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Spiralite Maverick Casting Rod Review: Great Budget Friendly Rod!

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Having a budget in mind as bass anglers can be challenging but a necessity in a sport as expensive as this one can be. The Spiralite Maverick Series is a great option for those looking for a budget rod starting at the $99 pricepoint that comes in a variety of lengths and actions to fit whatever need you may have. Today we review the Spiralite Maverick Series and show you why this series is one of the best available on the market in this budget friendly price range.

Table of Contents

What is the Spiralite Maverick Series?

What We Liked About It

Suggested Improvements

Conclusions

The world of bass fishing is growing exponentially with no signs of slowing. With the introduction of fishing into colleges, high school and even middle schools, the sport is booming to say the least. With this surge of popularity within the bass angling world, so comes with it the drive by manufacturers and companies to reach these anglers, particularly the budget minded angler.

It is no surprise that bass fishing isn’t the cheapest sport to get into BUT unlike other outdoor sports, people can get into the scene on a relatively friendly budget. Due to competition within the industry to create rods and reels that perform well and are not overly expensive; the $100 price mark has been the most popular price point to get gear into anglers hands regardless of being a seasoned veteran or a young angler who has just purchased their first casting reel. The competition is fierce and promotes innovation and encourages performance to out-do one another. Many companies have gone so far as to specifically target this demographic of anglers who find themselves purchasing from this price range and have capitalized on it in a BIG way. Flashy advertisements and marketing can fool some, but the fact is the Spiralite Maverick series may be one of the best performing rod series on the market that hits this pricepoint, period.

What is the Spiralite Maverick Series?

The Spiralite Maverick Series is Spiralite’s budget friendly rod series that doesn’t sacrifice performance at the sake of a lower pricepoint. Per the company’s namesake, the most notable difference in these rods is the unique “Spiral Wrap.”

The spiral wrap design is nothing new as it was originally utilized in the saltwater industry nearly 100 years ago. In more recent years, the wrap style has been utilized in custom rods for its advantages of eliminating “torque-twist” so common in traditional set guides. By utilizing the first 3 transfer guides to the underside of the blank, the load is placed on the blank similar to a spinning rod eliminating plaguing torque-twist and does not limit the natural action of the blank. This wrap style has gained huge popularity in the custom swimbait rod game for its obvious benefits in fighting large fish by eliminating this torque.

Additionally, by utilizing the spiral wrap, the rod is able to utilize less guides similar to a spinning rod, decreasing drag on the line and increasing overall casting distance. This was noticeable during testing compared to traditional wrapped guides on rods of a similar length, taper, and power.

The rod is built around a 30ton Japanese Toray graphite blank. IM ratings and tonnages are mostly marketing ploys but here’s what you should understand, the higher the tonnage, the lighter and more sensitive the blank will be; HOWEVER, it also increases brittleness or the strength and durability of the rod. A 30ton blank will still be light, sensitive and strong but with an increase in the tonnage rating so does its brittleness unless they are aided by some kind of proprietary reinforcement coating such as Kevlar or others. The rod blank used in the Maverick series proved to be everything you want. Strong, sensitive, and overall lightweight for comfortable all-day use.

Incorporated into the rods overall build, one can also find the increasing popular Winn grips that have been popularized by other companies such as Lew’s that utilizes them in their casting reel handles and even some rods. The material is very grippy even in wet conditions making it ideal for a grip material over other common materials such as classic cork or even EVA foam. These Winn grips are both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable in the hand.

What We Liked About It

The model we tested was the SMC-70MHF (Spiralite Maverick Casting- 7’ medium-heavy fast) as an all-around rod that could be used in a variety of situations and techniques. The rod fishes like a true medium-heavy fast and was a delight to fish. Whether fishing compact jigs out deep, or swim jig in the shallows, the rod handles well, is well-balanced in the hand and had plenty of backbone to drive the hook home yet enough tip to keep fish pinned. The shorter rod length made accurate casts a breeze when throwing to specific targets. Most noteworthy was the unique spiral wrap when fighting larger fish that would dog us at the boat. The lack of torque on the wrist was much appreciated and made landing big fish much easier and instilled an extra bit of confidence when fighting these fish.

Though we never had to utilize it, Spiralite also offers an unprecedented lifetime warranty due to any defect determined to be a result of workmanship or materials for a nominal $30 shiping and handling fee. For a $100 rod, this is virtually not heard of and can give you a peace of mind to know that your rod is covered.

The rod is simple with a classy aesthetic. An unwrapped raw carbon blank with black wraps and gold accents on the guide wraps sets the rod off. The wraps are clean and true, the butt cap and handle grip show no visible glue from construction. The Alps No Bruise-No Slip EVA butt cap is comfortable in casting and tucked when you’ve got an ol’ big on the line and have to keep that rod in your ribs. The gold trim on the EVA butt cap and the handle grip were also nice touches to really set the rod off. The rod also comes topped with an Alps No-Loop Hi-Vis Strike Detect Tip-Top and Alps MXN Z Guides with zirconium inserts that were both smooth, strong and durable. The casting rods come in a split grip which helps reduce weight while still maintaining balance in the rod overall. The reel seat features an exposed seat that offers maximum sensitivity; allowing you to feel even the most subtle of bites.

As mentioned, the rod has a decreased number of guides due to the unique spiral wrap (8+ Tip), has a line rating of 10-17lb which we found to be accurate and a lure rating of 1/4oz to 3/4oz. In testing we very seldom through a ¼ oz but the rod did handle those lighter swim jigs well and in cold water situations, such as Winter time Jig Fishing (link video) throwing ½ and ¾ oz football jigs gave us no problem.

Suggested Improvements

The really isn’t much to balk at with this rod that we found in nearly 16 months of use. The only bit of discomfort we noted was the joint of the molding on the reel seat. Using a small bit of some fine sandpaper like 360-grit took this little ridge down and eliminated the problem. We are unsure if this is common or if it was this particular rod. In spite of this minor defect, no others were noted during testing that caused any discomfort or any effect on overall performance of the rod.

Conclusions

If you are in the market for a rod series starting at $99 dollars, check out the Spiralite Maverick series rods. The series comes in 27, yes 27! casting models and 5 spinning models; ensuring you will find a model that suits you for ANY situation. Great performance, price, durability with an unmatched warranty and a slick aesthetic, this rod is sure to please.

 

The BEST $99 Baitcaster for 2020

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The budget minded angler seemingly always has one question, “what is the best value baitcasting reel for $100?”. After comparing and researching 9 different reels that meet this $100 price point, using 6 of them, narrowing it down to the top 3 picks and extensively testing them to their limits, we have determined that the Abu Garcia Revo X is the best $100 reel for most people. Factoring in performance, drag, reliability and durability, the Revo X is the best all around reel for $100.

 

The baitcasting reel is arguably the most important tool in any anglers arsenal. With bass fishing growing exponentially, this creates a competitive market amongst reel manufacturers vying for your dollar. This is both a positive and a negative thing for us as the consumers. It’s good because we have options, plenty of options in fact, however, it is also bad because the consumer can be overwhelmed by the amount of options and unsure where their hard earned cash should go.

Enter First Cast Reviews to save the day! In the following text, we will give you our take on the best 100$ price point reel for most people. We will cover options for certain techniques and our pick for the best all around choice for you. 

 

Top Pick: Abu Garcia Revo X

The Abu Garcia Revo X has been hugely popular amongst the budget angler and tournament angler alike. Combining Abu’s consistency, large manufacturing power, and solid engineering, the Revo X has been a hit at the $99 price point. This reel is not the best reel available on the market today, but for the price it boasts some noteworthy features. Not too long ago, an eight bearing system would put you easily into the $150 category, but with the flooding of budget anglers into the bass fishing market, a necessity for affordable and durable reels has driven prices down while still providing a good product overall. Although the Revo X was our choice as the best reel for most anglers at the $100 price, there are others worth mentioning as well. 

 

First Runner Up: Shimano SLX

Our first runner up was the Shimano SLX. With an unbeatable reputation like Shimano, it would be tough to not give the SLX the first runner up. Quite frankly, depending on your application, this reel could boast better for you, however, when taking all factors into consideration, it simply did not hold up to the drag stopping power of the Abu Revo X which we will cover in more detail later in this article. That being said, the reel does feature a four bearing system and Shimano’s popular Hagane body. 

 

Second Runner Up: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS

The second runner up was the Lew’s Speed Spool LFS. A popular name somewhat unfamiliar in the industry just 10 years ago, Lew’s has solidified its reputation as a force to be reckoned with. A 10 bearing system and precision cut Hamai solid brass gears give the reel both enhanced smoothness and durability. A one-piece aluminum frame gives the reel both a solid feel and fits comfortably in the hand for ease of use both day in and out. 

Table of Contents

What To Look For In A Budget Reel

How We Picked and Tested the Contestants

Our Top Pick

The First Runner-Up

The Second Runner-Up

Honorable Mention

The Competition

Conclusions

What To Look For In A Budget Reel

There are a few characteristics or features to look into when considering buying a baitcasting reel. The four most important considerations are:

  1. Braking system
  2. Frame Construction
  3. Ball Bearing System
  4. Drag System
  • Braking System: Even pro’s get backlashes and with a good braking system, this plaguing problem can be avoided to the best extent practicable. On the market today, most reels  will use either a centrifugal braking system or magnetic. Centrifugal brakes utilize a series of pins and brakes on the inside of the reel that require manual adjustments. Think of it as you,spinning around. If your arms are out, you will spin slower and if you bring your arms in you will spin faster, this principle applies here but onto the spool, i.e. a friction-based braking system. Magnetic braking systems typically have an adjustment point on the outside of the frame for quick “on-the-fly” adjustments by the angler and utilize magnets to either increase or decrease the rate of rotation of the spool. As the industry expands, most companies have abandoned the seemingly rudimentary centrifugal braking system for the more advanced and user friendly magnetic braking systems. 
  • Frame construction: Most reels are graphite or aluminum with some high end reels utilizing a magnesium frame for increased weight reduction. For all intents and purposes we will focus on the majority of reels which are aluminum or graphite with graphite being cheaper and less durable than aluminum. Most companies will advertise the graphite frame as either carbon composite or just composite, however, it is important to know your market lingo, and know what you are getting. The verbage always mentions lightweight when referring to composite frames, however, in reality they are really no lighter than aluminum but rather are just simply cheaper to manufacture. 
  • Bearing System: Ball bearings are something anglers can get “hooked” on but in all reality, more bearings does not equal a smoother reel. What one wants to look for is what type of bearings are being utilized and understanding the different industry acronyms. One popular acronym is CRBB or corrosion resistant ball bearing. This is often used to describe stainless steel ball bearings as they naturally are resistant to corrosion. Different companies will use different acronyms, but bet on when you see a C and an R in the acronym they are talking about corrosion resistant or stainless bearings. Probably more important to the longevity of the bearing is whether the bearing is sealed or shielded. The better bearing will be sealed while the shielded or double shielded bearing will be good but not as good as the sealed. Some factors can affect this claim such as bearing rotation speed and operating temperature, however, for the fishing application, sealed will always be the best option. It will do a better job of keeping dirt and debris out of the bearing, equating to increased smoothness and life of the bearing. 
  • Drag System: A smooth drag is important, especially when fighting big fish on treble hook baits or light line as an example. Regardless of materials utilized, the drag works the same way in all reels. A series of washers or disks of varying composition are stacked and attached to the spool. When a fish runs, the washers slow the rotation of the spool by applying pressure and using the power of friction to slow the movement of the spool.  When looking for a solid reel, look for carbon fiber drag washers. Some companies will tout “composite” materials but these do not hold up as well as the carbon fiber for both durability and smoothness. An ideal drag has a smooth start-up and will not stick or jerk; if it does, this will be the best chance of breaking the line and losing a fish. Most companies do not explicitly outline their drag washer material so, some investigation on your part will be required. Additionally, if you find a reel that you like but does not have carbon fiber drag washers, after-market kits are available online. These are also a good option for older reels that could use some new drag washers. 

How We Picked and Tested the Contestants

Our first stop was to look at all major manufacturers and research all reels that met the main criteria of listing at that $100 price mark. We narrowed it down to the nine best options from nine of the top players in the reel game. After research with industry experts, we narrowed it down to three of the top contenders and did extensive on the water testing. Testing included use and abuse over a year to include use under every possible circumstance we could come up against as anglers and under every type of weather we may face in our time on the water. Testing the reels over such a long duration also allowed us to speak to the durability and how the reel holds up performance-wise over time. 

The reels we chose to test could all be considered great for general purpose fishing and at a price considered affordable by most. Although there may be “better” reels at higher price points, the value proposition is not higher than the ones within this guide. Ultimately, after some deliberation, we narrowed down our specifications to the following list of features ordered in no particular order.

Overall Construction:

Despite being considered “value” reels, we wanted to ensure solid construction and for the value, a reel that would be durable over time of prolonged use. Many may think that a $100 reel wouldn’t last more than a season, but we are here to say that there are value reels on the market that would exceed your expectations. We looked at the construction material and the durability of said material over the course of a year to attest to the longevity to be expected out of each reel over prolonged use. 

Braking System:

As aforementioned, there are a few types of braking systems, however, in this test, all the reels that were tested most utilized magnetic braking systems which brings a level playing field to the comparisons aside from the SLX which uses a centrifugal braking system. Braking systems are meant to be utilized to prevent or help prevent backlashes and are able to be adjusted to the angler and the particular technique (i.e. long casts, precision casts, flipping, skipping etc.). Smoothness, ease of adjustment, and consistency were considered during testing. 

Ball Bearing System:

The three reels tested had varying ball bearing systems, however, the smoothness during casting is what we focused on. As we previously mentioned, more bearings does not equal a smoother or longer casting reel. Only after thousands of casts with each could an accurate rating be assigned. 

Drag System:

Aside from comparing our own maximum drag tested versus the manufacturers claims, the only other way to accurately test the drag on each reel was to use them enough to hook big fish and test it on the water under real conditions; which is exactly what we did. The most important characteristic of a good drag system is a smooth start-up (not jerky) and consistency as the line is peeled off the spool. These results were noted and considered in the decision making process for this article. 

Warranty:

As with any product, one of the biggest considerations is the warranty associated with it. Every model of reel will have a bad egg in the batch and IF the product needs to be warrantied out for manufacturer defect, having the peace of mind knowing that it will be taken care of by the manufacturer will absolutely influence how you spend your money. One year limited warranty, two year limited warranty, limited lifetime warranty, all of these are important to know when purchasing a reel.

Weight:

Often when we talk about the weight of a reel it is typically associated with high end reels that come in at lighter than air 5oz and less weights, but when considering the budget reel, a lower quality of materials will increase weight. In the budget reel market, we want a reel that is still a comfortable and manageable weight for all day use without creating fatigue.

Performance:

Naturally, one of the most important attributes to consider when choosing a reel is the performance which is part encompasses many of the aforementioned characteristics we focused on in our process of choosing and testing the contestants. Is the reel smooth? Quiet? How does the performance hold up over extended abuse? With such a long test period, we were able to speak to the performance of each reel over time which is imperative on choosing the right reel for you. Many reels out of the box feel great but under a little use, can quickly go downhill performance-wise which is what we wanted to be able to accurately identify and call-out in our review.

Our Top Pick: Abu Garcia Revo X

Overall, under the greatest variety of circumstances, the top pick is the Abu Garcia Revo X. Abu has been hit and miss in the past. Most anglers know of the Gen 3 flops, especially coming off of the reliability of the Gen 2’s; however, the Revo X Gen 4 is not a flop. An X2 Craftic alloy frame boasts both strength and reduced weight while seven stainless steel HPCR (high performance corrosion resistant) bearings plus a roller bearing for long casts and smooth retrieves. Additionally, and far surpassing any of the competition is the Carbon Matrix hybrid drag system which boasts an impressive 18lb of max drag; however, more importantly, the drag was not jerky and was consistently smooth throughout a range of drag tightnesses. 

Though the heaviest contender, at 7.9oz, the reel doesn’t feel overly heavy in the hand. The ergonomic design of the frame palms nicely in the hand and is comfortable for all day use. Whether power or finesse fishing the reel performed excellently. After extended use, we tended to gravitate to using this reel for more power applications, simply due to the weight and it feels a little beefier. Flipping and pitching is where we utilized the reel the most. The great drag stopping power and oversized knobs were great when trying to wrestle bigs out of the thick stuff.

The Abu MagTrax braking system is a magnetic braking system that is typically sought after by anglers today. Generally speaking, budget minded anglers may use one reel for multiple purposes and “on-the-fly” adjustments are extremely important. Abu’s braking system makes this as easy as the turn of a dial on the side plate. Quick or minor adjustments were easily performed on the water as we switched between baits or techniques which can’t be said about every reel in this review. 

One flaw worth mentioning is the chance of the reels anti-reverse failing under extremely cold conditions. If you get hung up and are jerking on the bait trying to get it free, the reel did ONE time kick into free spool, resulting in the mother of all backlashes. The problem is using grease on the anti-reverse bearing instead of a light coating of oil. This was observed in most of the reels tested at one point or more. A simple cleaning and removal of the grease from the AR bearing and adding a light coat of oil will fix the issue. 

The First Runner-Up: Shimano SLX

Shimano has long been one of, if not the top dog in the fishing reel scene. With nearly 50 years of experience, it’s no wonder they have such a huge cult following. Typically focusing on higher end reels, the SLX was a fresh look for sore eyes that wanted the reliability of the Shimano name but without the typical price tag. A smaller profile reel than the Caenen but with the same line capacity, the SLX has been hugely popular in the budget scene since its launch. 

Utilizing the Shimano Hagane frame which gives the reel rigidity and reduced weight, the reel palms nicely and at 6.9oz is the lightest reel in the group we tested. The reel utilizes Shimano’s Variable Braking System (VBS) which is a centrifugal braking system, and being the inventors of the centrifugal braking system, it works exceptionally well. Not as user friendly as a side adjustment that one finds with magnetic braking systems, but equally as effective. The reel also boasts an estimated 11-12lb of drag, their “Super Free Spool” technology which uses a ball bearing to support the pinion gear, keeping the spool shaft and pinion gear in alignment and virtually eliminating any friction or drag during casts. This was noticed and appreciated especially in lighter weight lure casting. Included in the reel is only a 3+1 ball bearing system but as aforementioned, it is not the number of bearings but quality that are important.  

We found in testing that this reel excelled in more finesse applications. The drag was very smooth and the reel casts lighter lures exceptionally well. Tactics such as finesse cranking, jerkbaiting, finesse swimbait, etc., the reel performed wonderfully. Very smooth casts and retrieves and only did not beat out the Revo X for the top spot based on a smaller subset of applications where we felt the reel truly excelled by our standards. 

As aforementioned, the VBS system is not nearly as user friendly as magnetic braking systems which is why Shimano released the SLX XT featuring the SVS Infinity braking system found in much higher end reels such as the Metanium. Though the VBS does do its intended job and does it well, the simple lack of user friendliness was a hit against the reel for this review. As mentioned, quick adjustments are important and anytime you have to remove the side plate to make an adjustment, its just not as easy on the user.

The Second Runner-Up: Lews Speed Spool LFS

The Lews Speed Spool LFS was the final reel that we extensively tested. Lews has gained an enormous following in the past 10 years or so despite being in business for much longer. The Speed Spool LFS is a great reel for $100 and has some great features worth noting such as a solid one piece aluminum frame (great durability and rigidity), and precision cut Hamai one piece brass gearing. The reel is also advertised to have 15lbs of max drag and a similar design to the “Super Free Spool” of Shimano, that uses a bearing to support the pinion gear, giving the reel superior castability. The reel also includes a 10 bearing system that are both stainless and double shielded for superior durability. Additionally, at 7.2oz, the reel is a comfortable weight for all day enjoyment. 

We found this reel to be another reel that excelled in both finesse tactics and any sort of reaction bait fishing in that 5/8oz range or less. The reel casts great and the externally adjustable magnetic control system (MCS) was easy to dial in dependent on bait, technique and weight. Though more similar to the SLX in terms of line capacity, the 34mm spool started up very smoothly and allowed for some great bomb casts when getting your bait away from the boat was key. 

The reason the reel by our standards came in third was the previously mentioned issue of the anti-reverse failing in coldweather. This was a common problem with every Speed Spool LFS that we tested under these conditions. In the low 40s and colder is when we noticed the issue. Before doing some research and calling up Lews, the issue persisted, however, Lews offered to fix the problem, no charge and no questions. Fortunately we live close enough to their HQ that we can drop off issues like this in person and avoid shipping, but regardless, Lews has outstanding customer service and has always taken ownership of issues like this. 

Honorable Mention: Daiwa Fuego

A reel that many of you are probably wondering why it wasn’t included in the article, is the Daiwa Fuego. Comparatively it is a reel that fits into this category but is now retailing for $110. Though $10 more than the price point set by this article, we found it worthwhile mentioning as a (slightly) more expensive option to the above mentioned reels.  The Fuego CT is essentially the Daiwa Tatula CT but without their T-Wing system. It incorporates the same one piece aluminum frame, the same Magforce Z braking system, and the UTD (Ultimate Tournament Drag) which advertises 13.2lbs of max drag stopping power and all for $20 less than the Tatula CT. We personally enjoy the T-Wing system on our other Daiwa reels, but don’t feel it’s worth the $20 price increase in most situations. 

The Competition

13 Fishing Origin C: 13 Fishing is a relatively new competitor to the scene in the fishing industry. The Origin C performs well out of the box but has had a poor track record of consistency amongst its users. In our personal experience, one reel performed great and another did not. This inconsistency along with the sideplate having to be fully removed to access the cast control system (similar to the SLX) kept this reel from making the cut.

Ardent Apex Tournament: The Apex tournament was a worthy adversary to say the least. On paper the reel appears a great buy and online reviews are fairly good. We haven’t been able to use it and weren’t able to talk to anyone who had outside of the company. Until then, we will remain neutral.

Daiwa CG80: Compared to most of Daiwa’s higher end reel, the CG80 feels cheap and a little clunky. Definitely not up to Daiwa’s higher end standards.

Pflueger Supreme:  A good reel overall. Did not handle lighter baits as well and like some others, have seen some reviews of some bad eggs. No word on Pflueger warrantying these issues. 

Piscifun Alijoz Size 300: This could be used in bass fishing for swimbait applications but just isn’t up to the quality set forth by other larger industry names. Reviews online are relatively good but based on the lack of grammar, would take these with a grain of salt.

Quantum Accurist: Quantum seemed to gain some ground amongst industry giants like Shimano and Daiwa and with poster child Kevin Van Dam leaving for Lews, Quantum faces an uphill battle. The Accurist is a good reel  and the reel is a great performer but just didn’t meet the standard set by Shimano, Lews and Abu.

Conclusions

In summary, all the reels we tested are GREAT values for the money, and honestly, a lot of what you buy could be chalked up to the brand loyalty/preference you have. We personally do not have any specific brand preference and rather find ourselves fishing what best suits us for specific applications. By the standards we set forth, the Abu Garcia Revo X was able to narrowly take the top spot and only because of its versatility across all applications and on-the-fly braking adjustments. Both the SLX and the LFS are very solid reels and narrowly missed the mark of the top spot for the aforementioned reasons. 

How To Replace Legs on a Hollow Body Frog

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If you have ever fished a hollow bodied frog, you know that its not a matter of IF you lose your legs, but rather, when. We are here to show you how to replace the legs on a hollow body frog.

Fishing a frog is equal parts addicting to a fault and utterly frustrating. One blow up can lead to a full day of cast after cast after cast hoping for that one big bite. An often encountered problem fishing the frog is the chance of your legs getting pulled off by a fish. Typically when a small fish nips at the frog and just gets the legs, we an anglers in our excitement may set the hook not knowing the fish only has the legs and when we jack that fish, all we get is a frog flying right back at us at Mach 3 with no legs. Such was the case with this Jackall Kaera Frog.

However, replacing the legs is quick and easy IF you know how to do it. All you need is:

  • A thicker piece of mono or flouro line  (20lb+)
  • Some silicone or rubber skirting material

Start by taking the line and tying a simple overhand loop. This will act as somewhat of a needle threader so to speak. Pinching the frog to align the holes makes this process very simple and easy to thread the line through.

Using a roughly 12″-16″ piece of the line with the overhand loop, thread the end without the loop through the holes in the frog where the legs come out from the body.

Once the line is threaded through, take your skirting material (either silicone or rubber) and using 10-20 strands depending on the frog, tie the all of them into a tight knot where the knot is directly in the middle of the set of strands. This knot will keep the legs from falling out, once installed.

Using the overhand loop, thread the now made legs through the loop, pulling the tag end of the loop tight to the leg hole. Pulling gently, but firmly, pull the tag end until the the legs come through the leg hole and out the side from which the tag end is being pulled. Once the legs are through, simply remove the section of line with the overhand loop from the leg material, and make sure all your strands are in place.

Finally, take a pair of scissors and trim the legs to your preference. It really is that simple.

No longer does one need to toss one of their favorite frogs to the wayside, follow these simple steps and you can save your hard earned cash!

Revelation Custom Rods Zoltar In-Depth Review

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The Revelation Custom Rods Zoltar is a limited production, American made rod with some of the finest components available today. We were fortunate enough to be afforded the opportunity to review one of these rods, and to say we were impressed would be an enormous understatement. 

Table of Contents

What is the Zoltar?

What We Liked About It

Suggested Improvements

Closing Remarks

Unlike reels that require expensive machining tooling and extensive engineering, the rod is something that small businesses and hobbyists alike can build in home with a little investment. Do not undermine the skill required, as it is an art in the truest form of the word but also requires comprehensive understanding of how a rod is best balanced and making sure the guides are lined up along the straightest axis. Many other factors are to be considered when building a custom rod, which is why we left it to the experts over at Revelation Custom Rods. Offering a full shop to meet any of your custom rod needs, we were tasked with testing their new limited production rod, the Zoltar. 

What is the Zoltar?

The Revelation Custom Rods Zoltar is a 7’ MH power rod, fast taper, perfect for an all purpose stick. The 7’ MH fast has often been a great go to for beginners and veterans alike due to its versatility and the Zoltar is no exception. The rod features an AMERICAN made unidirectional carbon fiber blank; let that sink in for a second, AMERICAN made (how great is that?). As patriots, we love to support local, small business and anything made in the USA (#1 country on the planet, look it up). Everytime you purchase a rod from Revelation Custom Rods, you are doing just that (less local, unless you live in Southern California). Sorry, back to the rod. The blank, being a unidirectional carbon fiber with no rod blank coating, makes the Zoltar a lean, mean, fighting machine. The rod is designed like an Italian sports car. Performance + aesthetics = Zoltar. The rod is able to achieve this by being built purposefully where every detail is considered with the angler in mind. That is to say, every aspect is intentional in design and function. 

As we mentioned, the rod is chock full of top notch components including Fuji Fazlite Guides which are renowned for their hardness, thermal conductivity, and bending strength properties intermediate between traditional alconite guides and Concept O (all are types of aluminum oxide). Some have likened them to older Hardloy guides but are noticeably thinner and more attractive. Additionally these guides incorporate Fuji’s corrosion control technology, ensuring a lifetime of looking fresh and clean.

A Fuji ACS Double Trigger graphite reel seat not only reduces weight but also fits the hand nicely with no sharp molded edges that have been seen on other seats, causing discomfort and allows for direct contact to the blank for increased sensitivity. Other noteworthy components include a custom EVA split rear handle, and mini foregrip, along with tangle free heavy duty tip top, stainless steel hook keeper and a Fuji EVA cap for added hooksetting comfort when you really need to jack one. The rod on paper looks amazing, but how does it perform? Let’s take a look.

What We Liked About It

Zoltar2

We paired the Zoltar up with a Daiwa Tatula Elite casting reel, and used it for everything from jigs and Texas rigged plastics, to topwater, spinnerbait, chatterbait and even some lipless crankbaits. The rod performs, in our humble opinion, more like a Mag Medium than true medium heavy, however, that power really fits the weight and balance of the rod perfectly. This rod, performed really well on techniques where you want a little slower load so as to not pull a hook, such as we noticed when fishing a chatterbait and topwater specifically. The rod, once loaded, kept the fish pinned and still had plenty of backbone to get em’ in away from the thick stuff. Another, often highly scrutinized attribute that we took notice of was the look of the rod. We have heard countless times of how people may love the performance of a rod, but may hate the color scheme or the thread colors used as accents on guide wraps but this rod is really a work of art.

The red and gold trims on the carbon blank really accentuate the Revelation logo along with the Zoltar namesake tag. Everything about it is just very clean and not overly flashy, which is appealing to most consumers. Another noteworthy and appealing attribute is just how light the rod is. Coming in at an extremely manageable 4.65oz, one often forgets that they’re even holding the rod at all. Paired up with the Daiwa Tatula Elite, the combo comes in <11.5oz which is awesome for all day fishing comfort without dealing with the fatigue associated with a heavier combo. In the not so distant past, if an angler wanted to lighten the overall rod weight, they often would have to sacrifice strength for weight or vice versa. Fortunately for us, rod blanks have come a long way and we no longer have to choose one over the other. Do not misunderstand, we wouldn’t plan on throwing a frog on 65lb braid with this rod, but we feel we can confidently put a good load on the rod and not worry about it breaking. 

Suggested Improvements

Although we found this rod to be superb in all aspects of aesthetics and performance, we did note one suggested improvement to the rod. The Fuji EVA cap is an ever so slightly smaller diameter than the lower portion of the custom EVA split grip, causing a very slight ridge where the two butt up to one another. This is a very minor note, and did not impact the performance of the rod or the comfort while casting in any way. 

Closing Remarks

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If you are in the market for a rod and are looking for a custom rod quality at a more affordable than average price point for a custom build, consider the Zoltar. At a $190 price tag, the rod will surely exceed your expectations; finding all the best attributes of a true custom, in an affordable, limited production rod. Additionally, if you are in the market for an American made custom rod featuring an American made blank, hit up Revelation Custom Rods to get you hooked up with an amazing stick. 

WOO! Tungsten NEVER CHIP Flipping Weight Review

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The three main attributes us anglers look for in quality tungsten products have been found in the WOO! Tungsten NEVER CHIP flipping weights. The most important attributes of a good tungsten weight are durability, whether it will fray your line or not, and ease of recognition on what weight you are tying on. 

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What are the WOO! Tungsten NEVER CHIP Flipping Weights?

What We Liked About Them

How Tough Are They?

Suggested Improvements

Closing Remarks

It would seem that the days of lead weights are gone. With the higher density of tungsten, we as anglers enjoy the benefit of a more compact unit for the weight AND increased sensitivity to the bottom. Though a substantially higher cost to the angler, the benefits typically overshadow the often outrageous (compared to lead) prices of tungsten weights.

One aggravating issue we have had to endure as anglers is the susceptibility of painted tungsten weights chipping. You pay $2.50 to possibly $10+ a weight and after a few hours of use, the paint is chipping (especially if flipping around rock). It can be brutally frustrating as we don’t want the shine of the bare tungsten to come through when the paint chips. For what we pay, we should not have to endure this equally frustrating and disappointing reality of painted tungsten chipping.

However, this reality is in the past. Enter the Woo! Tungsten NEVER CHIP  flipping weight series.

What are the WOO! Tungsten NEVER CHIP Flipping Weights?

Utilizing a patented, highly secretive and highly coveted process, the weights are not painted but rather treated in a way that preserves the matte black finish regardless of what they are exposed to. Flipping rocks? No problem. Flipping docks and hit a pontoon? As long as the owner isn’t around, you’re good! Set the hook on what you thought was a fish and send the weight hurtling back at you at Mach 2 speeds? Sorry gel coat on the boat but no problem for the NEVER CHIP series. Available  from the ultralight 1/16oz up to the hydrilla gorilla punching 2oz.

What We Liked About Them

Equally as important as a weights durability is the tendency of a weight to fray your line by sharp edges. This can be caused by chipped paint, rough edges or insert sleeves, however, with the NEVER CHIP series, there is no insert sleeve and the ends are nice and rounded, preventing unwanted line fraying. This can be a detrimental and plaguing issue for weights. One rough edge can cause a nick in the line and easily snap on a hookset, resulting in some colorful language from you and likely a broken heart at what may have been on the end of your line. The absence of an insert in the weight also adds increased sensitivity by providing direct contact between the line and the weight, allowing the angler to feel every rock, stump, grass clump, and bite!

Now for those of us that are, let’s say, LESS organized, identifying weights can be a hassle. This headache has been eliminated in the NEVER CHIP series by incorporating weight labels stamped directly to the weight, taking out the guesswork that has plagued us less organized anglers for years. 

How Tough Are They?

The big question is, “how tough are these things?” and we are here to give you an honest answer. We did field testing that involved flipping all day on wood, rock, and brush. We can definitively say that the weights hold true to their “NEVER CHIP” namesake as there is no coating TO chip. We tested a few of the most popular flipping weight sizes such as 5/16, 3/8 and 1/2oz. They weights held up incredibly well for a full 10 hours of use and abuse, but to see just HOW tough these weights really are, we took some extreme measures. Tying a 1/2oz tungsten weight to the back of your truck and driving it down the road at 45mph may seem extreme, however, we wanted to see how they weights would hold up under extreme conditions; far surpassing anything you’d encounter on the water. The weights did get pretty dinged up (as expected getting drug behind a truck) but due to the unique coating process, the weights did not chip as advertised.

Suggested Improvements

The weights performed as advertised and in fact did not chip under typical fishing conditions. If we could make a suggestion, it would be to incorporate this patented NEVER CHIP technology into other color offerings. Since it isn’t painted, we are unsure if there is a way to utilize this technology and make a NEVER CHIP weight in green pumpkin but that would be the bees-knees. If science can find a cure for polio, we can surely find a way to make a NEVER CHIP weight in green pumpkin. Any scientists out there that are reading this, please take note.

Closing Remarks

The WOO! Tungsten NEVER CHIP flipping weights are a great option for those looking for tough tungsten. The weights are tough, easily identifiable, and perform as advertised. The weights are smooth and did not fray the line and due to the lack of an insert, transmitted well up the line to feel those light bites. Check them out and use code FIRSTCAST for a discount!

Daiwa Tatula Elite Review: Best Tatula YET?

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The Daiwa Tatula Elite may just be the best Tatula to date. With so many Tatula models and options, to say that people were skeptical of the Tatula Elite would be an enormous understatement. However, we are happy to report that the reel is (in our humble opinion), the best Tatula yet. Buttery smooth, a compact frame and casts a country mile with ease; not to mention the reels aesthetics are crisp and super clean; this Daiwa Tatula Elite review will be sure to grab your attention. 

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Under the code name Project T in 2013, Daiwa released the first Daiwa Tatula. Incorporated into the reel was the two year old T-Wing system that at the time was met with much criticism. Fast forward to 2019 and Daiwa releases the new Tatula Elite. After somewhat of a let down with the compact 100 size of the Daiwa Tatula 100, the Tatula Elite had to make up for this shortcoming and did so in a BIG way. The Elite is arguably the best Tatula to date for certain applications and is chock full of some of the best technologies Daiwa has to offer. 

What is the Daiwa Tatula Elite?

The Tatula Elite is a 100 size framed reel designed with long distance casting in mind and includes many features to compliment that intent of design. The ever popular A7075 aluminum spool decreases spool weight and with added holes drilled out, you are able to achieve the same spool weight as the coveted SV spool with the added line capacity. This deeper spool will be necessary because with the highly tuned magnetic Magforce braking system, this reel will cast a mile. The way this is achieved is the decreased spool weight coupled with the super tuned braking system allows for a lower startup inertia and makes long casting much more effortless. Other technologies included in the reel such as the ZERO Adjust and the always popular T-Wing System, set this reel above the competition. The reel comes available in three right and left hand models: a 6.3:1, 7.1:1 and a high speed 8.1:1 to meet any of your needs, whether cold water cranking or summer morning buzzbaiting. 

Who is the Daiwa Tatula Elite for?

The Daiwa Tatula Elite was designed for anglers who are looking to minimize frame size and overall reel weight while maximizing casting distance. If you are looking for a reel that you need to bomb long casts and get the bait away from the boat, such as clear water situations or situations where your success is equal to the amount of water covered with each cast, then this may be a reel worth your consideration. Another angler interested in this reel would be anyone looking to minimize the effort required to make normally otherwise difficult or unachievable casting distances, with ease. As aforementioned, the unique and highly tuned Magforce braking coupled with the improved, lightweight spool (13 grams) makes casting a breeze. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a pro either with the ZERO Adjuster system, you simply set your brakes on the side plate with the adjustable dial and once your spool tensioner knob is set, its set and there is no need for additional adjustment since the reel comes with a  20 point adjustable braking dial. 

What We Liked About It

We paired this reel with a Revelation Custom Rods Zoltar which is a 7’ MH all-purpose rod to give us the best variety of techniques to test the reel through. The most noticeable attribute as advertised is the distance of the casts and the ease required to do so. Using a 1/2oz lure, the reel casted upwards of 70 yards. The second characteristic that was noted was just how smooth the reel is. The old adage is “smoother than a baby’s bottom” and this reel fits that perfectly. Whether cranking or casting the reel just feels solid, smooth and is eerily quiet. Last worth mentioning is the compact 100 size frame; which palms wonderfully in the hand, especially if you are a younger angler with smaller hands or an adult angler with small hands, similar to the guy in the Burger King Whopper commercial from a few years back. Joking aside, the reel is extremely slick, both performance-wise and its sharp, eye-grabbing looks. 

The Daiwa Tatula Elite vs. The Daiwa Tatula SV TW103

Many have asked and we are ready to answer, “how does the Elite compare to the new SV TW103?” The reels have very similar specs when you look at the numbers on paper. Both reels weigh in at 6.7oz and each spool (though the SV boasts the SV spool of its namesake) weighs in at 13 grams or about 0.45oz for us AMERICANS. Both reels utilize a 7+1 bearing system, UTD system (ultimate tournament drag) with a listed max drag of 11lbs, aluminum frame, 90mm swept handle, T-Wing, and the ZERO Adjuster spool. With so many similarities on paper, we had to crack each reel open to look at the guts and to see the differences. Noticeable is the difference in the spools. Despite the same spool weight, the line capacity for each varies to where the Elite can carry about 20% more line. The other noticeable difference is the IPT or inches per turn for each reel that can vary in favor of the Elite by 1.5’-2” more per turn compared to the SV TW103. This is due to the depth of each spool since the width of both are the same. So is the $40 price difference warranted between the two reels? The Tatula Elite utilizes the Magforce Braking System that has been specifically adjusted to maximize casting distance while the Tatula SV TW103 uses the Airbrake technology which is more designed to maximize control of the spool such as when skipping lures or casting very lightweight baits when backlashing is most common. That all being said, is there really a NOTICEABLE difference equating to a $40 increase in cost? In our humble opinion, though there are differences, these do not equate to a $40 increase in cost based on the overall performance. 

Suggested Improvements

Although a great reel, we did note some improvements that could be made. One area we see room for improvement is the handle. The reel comes out of the box with a swept 90mm handle and although comfortable, for a very miniscule increase in overall weight, it is our opinion that a 95mm handle would better fit the reel for its intended purpose. Focused on maximizing casting distance,the reel generally is designed to throw baits that one works far from the boat such as the case with many reaction baits. When covering water and getting distance between the bait and the boat, we see an advantage when winding a lot with a 95mm handle over a 90mm.

Closing Remarks

If you are in the market for a mid to high end reel and are specifically interested in a reel that will give you maximum casting distance with minimal effort, the Daiwa Tatula Elite may be an option for you. If line capacity and casting distance aren’t as big of a concern for you, another great (and cheaper) option would be the Daiwa Tatula SW TW103. However, for its intended design, the Elite is a great reel that delivers on max casting distance, buttery smoothness and an aesthetic that may not make you fish better, but you will look better trying.

Shimano Curado K In-Depth Review

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The Shimano Curado K is a great mid price point reel for those looking for the reliability and performance typically associated with Shimano products. It’s not outrageously pricey like a Metanium MGL and it’s not a budget reel like the SLX, but absolutely serves its purpose as a great mid point reel for Shimano loyalists and those who may typically not be, alike.

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The Curado line by Shimano is arguably the most legendary series of reels ever released. Whether it be the “greenie” Bantam series, the bulletproof E series; or the DC version, odds are you’ve heard of or used one of these reels. The most recent non-DC reel release is the 200K series. After a slight let-down with the G series, and a good turn around with the I series, and 70 series; the 200K needed to make a good impression to firmly establish a consistent reputation for the line. With a sleek black frame with gold accents, this is certainly an aesthetic reel, but does it live up to the Shimano name in performance?

What is the Shimano Curado K?

First, we need to get a few technical specs out of the way for the basis of comparison. The Curado K comes in three models: XG (8.5:1), HG (7.4:1), and a standard gear at 6.2:1. These three ratios cover most techniques, but some of the crankbait guys may be looking for a ratio in the 5.x:1 for their gear ratio. We were able to try every gear ratio offered in the right hand version of the reel for this review. As the name “200K” implies, this is a 200 size spool, which is common with most conventional tackle offerings by competitors. With this larger spool, the K is rated to hold 110 yards of 14lb line, which is more than enough for whatever you may need. Despite a Ci4+ sideplate and Hagane body, which is marketed as being a lighter frame material, the reel is definitely heavier than the competition; coming in at 7.6oz. Additional technologies worth mentioning include the SVS Infinity Braking System; which is found in some of Shimano’s high end offerings such as the Antares, and Micro Module Gearing found in many other Shimano reels, noted for its smoothness. Based on these specs, this reel appears promising from a glance.

Who is the Shimano Curado K for?

Though not a “cure all” for your reel needs, the reel is a workhouse and performs well. If you are looking for a good offering for topwater, moving baits, or finesse applications, this may be a good option for you. Coming in at $179.99, the reel is at an unusual price-point where its not lower quality one might find in a $150 reel but definitely is not the higher quality of a $200 reel, which means there aren’t a terrible number of offerings in this range. However, if you do find yourself in the market for a reel that is mid end, but don’t want to spend $200, this could be an option for you.

What We Liked About It

We paired the three reels up to be used for a few different techniques. Overall, the smoothness of these reels is fantastic, they are quiet, and they don’t have much resistance when reeling. We attribute most of this to the use of the micro module systems in these reels. If you know Shimano, you know this is the same system used in reels such as the 2013 Metanium, which is regarded as one of the greatest of all time. We also enjoyed long casting distances, and the reels were easy to tune with the four internal brake settings, and a small dial on the side plate for six fine tuning adjustments. Despite the lack of drag stopping power, the cross carbon drag was noticeably smooth; having a slow start up and consistent through the pull which is critically important compared to a drag system that is jerky and could cause you to break your line.

The Shimano Curado K vs. The Competition

With only a few offerings in the price range to compare to, and not being a terribly popular price range to begin with, we were forced to compare the K to others solely based on the stats. The Curado K is heavier than the KastKing Bassinator, the Favorite Fishing Soleus XCS, and the Lew’s Custom Speed Spool MSB. Looking at other stats such as drag, ball bearing systems and other quantifiable features, the Curado K, on paper, gets beat by the competition in nearly every aspect, however, without being able to test the other offerings in the same price range, we are left to speculate how the performance compares. In reality, the reel does incorporate some of Shimano’s high end offerings, but the question is, how much are those really worth in the first place?

Suggested Improvements

One area we saw room for improvement was on the XG model (the first we tested), the cover on the thumb bar popped off midway through the day when we engaged after a cast. Luckily, it stayed in the boat and we were able to glue it on as recommended. We read many places that only the first production runs of these reels had this issue, and that Shimano was working diligently to fix the problem. However, it immediately made us second-guess the quality of the reel as a whole. We found ourselves asking if something like this was missed in production, what else could have been overlooked? Now that we have been fishing with these reels for nearly two years we have not seen this issue in any of the other models. We have noticed some deterioration in the smoothness of the reel compared to how they felt out of the box. Despite regular maintenance, the reel simply just feels like its deteriorating.

Closing Remarks

The Curado K is a decent option for people looking for Shimano quality in a lower cost offering. Based on our extensive use, the reel performed not to an overly impressive standard, but we were content with it. Most anything you would want to use it for the reel could handle it without a problem. At that $179.99 though, we think it worth the extra $20 at that point to invest in a higher end offering, possibly from a different manufacturer due to the absence of one from Shimano.

Falcon Bucoo SR Casting Rod Review: Best $100 Rod on the Market?

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If you are in the market for a budget friendly rod that is light, powerful, and sensitive, look no further than the Falcon BuCoo SR series of casting rods. At the $100 price point, the rods are tough to beat.

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The old adage goes, “you get what you pay for.” Obviously many people apply this to all things in their life, whether buying something as small as name brand toilet paper or something larger…like a new bass boat. 

On the bass fishing scene, the same can be said for rods, reels, tackle, or line; you get what you pay for. Some guys can take this to the extreme and we have all seen them, know them…or are them. A $60,000 truck towing an equally as expensive boat with an extra $10,000 in electronics, and all rods on deck totaling in excess of $500 a piece with who knows how much money in tackle in the storage compartments.

We know what you are thinking, “don’t let my wife see this article,”; but in all seriousness, bass fishing is pricey, period. This all goes back to getting what you pay for, but we all want the best deals, right? For a budget friendly option, consider looking into the Falcon BuCoo SR. 

What is the Falcon BuCoo SR Casting Rod?

Falcon has long been a BIG name amongst the bass fishing community for continuing to produce a high quality rod year after year. Made in the USA, rod series like the Cara and Lowrider have been hugely popular for their construction, components, sensitivity, and performance. 

In 2009, Falcon launched a new rod to their already impressive lineup, the Falcon BuCoo Series. This rod in particular has been widely accepted as one of the best value rods for the money and Falcon continued this tradition in 2016 with the release of the Bucoo SR. 

Many anglers were wary of the SR due to Falcon outsourcing the rods construction to China, but not everything “Made in China” is garbage. For either $100-$110 (depending on rod length and action) you can own one of the best value rods on the market today without compromising performance. 

The rods foundation is still built upon Falcon’s FXB blank which is still made here in the USA. The blank in of itself is a legend for sensitivity, and lightweight construction. For the BuCoo SR, Falcon incorporated a multi-directional carbon fiber wrap with their trademarked “Cobra Cloth”™ to achieve one of the lightest and strongest rods they have ever produced. By utilizing the carbon fiber, Falcon is able to drastically trim the fat on this blank. By not using materials like Permagloss, Threadmaster light, Flexcoat light, diamondite, or any other rod blank coating, Falcon has diminished any extra weight without compromising strength. However, do not let the rods lightweight construction fool you, this rod packs some serious power. Available anywhere from 6’6” moderate, medium action up to a 7’5” extra heavy, fast, this rod is able to cover all of your patterns needs.   Further to note is the lack of discoloration you will see in the rods lifetime by NOT using a finish like these mentioned on the rods, the carbon fiber will not discolor or fade!

Like all of Falcon’s rods, only 100% Fuji components are incorporated into the rod. Fuji aluminum oxide guides are strategically placed along the rod blank for maximum castability and fish fighting power. Continuing the line of Fuji products, a genuine Fuji exposed rod blank reel seat is integrated into the rods construction. We  believe in having direct contact with the rod blank for maximum sensitivity for those light bites that could make the difference between cutting a check or going home empty handed.  

Lastly to note is the EVA split grip the Falcon has utilized, further decreasing the weight of the BuCoo SR series. EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam has quickly become a favorite for rod grips here in recent years due to its durability, lightweight, and gripping characteristics. Though many of us refuse to let go of our cork (We prefer full cork on all my rods), we were quite skeptical of the split grip and the EVA foam getting wet and slipping. Truthfully, it took some getting used to, but we are slowly becoming accepting of the new grips. It is worth mentioning that the new BuCoo SR series has a grey EVA foam grip which is susceptible to dirtying over time compared to the earlier model BuCoo series which had a black EVA grip. The split grip definitely took some time getting used to for full cork guys, but we found that after some break in time (mostly me just getting used to the split grip) we did not notice a negative impact on casting distance due to the split grip. We truly believed the split grip would inhibit the power we could apply to the butt of the rod to really launch whatever bait we were throwing. This fear was quickly alleviated due in part to a 15” handle length standard on all rod lengths 6”10” and greater (13.75” for 6’8” and shorter), that really aided in giving some leverage to hurl the bait a mile (maybe not quite that far).  

What We Liked About It

The guides are straight, the wraps are clean, the branding looks fantastic and the open hook keeper was a greatly appreciated addition and with a 5 year warranty from Falcon, what more could you ask for? We understand that this is not the greatest rod ever constructed, but would not venture to say that it is one of, if not the best rods for the price. 

We chose the 7’0 medium which is a moderate flex that they have appropriately called their “cranker.” We grabbed this rod specifically for throwing mid-diving crankbaits (very specifically and exclusively, Wiggle Warts) and have been more than pleased with the performance of this rod in spite of the $100 price tag. The rod is comfortable in the hand, light enough to chuck and wind all day without fatigue, sensitive with a solid backbone and enough action to not rip the bait out of the fish’s mouth. If we’re being totally honest, the rod went above and beyond our expectations for a $100 rod. Falcon really has achieved an incredible feat with this new BuCoo SR, giving the budget angler, or high school angler or new angler who isn’t quite ready to drop $500 on a rod/reel combo, a chance at fishing a phenomenal rod at an unimaginable price point. 

Suggested Improvements

The only two cents we have to put in, just because our OCD, into improving upon the BuCoo SR would be making the move back to the black EVA grips. The gray, though aesthetically pleasing, is too light to keep from showing dirt and grime that accumulates over the time of use. Otherwise we found the minimalist approach to color and styling really work well for the rod. Many may have reservations about the rods being made in China, however, as Falcon rod owners; we can honestly say that we did not notice any compromising characteristics that would lead us to believe that this rod is any worse than an American made Falcon. 

Closing Remarks

Despite not being an American made Falcon and being a “budget” rod, the rod is surprisingly well constructed and truly exceeded our typical expectations of a $100 rod. Offered in 14 models to fit any application you may need. This is an excellent choice for the budget angler or a new angler looking for their first baitcasting rod. The rod retails for $99.99 for the 7’ and less rods and the rods exceeding 7’ retail for $109.99.

Teckel USA Drunker Crankbait Review: Better than a Pre-Rapala Wiggle Wart?

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Look at the Teckel USA Drunker and you’ll find a perfect small crawfish emulating crankbait. There is no denying that early Spring is a prime time to throw a crankbait across much of the country. With bass moving up out of their winter strongholds and changing their diet from heavily shad based to crawfish; baits emulating this forage reign supreme.

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This statement could not be truer specifically pertaining to Ozark area lakes. Lake of the Ozarks, Tablerock and Bull Shoals are prime examples of lakes where after the shad die off in the winter, the bass move up as the water temperature rises to fill their bellies full of nourishing crawfish in preparation for the spawn. Hungry, active and moving up, what better way to target these fish than fishing a small crankbait in a craw pattern!

For decades THE Ozark staple has been an Original Storm Wiggle Wart. Countless thousands of dollars has been spent and won on this bait, and for those who throw them, they know all too well how these baits flat out produce fish. With its unpredictable hunting action, the bait simply triggers bites, and big ones at that. In recent years, other manufacturers have picked up on this key baits tantalizing action and worked to develop their own small crankbait to tap into this particular niche. The SPRO RK Crawler 55 developed by Mike McClelland, the Curve 55 by 6th Sense and others have entered the arena to try and topple the reigning champ that is the Wiggle Wart, though none have yet succeeded. However, what if we were to tell you a new opponent has entered the arena, and this one just may be able to defeat the Wart?

Enter the Teckel USA Drunker. 

What is the Teckel Drunker?

We know what you’re thinking, “Teckel, the company that makes frogs? That Teckel?” YES, the very same. They have not only made a crankbait, but an exceptional one at that. Coming in at 2” and 3/8oz, the lures dimensions exactly match that of a Wiggle Wart, however, that’s where the similarities end, setting this lure apart. A tapering bill allows the bait to dive down into the 8-10ft range easily on 10lb fluorocarbon but unlike the Wart, the lure utilizes a squared bill which enables it to deflect off of rock and structure even more haphazardly than a Wart, hence the name “Drunker.” A wide-body, and flat, tapered back assist in the displacement of water, playing into the wandering action unique to the bait. The action can only be likened to the elusive Pre-Rapala Wiggle Warts that are worth their weight in gold in the Ozarks. Like a frat guy walking home from a late night rager, the Drunker stumbles along the bottom in an unpredictable manner. This erratic hunting action is what makes  a Pre-Rap Wart worth so much and with people hoarding them, the Drunker not only allows you to mimic the same action, it also comes in at a much more affordable price point and is more readily available. 

With two tungsten rattles and a one knocker, the lure has a higher pitch than a Pre-Rap Wart, and the melody produced by it truly sings to the fish. Excelling in stained water but not to be overlooked in gin clear water either, the lure triggers fish to react even when they may not want to. The combination of acoustics, action, water displacement and finish all work harmoniously to elicit a reaction from wary fish. Subtle changes, such as the pitch of the sound put off by the bait CAN make an enormous difference on bodies of water where a Wart is constantly steeped and fish are highly pressured. 

As aforementioned the bait comes in at 2” long, at a weight of 3/8oz with the ability to dive down into the 8-10ft range on 10-12lb fluorocarbon but can go slightly deeper on 8lb. The bait comes equipped with #2 split rings and two sticky #6 trebles to make sure that those fish stay pinned on their way to the boat; and with 9 incredible color options, there is no shortage of choices for finding a Drunker that mimics forage in your area. 

What we liked about the bait

Equally important to note is the buoyancy of the bait. Jagged rocks, stumps, and tree limbs hold no prejudice, and a bait that will not float out of cover on the pause will surely get hung. This is another key feature of the Drunker that makes it so appealing is the buoyancy. As you crank the bait and are stumbling along the bottom and the bait just stops because of getting hung under a rock or piece of wood, simply give the bait some slack and allow it to back up, and float out, and more times than not you can continue your retrieve without having to get out your plug knocker to save your lure. However, there are times when the water is very cold and the fish may be even more lethargic and want a bait paused or suspending, in which case you can utilize lead suspendots or something of the like to modify your bait to suspend for those particular conditions. 

Additional modifications to note are removing the split ring off the bill to swap out with a snap-lok of some kind in a #2 size. This will allow the bait even more latitudinal (side-to-side) movement and without it, the bait tends to want to “spiral up” once you get back to the boat. By utilizing the snap, you not only gain action, but also can fine tune the bait (like a Wart) to run one way or the other if it is not running true. Additionally, consider swapping the stock hooks for #5 trebles. The #6 hooks do allow for the most erratic action as a bigger hook will create more drag and subdue the action some so to speak; however the stock hooks blunt up fairly easy so upgrading is definitely worth your time even if you prefer the #6 over the #5. 

The Drunker vs. the Competition

The quality of the bait meets expectations put forth by other Japanese fishing lure companies such as Megabass or Duo Realis. Not only in the quality of the aesthetics, but also in the engineering behind this bait. Many other companies have sought to mimic the action produced by the Original Wiggle Wart but have not been able to encompass all of the aspects that make that particular bait so great. The Curve 55 has an amazing hunting action, but cannot achieve the same depths as the Drunker. The SPRO RK Crawler 55 can dive that deep and even deeper, but exhibits a more subtle action on the retrieve and will not hunt as well as the Drunker. This bait hunts and dives and still maintains the small profile that is so critical to this particular technique. 

Suggested improvements

We noted a few things that would really make this bait exceptional. As aforementioned, the stock hooks are sticky but will blunt up quickly and a nicer stock hook would be appreciated. Another area we saw room for improvement was the color selection. Two red craws, a phantom brown and phantom green cover most of your main colors, however in the Ozarks we really like our green options and more than one would be appreciated. The last improvement is making the bait available here in the US or anywhere for that matter! None of the retailers are able to get restocks and cannot answer when they will  become available. If you find any of these, hoard them is all we can say!

Closing Remarks

In conclusion, the Drunker is a great mid diving crank for early spring and late fall. When the bass are hunting and looking for crawfish, this is a great option to elicit some epic days of cranking. The Drunker retails for $14.99 and comes in 9 colors.

Nines Optics St. Johns Amber Green Mirror Glass Sunglasses In-Depth Review

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Nines Optics has quickly become an optic force to be reckoned with. In an industry with giants like Costa Del Mar, Oakley, Wiley X and more, how does a company set themselves apart from these aforementioned giants? Through the integration of improved technology into their products. If you are in the market for a new pair of shades at a reasonable cost, look no further than Nines Optics; in our case, the St. Johns with the glass amber, green mirror lens’. 

Table of Contents

With the sport of bass fishing being around for over 50 years, we as anglers have been able to see some of the negative side effects (that come with time), from the obsession that drives us. Skin cancer comes to mind especially with all of the great UV protection apparel that is available to keep us cool, “cool” and covered. Equally as important are the effects the sun rays have on our eyes, and though we may not see it, the damages could keep us from seeing anything at all. That’s why we picked up a new pair of shades and chose the Nines Optics St. Johns. 

Before going into the sunglasses, let’s have a quick science lesson. The sun’s rays can be broken down into three types, Infrared (IR), Visible light, and Ultraviotlet (UV). IR rays are lower energy, UV are higher and the visible light is in the middle. When on the water, we are exposed primarily to visible light and UV, both of which can be damaging to the eye. Most of us wear sunglasses on the water, but are yours really protecting your eyes from the harmful effects of sun?  

What makes Nines Optics Different?

Each pair of Nines comes with 9 layers of protection. Yes 9, that’s not a typo, 9. Let’s go a little deeper into each of the layers and how they protect your eyes from burning out of your skull.  

The first is the Nirtech® NIR Heatshield. NIR stands for Near-Infrared, and prolonged exposure to this specifically can be extremely damaging to the eye. What makes it even more damaging is unlike skin that would burn under IR light (sunburn), your eyes cannot detect it, meaning you could be hurting your eyes, and not even know it. The IR energy actually raises the internal temperature of the eye, essentially cooking it. Think I’m kidding? They use IR technology in BBQ grills that’ll cook a 32oz Porterhouse in the blink of an eye. NIR blocking technology is not exclusive to Nines, however, they have found a way to preserve clarity while not sacrificing protection, which is exclusive to the brand. 

The second layer is the Blue Light Shield. This blocks out harmful light within the visible light spectrum specifically blue light. Blue light is harmful to parts on the backside of your eye like the retina and your optic nerve. To protect the front of your eye, the third layer is 100% UVA+UVB blocking. These are both types of UV light that we know are quite harmful and Nines has us covered to protect the lens, iris and cornea. 

The fourth layer covers the polarization/anti-glare properties of the lenses. Polarization is key, especially when fish are bedding to reduce the glare put off by the sun’s reflection on the water. Glare is also extremely fatiguing on the eyes. Think about a sunny day of fishing, when you forgot your sunglasses or maybe they blew off when you were hauling down the lake to your next spot, either way, your eyes hurt at the end of the day from squinting right? Another reason why we wear polarized glasses and Nines has some of the clearest and best lenses I’ve looked through to cut out glare. 

Layer five is the anti-reflective coating. You may be thinking, “wait, how is anti-reflective different from anti-glare?” Well, lets just look at it, shall we? Sunlight not only reaches your eye through the front of the lens but rather from all sides including the backside of the lens. The Anti-Reflective (AR) coating virtually eliminates reflections from both the front and the back of the lens, drastically decreasing eye strain and fatigue of the eye. 

Now layers six and seven are fairly similar so I will mention them together. The two layers are hydrophobic (water repelling) and oleophobic (oil repelling). The hydrophobic coating protects from water and even sweat. When water hits the lens it will adhere through surface tension as a droplet, however, with a hydrophobic coating, the droplet will have a tendency to roll off the lens rather than adhere. This is a huge benefit on the water for a day where you may have a quick shower pass through and then the sun comes out and your glasses are covered in water spots; but not with the hydrophobic coating. The oleophbic coating on the other hand protects the lenses against oils i.e. fingerprints or smudges. This is not to say that fingerprints or smudges won’t end up on your lenses, however, it does mean that they will easily wipe off with a cleaning cloth due to the oleophbic properties incorporated in the lens. 

The last two layers include a multilayer mirror which reflects the visible light spectrum, and a two-times hardness coating for increased impact resistance. This is not to say the lens could not crack because it is glass, but it will help. 

As much most of the technology of the glasses is in the lenses, that is not to say that there isn’t any worth noting in the frames. First to mention is the frames compository material that is a TR-90 nylon. This material is ideal as it is light-weight, flexible and extremely durable. The frames mold comfortably to your head shape and with the additional ear and nose padding on the inner portion of the frames, you don’t even notice them after wearing them on the water all day. Additionally, the padding is non-slip which makes the glasses feel as if they are attached to your head, rather than just wrapped around it making you feel more like Cyclops from the X-Men than you may care to admit. Last to note is the anti-corrosive hinges perfect for both freshwater and salt applications making these glasses versatile to any angler, fishing anywhere across the globe. 

What options are available?

The glasses we picked up were the St. Johns frames with the amber lens with green mirror lens as we found that’s what best suits us, however, they offer  12 different frame styles (all named after major lakes), and 6 different lens options including either polarized poly-carbonate or high performance glass. The lens colors, light transmission, IR radiation and HEV (High energy visible) radiation blocking numbers can be seen below.

What is included?

So regardless of your fishing circumstances, Nines has you covered. Included with each pair of Nines is a micro-fiber carrying pouch which also doubles as a cleaning cloth, a hard case to protect your glasses while not in use and a floating retainer for people that lose their glasses…like us so that they can’t sink down to Davey Jones locker. 

What We Liked About Them

Overall, the Nines have met and or exceeded all the expectations you can have in a pair of glasses while fishing and putting in long hours on the water. They protect your eyes from harmful UVA+UVB, NIR, and HEV rays, decreasing your chances of eye issues down the road. They are strong, light, flexible and comfortable to wear even when on the water for 12+hrs straight. When practicing for a big derby and putting in long hours, the last thing you want to experience is fatigue on the old noggin from your glasses fitting uncomfortably. The non-slip pads along the temple and nose also make the glasses feel secure on the head and the shape of the St. Johns frames also limit the amount of light getting in from the sides or top of the glasses which was also appreciated. Lastly, the glasses have a lifetime warranty from any manufacturer defect! How can you beat that?

Suggested Improvements

One suggestion we would give as an improvement to Nines overall would be to keep the same 12 frames and 6 lens options, but instead of only having certain lenses available in certain frames, allow the customer online the option to make their own so to speak. Two drop down menus where the customer could choose their preferred frame and another for the lens that they would like. Obviously for retail sales, this would not be possible, but just continue keeping popular styles in retail. Another suggestion to Nines is to make sure they’re product photos match up to the product. Though a minor detail, the stock photo shows the Nines logo on the frame as green along with the temple rubber pads on the inside of the frames when the actual product’s are gray. 

Closing Remarks

 

The Nines retail between $89 for polycarbonate polarized lenses and $159 for high performance polarized glass. If you are in the market for a new pair of glasses and looking at some budget options, give the Nines a look, you won’t be disappointed.