Monday, February 28, 2011

Gear Talk: Baitcasting Rods that I have tried

There are very few selections of quality rods here in the Philippines. If you want something of quality, you have to order online and spend extra for the shipping and customs tax. Here are some of the rods that I have tried.

Majorcraft Basspara 662MH
Medium Heavy, 6’6” 10-20lbs Fast Action 2pc

I’m not sure what to call it---  Majorcraft is a JDM company but this rod is Made in China.  Fortunately, like a true JDM Majorcraft rod, the craftsmanship is superb even for their cheapest line (this rod). Once you hold it, you might feel that the rod was over-rated especially when you wiggle test it and check the bend of the tip. It felt more like an 8-15lb medium rod rather than a Medium Heavy. In the field, casting was outstanding. It was rated to cast up to 1oz lures and when I tested it, it actually did so with ease. Maybe I really got used to American rods that felt stiffer. Maybe, this is what a MH rod should really feel like. Anyway, I matched the rod with a Shimano Citica 201, an Abu Garcia Revo Inshore, a Daiwa Millionaire 103L, and a Daiwa Sol. So far, it’s perfect pair is the Sol (freshwater) and the Millionaire (Salt). I was able to land a 1.7kg Threadfin Salmon from a boat on a relatively deep water. And,  to be honest, I really felt that the Salmon was like a weak fighter. I finally realized that the rod was actually absorbing the fish’s powerful surges. It’s not that the fish was weak but the rod played it with so much ease. My only complaint with the rod is it’s tip. Somehow the tip sits too low and the line actually touches the blank when the rod flexes. Oh, well, I just have to replace it with another taller Fuji tip when it gets busted. I hope I can land  something on the upper limit of the rod like a Barra in the 8 to 10kg weight or a 5kg Threadfin. If the rod survives them, then the rod is a really good buy.

Majorcraft Slicer 682H
6’8” Heavy 12-25lbs Regular Fast 2pc

It’s my first Japanese rod and the way it was constructed is truly different from American rods. I bought this for heavy topwater lures and deep diving plugs. It’s a perfect match to a Citica, Curado, and  a Revo Inshore with 30lb braid. It’s a magnificent caster. Even with a so so caster like the Revo Inshore, you can still throw those medium lures at an amazing distance. The setting power is absolutely fantastic. I was originally fanatic of 1pc rods but then I started trying the multi-piece JDM rods. There is no discernible difference in performance compared to a 1pc rod. Maybe 5 years ago, 2pc rods are really crap. I have been using 1pc rods since the start a few years back and after using these Japanese 2pc rods, I can honestly say that they are at par or even better than their 1pc counterpart. And, they are easy to transport. I think the new friction joints have really addressed the issues with 2pc rod sensitivity.

Like the Basspara, I was able to land a 1.6kg Threadfin Salmon but this time it was from the Shore. Being a heavy rod, you can feel every surge of the fish. But in the end, a fish that size is just no match with the rod. One drawback on the Slicer’s design is its Reel Seat. It’s too slick when wet and when you don’t hold on to the rod tight enough, a fish can pull your gear away from you in a snap. Probably because the reel seat is not an exposed blank design and the finish is glossy instead of matte which made it slicker when wet and gives it a higher profile when the reel is seated. The solution is to get a low profile reel like a Citica or a Curado or an Inshore. Round reels may not really feel good on this rod. I sure wish I can tussle with a mamaw (monster) with this rod. Together with the Basspara, this rod is now my primary kayak rod and I am hoping I can test its power soon. My take? It’s relatively expensive but the craftsmanship is superb. If it survives a monster, then it is a really good buy.

Shimano Clarus 6’ Medium
CSC60MA 6’ Medium Power, 8-17lbs ¼-5/8 lures, 1pc. Fast Taper

I lost count of how many fishes I have caught with this rod and it hasn’t failed me since the day I bought it 3 years ago. I have used it for Snakehead fishing in heavy vegetation, Toman fishing for brutes (5.7kg), and for saltwater fishing for jacks and groupers.  It’s latest victim, a 3.5kg Mangrove Jack on close quarter battle, using a Citica with 30lb braid, 35 mono leader, and locked drag.  I absolutely pumped the rod with no fear of breaking it. This is my go to rod and my absolute favorite. The biggest fish that I have caught with this rod is an 8kg+ Barramundi. Lately, I am not using it very often because I'm afraid that if I break it, I don’t know where I can get the same rod as a replacement. It’s really hard to get this rod here in Asia. I highly recommend this rod – for its price and for its unparalleled performance. I sure wish the Shimano distributors here in PH will get us a couple of these. The same 1pc 6' 8-17lb and a 6'6" 1pc 10-20 MH. I will be the first one to line up for these rods.

Fenwick HMG
6’6” Medium 10-20lbs 1pc

When I first held the rod, I felt that it was a really nice rod. The finish, the guides, the seat, and the grip are all nice and evenly matched. It even balances with my round and low profile reels without problems.  It even held up great on a 2kg Grouper on its first outing. Unfortunately, it’s blank is not really hot. The blank split open parallel to the grain of the graphite while on its 2nd week kayak fishing. I was glad that Purefishing Malaysia replaced the rod without extra cost. But then after using the replacement rod (same exact model) while snakehead fishing, it again broke, on the same spot. A clean break. So I tried again to haggle for a replacement but nothing happened. So instead of wasting my P4,200 that I spent for the rod, I just repaired the rod using a 1 inch solid fiberglass tip as an insert and a 3inch piece of graphite as a sleeve then put epoxy over the repaired area. So far so good and I was able to catch a few Barras in the 1-1.8kg range. If you want to repair a broken rod, try visiting this link The author really knows how to repair a rod. Would I buy another Fenwick HMG? No, not really.

All Star Select 
1 pc, 10-20 lbs, 7'

This is a very nice rod in my opinion. The blank looks and feels sturdy and guides are made from quality components.  The blank appears to be almost similar to the Lemax Platinum or Tica TC4 blanks. My only complaint with the rod is the length of the rear grip. It could use a couple of inches addition in length. I use two hands when casting - both for short or long rods. I need to have an extra length in the butt section for leverage. If you rarely cast with two hands, this rod is a winner.I haven't caught anything big with the rod --- only a couple of Barramundis in the 1.5kg range so I can't really tell if this can handle a run from a powerful fish.

Lemax Platinum PL80 MHC2
8' 2pcs, Medium Power Fast Taper 10-25lbs, 50grams max lure

This rod's blank is really nice. Very sensitive and can cast really far. It's good for poppers, skip bunnies, and large spoons. I caught a couple of 2kg Jacks using this rod. The only regret that I have for this rod is its weight --- it's butt is so heavy. It's really hard to balance it with a decent reel. We thought that the grip were causing the excessive weight because it's made of a rubber compound with some cork bits. But when Bong opened the grip to replace it with a nice cork grip, he found out that the butt section was not made of graphite. It was made from metal. It was joined together with the blank making up for the length. Too bad, you cannot fix that kind of problem with a nice cork grip and reel seat. So, I sold it. It's just too darn heavy. If your game is baiting and waiting, this rod should do fine. For casting, that's a different story.

Tica TC4 6’ Medium

The blank felt really nice but the grip and reel seat was crappy. The reel seat was literally falling apart. So I sold it after a few months of use. It’s a good thing I did because I heard from others that theirs broke for no apparent reason.

Abu Garcia Conolon 6’6”
10-20lb 2pc

It’s top-heavy and has crappy reel seat and a very short grip. You will have a hard time balancing this rod with a decent reel. And, its reputation of breaking hounds it wherever you go.

Berkley Lightning Rod 7’ H
7’ 2pc 12-25lbs rod

I really liked this rod. It casted good and felt good and it was really sensitive for a heavy casting rod. I liked it until the upper section  broke in half while I was retrieving a 3/4 oz spoon. Purefishing Malaysia sent me a replacement rod --- an Abu Conolon with no extra cost. At least I got a replacement, even though the replacement rod was not really what I want.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gear Talk: Shimano Citica 201E

I have been planning to write something about the tackles that I use but when I was about to, I somehow fail to do so for some unknown reason. I guess a lot of people might be interested in these stuff so I will give it a shot.

First up, which is my latest purchase, is a Shimano Citica 201E. It's a cheap incarnation of Shimano Curado 200 series. What's the difference between the Curado 201E other than the color? First, the gear ratio. Citica is 6.3:1 while Curado has 7:1 and a 5:1. Second, the spool on a Citica is relatively heavier than that of a Curado. This gives the Curado an edge over the Citica when it comes to casting distance and casting lighter lures. Well, out of the box that is. A little tweak on the Citica can even things up (I will discuss this in a bit). The other difference is the paddles (handles) the handle in Citica is shorter with smaller grips and the paddles do not have the 2 ball bearings (1 for each paddle) that the Curado have -- and these paddles can't be upgraded with some ball bearings. Sucks, doesn't it?

Another difference is the Star wheel. It's plastic in the Citica and Aluminum in the Curados. The other difference is under the the main shaft of the Citica. It's a plastic bushing while it's a Ball bearing in Curado. One other difference is that the Citica has this really cheap looking brake blocks mounted on squarish brake pins made of plastic. Curado has round stainless metal pins with clear plastic round blocks. To top everything off, Citica also has inferior bearings compared to Curado's (SS and ARB).

All of these differences is because Citica is cheaper than a Curado by around $60 to $80.

When I first tried the reel, the first thing I noticed is that it was not smooth. It doesn't feel good on my hands especially when I crank it. Maybe I am just used to an Abu Revo Inshore or SX. When I checked the schematics,  I noticed a plastic bushing under the shaft. I got myself a SARB ball bearing meant for a Shimano Scorpion XT from and replaced that bushing. That ball bearing bearing made a lot of difference in improving the smoothness of the reel. If you plan on getting a Citica, it's a must have for this reel. The size of the bearing is 5mm×9mm×3mm.

Photo courtesy of Bong. The blue plastic here is the bushing which can be replaced with a stainless steel ball bearing. In my case, I replaced it with a Shimano Scorpion XT 1501 ball bearing.

To compensate for the inferior Citica spool, I upgraded the spool bearings with ABEC 7 Ceramic bearings. Let me tell you, if you have the cash buy a pair of these. My bearings came from a friend in Canada. Those bearings really burn. The casting distance outmatched the Curado.

I field tested the reel when I went north for a whole week of kayak fishing in estuarine rivers. After around 7 nice-sized Mangrove Jacks (1.5kg to 3.5kg), the brake ring inside the side plate fell off. It's like a China made reel really. Aside from the components, Shimano may have scrimped on glue on this reel. It was disappointing. Anyway, after a few drops of Super glue, it was back as new. The drag, after just a week of use began to stick, I was really expecting it to be so. Maybe American anglers don't notice this in colder weather but after fishing under the tropical sun, the drag washer will soften and stick into the metal washers. Startup will be compromised which can snap lines when  big fish strikes. The remedy is to replace the drag washer with Carbontex from Smoothdrag.

My final say on the reel? It's cheap and relatively  upgradeable, which is a good thing. If you have the cash, go with the easier path and buy a Curado 200 E or 201E. If you love to tinker around and don't have dough to spare, go for Citica and keep upgrading it one part at a time with Scorpion XT parts. Note, Scorpion parts are cheaper than Curado parts for some unknown reason. By the time you are done, you will have an awesome fishing machine.