Gear Review: Sage's Bass Rod II Series

Gear Review: Sage's Bass Rod II Series
Two generations of the Sage Bass fly rods.

Sage's Bass rod series was the first of its kind. Initially, the lineup included a Largemouth (330 grain line) and Smallmouth (290 grain line) Bass rod. A year later, Sage added a lighter Bluegill (230 grain line) model. Designed to cast large flies without fatigue, these 7'11" rods were paired with heavy lines to help anglers who were struggling to cast large, wind resistant panfish poppers, bass bugs and pike flies. Recognizing that a heavier line casts the flies better and that casting all day without fatigue is of primary importance, Jerry Siem created a rod and line combination that would fill this niche. He nailed it.

The fly line plays a key role in how this combo works. Three aspects of the line allow it to perform optimally: 1.) Bulk, 2.) A short, blunt front taper with large tip diameter, and 3.) A thick running line for easy line management and durability. I have been fishing the old models of the Bass Rod for years and not just for their intended warm water species. I use them when fishing for snook, small tarpon and redfish from skiffs and canoes. The little Bluegill Rod also fires big stonefly dries into willowy banks with very little effort.

This year all three rods were redesigned and by popular demand a new Peacock (390 grain line) rod was added to the family. These powerful new tapers offer higher line speed and greater fish fighting capabilities. In addition, the series now has upgraded components and individual handle sizes for each model to facilitate fatigue free casting. The introduction of the Peacock added a true heavy weight to the collection, which is light enough to cast all day and powerful enough to battle a 90-pound tarpon. 

The Peacock rod in action.

Last year, I fished the prototype Peacock for musky in Hayward, Wisconsin and for large tarpon in the Keys. I was able to cast XXL, bulky musky flies a long distance for the duration of the day (and a portion of the evening) without having to get rotator cuff surgery at the end of my trip. Although short rods lack the ability to pick up a long line and do not cast sinking lines very well, the benefits of using this light, compact and powerful rod far outweigh its drawbacks. Plus, I don't know many musky fishermen who don't retrieve their fly all the way to the boat and why fish deep when the fish are looking up.

Musky bait.

Not only do the Bass rods cast big flies far, but they also excel at very short distances. This makes fishing in tight quarters, like a labyrinth of mangroves, much more enjoyable. Also, when sight-fishing conditions are poor or when fish simply materialize right off the bow of the boat, these rods load quickly without any false casts. Just back cast and fire. In fact, when using these rods, it is best to minimize all false casting. It is equally important to cast side arm style to keep the fly away from your body. 13 inches is pretty significant when sailfish sized flies are zooming around your head.

Although the ONE rod overshadowed the release of the new Bass rods, they are no less impressive. Don't be fooled by the vibrant, almost whimsical, colors and the small size of these powerhouses. The Bass II package (rod, line and case) retails for $550. They are fun, multi-functional rods that should be included in every angler's arsenal.

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