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Event Article


2009 Bassmaster Classic Expo Coverage: Part 2 (continued)

Rods and Reels: The rod market appears to be booming with top quality sticks across the board and no company seems to be benefitting more than E21. At times it seemed that every other person leaving the Expo was carrying one of their Carrot Stix models.



One of the most intriguing rod companies was Power Tackle, a Del Rio, Texas based company owned by FLW pro Tim Reneau. With the recent national emergence of Amistad, Falcon and Choke Canyon as the top big fish tournament region in the country (challenged perhaps only by Northern California’s Delta and Clear Lake), Reneau set out to create a line of rods aimed exclusively at oversized fish. His “No Ratz” slogan says it all. Their Paragon flipping stick features a Fuji ACS blank-thru reel seat, a foam handle and double-footed recoil guides.


Gary Dobyns shows off one of his new rods


California’s own Gary Dobyns and his eponymously named Dobyns Rods shared space with the Lake Fork Tackle crew. His second-generation rods featured enthusiast-oriented stylings.  Dobyns said that his company is the only non-Japanese entity getting rods from these particular craftsmen making the rods for him make them for Dobyns, the Japanese domestic market and no one else. The rods are available in two tiers which consist of over 50 technique-specific models.


Marty Stone demonstrated the adjustable length handle on the top end sticks from American Rodsmiths


Marty Stone demonstrated the latest rods from American Rodsmiths, their H3 Titanium series, which allow the angler to easily customize the handle length to his preferences, anywhere from 6’6” to 7’0” or 7’2”, depending on the model. Stone explained that length could be tailored so that a rod that served a tall angler like himself well could also be used by someone shorter – or the same angler might want to use the rod with different handle lengths for different techniques, such as a longer handle for lipless cranks and a shorter handle when walking a topwater. The H3’s also feature Recoil guides and a double-locking reel seat.


Falcon displayed a set of rods specifically designed to chase peacock bass in the tropics


Falcon Rods had a full lineup of products in their booth. Among the most notable models were the football jig rod designed with input from 4th place Classic finisher Mike McClelland and the rods aimed at peacock bass, with an exquisite picture of that species on the handle. Pro staffer Mike Whitten explained that unlike many other rods which come in standard lengths of six-feet, six and a half, seven feet, Falcon tailors its rod lengths to the precise specifications of their experts. For example, the McClelland rod is 7’4”. While there are some rods built in “half foot” increments, not all fall into that category.


The G-Man worked the Quantum booth and sold Moon Pies from his own booth


Quantum pros demonstrated their “Custom Shop” sticks, designed to the specifications of Kevin VanDam, Gerald Swindle, Shaw Grigsby, Gary Klein, Randy Howell, Dean Rojas, Tommy Biffle and Greg Hackney. Each angler’s rods are colored differently to differentiate his models. Most intriguing to me was Gary Klein’s flipping stick, an 8’ rod which he says mirrors the action of a discontinued blank he had custom built for years. It also has a Revolver guide system to eliminate line slap and allow an angler to gain maximum leverage on a fish.


Gary Klein’s signature flipping stick is based on three decades of flipping experience


Ardent had their mainstream casting reels in stock, but the item which drew the most attention was their new Flip-N-Pitch, a reel designed specifically for short-line techniques. It has no levelwind, so the line is guided by a ceramic eye onto and off of a narrow spool. That spool has a small nub to tie your braided line to in order to avoid line slippage. Perhaps most importantly, the drag is factory set at 28 pounds, so rock solid hooksets are assured.


The Ardent Flip-N-Pitch may be the long-rod fisherman’s dream come true.  A heavy-duty drag system and narrow spool mean that it’s tailor made for braid


The Abu-Garcia Revos sold well at Dick’s Sporting Goods, owing no doubt in part to their promotion which allowed purchasers of certain reels to obtain a free pair of Wiley-X sunglasses (two more Skeet Reese-endorsed products). Not surprisingly, the new Shimano Curado E series also seemed to be flying off the shelves – it seems that the return to green may indicate that the Curado will once again be the flagship reel of the bass fishing market.


The “new/old” Curado may once again prove to be the reel industry’s gold standard


Boating Equipment: I was disappointed that Lowrance could not or would not comment on their upcoming side-viewing (don’t call it “side-imaging”) sonar. A company spokesman would not tell me when it is expected to hit the general market, nor would he explain what about their technology is better than the competition’s. But the company’s HDS (high definition sonar) units were on display and they seem to have raised their game in terms of overall picture and mapping capabilities.


More than half of the Classic contestants had at least one Power Pole on their boat.  They are also being seen increasingly frequently on boats owned by weekend anglers


Power Pole may be the fastest growing add-on in the bass market. While their products were once viewed as an oddity or specialty item, they are now almost de rigueur for anyone who wants to seriously compete in shallow water. And it’s not just the Florida guys like Chris Lane and Terry Segraves. A company spokesman said that 29 Classic pros had at least one Power Pole on their boat and approximately a half dozen of those had two. He estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the Elite Series pros will have at least one this year.


The Oxygenator, endorsed by Denny Brauer, promises to decrease fish mortality


Denny Clark of Oxygenator displayed his aeration system and chemicals aimed at preserving your tournament catch by generating pure oxygen in a form that is too small to escape the surface of your livewell water. Once again, while livewell chemicals have been available for years, only in recent years have the frequent occurrence of 30 and even 40 pound limits made it necessary to take extraordinary measures to get your fish to weigh-in on time. The system now comes standard or as an option on some brands of boats or for less than $200 you can add it to your own.


This easily-attached step will allow you to work on your tackle in the driveway without entering the boat


Roger Sutterfield of Hamby’s Marine Products showed off his company’s keel protectors, both the standard heavy-duty Hamby’s and their do-it-yourself Keel Guard (available in 13 colors), but most intriguing to me was the Megaware FlexStep, an easily attached step that enables one to access the boat from the trailer – great for working on the boat, working on tackle or cleaning things up. It can be quickly detached and stored as well.

Conclusion: Ultimately, the Bassmaster Classic tournament itself revealed nothing earth-shattering in terms of tackle or equipment.  Skeet Reese won by outlasting the competition with three quality limits caught on refined versions of old standby lures – a spinnerbait and a soft plastic craw.  But what I took away from this event was that despite the difficult economic climate, anglers are still willing to pay for top-notch equipment if it is aesthetically appealing or is proven to be effective.  As evidenced the Power Pole, we may as a group be unwilling to jump on bandwagons for new products immediately, but we’re curious to know what’s out there and willing to engage in a cost-benefit analysis to determine what we need or want.












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