By Frank Sargeant, Editor
I’m a big fan of multi-piece rods because you can stick one under the seat of the truck and no matter where you go, you’re always ready for an angling opportunity. Some of these rods also fit nicely into an airline carry-on, and they’re also a near-weightless addition to a backpack so that you can head out for those high-country trout lakes without carrying a brush-snagging rod in hand. If you have to climb down into one of those secret rocky canyons, the rods won’t get in the way, either.
On the downside, most segmented rods don’t have the smooth action of a single piece of graphite. Casting has sort of a bouncing effect, maybe from the multiple pieces of graphite vibrating separately? Whatever, it can be annoying in a long day of casting.
And some have ferrules that are either too loose, which means you’re constantly putting the rod back together, particularly after one of those bust-your-shorts attempts to reach out in front of fish breaking just at the edge of casting range, or too tight, which means you can’t get the segments back apart when it’s time to pack for your flight. And it’s very easy to break a light rod when you’re trying to take a pair of sticky segments apart.
A New Player in Fishing Rods
The “WILD SIDE” travel rod I’ve been playing with recently has none of the faults and all of the advantages of a break-down rod in a good-looking premium build that has a very nice action, at least in this model, the WSS63L-5, which is designed for cold water trout, panfish, and for finesse fishing for largemouths and smallmouths. It would also be right for sea trout, mangrove snapper, flounder and other inshore species.
Being a fly-weight is a big plus in a UL pack rod, of course—and this one weighs just 3.2 ounces. With a 1000-sized reel loaded with 6-pound-test mono, the whole thing weighs just 11 ounces. It balances on one finger just ahead of the grip with a light lure attached—just right to feel weightless in the hand. For those of you like me who have tennis elbow from working topwater snook lures a few years too long, the minimal weight is a huge plus.
This is a fast rod with a soft tip—this allows casting very light lures, 1/8, 1/16 or even 1/32 ounce for trout and panfish—but it’s also strong enough to throw ¼ ounce bass lures—and the stout or “fast” shaft allows you to handle larger fish without too much duress. I accidentally caught an 8-pound blue catfish while bass fishing at Guntersville, and while it was an interesting battle on 6-pound mono—don’t let anybody tell you catfish are wusses—the rod did the job.
It’s a Japanese build, unusual in the world of carbon fiber rods we see in the U.S. market. It’s produced by a company called “LEGIT Design”. The company builds some 100 different models for both fresh and salt water, including a full line of dedicated bass rods—lots of bass-heads in Japan, surprisingly.
The rods are imported by Arundel Tackle. The company was founded by Jeff Maling, an avid angler from Kennebunkport, Maine, a scenic, fishy little town on the south Maine coast, originally called “Arundel”. Maling and family now runs the business out of an office in Chicago.
One Piece Action in a Take-Down Rod
One of the first things you notice about the travel rod is that the ferrules fit so tightly that the ferrule wraps do not touch—the rod appears not to be completely assembled, even though the extra-long ferrules are several inches into each other and completely secured. The reason for this? The company uses what’s called a spigot ferrule or U-joint, which is more difficult (and costly) to build than the typical slip-inside design of multi-piece rods. It’s mostly seen on high-end (very high end) fly rods, but also on all Arundel products.
The design is intended to smooth the action of the rod, and also to prevent the ferrules from loosening as the rod is used over the seasons. The design assures that as the rod wears through repeated assembly, the ferrules don’t come loose. Use it for a few years and it will gradually come to fit wrap-to-wrap—and mostly likely won’t be coming apart in all that time. A nice touch is the tiny alignment arrows on the pieces, assuring you get the guides lined up squarely—while you can obviously eyeball this, it’s just a mark of the care put into the rods.
The rod measures just 17 inches long taken down, easily fitting into airlines carry-on luggage, which is about 21 inches inside measure--should any of us ever choose to risk flying again.
The small size also allows an easy fit into a backpack when you’re hiking up to that alpine trout lake in the Rockies or a tiny brookie stream in the Smokies. A segmented nylon sleeve and padded cover protect the sections in transit, though you may want to add a hard plastic tube for surety—a length of 3” diameter plastic chart tube with end caps works well, I’ve found.
Components Make the Rod
Guides are the Fuji K-Series tangle-free models, lots of them, with SIC or silicon carbide rings. Silicon carbide rings are generally recognized as the gold standard in guides due to their durability and low friction, and the slick design prevents most of those loop-overs that spinning gear is heir to.
The rods are built with 30 ton and up to 46 ton graphite—which for most of us is meaningless. My engineer buddies tell me higher “ton” ratings in graphite rods more or less indicate greater stiffness for the amount of material—the higher the tonnage, the thinner the rod can be at a given power. But, too high and the rod becomes very brittle. Arundel says their rods push the materials to the safe limit, allowing them to be exceptionally light while still maintaining good durability. Aramid reinforcement in key areas add toughness and durability—the stuff is the same material used in some ballistic vests.
Spinning models use the Fuji VSS reel seat. On the VSS, the hood is 10mm longer than on the Fuji ECS model, which the company says enhances rod stability regardless of casting style. All models also have high-quality cork handles. Many anglers prefer cork grips to composite, both for weight and for smoothness. They can also be restored to like-new appearance with a quick scrub.
Not only the travel rods have take-apart features. For longer rods, the company employs a butt joint that separates the rod handle from the rest of the rod for easy transport. While butt joints on many rods are notoriously difficult to separate, the company says their design is solid during fishing but easily removed with a firm twist.
The rods are high end, around $300, which definitely puts them in the premium class. They have a 30-day return policy, allowing buyers to thoroughly test a rod and be sure the action and features are right for them. All rods come with a limited 2-year warranty against manufacturer defects. However, the company also offers a $75 no-questions-asked replacement plan for that first two-year period—not a bad extra spend on a rod that’s this expensive because car doors just don’t respect price. Their website is www.arundeltackle.com.