“This rod review first appeared in the 2020 Gear Guide, now on sale at bookstores and fly shop nationwide, and also at osgnewsstand.com”
The Sage Payload is designed to cast large, wind-resistant flies, pick up heavy lines from the water, and give you leverage for powerful fish. To give you an inkling about how powerful these rods are, Sage has them labeled from weights 6+ up to 11+. In other words, the 6+ could probably handle a 7-weight or 8-weight line.
I tested the 9'3" Payload 11+. This is a serious big-game stick with an extended full wells grip designed for muskies and other large predatory species.
The Payload’s faster tip transitions to a softer butt section so I could load the rod deeply and handle muskie flies up to 12 inches through a variety of wind conditions. I used both the RIO InTouch Pike/Musky line and the Airflo 500-grain Depth Finder.
The Payload’s stiff tip made it easy to lift and pick up lines and flies—ideal for situations where you’re casting big flies to the bank and casting again after a few strips. In muskie fishing I typically retrieve the fly all the way back to the rod tip, and the Payload’s strong top half gave me precise control close to the boat using a figure 8 maneuver. It also helped get quality hook-sets when I fed a muskie close to the boat.
The extended grip provides room for both hands on the rod during the figure 8, and also can also be used for two-hand assist while overhead casting. The angled Tangle Free Fuji ceramic stripper guides eliminated the issue of running line wrapping around the footing, and the oversized tip-top allowed me to retrieve the leader knot into the guides without noise or hesitation. $550 | sageflyfish.com