Coincidentally, I've already decided to recommend the RPLXi and have been thinking through reel options. I thought about the rod choices with a $750 budget and w/o a VPS (RPL) 9wt to choose from I was looking at the 10wt 9ft 4pc VPS (RPL), the 10wt DS2 (which is a sweet rod IMHO), but at a loss for that mid-upper bracket 9wt in the Sage line. The RPLXi is the way to go, and perhaps a Waterworks Velocity reel (conical delrin sealed drag / machined bar stock new for 2001). If he wants to upgrade the reel later, *I* will buy that reel used from him in a heartbeat w/ the unconditional lifetime guarantee and low likelihood of any corrosion or drag problems (it's the same drag as the litespeed Lamson).
Loomis, St.Croix, Redington, Scott, T&T, all have rods that are less than the RPLXi in cost and will combine with good reels; which I am going thru the process of evaluating.
Bob Pink swears by the rod he got from Phil Castleman, which would permit a high end reel.
I have several Lamson LP reels (5 to be exact) and could part with help pay for a new L/A. This would put him into the game in a good way financially.
Anyway thanks for the feedback, the plot thickens.