April 15, 2014

Sage Bass Rods - Not Just for Bass!

Sage Bass II Series

If there was ever a fly rod that I felt was under-rated that award would have to go to the Sage Bass II Series of fly rods. Maybe it's the name "Bass" that has labeled it a single species rod. I have fished this series of rods for years now and have pursued multi-species with them. Let me emphasize; this is much more than a bass rod. Maybe it should have been called Streamer Weapon or Streamer Stick...or Predator like its import cousin from Redington.

Fly Vault


So why does a prestigious fly rod company build a rod for bass fly fishing. Doesn't any old 5 weight rod work for this purpose? Well maybe if your idea of pursuing this predator species involves small poppers or buggers to pond or creek bass with the hopes of landing something equivalent to what many call a "quality" size trout. Dedicated bass anglers have a very different perspective. Bigger flies and bigger buggers catch bigger fish and bigger fish are found in bigger water. So the common denominator of this equation really is "bigger is better". So while a trout stick will be just fine for your once a year trip to grandma's pond it's not attracting a crowd of hard core bass fanatics.

Travis and Austin...Now that's a lifetime memory!

7'11" length. Why?

Competition bass angling takes place all across America and B.A.S.S (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society) has a set rule that no rod used in competition can be over eight foot in length. A rule that was basically put into place to stop competitors from doing what was called dabbling with extreme long rods, basically forcing competitors to have to actually cast to their targets. Many years ago when the rule was put into place I don't think anyone would have ever thought that it would be limiting to any one's equipment. Most bass angler rods at that time were 4 - 5 foot and a long rod was 6 foot. Look at today's bass anglers and many have gear rods that max at 7'11". The other positive note about the 7'11" length is the bass boat. Today's bass fishing boats have storage built for this length of rod.
Attacked a Clouser Minnow Pattern

Serious bass anglers are predator anglers!

Bass anglers don't fish with bait and they don't settle for fishing morsel size flies for mediocre fish. I know!...I have been a big bass angler for most of my fishing life and today I am still as proficient at flipping a jig under a dock as I am casting a fly rod to an undercut. It's in my blood! I'm sure many of you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Today I spend much of my time doing the same for Trout...Streamers that is. This is predator fishing! It's the drive to present a meal with an aggressive retrieve in order to provoke an aggressive reaction. Doesn't matter what species we are in the hunt for...the same result is what we're trying to accomplish. It's the grab, the strike, the tug, the hit that makes your heart race!..........................I know I could nymph fish and probably catch more fish but numbers are not what I'm after. I need that tug on a tight line...that's my drug! It is the drive to fish as aggressively as possible for the most aggressive fish.

So what does a Sage Bass II rod have to do with streamer fishing?

Gabe caught this with a hand tied monster fly
Look at trout streamers and we can find imitations for minnows, crayfish and sculpins. Bass eat all the same foods. It's unbelievable how much similarity exist between these fisheries. I didn't grow up in trout country. I never even caught a trout until I was well in middle age years. Basically I was led to believe that these are insect sipping fish and a box of trout flies painted that impression well. Ironically my first of many trout all came on woolly buggers. I guess my streamer pursuit was destiny. But back to the "bigger is better" equation; bigger flies put more demands on fly rods, lines and one's patience. You've heard the expression chuck and duck well make a poor cast with a soft trout rod, sinking tip fly line and a big streamer aboard and you might want to duck! Quickly! Unless you're into body piercing.

My favorite single hand streamer rod

Bass, Trout, Bluegill, Pike and all other predators that we want to throw a streamer to can all be targeted with one of the 6 sizes of Sage's Bass II series rods. Most of these species can be pursued with just one or maybe two sizes of these rods. The rod taper itself is pretty fast but with somewhat of a forgiving nature.

The mojo comes from the length and type of line but before we get into the nuts and bolts first my disclaimer; these are my opinions and surely many will disagree. I have fished these rods since they were introduced so I really don't know anything nor do I claim to know anything and I'm quite certain you know more than I do. Now that we got that out of the way!........I should probably remove this statement...
Photo Credit - Dan Pierce
The shorter length of this rod actually helps you keep better control of it therefore keeping your line in better control. While technically a 9 foot rod is capable of a longer cast it also requires more precision to obtain a longer cast. Get a little loose on your stroke and that possible distance cannot be achieved and this happens quite easily with short headed fast loading lines. I believe the shorter length of these bass rods helps with rod control and is better suited for the shooting lines that are they are made to cast. I also feel that the shorter length makes them more accurate to cast. This length is also really nice in a boat for casting as well as storing.
John Garrett....Booyah!

Casting Technique

These rods and their lines are made for quick shooting cast. You just line it up and shoot it to your target. They are not made to carry line in the air and make repeated false cast. Just lengthen the cast out to around the head length and shoot the cast therefore eliminating a bunch of time and effort false casting equating to more time with your fly in the water fishing and less time wearing out your arm. I rarely backcast these rods more than once and if I do its just to line up with my target.

Let's talk lines

First up the Sage Bass II series rods come with a Sage Floating Fly line to match the rod. Now before we go any further I need to explain the weight system of these rods. They are lined by grain weight instead of line size. Kind of different for a single hand rod but hold onto that thought of confusion...it's really quite simple! I'm going to reference the Smallmouth size for this example which by the way I believe could be the most versatile size for many inland cold and warm water species. The Smallmouth size is rated at 290gr. This grain weight refers to the first 30' of the fly line. The floating line that comes with this rod is this grain weight. Here's the great news!, Rio offers many different Outbound Fly Lines with similar grain weight and they come in all types of densities for any fishing situation...

San Juan Bobo couldn't resist a streamer connected to a Sage Bass II Bluegill Rod

Outbound Fly Lines

Rio Outbound line examples

Look at the Rio Outbound Short Freshwater line. You will see the chart with all the grain weights listed. None match exactly but get it in the ballpark and your cast will fly. For the Smallmouth rod rated at 290 grain I usually go for the WF7 that weighs in at 265 grain. It loads the rod great. Now look at the densities available; floating, hover, intermediate tip, full intermediate, type 3 sink tip and type 6 sink tip. That should have you covered no matter what you plan to do. I really like to fish the intermediate tip and will go to the type 6 sink tip if conditions call for it. If your travels take you tropical then choose the Rio Tropical Outbound Short fly line. I have use this in the floating and intermediate version for mangrove tarpon on the Sage Bass II Largemouth rod where accuracy is far more important than distance. Other line tapers that work well with the rods are the Rio Pike/Musky, Rio Streamer tip, and Scientific Anglers Textured Titan.

This Predator fell victim to a Thin Mint Fly

The Sage Bass II Series

I mentioned the Largemouth and the Smallmouth, also in this series is a Bluegill and Peacock Rods. The bluegill could be the most fun of all and plenty powerful enough to handle any panfish species including crappie and small bass. I could see a lot of use with the Peacock for striper and pike as well. New for 2013 is a Pike and a Musky model in sizes 10 and 11 weight respectively. Based on the same fast action of the Bass II series these big predator rods come in the longer 9 foot length and have a larger fighting butt handle for figure eights. They include the Rio Pike/Musky fly line with the intermediate tip. These are your serious big predator rods. All of these rods have saltwater safe reel seats and components. They all also come with a ballistic rod/reel case.
Float and Fly caught Columbia River Smallmouth

My List of species subdued on a Sage Bass rod to date are largemouth, smallmouth, carp, rainbow Trout, brown trout and of course bluegill. Future targets include tiger muskie and pike.  Currently my arsenal includes the Bluegill, Smallmouth and Largemouth rods. When I'm gearing for predator streamer fishing these are the tools I always reach for! One Day I will own the complete series of the Sage Bass II Fly Rods!

Read "Spring Bassin" for a few Columbia River techniques

Greg - Tormented Angler