The Affordable Rod Guide
by Bryan “BayBass” Novotny with Tom Wewerka of Tom’s Custom Rods
I recently strolled through Bass Pro Shops testing rods with expert award winning rod builder, craftsman, and friend Tom Wewerka 1/17/16. I also tested numerous rods at the Doswell VA show and every rod we're about to critique is worthy of our $100-$120 which is what we'd consider reasonably priced and affordable for the average bass fisherman. Both Tom and I seldomly buy our rods with a name on them and we're both spoiled and picky rod fanactics who demand the best. We are not affiliated with any rod companies on the market. During our walk through, we were both shocked by the number of name brand rods which failed our spine and static testing as well as the guide wrap and alignment tests. We focused on choosing just three rod lineups to recommend below, all of which had to be priced at $119.99 or less. We will also show you who has the best pricing on them currently. Keep in mind if your favorite rod retails at a dollar more than $120 with no current sales, it was not considered for this article.
While attending the Doswell VA Bass Show I had the chance to meet Shane Platter with Enigma Fishingpictured above. Aaron Martens, formally with Megabass for 17 years, fishes Enigma rods and used them to capture two first place finishes including Havasu and the Upper Bay, and Aaron captured BASS Angler Of The Year in 2015. He helped design each rod and had everything to do with the chosen materials, handle length, actions, and more. I am beyond impressed with these Aarons Edge Enigma rods and Shane working in outside sales for Enigma, did a wonderful job proving the rods strength and making a believer out of me. The blanks are made of very lightweight high-strain Japanese carbon fiber, featuring advanced Super Nano systems. They deliver incredible strength and sensitivity and feature technique-specific actions, lengths and tapers handpicked by Aaron Martens himself. These rods have American Tackle MicroWave guides originally designed by the late Doug Hannon known to the bass fishing world as "The Bass Professor".
This is the only guide system to win Innovation of the Year and Best New Product awards on three different continents. I have failed in finding another rod manufacturer who uses these guides on a rod you can buy on sale for $99.99. It's not just about the design. These guides are built to last the life of the rod, and I can't stress enough how well they have been excepted and utilized within the rod building community where you've got folks building $250 to $400+ custom rods for customers demanding the finest parts available, and they are using these same exact guides.
American Tackle is a leading brand in the rod building industry and everything Tom and I have ever used with their name on it has been flawless. Scroll up to the very top and look at the first guide on both of Aaron's spinning rods. This is the design of the MicroWave, and its many benefits are no gimmick. and especially evident with a spinning rod.
These Aarons Edge rods will be commonly sold at $119 in 2016. The Enigma team is running show specials while attending many nationwide events, such as fishing shows and large tournaments where anglers can purchase the Aarons Edge for $99.99. VA, MD, and NC anglers who attended the Doswell VA Fishing Show January 15-17th were the last crowd to have the opportunity to take part in this sale. The Enigma team will soon be in Knoxville January 21-24 for The East TN Fishing Show and Expo.
Shane tested them nearly bent in half while I was tucking the rod under my arm pit holding on for dear life and I was waiting for one to break but it never happened. I would have been freaked out testing the far below mentioned Browning Superlight rods in this same fashion as I’d probably still have shrapnel stuck in my face. These Enigma rods are very lightweight and well balanced. They've got awesome guides and smart "hook keeper" placement which will result in less missed hooksets due to hook keeper line fouling, and less damage to the rod blank at it's most visable portion, the brand/model/logo area. If you run your boat the way I do with a 1oz Tungston punch weight rig stuck to the hook keeper above your reel seat banging into the blank at 60+ mph over chop, it's no wonder why your rod broke just above the reel seat on a hookset. These Enigma rods are built smart. Their hook keeper is no where near this vulnerable part of the blank. Pick one up and you'll see what I mean.
Enigma warranties their rods for life to the original registered owner, and they must be registered online within 30 days of purchase. There is a replacement fee of $70 for the Aaron’s Edge Series if the break occurs after the first 90 days. This does include the shipping charges also. Enigma did very well at the show, and the rods were moving quickly. I do not foresee any issues with these rods as they are made very well and they surely will not break under stress. Guide issues will be nonexistent. In the future, I’d love to see a 6’3” Enigma spinning rod with a medium to medium light action for 1/16 to 1/8oz Ned Rig and darter heads, and close quarters floating worms and small Senkos.
Tom and I walked out of Bass Pro Shops Jan 17th with two rods of the same manufacturer, Browning Fishing. These Browning Superlight models pictured above are the lightest rods on the market for $120 or less, and I say that without any doubts or hesitation. These rods are actually built on the spine of the rod blank the way they should be. This amazed Tom and me as nearly every other rod in the store failed his spine test. These Browning Superlights are black in color with black wraps and EVA split grips, Minimalist reel seats, Pac Bay Hialoy Micro Guides, and feature HTSC30 high-tensile carbon and double helix construction. There is nothing fancy about them at all, and once you pick one up, the color is the last thing you'll be paying attention to. I believe Browning Fishing is connected with Bass Pro Shops, as Bass Pro Shops is the only retailer I can find selling these rods. The press release marketing material such as photos, are notated as being provided by Bass Pro Shops. I guess Johnny owns nearly all of it now, right? Regardless of who makes them and how basic they are asthetically, Tom and I were so impressed I walked out with two of them. I'd had my eye on them for nearly 2 years anyway, and I keep my receipts.
Let’s get out the digitals and weigh in. Find your 6'6" to 6'8" finesse spinning rod, and your 7'6"H frog/punch rod, and we'll get started. The 6’8” ML Browning Superlight spinning rod model number SL68MLS weighs in between 2.8oz & 2.9oz fully dressed depending on the surface my scale is on. I can’t remember the last time in 35 years I held a rod this light. On the downside, I do not like micro guides in general and I predict I’ll have guide trouble in the future. My sole purpose for the rod is 1/16 to 3/16 oz Ned rigs, light shakey heads, and drop shots. This blank will also work very well with 4-5” weightless senkos and floating worms. Don’t worry about the ML action. It’s plenty strong and closer to a medium action. The Browning Superlight 6’6M spinning rod we tested runs a little on the stiff side and can even handle small compact jigs and spinnerbaits if you choose to use larger baits with spinning gear. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2