Last month we spent some time fishing a Sage 790-4 VXP at Andros South. Guess what – we liked it! We generally don’t publish reviews of products we don’t like – you can read more about how we review products in our Product Review Policy and FTC Disclosure.
Background – Rods for South Andros
Our bonefish on South Andros Island tend not to be very spooky. 30 foot shots at 11 o’clock are much more common than 80 foot shots at 2 o’clock. That’s why, in general, we prefer rod/line combinations that load up easily at close range. Getting the fly to 30 feet quickly is generally much more important than getting it to 80 feet ‘onto a dinner plate’.
As a primary rod for South Andros, we generally don’t recommend ultra-fast 8 and 9 weights with long, fine front tapered lines. Unless you’re Bruce Chard, those kind of setups tend not to load very well with 30 feet or less of fly line out the rod tip. Ultra fast-action rods can perform well on South Andros when loaded by lines with shorter, heavier front tapers, but today we’re writing about rods, not lines…
As Tom Larimer wrote in a post last month, fast-action setups often work best on calm, clear days – since you can see the fish a long ways away, and have more time to make that lone shot. On days with tougher visibility, the shots tend to be shorter, and that’s where a medium-fast 7 weight like the 790-4 VXP comes into play.
Sage 790-4 VXP
The VXP series of rods sits in the ‘mid-priced’ tier of Sage’s lineup. While not exactly cheap at $525, the 790-4 will save you $200 compared to the 7 weight Xi3 and $285 compared to the 7 weight TCX. If you like Tom’s philosophy of bringing a fast 8 weight and a medium-fast 7 weight to South Andros, the VXP just might be the best choice regardless of the price.
Lots of folks describe the action on the VXP rods as being similar to that of the venerable XP line. We agree, with the caveats that the VXP is lighter, and we think it loads a little smoother. Casting the VXP side by side with a ‘pure saltwater’ rod like the Xi3, you’ll definitely notice that the VXP bends further down. This results in faster loading at closer range, and helps your fly get turned over more smoothly at those same short distances.
What’s the down side? Well, two situations come to mind. The first is the often-discussed-but-not-that-common ’80 foot shot into the wind’. Faster, more powerful rods like the Xi3 and TCX do a better job at longer distances. The second situation is a little more common – the shot at, say, 60 feet, when the fish (or your cast) went a different direction than you expected, and you need to pick up and immediately lay down all that line to get the fly in front of the fish. Again, rods with more backbone do better in that scenario.
And that’s that – we’ll not beat a dead horse! The most common shots at bonefish on South Andros Island need to happen quickly but not at long range, and for those shots we think the 790-4 VXP does a darned fine job.