To paraphrase a recent Sci-Fi movie, where the hero is caught in a temporal loop fighting alien invaders this is the rod that I’d use to do the same thing over and over again, and that would be… fishing (other than eating and sleeping). Enter The Best By Test REVIEW to discover tomorrow’s technology and performance made available today with the EDGE Swim Bait 805-1 HM rod by Gary Loomis.
I must admit, back in the early ’90s, when my baitcasting adventure began with orders from Cabela’s in the U.S., it didn’t take long to become a G. Loomis rods fan. Actually, since I first saw them in the catalogs of the time and on Cabela’s website, I knew that logo meant „serious business”, that they looked like rods made with one goal: to perform at their best for every kind of anglers, from beginners to the more knowledgeable ones.
I still remember the days when I was bringing my personal G. Loomis rods from Jan Siman in Czech Republic, who at the time was a local distributor for Eastern Europe and the closest to my country, even though his business was mainly dedicated to fly rods. He was also the captain of the Czech Fly Fishing National Team and he is a multiple fly fishing champion. Since then, I went through a lot of Loomis rods and loved each one for its intrinsic qualities.
In the meantime, lots of things have happened, Gary Loomis, the legend behind the G. Loomis rods and GLX graphite, first of its kind specially designed for fishing rods, was diagnosticated with prostate cancer, so he sold his G. Loomis company to Shimano Corporation. Fortunately, Gary fought the terrible illness and won the battle (although in the beginning the doctors have given him only 6 months to live). The father of modern, high modulus graphite rods built with carbon scrim, the GLX, still has a competitive word to say in the world of designing fishing rods. Actually, much more than a few words I might say!
A keen fisherman and a passionate designer always in search for the best in performance from composites materials, Gary Loomis could not stand too long away from the industry that he helped raised pretty much like one of his own kids.
Enter the North Fork Composites, the new company founded by Gary Loomis, where he and his dedicated team mix together experience, knowledge and highly trained skills to build some of the finest graphite blanks for the anglers from all over the world.
But that is not all. Blanks are meant for anglers who want to build custom rods by themselves or with the help of rod builders. Gary also wanted to offer complete rods for the discerning fishermen, so the EDGE rods by Gary Loomis was born. The rods are built with the same high performance graphite blanks made by North Fork Composites, featuring Next Gen IM and HM blanks, where IM stands for Intermediate Modulus and HM for High Modulus graphite composite blanks. We will get to talk about each one in the review and in others to follow, once the little class of Contemporary Graphite Rod History is over.
Without further much ado… let’s cut it to the chase, so on with the review we go.
1. Rod specs and first impression
Manufacturer: EDGE Rods Company
Model: EDGE Swim bait 805-1 HM, individually numbered
Series: Black Widow
Material: Next Generation HM (High Modulus) graphite blank built by North Fork Composites
Length: 8′ (2.43 meter in our metric system)
Casting weight: 1/2 – 3 oz. (14 – 85 grams)
Line weight: 12 – 25 lbs.
Power within its class: Medium Heavy
Rod weight: I weighed it on an electronic scale that’s supposed to have +/- 1 gram error margin, but it’s really tough to perfectly place and balance an 8 feet rod on a scale the size of a small plate. I am also waiting for the official measurements from the manufacturer, but until then, the scale I have shows 163 grams or 5.7 oz. However, the rod DOES HAVE an extremely light feel in hand once you pick it up and is stays that way the whole fishing day.
Guides: 8 + tip (first 4 double-foot, last 4 single-foot)
Made in: USA
First impression – when you hold the rod in your hand, is actually more than one: despite its notable length, it feels like holding almost nothing in hand or like the rod could suspend itself in mid-air should you let it go. That is one piece of lightweight carbon tube.
Second observation – The balance point is also on par with rod’s lightness: almost perfect.
Third observation – the guides are spiral wrapped, which means that the striper guide (largest one) starts on top of the rod but offset by around 45 degrees, but the next two guides rotate around the blank and make the transition underneath the rod blank. This setup has lots of advantages, some of them being:
– the line doesn’t touch the blank when under load by fish;
– less guides necessary to build the rod, less weight for more responsive rod action;
– reduce torsion/twisting in the rod blank since the guides are under the blank (unlike the „regular” baitcasting rods built with all guides on top);
– slack line won’t catch that often nor easily in the guide frames.
I owned and I do own other Japanese high end rods built that way, either for big bait fishing, or for bait finesse techniques and all I can say is that if spiral wrap reduces casting distance, I for one didn’t noticed that at all. And the offset guide does not make the line pile up on one side of the reel’s spool. In over 10 years of fishing with acid wrapped rods, I had no issues whatsoever and I really liked the advantages of these rods with a… twist.
Fourth observation and I’ll make it short: this rod had got NO TRIGGER on the reel seat, although it’s a baitcasting rod. I thought that would become an issue and a reason to dislike, but after 3 fishing trips I didn’t notice the missing trigger anymore.
Build characteristics – the Swim Bait 805-1 HM impressed me the first seconds I took it out of the FedEx tube, first by its lightweight or the perceived feel of lightness, second by its looks. Akin to its badass brother on steroids, the Swim Bait 807-1 IM, the 805 HM features a proprietary designed reel seat and handle.
First, the reel seat is split and it has no trigger. Then, the fore and rear grips are made of woven carbon. Yep, the handle is a straight pipe of graphite, 35.5 cm long. The foregrip is quite long by today’s standards or better said, the lack of it, since lots of manufacturers jumped the bandwagon of minimalist-styled rods, that help them reduce the overall weight of the finished products. Anyway, when you put the reel, the foregrip nut locks it tight into place. One word of caution: those who don’t like to get their reels’ feet marred would better cover the front foot with a piece of duct tape for protection. The foregrip has taken a little bit of paint off my Daiwa Tatula Typer-R 103HL foot. For now, that’s the only slight inconvenience I could find about the rod handle assembly.
The foregrip locking nut is a little harder to turn, but I expect that to loosen with time and use. Actually I like it tight than wobbly and rattling when the reel is not on the rod. The split reel seat grants better access to the blank when you hold the reel and the rod in your hand. If that wasn’t enough for pure sensitivity, then the carbon fore and rear grips act like resonance boxes or speakers amplifiers that convey even the slightest ticks of the lure or line through the guides, the blank and grip to the angler’s hand. I think I’ll want my next custom rod, soon to be built on another North Fork Blank, to feature a hollow carbon tube rear grip, that’s how much I like this solution from EDGE’s design team. Not to mention that these braided carbon handles look just awesome in the sunlight – for those anglers sensible to art.
Guides wraps are clean, the epoxy covering them is flat, not „bumpy” or in excess. That’s how I like guide wraps, with the minimum epoxy required.
Action – although the action is declared as fast, the tip is extremely lively and light on the good side, and the middle section loads quickly the fight the fish thus creating a feel of a more Moderate-Fast rod. I was once big fan of G. Loomis Popping and Hot Shot series of rods due to their’s light tips compared to the backbone or their reserve power on the butt sections. This Swim Bait 805-1 HM reminds me of those but takes the design of a higher performing rod even further, with lighter weight feeling and sensitivity.
Casting performance – rated 1/2 – 3 oz., the rod easily casts the lower weight of 14 grams and can get down to 10 or even 7 grams, yet it handles any big bait in the 1.5 to 2.5 oz. with unmatched smoothness. The rod feels just crisp and the precision is nothing short of fantastic. It almost feels like casting a silky smooth fly rod, because you can feel the rod bending and unbending (storing and releasing energy) during each casting motion.
It surely doesn’t look like a „3 oz. rod” and my first impression was that the maximum casting weight would push its limits. I cast it with big baits from 1 to 2.8 oz. and it can throw the entire range yet to me baits around 2.3 to 2.5 oz are what I would maximum use as a personal preference. Case in point, it throws the Imakatsu Ayuroid (2.3 oz. class) with lots of feedback on loading and unloading the rod, accuracy and good distance, too.
Casting weight sweet spot – this term refers to that specific weight that the rod seems to throw at its best, with excellent efficiency. To me, the SB 805-1 HM performs really well with baits around 1 to 1 1/2 oz. I just like the way the rod feels and casts that range of weights. So, a Imakatsu Javallon Hard that weight around 1 1/2 oz. or 40 grams will go just beautiful day in and out.
Fishing capability – due to the design of the blank and thanks to that lively tip section, there isn’t any technique that the rod would not do great, at least for what I’m using it – pike fishing. It fishes soft swimbaits with offset hooks from 4″ to 6″ perfectly and it has the power to drive the hidden hooks home though all that plastic right into the bony mouth of any pike. It fishes spinnerbaits just as great as the soft baits – from 1/4 to 3/8 or 1/2 oz. It will cast and retrieve spoons from as light as 3/8 oz. to over 1 oz., topwaters more than 1 oz., hollow frogs of all sizes and most important, hard swimbaits. I think its sweetspot is around 1.5 oz. When the pike feeds rather poorly, this is the one rod to have due to its light tip and superb sensitivity. I fished pullbaits from Salmo that I don’t know how much weigh, swimbaits from 14 to 18 cm and 1 to 2 oz. in weight. The EDGE Swim Bait 805-1 HM passed each test with flying colors. That’s a true all-around pike rod to have either in the boat or for bank fishing, as the extended length aids in presenting various lures in almost any condition.
I also took a couple of weekends and fished the rod exclusively for zander with thin braided lines and soft plastics mounted on offset and normal jigs ranging from 1/8 to 1/4 oz and I caught most of the fish of those trips with it. Although it’s more than doable and I fished quite good with the rod, its flex under swift, heavy hooksets reveals the „swimbait nature” because the stick actually works like a moderate-fast action. What really amazes me is its ability to cast jigs as light as 1/8 oz. that with the plastic put on won’t weigh heavier than 3/16 oz. or 5 grams. And the sensitivity of HM is there to help you detect whatever a fish does around your bait.
The rod has enough power to drive a 3 to 5/0 offset hook hidden in thick plastics through the soft bodies and into the zanders’ bony mouths with authority, both when fishing with braided or with fluorocarbon lines. I also fished the rod with skirted jigs with brush guards and various plastic trailers and the rod hooked any fish that bit with enough backbone in the middle section and power to spare in order to get out of some messy situations to say the least.
I also fished cranks like the Imakatsu Big Bats and the rod retrieves them quite good thanks to the limber tip section. It will FISH any reaction bait style out there with supreme ease. That’s a FISHING ROD as opposed to „show rods” as I like to call some of the really glittery JDM sticks that add more flash than performance to one’s fishing skills.
Power – given the current specialized market I would rate it as Medium-Light swimbait stick, with power to cast baits up to 2.5 oz. 3 oz. is certainly possible but I’d prefer a little bit more power in the tip and mid-section for that weight – again, that’s a personal preference based on how the rod feels loading and unloading with various weights in the declared casting weight range.
Sensitivity – this characteristic is subject to personal experiences and preferences and since there is no means of measuring it, is quite subjective. But even so, one can assess a rod based on previous experiences and rods used before. I would say that the Next Gen HM (High Modulus) graphite blanks that North Fork Composites are rolling right now could be easily ranked among world’s highest sensitive sticks. The Next Gen HM uses the next best composite materials, from graphite pre-preg to resin systems and moreover, they feature a new Carbon Paper Scrim that subtracts weight and adds hoop strength and sensitivity.
Regular blanks are made with fiberglass scrims, which is more resilient but adds in the weight department. I fished the SB 805-1 HM with Sunline FX1 30 lbs. and with Sunline FC Sniper 16 lbs. and every bump or tick was clearly transmitted to my hand from 25 meters away or from 4 meters depth. I could feel the composition of the bottom – rocky, muddy, when the lure was climbing a bump or the break-off next to the bank or if it was a submerged weed or reed. One weekend I fished on Raduta Lake and some areas contained lots of sunken houses with them walls, foundations, roofs and more. The sensitivity of dragging a 1/8 oz. offset jig with a 3″ plastic through all that nasty stuff is best described as „electrifying” – feel anything, never miss a bite.
Ergonomics – the rod is lightweight and extremely balanced, two major benefits for your arm and shoulder after a full day of fishing. I thought the trigerless reel seat would make the rod fly out of my hand during the casting motion or the hooksets – even I still have that fear, none has happened and the grip provided by the reel seat in conjunction with the reel is very firm, even with the hand wet from just releasing a fish back into his habitat.
Features – the guides are matte black frames, Fuji K-guides with SIC ceramic inserts that match the natural graphite-gray finish of the blanks or, how North Fork Composites say, „Raw carbon – no added color, coating or weight”. The straight carbon handle has won me over the EVA, Hypalon or the latest trends, the sticky rubbery-plasticky grips borrowed from the golf clubs. Carbon handle could be the best material I have seen so far in the fishing rods industry.
In a world that outsources everything except for making babies to Asian countries, a rod Made in Japan or one Made in USA comes with a steep price. Only that, for an U.S. made rod, the EDGE is not overly expensive and certainly lower in price than a top JDM counterpart. The JDM might look better, and perform great, but at double the price tag of an EDGE rod.
What I like – EDGE rods are not JDM but are neither USDM. That means, they are something else, above all and beyond the competition. That begins with the understated looks that becomes quite meaningful when you first grip that carbon handle. These are not rods made for the looks, even though I like their understated aura. These are rods made to perform. Period. It took a long time to find a rod that would make me go fishing just for the sheer pleasure of using it. The SB 805-1 HM is that kind of rod.
What I don’t like – the front locking reel nut that mars the reel foot. That problem can be avoided by using some electrical tape on the reel’s front foot or the protective tape delivered with some reels (Abu Garcia Revo MGXtreme first comes to mind). Also, Abu Garcia Japan sells some protective cover for reel feet. I’ll get some and test them, too (product pictures look promising at first sight). Other than that I don’t see any issue with the rod’s design.
The EDGE Videocast (for better details please select the Full HD 1080p resolution in the YouTube settings menu) – in this video you’ll witness casting a large variety of baits ranging from 1/4 oz. up to 2.8 oz. As you’ll see, the rod casts every bait in that test, even though I would call 2.5 oz. baits as it upped comfortable limit. What amazes me is the exclusive feel one gets each and every cast, with baits from 1/2 to 2.5 oz. – feeling the rod loading and unloading that smooth just adds to those special moments called „fishing memories”.
The lures cast, in order: Jackall Tiny Magallon (7.2 grams) / Imakatsu Alive Chatter (13 grams) / Jackall Bowstick 130 (27.5 grams) / Imakatsu SG Plus Ayuroid (65 grams) / Deps Slideswimmer 175 (80 grams) / 12 cm soft swimbait with 5/0 offset hook and 3/16 oz. weight (estimated at around 25 grams) / Jackall spinnerbait (10.5 grams).
Reel: Daiwa Tatula Type-R with Hedgehog Air Bearings and Hedgehog Alchemy UL oil.
Line on reel: Sunline SX1 30 lbs. braid.
Follow-up – I will add a quick update to this review upon completing 6 months of use. This is how I feel a real review should go. Not just once and for all but with short to medium term product reliability in mind as well.