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Rod Review

Swimbait Rod Wars Installment #11: Deps Joins the Frey With one of Their Sidewinder Sticks (continued)

Power: Despite the rod's two-piece construction, the HGC-77XR has power to spare. This is one stout stick and you can have every confidence that just about any fish you encounter with this rod, the Dom Driver will indeed dominate and give you the upper hand during the battle. The combination of a relatively slow taper and monster power delivers a reassuring strength yet forgiving action during the fight. A very nice combination indeed.

The HGC-77XR is a two-piece stick coming apart just above the reel seat - a common implementation amongst Japanese built and designed rods.

The attractive carbon weave at the split rear grip.

Features: Despite cosmetic treatments, the most interesting feature of the HGC-77XR is its two piece construction with separation of the rod's two pieces just above the handle assembly. This is the same strategy taken by and illustrated with Evergreen International's Balista. Only that rod had an optional second handle. I doubt the Dom Driver's original handle is available for purchase separately, but it would certainly make for an interesting option were this the case.

The subtle and stylish butt design of the XGC-77XR.

Aside from that, the Dom Driver sports a standard array of features - that is, assuming you're familiar with rods made for the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM): foam grips, Fuji Ti/SiC guides, custom rod sleeve, etc.. An interesting decision in the reel seat of the HGC-77XR is the exclusion of an exposed blank seat and a move to the old school, closed seat. I've noted before I feel there is no real advantage to an exposed seat after our SuperCast Shootout of of 2006 where the non-exposed blank through seat on the Palms rod had zero effect on that rod's sensitivity. In fact, the Palms was the most sensitive of the bunch! But of course, an exposed blank of some sort has become so common place now, that it is expected in just about every bass rod produced.

Common with JDM sticks of this stature, the Dom Driver comes with titanium framed SiC inserted guides from Fuji.

Application: The HGC-77XR is actually an adequate swimbait stick but it's obvious the rod's comfort zone is with more close quarter presentations. While it loads okay during a cast with big, heavy baits, there are other sticks in our Rod Wars that do so with less effort. Were it not for the rod's aggressive lure weight rating of up to four ounces, we wouldn't have thought twice about acquiring it for the Rod Wars, but since the rating was there, and the rod became available, we had to give it a shot.

The first, but hopefully not the last we see from the rod department at Deps.

One last peak at how seriously this rod is built - check out the reinforced tip top guide!

Warranty: As with any stick acquired from within Japan, this particular Dom Driver is out of warranty because it is being used outside of its intended market. Deps does have a presence within the United States, but that is for their baits and not their fishing rods. If you choose to acquire one of these sticks, proceed with caution and full awareness that should you have a warranty concern, you're likely stuck.


Deps HGC-77XR Dom Driver Flipping Edition Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality A nicely crafted, well executed product 8
Performance Power is the rod's best attribute 7
Price You only have to know two things... JDM AND Limited Edition 4
Features A nice list of components and creative two piece design 8
Design (Ergonomics) A bit too hefty for its own good 6
Application Best in heavy cover, but can be used for tossing big baits if you really want 7

Total Score

Ratings Key: Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
(For a detailed explanation of the ratings go here)

Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Just about as exotic as they come yet still understated L Expensive expensive expensive
J If power is your game, the Dom Driver is ready L Very difficult to find
J Top end componentry L Zero warranty at least in the United States


Rod, reel, bait, and a chunky 7lber courtesy of Deps!


Conclusion: We acquired the Deps HGC-77XR Dom Driver fully aware of the possibility our intended application may not suit the rod's design. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that while this was true, the Dom Driver is still a capable big bait stick. The real criticism of this rod is its weight, balance, and overall heft. It is a solid stick and actually feels more like a thick glass rod than it does one made of current generation graphite. Such are the travails when going exotic for your fishing needs - you're never quite sure what you're going to get. Special thanks go out to our good friends at BassFishingPlanet.com for their help in making this review possible.













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