniature swimbaits against an undertow in less than 4 feet of water. Almost instantly, our rods doubled over. That’s when things got really fun!

Picture this: Two grown men in a small bay boat, bouncing around in a 2-foot chop on a slippery deck, drags singing while lines are crossing.

You get the idea.

By the time we got our fish to the boat, we could see they looked like litter mates — both the same size and really big!

This same scenario played out several more times — to the point that we both became exhausted. That's when we decided to call it a day and head in for a late lunch.

Test Results

To its credit, the TORZITE material easily handled the scorching runs of each fish tugging against 15-pound braid. The blanks performed flawlessly, as well. When you’re fighting 35-pound fish on bass-size tackle, that’s asking a lot. And after witnessing how these new products performed, I can’t wait to spread the word at this year’s ICAST show.

The Point Blank rod blanks are easily the lightest I've ever held.

Sanctioned by ASA, ICAST is an annual event where manufacturers showcase their newest products. Buyers, reps, media and even many of the pros attend. It’s a week-long event creating tremendous buzz and anticipation for all who attend, and those companies who do their homework usually find it hugely rewarding.

Next time I’ll tell you about a unique opportunity for vendors to demonstrate their newest products ahead of the show in a unique outdoor venue. 'Til then, stay tuned!

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