The successful Thomas & Thomas Exocett saltwater series turned heads when it hit the market two years ago, and showed it has more that just technology and slick components. The series hits an appetizing balance between weight and power, where the casting is so tactile and rewarding, it's almost surprising to feel the power in the rod when it's time to do the dirty work of lifting and pulling—perhaps part of the reason the Exocett has become a common fixture at some of Earth's most challenging saltwater locations. But an interesting thing happened with this "saltwater" series. I started to also see it in the hands of fishermen in Africa with tigerfish, cradled under the bellies of golden dorado in the freshwater streams of Bolivia, and in my own hands fishing for taimen in Mongolia. The Exocett, it seems, isn't just for salt water.
With that in mind, rod designers at T&T came up with the newest iterations called Exocett SS ($825, thomasandthomas.com), two 8'8" rods with steep taper at the tip end, so they have extra lifting power for sinking-tip lines, and for casting heavier short-head floating lines. I used the 350-grain Exocett SS at the annual Cheeky Schoolie Tournament, and throughout the day used increasingly larger flies (to keep small stripers off my fly) and heavier sinking tips (to sink below small stripers) and while I never did find bigger stripers, I did find there was almost nothing this rod couldn't handle.
For heavy lifting, carrying short lengths of heavy heads, and for drilling large flies into a headwind, the Exocett SS (also available in a 250-grain version) is also perfect for muskie and pike fishing; largemouth bass in heavy cover; for snook under the lights, docks, and other structure; and for baby tarpon snacking within the mangroves. On a recent trip to the Rio Marié in Brazil, I also found the slightly shorter 8'8" Exocett SS to be the best rod in my arsenal for peacock bass. It was a powerful tool for fighting fish near the boat, slinging line low under overhanging branches, and for lifting sinking-tip lines near the boat for the next cast. For long days of casting with heavy lines and big flies, it was less fatiguing than other rods because it loaded with less effort. To find out more about the best new rods, reels, lines, and other tackle for 2018, pick up the FLY FISHERMAN Gear Guide on sale at newsstand nationwide or at osgnewsstand.com.