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Brian -

I remember you mentioning a new investment at the clave. What options are you considering? Did you try Hawkeye's new 10wt? Fishhawk's RPL+ 4pc threw the whole airflo 400 with one backcast when I tried it, quite the rip trip set-up. Maybe we could do a rod building project with the aid of guys like Tom Dunlap, Big Pete, Fishhawk and of course the venerable Mr.Smith's advice between now and the spring clave to get something very nice at a reasonable price. Bob P. Jr's advice on the Phil Castleman rods (Heritage) was a good lead, I've only heard great things about them and I love how they cast. I liked Dave Pritchard's T&T 9wt Horizon, it cast very well with the Cortland big game line saturday.

What are your top candidates thus far?
 

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Everyone's different but I find both of those rods a little stiff for my way of casting. My .02 was that the 9wt RPLX was a very nice rod for SWFF but I found the 10wt RPLX to be tough to cast for more than short periods of time. It's a great rod for on the boat and is famously popular around NE but more than my shoulder could bear.

Personally for a good value I like the DS2 10wt Sage ($240?) but if you are used to stiff rods it might take some getting used to. The advantage is that it takes a lot less out of the shoulder and arm to cast a rod when you let the rod do the work, and to do that you need a rod that will load right. It has no problem throwing the grains, yet it can be fished all day. Stiff rods are assertive but do not load well. When I cast a stiff rod I feel like I am stroking the weight of the line back and forth instead of letting the rod flex and reflex to keep the line in play. The line-speed and quality of loop is no better with a stiff rod than with a well-loaded fast rod that loads well in the sweet spot of the blank. I define that sweet spot as the point on the blank where the caster is comfortable carrying the energy wad through the stroke. My kid used to say it was like a "meatball on a stick". Silly metaphor, but if you were to throw a meatball with a stick accurately at a target, you would (a) take care not to drive the stick thru the meatball as you stroke (b) get a bend in the stick as it comes forward (c ) stop it short with a bit of wrist english so the energy propels the meatball in the desired direction without disintegrating. From the mouths of babes - that was ten years ago, he's much bigger than dad now.

Biggest advantage as far as I can tell is leverage against big fish in deeper water going in favor of the stiff blank.

The rod that loads well without collapsing can be cast all day without joint pain.

But like I said everyone's different and I'll bet people who prefer one rod style can learn a lot from people who prefer another.
 
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