Nov 28, 2010

Gear Review: RIO Smallmouth Bass Fly Line

Imagine my surprise when I was contacted (via OBN of course) to conduct a product review of RIO's new Smallmouth Bass fly line.  To qualify I just had to receive (free of charge) the line and try it out within 4-6 weeks.  Sure, it's beginning to feel a lot like winter here and local bass have entered winter mode but SIGN ME UP!  This is something I think I can handle.  So lets get some legal mumbo-jumbo out of the way early and then get into the good stuff...

As with all reviews on Lunker Hunt, the following review is my honest opinion, I received the RIO Smallmouth Bass fly line free of charge and agreed  to provide a review in exchange.  Lunker Hunt is not sponsored by or associated with RIO and is accepting no other compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review.  My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

The Pitch

Every product worth selling comes with a sales pitch and this line is no different, if you wish to read the official product introduction and press release you can do so here.  Much of the pitch is also provided on the packaging and I've provided images below.

As far as sales pitches go, this one is pretty easy to follow.  For the most part jargon is kept to a minimum, but they do throw around phrases like XS Technology and Powerful Taper.  Words such as these sound fancy but really don't provide us lay men with much info at all.  To fully understand what we've got here, lets take a look at the specs and see if some information can be gleaned.

The Specifications

The press pack and box include an image showing the line's profile, using the WF7F as an example.  I can't find anything to show the profile of my WF8F model, so I have to assume it is the same.  From the profile we can get specifics about the dimensions and taper for this line.  Here is the official profile description and image:

A powerful medium-length front taper is ideal for casting smallmouth flies while the long back taper allows for a smooth casting loop while keeping the line stable on long casts. A unique handling section behind the head makes it very easy to control the fly at long range when fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers.
The profile shows an overall line length of 100', which is split into five sections.  The head is 65' long and includes the front taper, body, back taper and "handling section."  The folks at Rio seem to be particularly proud of the unique "handling section" of this line.  According to the release the handling section "...makes it very easy to control the fly at long range when fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers."

If you look closely at the profile image above, you will see loops at both ends.  These are the "welded loops" to make changing leaders and line "a breeze." I've never before fished a line with integrated leader attachment features, but I always use a slip-on leader loop so I'm pleased to have the feature on this line. 

A quick glance shows the "welded loop" is just a section where the line is folded back on itself and the loop is held by an over-coating of some sort, hardly what I envisioned for a "welded" loop.  None-the-less, a loop is a loop and I'm happy to have it as long as it holds up.

Also in the taper profile, they've noted the two colors this line has.  The body is colored "bronze" and the rest is colored "beige."  This is what they call DualTone and the coloring adds visual clues to where you are in the line.

A close cursory examination reveals the colors are more like orange and yellowish-white, but I'm not one to nitpick over color names.  Instead of relying only on feel, you can quickly see when it's time to cast and when it's time to shoot.  I love to shoot line, so some help in this area is greatly appreciated.

The Proving Grounds

I spent about fifteen minutes in the back yard proving grounds with my old line, which sets my point of view in this review.  The test rig was my nine foot St. Croix 8wt, at the end of the line I tied on a 8lb tapered leader and about 8 inches of 6.8 pound tippet.  On the tippet went a piece of rolled up paper towel.

I picked a standing spot and cast the length of my driveway.  I was casting with a significant tail wind, but after a few casts I had a feel for what was my maximum casting distance given the conditions.  I took a mental note of the distance and swapped out the baseline for RIO's Smallmouth line and stood in the same spot.

If I'm to believe the sales pitch, this new line should improve handling at range.  I interpret that to mean either improved accuracy or increased the proving ground I experienced neither.  I've never been disappointed with my casting so, while it did not improve much, this line still meets my needs.

While casting in the yard, I also paid attention to the line color.  Watching the line color made it easy to tell when the line was ready to go.  However I'm a creature of habit and I found myself going by feel anyway.

If you look at the picture, you'll see the line is all bunched up at my feet. The first few casts with the freshly unspooled line were pretty rough and it effected my back yard casting. At first I was really nervous about line's memory, but the field test proved I had nothing to worry about.

The Field Test

I braved the November air and took RIO's Smallmouth line out for a field test.  Seeing as it is line marketed for smallie chasers, what better place to test it than a smallie river?  Most bass around here have settled into winter mode and I set out planning on not catching fish.  Luckily you don't have to catch fish to evaluate fly line so I spent about three hours shivering casting flies of various sizes at fish who didn't want to eat them.

In the back yard, I was concerned about the line's memory but as the field test wore on the line straightened out.  The pictures below both show the same line floating on the water, but the picture on the right was taken three hours later than the one on the left.

First Cast3 Hours Later

As the line limbered up I began to feel more comfortable with it.  The line is more than capable of turning over a weighted (and soggy) bunny streamer.  The limber line also seemed to improve the "shootability" of this product and I felt a little more in control of the line and presentation.  The result was fewer casts ending up as a tangled mess.

As much as I would have loved to share a smallie picture here, I am unable as I ended the test without a fish to show.

The Price

We'd be lying to ourselves if we said cost isn't a factor in everything we do.  Not everyone is armed with Oprah's war chest so it is important to review the options and balance features against price.  RIO's press release states the MSRP for their Smallmouth Bass fly line is $74.95 and a quick internet search shows it is typically offered at MSRP.  My baseline fly line for this review retails for $25-35.  I've taken the liberty of pulling prices (ignoring sales pricing as of Nov 24th, 2010) from Cabelas for various other WF 8wt floating lines.  Those prices are shown in the chart below.

If you want something cheaper there are definitely options.  If you'd rather pay more, there are a few choices as well.  All I can say here is that you've got to look at your options before you select.

The Bottom Line

The benefits of RIO's Smallmouth line are subtle but appreciated.  The upside is improved control and the only downside is cost.  I recommend spending the extra dough on a nicer rod, but if you already have a good rod you may be interested in higher end line.  RIO's Smallmouth Bass fly line fits the bill for me and is a welcome addition to the arsenal.

If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact me and I'll do my best.

Nov 26, 2010

From the Missus to You

I was busy in the cave working on mad toms, and I was really in the groove.  The missus popped in to see what was so important that I had to miss Desperate Housewives.  After rearranging looking through the feathers, fur and synthetics she asked what it would take to tie a fly of her design.  I said no problem and she picked out the goods.  He's what I came up with using the materials she selected, she's pretty proud.

Now I've promised to throw it a few times...wish me luck.

Nov 23, 2010

The Weather Man and FedEx Guy Collide

This evening's stroll through the parking lot was bitterly cold.  Recently I swore to stay off the rod until next year...but today this happened:

Better go find my thermal underwear...

Nov 19, 2010

Fast, Easy and...

...guaranteed to drop fish panties.

I'm gonna hit Wildcat Canyon on the Vermilion River with these and others Sunday.  Never fished it before...should be interesting.

Nov 16, 2010

I Will Soon Need Bigger Hands

Instead of watching Glee, I opted to tie up some Barteaux Minneaux streamers this evening.  I still haven't mastered this pattern, but practice makes perfect.  I was getting a little bored until inspiration struck in the form of yesterday's Streamstalker post about muskies on the fly.  I clamped in a 4/0 hook and went to work.  I had two goals: first being to tie a large barteaux inspired fly, second to do it without using a marker.  Here is what I managed:

I'm worried the thing will catch wind like a parasail, but next time I'm in musky water I'll give it a shot.

Nov 15, 2010

The Full Experience You Ask?

Last week I decided to start publishing exclusive content to Facebook, so if you want the full experience click here and push "like." I'm not entirely sure what the "exclusive content" will be, but I think you can expect tidbits, pictures and links not warranting the full blog treatment.

Nov 7, 2010

A Box of Chawcolates

This afternoon I caught a walleye and while fumbling for my camera, I fumbled the fish.  There is no picture; this normally wouldn't make the cut for a blog entry.  However it was noteworthy because it was my first walleye (or maybe a sauger, I didn't have time to check) on the fly.

The fly was Meat Whistle, not the one shown but a white/orange one I tied ages ago.  I was dredging the bottom with a painfully slow retrieve and hoping to convince bass to bite despite chilly water.  The ten incher really made my day...chalk up another species for my fly rod.

I supposed it's fitting to catch a cool water species, the water is really getting cold. The bass bite has tanked and it took a couple hours of blanket time to bring my body temp back up.  I'm too stubborn to hang it up for the year, maybe this is just a clue I should give up on bass.  

Next time I'll be in long johns and barely be able to lace up over 2-3 pairs of socks.  I think crappie should be shallow again...

Nov 2, 2010

Who Will It Be?

Will it be the crooks in blue or the crooks in red?  I wish I didn't have a dog in this fight, but I do.  I'm not happy about it and I wish not voting was the answer.

Instead of worrying about this evening's election results, why don't you sit back and enjoy some high def fishing video.  Please try out the 720p HD video quality mode because it was a real pain for me to deal with such a large file size.  If you try it, I think all my headaches and upload time will not be in vain.  (It'll probably take a while to fully buffer...go grab a frosty beverage)

A while back, I casually mentioned it would be nice to have a high def video camera to take the Lunker Hunt experience to the next level.  My wife was kind enough to oblige on my birthday - she even went one step further and wrapped up a camera capable of going underwater.  The camera is a Kodak PLAYSPORT (Zx3) and so far I'm thoroughly impressed.  You won't see Hollywood cinematographers shooting the next block buster with this thing, but for my type of situation I think it will do the trick.

Give me some time, after a few more uses I think I'll be ready for a full review; if I ever catch a fish, I'll even try out the underwater mode.  So far I know the battery lasted about 2 hours (in that time I caught no fish - go figure).  Before the battery died, I had managed about 6.5 gigabytes of 720p video - shot at a whopping 60 frames per second.  Next time I'll experiment with the video quality so as to properly balance file size with picture detail.  It takes some serious commitment to whittle 6.5GB down to threeish minutes.

Editor's Note:  Last time I posted a similar highlight reel, it met mixed reviews on Youtube.  It received one thumb up and one thumb down.  If I ever catch the punk who thumbed it down....