Hot Rod Challenge

We test three of the hottest fishing rods available.

I was at Bass Pro Shops recently, staring down a techno-forest of graphite, fiberglass, cork and ceramic rods. Then I did the test shake, waving the rods in swift arcs to try to imagine the castability of each. Then it struck me — in our offices we have a dozen top angling editors, and I could pit them against each other to test-cast my three finalists. The competition was heated — so heated we decided to leave the editors, well, anonymous. How did the rods cast?

We set up each rod with a Quantum Energy ei30PTsB reel and spooled first with 12-pound monofilament Sufix line, and then with 20-pound Berkley Spiderwire. Our casting plug was a five-inch soft plastic jerk bait. Here’s how they stacked up.

Quantum Specks and Reds
Think PGA golf. With the burnt orange finish, you'd think you were using a Phil Mickelson driver — and indeed, this limber rod drives feathery to chunky lures deep into the wind. Action is ideal for flicking out live bait or scented plastics — and imparting the perfect action. High end, sporty power.

Action: Light/Fast
Length: 7'0" one-piece
Guides: American Tackle Titan with titanium for max corrosion resistance
Handle Material: Cork with Fuji DPS seat
Line Weight Rating: 8 to 17
Lure Weight Rating:
1/16 to 5/8
Average Casting Distance w/Mono: 93'4" w/Braid: 101'8"
Bottom Line: $219.95; quantumfishing.com

Shimano Teramar Southeast Inshore Series
Darn near custom look and feel with graphite construction so deep, lustrous and shiny — think of the eyes of your first high school date. The rod balanced perfectly in our hands, and its fast tip spoke to accuracy, but it fell just a tad short of hitting the top distance — probably due to its stiffer midsection.

Action: Medium/Fast
Length: 7'0" one-piece**
Guides:** New Concept Fuji Hardloy for smooth casts and abrasion resistance
Handle Material: Cork with Fuji reel seat
Line Weight Rating: 8 to 17
Lure Weight Rating: 3/8 to 1
Average Casting Distance w/Mono: 92'6" w/Braid: 101'1"
Bottom Line:
$109.99; shimano.com

Berkley Cobalt Fire
Stiffer from butt to tip, the medium-action rod was, on paper, the bluntest tool in the shed. But not in the hands of three casters who easily whipped out nearly 100-foot casts. The look is polished, well-built and competent. Think Chevy Tahoe, loaded, but not a Porsche Cayenne.

Action: Medium
Length: 7'0" one-piece
Guides: Pacific Bay Tiblue; corrosion resistant, ideal for abrasive braids
Handle Material: Cork with proprietary Berkley reel seats
Line Weight Rating: 8 to 20
Lure Weight Rating: 1/4 to 5/8
Average Casting Distance w/Mono: 92'2" w/Braid: 100'8"
Bottom Line: $79.99; berkley.com

Braid vs Mono
They are like different guns in the locker — each with unique strengths and weaknesses. Mono is easier to knot and handle; braid gets hopelessly tangled more easily but makes up for it in more strength for less diameter and no-stretch limpness that feeds easily through the guides. In our test, casting distance was an obvious benefit. When averaging three casts by three expert casters, Berkley Spiderwire 20-pound braid outcast 12-pound Sufix mono by almost nine feet. That's why it costs the big bucks.