1. SHI­MANO CURADO CAST­ING ROD

Field and Stream - - FIELD TEST -

$160–$170 • shi­mano.com

An­glers know the name Curado. For years, it has re­ferred specif­i­cally to Shi­mano’s line of workhorse bait­cast­ing reels and has come to de­note high qual­ity at a man­age­able price. So, when the com­pany de­vel­oped a line of rods with the same qual­i­ties, it only made sense to put the Curado name on them. It’s a high stan­dard to live up to, but these new sticks don’t dis­ap­point.

The blanks on the Curado se­ries are a blend of tra­di­tional car­bon and Nanoresin—a high­mod­u­lus mix that in­creases re­spon­sive­ness and power, re­sult­ing in light­weight, sen­si­tive rods that store and re­lease more en­ergy for longer and more ac­cu­rate casts, and that still pack plenty of back­bone to mus­cle big game­fish to the boat. Ev­ery model in the line fea­tures high-end Fuji prod­ucts from tip to butt, in­clud­ing tan­gle-free guides and a rub­ber­ized soft­touch reel seat. The cork grip is com­fort­able and er­gonomic— per­fect for all-day cast­ing. The Curado line of cast­ing rods has 23 dif­fer­ent mod­els that cover a wide range of fish­ing tech­niques, from a 6-foot-10-inch medium/fast rod for smaller pre­sen­ta­tions to a beastly 8-foot ex­tra-heavy/fast model for throw­ing huge baits and muscling lunker fish.

—M.M.

2. 13 FISH­ING CON­CEPT Z CAST­ING REEL $200 • 13fish­ing.com

The Con­cept Z is not the first reel with­out tra­di­tional ball bear­ings, but it is the first to de­liver best-in-class per­for­mance. The cor­ner­stone of the reel is the Con­cept Zero Bear­ing (CZB), per­fected by 13 Fish­ing after years of R&D. The CZB self­lu­bri­cates and never needs ser­vice, it doesn’t wear or rust, and its per­for­mance only im­proves with time and use. Trans­lated into fish­ing terms, the Con­cept Z will throw the small­est lures sig­nif­i­cantly far­ther than other low-pro­file bait­cast­ers.

Both the cast and the re­trieve are in­cred­i­bly smooth and quiet right out of the box. The Con­cept Z is also armed with 13 Fish­ing’s Bull­dog drag sys­tem, which packs more than 22 pounds of stop­ping power. The reel’s per­for­mance and power are tucked neatly into a light­weight and rigid 6.4-ounce pack­age that can be used in fresh wa­ter or salt. Soft, com­fort­able EVA han­dle grips, and a six-point cen­trifu­gal brake that can be changed on the fly add to the reel’s util­ity. The Z is avail­able in three righthanded mod­els with gear ra­tios of 6.6:1, 7.3:1, and 8.1:1, and one left-handed model with a gear ra­tio of 7.3:1. A beefed-up Con­cept Z for larger fresh­wa­ter and in­shore species is cur­rently in the works.

—M.M.

3. ST. CROIX LEG­END X SPIN­NING ROD $400–$410 • stcroixrods.com

St. Croix left us lit­tle choice but to give them a Best of the Best award for the Leg­end X, which the com­pany stuffed with ev­ery one of its state-of-the-art tech­nolo­gies and fin­ished with ul­tra­high-end com­po­nents. For starters, the rods are built with 100 per­cent cor­ro­sion-re­sis­tant ti­ta­nium Fuji tan­gle-free guides with Torzite rings, which are smoother and harder than all other guide ce­ram­ics. The blank fea­tures su­per-high-mod­u­lus SCVI graphite in its lower sec­tion, which in­creases power while re­duc­ing weight, and high- mod­u­lus/high-strain SCV graphite with a car­bon-matte scrim on the up­per sec­tion, which adds both dura­bil­ity and sen­si­tiv­ity. The Leg­end X is tooled with St. Croix’s In­te­grated Poly Curve (IPC) tech­nol­ogy, which elim­i­nates tran­si­tion points along the length of the rod. The blank also in­cor­po­rates St. Croix’s Ad­vanced Re­in­forc­ing Tech­nol­ogy (ART), which re­duces de­for­ma­tion un­der load and max­i­mizes power. A ti­ta­nium Ki­gan hook keeper, Fuji TVS blank-touch reel seat, and su­per-grade cork round out this paragon of spin­ning rods, hand­crafted in Park Falls, Wis­con­sin. There are five spin­ning mod­els, rang­ing from a 6-foot-10-inch medium/light to a 7-foot medium/heavy.

—M.M.

4. SHI­MANO EXSENCE SPIN­NING REEL $540–$550 • fish.shi­mano.com

The Exsence has been called the “Bat­mo­bile” be­cause of its sleek matte-black fin­ish and modern curves. But looks alone don’t make this reel worth more than $500. What com­mands that price are the reel’s guts and en­gi­neer­ing, which make it one of the smoothest, most de­pend­able spin­ning reels I’ve ever fished. It’s been my A reel since April, com­ing along on every­thing from river small­mouth hunts to Amer­i­can shad quests and tro­phy chain pick­erel mis­sions. I know that if I took it out for more feisty play­ers like stripers or steel­head, it would han­dle them too. The mag­ne­sium Ha­gane body is in­cred­i­bly light­weight yet strong, while Shi­mano’s X-Pro­tect tech­nol­ogy pro­vides a wa­ter-re­pel­lent coat­ing on in­ter­nal parts that’s not as thick as grease, al­low­ing Shi­mano to use much lighter gears and ro­tors to re­duce over­all weight. There is more state-ofthe-art tech­nol­ogy in this reel than I can men­tion here, but it’s all aimed at cre­at­ing a reel with tol­er­ances that will never loosen up, mak­ing it feel fresh out of the box sea­son after sea­son. If you’re one of those an­glers who prefers to be mar­ried to your gear rather than have to re­place it ev­ery few years, the Exsence is worth the in­vest­ment.

—J.C.

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