Get me outta here!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Browning CC Silverlite SL 10-08 Pole (Independent Review)

As I write, there seems to be something of a shift occurring. The nations rivers and canals are firing once again and anglers are being drawn back in numbers. At the same time, many of our now established commercial fisheries are providing some amazing non-carp orientated sport! Silver fish are in!

Browning "Champions Choice" Silverlite SL 10-08 13m - RRP £1749

In reality, Browning have taken a bit of a risk launching the Silverlite range - two high quality (and costly) poles that apparently sacrifice strength in favour of lightness and stiffness?! The risk here is due to a fairly logical assumption that most match anglers today require an all-round pole - not one that is limited just to the lighter end of the scale. You can catch roach with a carp pole, but you can't haul carp on a roach pole.

But then... times... they are'a changin'!  Brave they may be but I think that Browning have judged the market to perfection and played a blinder here! I haven't got to what I think of the pole yet but even if I slate it Browning are obviously taking things seriously these days. I genuinely think they've got their timing just right. Over the past twelve months especially, some historic rivers and canals are almost back to their best - with some fishing better than ever! Where there are fish, obviously we'll follow, and assuming no natural or man-made disaster bestows our waterways any time soon it's looking very good for anglers who prefer some silver fish action! Commercials too are seeing more and more silvers orientated matches and leagues. It's great!

Anyway, on to the pole(s)!

There are two in the Silverlite range.

1) Browning CC Silverlite SL 10-12, 16m (RRP: £2799)
2) Browning CC Silverlite SL 10-08, 13m. (RRP: £1749)

I actually fished my trial sessions at Hengar Manor in Cornwall. I used to fish here a lot when I was young and once had 100lb of roach in 5 manic hours out of their main lake. Albeit on a topkit to hand - so not much of a test for any pole. Saying that, it's changed over the years and although massive weights of silvers are still very possible in the summer months, I'm testing here during early winter. Speaking to the fisher manager, Stewart Lister, he reckoned that 60lb may be possible if it fishes really well and the fish come shallow. As it turned out, we were a touch past that part of the year and they didn't come shallow, but I did manage weights up to 50lb on the Silverlite (sadly not pictured).

A month or two earlier I'd gone to the annual Tackle and Guns trade show and left completely surprised by the items I'd fallen for. You can see the full report HERE. The Browning poles were among those that I'd not expected much from. It turns out they are amazing!

Blagging my chance to use one of the Silverlites, I wasn't sad that they leant me the cheaper option. I've become quite sensible with my tackle purchases over the past 6 months in particular. I don't really match fish for example, and only really fish for silvers, so the need for a 16m pole escapes me. I've tried some incredible sub-£1000 poles just lately, and at 13m, I've handled poles like the Daiwa ZR4 at £899 (which I also now own after trying it) which are 99% as light and rigid at 13m as models within their range at 4 times the price. While writing this (2 months after testing the Silverlite in all honesty), I still think the ZR4 is the best value pole I have ever handled. Since then though, my hankering for the Browning hasn't gone away, so I've since bought one of these too. Here's why!...

I may not have fished with every top end pole on the market, but I have tried a lot. At least in a trade environment. The Browning Silverlite range are the stiffest I have EVER handled. When it comes to hitting roach bites at distance, there is currently no stiffer, more responsive range of poles anywhere at the moment! And that's not one of those "IMO" (in my opinion) types of statements because I'm worried about upsetting anybody. It's a fact. Browning fan or not (I wasn't!), they are incredible.

There are so many things I like about the Silverlite though. Even when it comes to just picking up a top kit.

For a start they come with a long, pre-bushed no.1 section. I'm a big fan of long tip sections! Obviously it's not the first time it's been done, but the length of the kits is perfect for something like the orange, J-Range Lastix (3-5) that I use a lot. The overall top kit measures 9 feet, with the tip making up at least 5 of that. You also notice the weight of the kits. I've never held anything like it. They just don't weight anything at all! This explains the poles excellent balance, which I'll get on to next. With there being so little weight at the tip, it's no wonder they're well balanced.

When looking at pole specs in the catalogues, I've come to fully realise and appreciate that it's not all about the weight of these poles that counts. Granted, at 13m and 814g it's a very light pole, but there are lighter out there. The more expensive 10-12 is only 791g at 13m, but even this gets beat on paper by some.

I've done it with a few poles since, but it was interesting to set up my existing Garbolino M3 (long considered by many a great all-round pole, of which it still is) across two rollers, along side the Silverlite 10-08. By having the butt of each pole aligned on the back roller, and moving the position of the front roller (approx. 3m in front of the first), it was interesting to see the "tipping" points of each - where the length of pole in front of the roller weighed more than the back. This gives an effective comparison to what kind of downforce you would be feeling when fishing with the pole at full length (or any length you fancy). It was also a useful comparison for length and "tip droop" too!

While not a statistical process, it was very interesting experiment nonetheless. As expected in a way, it was clear that the Garbolino was more tip heavy and tipped with the front roller far further forward than the Silverlite. It also wasn't as stiff - inevitably - because we've already established that there is more weight towards the tip of the pole! Both poles were elasticated with the same elastic in the same length; the Garbolino held a match kit to try and keep the weight down; and the length, perhaps surprisingly was only 10cm different!............

If you can read between the lines there, I had temporarily blotted my complete opinion of the Silverlite. I was full of disgust when on measuring both "13m" poles I found that the Browning measured only 12.4m at full length!!!!! I hated myself for having previously liked it so much. It'd been cheating me all along! This is solved later, so don't worry yet. The Garbolino however, is actually stated as being 12.7, but since I hacked 40cm off when elasticating, it is clear to see that the Garbolino really is "true length" - at least out of the bag. I fish that too with one of their flat butts which puts it back above 12.7m.

It turns out that the actual package for the Silverlite 10-08 comes with one of their "Adjusta" sections. I didn't have this available to me during the test weeks (I do have it now). This is basically an 80cm dolly butt with a few length markings on it which fits on the 13m section.  It's been made strong enough that with some care and attention, you can actually cut the section down to give yourself exactly 13m (for CIPS rules or otherwise). Total length of the 10-08 including this section uncut is 13.1m.

I must admit, package wise the 10-08 is lacking a bit. The 10-12 fares better. Coming only in a 13m option, the 10-08 comes with only 3 top kits in reality! With just 3 kits, £1749 all of a sudden seems hugely expensive. They are top 5's though! Or top 4's according to Browning - because of that long no.1 (A) section. These measure 5.75m. Also supplied is a 2.75m cupping kit and a lovely holdall. Oh, and the Adjusta section.

I hinted earlier that I'd actually bought myself a 10-08 since the trial, and I didn't realise this about the lack of kits at the time. I assumed it would have the 7 or 8 long top 2's that come with the 10-12. Obviously this would suit a lot of us in the UK a lot more specifically. Since the kits are about the highest quality I have ever seen (and are the same regardless of whether you buy the 10-08 or the 10-12), it is a shame that it will cost me a bit to stock up on 'normal' kits. The bonus though is that because of the long tip sections, I won't need to buy complete top 2's. I'll grab a few more of those and then just mostly stock up on long no.1's for housing different elastics - grabbing a mix of the 3.0mm and 3.9mm options - as in most cases I'm only elasticating the top 1.

The no.2 sections come with a carbon wrapped section to enable you to fit your own side puller of choice. A nice touch when using lighter hollows especially. Officially, the 3.0mm tips are only rated to a no.6 elastic, while the 3.9mm tips will house up to a no.10. Also, the poles will take any top kits from the Xitan range, so you have plenty of options if these don't suit you exactly.

I'm picky about pole finishes. My favourite finish of all time was on a Shimano Speedmaster that I had years ago. When catching roach at speed you could really just chuck the pole behind you and momentum would take it back through your hands, such was the smoothness. The Silverlite is noticeable in this respect too. As the below will testify to, I fished with the pole in a mixture of conditions; from warmer sunshine to freezing wind and rain. The pole was never at all sticky in the slightest. Despite it being an awesome all-rounder, I struggled in the rain with my Garbolino G-Max M3. No problems to report on the Silverlite here.

When it comes to strength, you'd think that due to the name and the way in which you'd assume it will be marketed, that the pole is not strong. Far from it in fact, the sections are completely solid and while playing the many carp that I hooked (and mostly lost on light tackle) there was never a worry in the world that the pole was uncomfortable. Although from a warranty point of view I doubt Browning would agree, I dare say that if you put a stronger Xitan kit on it you could happily fish with this pole for carp in shallower water. Since we play carp with our poles low to the water these days - minimising stress to any of the lower sections - to get the pole back and then play carp on a stronger top kit I doubt you'd have a problem! Saying that, I don't want to be responsible if you do it and something goes pear shaped! I'm just saying, don't be worried by the thought that these poles aren't strong just because of the name. They certainly don't feel like they're made of paper, like you might assume when thinking of similarly styled poles of the past.

The overall stiffness of the Silverlite seems to be achieved by using a relatively slow tapering mandrel on the no.4 and 5 sections in particular. Larger diameter sections are obviously going to be stiffer than traditionally slimmer ones, and you can notice that when you get to the top kit, all of a sudden through the top two sections the diameter comes right down. What I basically mean is that when I'm holding the top 4 or 5, it feels fatter in my hands than poles I've previously used. I've noticed that this is also how the Daiwa ZR4 and ZR5 achieve such incredible performance considering the price. It doesn't make a difference to your fishing if you ask me (although some would class it as a negative if you're fishing in a side wind), and the level of stiffness achieved by doing this is incredible.

I spent my test sessions mostly fishing between 5 and 13m (12.4m!). I always wanted to fish a full length line to make sure I was testing the pole to the max.

The kit I had available to me was just one, 3.0mm version. Loaded with the J-Range Lastix I mentioned above, I was well set for net-fulls of roach and skimmers. Although the roach weren't as active as they are at Hengar in the summer months, I had a few sessions (more info on them later), mostly catching roach on shorter lines and skimmers at full length. From a fishing point of view, it was impossible to knock the pole to be honest. Light, super, super stiff and brilliantly smooth to ship in and out.

Thinking a little outside the box though, there were a couple of things that caught me out...

Due to the carbon wrap for the side puller kit at the bottom of the second section, I kept confusing this with the bottom of the section when I was unshipping. I did it quite a few times - trying to twist the section off at this point - rather than grabbing the correct bit just 6" below. I noted to myself that I wished that the real join had a nice gold lined, "Browning burgundy" ring around the bottom of the section so that I could go straight for it, rather than quickly looking down and getting the wrong one. I know I sound stupid, but it happened so many times... I've since ended up marking it with Tippex.

The 3.0mm tips, I will reserve for solid elastics in future. Although they handle the fine hollows fine, I did have a few "sticky" problems. The 3.9mm option will get more love from me in future.

Other than that, for the type of fishing that I do (I love silvers), the pole is absolutely superb. The only dilemma I have had is whether to over stretch myself and buy the 10-12, or to play the sensible game and save a fortune on the 10-08. In the end, I think I've decided to stick with the 10-08. It feels marginally heavier than the 10-12, but appears on par in every other respect. Except the spares. However, I can work around that - with kits being easily available. When it comes to spares, just the fact that this is not officially an all-round pole means that you don't need to arm yourself with such a broad range of elastic options anyway. I'll probably still end up with 8 or 10 tip sections, but these will mostly be filled with a small range of light elastics, up to perhaps a J-Range pink. There's no need for another 10 kits to hold every elastic option up to a Black!

Scores (our of 5):
Stiffness5Like a poker.
Weight4.5Not as light as the 10-12, but still very impressive.
Balance5Such lightness in the tip means the pole feels extremely light to hold.
Finish5Super smooth.
True Length4.5You do indeed get a 13m pole here. 13.1m in fact. However, I prefer to have my "13m" section be the one that actually gets me to 13m!
Strength3.5It would have to be a margin pole to score 5. For a specialist silver fish pole though it'd actually score top marks. Feels 100% solid but low elastic ratings suggest it shouldn't be pushed with heavy elastics of for specifically targeting big fish. It will happily handle the odd surprise lump though!
Spares Package2Just one cupping kit and 3 x top 5's effectively - one inside the pole and two spares. I won't yet rule out Browning being flexible with this one though. Unless you're a river connoisseur, the majority of British anglers will request and require a different setup. I think they'll likely listen.
Spares Cost3Although the top kits are the highest quality I've ever seen, the fact that there is no cheaper option for this 10-08 models means you're paying RRP £99 for a spare long top 2, as you would for the more costly 10-12. Looking at some of the cheaper Browning poles, their kits aren't cheap either though.
Spares Versatility5I love the long no.1's and the fact that all Xitan kits will fit the pole.
Other little feaures5Pre-cut, pre-bushed, wrap for side pullers, 'precision' marks on various sections, choppable dolly butt, there are lots and lots of things to like. The Holdall is nice quality too!
Value for Money4Despite any slight negatives above, this pole is just superb! Stiffer and better balanced than anything else I've seen (beaten on weight only by the 10-12)
Overall Performance5Apart from a few minor improvements that I've already suggested, the pole is faultless in use!
In summary it is the nicest, stiffest, best balanced, lightest pole I have ever fished with. A must for any specialist angler who prefers natural waters or silver fish in general! Despite one or two negatives I've picked out above (you would find similar things with any pole, no matter how costly) I obviously loved the pole so much that I've now bought one! This is the one for me.

It's interesting when I look back at my own scoring above actually. In reality, if we look at total, overall scores I think that my Daiwa ZR4 would end up with a higher total. I love the ZR4 and will report on that one very soon as well. It's half the price with incredible performance considering the cost, but when you categorise scores like this, it's the top 3 that are the game changers and choice makers. The ZR4 has a more suitable spares package. Those spares are cheaper. HOWEVER, I've still chosen to go with the Silverlite in preference. That stiffness and balance just has so much of a say in any pole buying decision if you ask me...

The Silverlite is a specialist tool so is never going to score as well in a lot of the sections, such as strength. It's also a 13m version, realistically designed for Europe where a lot of poles are sold "pole only" for the angler to pick and chose their kits. I'm actually going to speak with Browning to see if we can do more to put together a UK package, with more, shorter kits involved.

It is however worth noting that it is possible to buy the "pole only" option, and add whatever kits you want to it. It may not work out quite as cost effective, but at least you can pick and choose. The potential result would be the perfect pole with the perfect spares package!

Although these reviews are my own personal opinions, if you didn't know already, I also run a tackle shop! If you have any more questions about the Silverlite or if you'd like to buy one of these, or any Browning model, let me know! Can get them fast and match prices!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the read! Great, great poles! My own is getting it's first official session over the next couple of weekends!


My special thanks again go to Hengar Manor for allowing me to use a keepnet for the purpose of a few pictures. Anybody down in Cornwall on holiday should check them out! They have some great chalets and various accommodation available, along with the superb fishing!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

New shop website on the way.

It's normally the beginning of the end when any blog puts a post up apologising for having been away for so long, and going in to depth about how they're going to be much more in it from now on... I haven't put a post up for a few months now, despite the fact that I've been fishing every week and enjoying myself! I've had some great nets of silver fish and played with some superb new bits of tackle. The reason for me not posting anything though is that I've been working on a brand new website for the shop so that I can start getting some of this gear on sale. It's a lot of time consuming work, and since I'm doing it all myself, I've been a bit stretched to keep everything going. Once it's complete though, 'll have time to finish off the four or five half-written posts I have in the pipeline, and get properly back to it. Hopefully this will be around the beginning to middle of February. Until then....

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Daiwa 2015 Product Range - Match (Independent Review)

Dave and myself have been talking about and excitedly waiting for the south west Daiwa trade show for a couple of months now. A trade only event, this isn't the first show Daiwa have hosted this year to show off their new 2015 products, but it is our closest.

After the Tackle & Guns show last month and being so excited by the likes of Rive, Browning and Frenzee, we were both really keen to see how Daiwa's offerings would compete with everything else we've seen recently. It's always a bit tricky when you see products on different days, and especially having been so fond of various items at T&G (report here). You start to doubt yourself with how clear your memory and judgement can be. I wanted to go without any rose-tinting and think about things as sensibly and fairly as I could.

I've always been a massive Daiwa fan. Rods and reels in particular, I've owned stacks of Daiwa items over the years. Before T&G even, I was fairly adamant that I'd be stocking both the shop and my own holdall with a range of Daiwa offerings - all matching of course! My first proper match rod was one of the old Tommy Pickering Matchwinner's and I've loved their rods ever since. Things have moved on a lot over the years though, and playing with the likes of the Drennan Acolytes and Rive models lately, I got to the show almost not knowing what was good anymore. Nostalgia drew me to the Daiwa's, but with a sensible head on I just knew that I loved the crisp, lightness of the Drennan's and Rive's. So how would modern Daiwa's stack up?

We each had a list of things we really wanted to see and play with. I tend to go to these things with more of a personal outlook than a business one, and it generally just comes down to me finding items that I want to buy for myself! It's a nice perk of working in the trade I suppose. Like I said in my T&G report, I came away from that show no longer wanting to be so brand orientated. I could easily buy a bunch of items that make me look like a sponsored pro (God know's why that matters?! I don't even match fish anymore but still have a bit of that urge inside of me), but I learnt a valuable lesson in that by doing so, any angler is hugely limiting themselves to a potentially inferior range or items of tackle. For example, the best pole I've played with lately is a Browning. My favourite rod's of those I've seen are by Rive. Being able to pick and mix just makes way more sense when it comes to being comfortable and knowing you have the best tackle you can afford.


Of the things at T&G that I was least impressed with, it had to be seatboxes. As soon as the Daiwa 2015 catalogue arrived at the shop though, I was 99% sure that their new Tournament 500 box would resolve the current niggles I have with my Team Daiwa 302, and also solve the annoyances I've seen in other boxes lately. I really rate my 302, but it just doesn't have enough winder space. Dave too currently uses a Daiwa box. An old Daiwa Tournament in fact - from when they were made using the original, original BOSS design. The thing looks tiny these days in comparison to what is available now. With each of us on the lookout for a personal upgrade, we made a bee-line for this one as soon as we arrived!

Was it as good as we'd hoped?! YOU BET!!!

There are 3 things I would change on my Team Daiwa 302 to make it better.

1) More winder trays.
2) The clips that hold the telescopic legs in place are sharp and hard to open sometimes.
3) Decrease the weight.

Other than that, it's only tiny, tiny niggles. I find the drawers very good, the cushion extremely comfy and the box very stable and adjustable in terms of height etc. I've never had a problem with the clips or anything like that. The Tournament may be a slightly more expensive box, but it fixes all of the above problems, and even some I hadn't thought about!

You sit down and it's an extremely comfortable and stable box, as you'd expect. It's a big package overall when you are provided with (both of) two different drawer options, plus a winder tray stacking system (winders not included). The winder stacking system sits underneath, while the top part of the box (under the cushion) can be switched between the two drawer systems (or you could probably use both if you've got long legs).

The first drawer system consists of a winder tray under the lid and two full width side drawers. This is the same as the top part of my current 302. I'd probably refer to this one as the "pole" setup, while the second makes the ideal "feeder" layout. The second option has just one, centre-front drawer. Lifting the lid, either side of that there are two deep partitions that are ideal for bigger bits and bobs like feeders, line, floats etc. General essentials can live in the drawer itself. This configuration may not suit everybody on a day to do basis, but by basically providing both options, you can pick your layout to suit the venue or tackle you're taking. Just like viewing the perfect new house for the first time, I can see myself moving in already! Under the drawer is a single winder tray, supplied with their excellent new winder sets. In reality it's a configuration ideal for when you know they venue you're fishing, but may end up fishing the pole, feeder or waggler all during one session.
The shallow tray/winder system consists of what I think were six shallow tray units. None are provided with winders, but Daiwa's new winder sets slot straight in there (two per tray) so you can lay them out however you like. You can also take them all apart to configure these trays with those one the drawer part, and vice-versa.

The Tournament 500 isn't a direct replacement for the 302 that I have (which is a couple of years old and behind the 400 also) but the weight of the it from my perspective is really improved. For such a big box it's very light! The round shape of the frame gives you something really substantial and solid to grab hold of as well! This definitely helps.
I love the new clip system (spring loaded and very compact), the wheel kit is now easier to attach without having to tilt the box to 45 degrees(!), the winder storage issue is fixed too! There's also an extra spare, short leg for use on commercials when you're fishing down the edge and don't want a longer one getting in your way. And it's even available in two colour options - red or blue. I'm a blue man!

Overall, it's the box that has solved every niggle I had about seatboxes in general. I'll be looking back in ten years and laughing at my previous stupid naivety, but I'd almost dare to say, "it's perfect"! I'll be having one! Will definitely have some in the shop too.

 We'll certainly be stocking the Rive boxes too, but on a personal level the Daiwa box suits me perfectly. It's obviously a lot cheaper as well. You get a LOT of box for your money with this one! They're going to end up selling for about £525. Rive certainly have the higher quality and broader range of accessories to tack on to the box (the Daiwa bits are simple but effective while the Rive stuff is pure luxury) but this isn't a bother for me. The 1" legs will obviously take a wide number of manufacturers accessories these days, even if you can't find something you like the look of in the Daiwa range itself. Its worth mentioning actually that I've had the Daiwa side tray for the last 12 months and would rate it as the best I've ever used! I also use their keepnet arms and pole roosts. They may not be as expensive or fancy as the likes of the Rive kit, but they do a good job for me and I'll continue to use them

p.s. I've not seen an Octbox yet. I'll still be buying a 500 though.


Next up we had a rummage through the accessories and general bits and bobs. We sell and trust a lot of the Daiwa lines in the shop already. We'll rely a lot this year on the likes of the Hyper Sensor and Tournament ST. Really good lines!

One thing that surprised us both and did stand out was the look and quality of the pole float range. This has doubled in size this year, and although there may not be anything truly revolutionary (how much can you really do with a pole float?!), amongst the popularity of "hand made" floats at the moment, in the flesh these floats really are nice! I use a lot of bulk manufactured models. I just don't have any problems to be honest - although it's likely I'm not catching enough carp too so that might explain it. Below are a few of my favourites from the range. This lot would cover me quite nicely, in their various sizes. Definitely worth checking out!

Their clothing can always be relied upon as well. It's a lovely range overall, again covering red and blue colours to give you the 'tart' option you require.


Eventually we found ourselves perusing the various reels on offer for this year. I should state at the start of this section that I am a complete reel snob!! I can't emphasise this enough and feel very guilty about parts I'm about to write. I've been very spoilt in the past, using models like the Steez, Certate and Luvias for my lure fishing. As a lure fisherman I have come to learn a lot more about reel design and the uses we have for them; when it's worth spending big money, and when it's not! Within match fishing I have always insisted that I just don't need to spend more than £100 on my reels (if I'm honest with myself), whereas within my lure fishing there are times when a £250-£500+ reel genuinely improves my fishing and catches me more fish. It's the lightness, smoothness of rotation and the fact that have much more feeling through the reel when it comes to line tension etc. that make them superior to cheaper models in that scenario. None of these things are essential for me when I'm sat on a box only making 100 casts a day.

Handles are a big thing for me. Until you have used a solid machined aluminium handle, you don't know what you're missing! They may not pack away as conveniently as some folding handle designs, but in terms of smoothness and lightness they are a real benefit.

To get a slight negative out of the way first, I'm really not a big fan of the Daiwa folding handle designs we see on the likes of the massively popular TD-R series etc. They add so much weight to any reel they're installed on that I can help but be disappointed with any reel I pick up that has one attached.

A prime example of this is the TD-R itself. Reputation/initial marketing alone obviously has a lot to answer for when it comes to sales. As does the lovely blue colour. Great features and high quality features overall, but that big, fat, chunky, folding handle just ruins it and makes all of it's positive points a complete waste of time in having. I honestly think that anybody who rates the TD-R as the best reel out there either has literally no experience of anything else in the price range, or is more interested in the colour of their reels than what they actually do. Or they base their reel choices solely on the folding handle feature to save themselves 10 seconds setting up - in which case they should probably be considering spending just £30 on the great little Crossfire 3BI. Even within the Daiwa brand itself, the Caldia and Ballistic models are massively superior to the TD-R an TD-X! Buy those instead - they're amazing!!! These really are beautiful, smooth, light, perfectly machined reels.
The Ballistic doesn't come with a spare spool, but by paying for an extra one (RRP is £35) you'll have a way nicer reel (much smoother, much lighter). The Caldia comes ready to go with a spare so..... Discounts will probably see the TD-R's knocking out cheaper than either of these two, but they're worth paying extra for. That fat, automatic discount alone (that you'll see on the TD-R) should tell you something about where's it's real place in the range lies.

Saying all of that, there are two sides to this. By definition of the above, one backs up the fact that we really don't need to be that picky with our match reels. The TD-R's etc. aren't nice reels in comparison yet they are still hugely popular, and will continue to be so. They're everywhere! That means there are an awful lot of people out there who appear to manage just fine with a reel that really isn't that good (even if they don't/won't admit it to themselves). You can draw your own conclusions. The second point is one of functionality. For any angler carrying made up rods, folding handles are a blessing. Using solid machined handles, you have to detach the handle completely to get them in a ready-rod case. I will confess that more than once I have gone fishing and managed to leave my reel handles at home! It's a bit of a nightmare when it happens! It's not a problem you'll experience unless you're an idiot like me, but its an example of how convenient a folding handle can be. Daiwa were one of the first that I was aware of to really make them as convenient as they have, and I will give them massive credit for coming up with a system that works superbly well. It's just soooooo big and bulky (when you're used to solid machined versions). There's room for development here, surely?! If they can master the folding handle design but maintain the lightness and feeling of a solid machined piece then they will have it mastered. I'm sure it's something we'll see in years to come.

Let's move on. There were some ginormous positives to take from their 2015 reel range - show stoppers and game changers even!

Introducing the new Exceler!!!!!!!

In contrast to the TD-R (let's mention it no more), the Exceler is a masterpiece! Selling for under £100, it is actually the finest reel in this price range that I have ever seen! I can't deny that I've always been honest in the shop with customers about the fact that I rate the Shimano's above the Daiwa's in the sub-£100 category. It's just been completely flipped though, at least at the higher end!

The new Shimano Aernos is an incredible reel (Shimano's highest ranking sub-£100 offering) but at least in the showroom, the new Exceler may well have just pipped it! Smooth and light, with that solid, precisely machined feeling you have from a quality Daiwa. Whether they'll feel this nice after 6 months of abuse I don't know, but these reels are absolutely as good as you will ever need, in theory. The Ballistic and Caldia are sublime, but I will be saving myself a whack of money and buying the Excelers for my own rods! They are amazing! Absolute reel of the show, and quite possibly of the year in terms of overall quality and value for money!

Below the Exceler is the new Legalis. Again, this is a lovely little reel! Superb value - although I already know that the Exceler will outsell it in the shop by a massive proportion (the price difference is only £20 and most people will always pay the extra - it's worth it). It will however, find fans with folk who want a darker colour reel to match their rods or any other personal preferences they have.

To continue on that trend and go back on my word about the TD-R (and bring it up again), there is a third side to any reel purchase - or any item of tackle for that matter. I do "get it" (TD-R users). Sometimes we, as anglers, aren't always worried about having "the best". There's an absolutely natural niggle in us all that means we want to be comfortable, happy and content with the tackle we use. Sensibility can go out of the window if a certain item gives us the psychological gratification we need. In a weird kind of way, there's no point in having the best rod, reel or pole in the World if none of your peers recognise the brand name or know what it is, and you'd look like a knob if you walked around showing everybody your tackle!

Whether it's our own preferences (we want everything matching colour or size wise), to achieve approval from others, or to instil fear in your opponents when you rock up with the most expensive collection of kit that the guy in the next peg has ever seen (they've got to be able to recognise your kit for that to be effective!)! "Looking the part" can be an odd thing when it comes to boosting one's confidence. The whole topic is probably an essay in it's own right, but despite the fact that when I sit down and write these things and consider my own requirements for "the best" - to do the job that I need things for - I appreciate that there are other factors, but I do try to keep these reports sensible and about picking "the best". If people want to buy TD-R's because they're blue and it matches their kit, or because the name is considered to be one of superiority, then it's actually the right thing for you to do. That constant niggle in your head about what you should have bought instead (a TD-R) will be far more damaging to your day to day fishing than the actual practise of using a perfectly useable yet inferior reel. ...but I'll still think you're mental when I walk past. ;-)


With various new rod ranges for this year and with a shop that needs stocking, I was really excited about the rods. A high bar had been set lately. I've fished with the superb Drennan Acolytes and played with the Rive's and they are just soooooo good!

I'll stick to the new models as there are various ones that have been out for a couple of years now.

It's the cheaper ranges that really grabbed me! From a customer point of view I think my favourites are the brand new Yank N Bank models. I say from a customer point of view because they're not rods that I need or would use myself, but for £75 it's a wide range of rods that perfectly suits any angler, or any ability that fishes a lot of commercials. Their pellet waggler and bomb rods were all really nice! Light and responsive. I found a trend across all of their rods in that I preferred all of those that had a bit more power to them. The lighter action rods were, dare I say it, just a bit "wobbly" for me. That even includes the Tournaments. I know only too well though how a rod can feel completely different in use as to how it does in the shop with no line through it.

The new Harrier range, at £49.99 retail were absolutely superb too. Not as refined obviously as the top end rods, but the blanks on them feel just lovely!

The established Team Daiwa rods were a favourite too that are worth mentioning. Retailing at £150 but obviously selling for less, the pellet waggler rods were beautiful. People already know that though. Of the Match Winner range the little 9/10 footer was pencil thin and a nice little rod, and of the top end Tournament rod, our favourite was the 11' feeder. In between I found a lot of rods that I didn't favour personally. It's a big range. There are possibly too many options even, but Daiwa know what they're doing and they'll all be in there for a reason.

One range of interest is obviously the brand new TD-R's. I obviously can't buy any of them now that I've destroyed my ideas of buying any TD-R reels (and they'd have to match?!), but my pick of the bunch was the 12' X Pellet Waggler rod. Again, that extra power just stiffens the thing up a bit and makes it feel that much nicer. It's still a light rod despite this.


Always the main event, Dave and I resisted these until the end. As a Daiwa pole user already and wanting an upgrade, Dave especially had a personal choice to make as he browsed the racks. Already owning a stack of top kits that would fit any of Daiwa's Scottish built poles, he had a G50 in mind before the trip so it'd nice to have a look at one. The Whisker was mentioned too, but since neither of us had picked one up, we didn't know yet whether it'd be worth him paying the extra. He and I only really fish for silvers, so a power pole wasn't a necessity. Obviously though, if you can find a power pole that is super light and stiff then it could be perfect for the job.

Starting at the top, we moved through Air's, Airity's and the new Tournament Pro X. Of course, all absolutely lovely poles. Pick of the bunch though was the Tournament Pro X! I didn't know what to expect from these poles really, and it's perhaps surprising that this would be my choice considering the fact that you could pay almost twice as much for the Air. Even at 16m though, there is very little to pick between these poles (I felt). It is perhaps slightly noticeable that the Air is the slightest touch more responsive at 16m, but..... would you pay an extra £1750 for the absolutely minutest of stiffness at 16m? At 13 I probably felt like I preferred the Pro X, so which way do you go?!... Again, it goes back to the TD-R situation. Evidently some people will buy the Air, but I can't even explain how tiny this difference is! You'd be completely off your rocker, but if it's what you've gotta do...... For everybody else considering a new top end Daiwa pole this year, and you regularly fish 16m, just buy the Tournament Pro X!

We had some great poles to compare the Daiwa's with through previous use (I've been borrowing one of the new Browning Silverlite poles - report to follow) and experiences at trade shows. Even after playing with the top end Daiwa's, I still think that in terms of stiffness (especially at 13m), on the whole, the top end Browning range are stiffer. Having said that, when it comes to playing fish, stiffness can mean brittleness, so there's almost no right or wrong. What I do know is that the Browning Silverlite sets a benchmark that almost no pole out there has currently match in terms of balance and stiffness. It's a very different pole to most all-rounders though. Saying that, there were two Daiwa's that came close, and one was a complete surprise......

As expected in a way, the Daiwa Whisker is an absolute dream of a pole, especially up to 13m. Not as stiff at 16m as the three top poles, but since most of us don't spend all of our days fishing that long, and especially in Dave's case where he is silvers mad, it is going to be the pole for him! Very close to the cheaper, Browning Silverlite 10-08 in terms of stiffness, and probably lighter on the arm, it is an absolute beauty! Perhaps nothing matches the Silverlite 10-12 at the moment for lightness and stiffness combined, but again, there's not a lot in it at 13m so you could realistically go whichever way you prefer to satisfy your own mind. It's a pole that's been around for quite a while so there will be stacks of anglers out there who already appreciate them. If you're after the best 13m, Daiwa pole you can find, I think the Whisker pipped them all (at least indoors). It's beyond that distance where others come in to their own.

Team Daiwa ZR5 16m - £999

Pole of the show for me though was the new ZR5! I can't deny that I've never been a fan of these "add-on" ranges that appear within brands from time to time - always appearing a little bit cheap compared to the poles that sit within the brand's mainframe. I always just ignore them a bit to be honest. I had no expectations and no idea. We picked these up at 13m though and...... WOW!!!!

These are way too cheap! In a price range where names like "Matchwinner" and "Connoisseur" are the automatic pullers, these are just....... again.... WOW! The ZR5 is lighter and stiffer than either of those two models. It's an unproven name I guess in many regards, so the majority of sales will inevitably go to the MW and G50, but the ZR5 genuinely has me contemplating buying one. I fell in love with the Browning Silverlite at the T&G Show a few weeks back, persuaded them to let me borrow one for a few weeks and fell in love with all over again, but the ZR5 is just such good value that I really am in a quandary. My own fishing only really extends to 13m. The need for a 16m pole in my bag is practically obsolete, so I just don't need the top end goodness. I can afford them, don't get me wrong, I just don't need them. The Whisker is a peach, we know that, but the ZR5 was right up there with it at 13m. Again, it's perhaps the difference between an Air and a TPX - minimal! I know that Dave will still go for the Whisker (because he's mental and won't buy anything that's not black), but I really like the silver finish. Very smooth poles. Very light. In a way I hate myself for liking it so much. My head tells me I should still be buying the Browning, but my heart is a little swayed. I need to see this one again. We'll be stocking them in the shop, regardless. They're brilliant!

There's not really too much you can say about decent poles sometimes. The feeling of weight has far more to do with balance than it does the stats in the catalogue, but the ZR5 is superbly balanced and superbly light. As stiff and as light as any of the top end poles up to 13m. I just hope that people take these in to consideration when they have a £1000 in theory pocket to spare. It's not a pole or a range that deserves to be overlooked in favour of the "names".

As you go down the range, things get even more exciting in a way. The ZR4 feels 99% as light and stiff as the ZR5 at 13m. The ZR3 again is pretty much there, certainly in terms of stiffness. This is an absolutely incredible range of poles! You can probably tell that they knocked me back a bit.

In reality, I think that it's the ZR5 and ZR3 that will really stand out, sales wise. The ZR5 makes more sense than the ZR4 if you are occasionally going to be wanting for fish 14.5m or 16m (they both come at 16m). The ZR5 is only an extra £100, but it's at the longer length where you might notice a slight difference. In this price range, at 16m we're getting to the point where just a little bit of a difference can make a big difference in reality - unlike the top end. If you're only going to be fishing 13m then you really should have a look at the ZR3, especially if you're on a bit more of a budget. Although not quite as light, for £625 it is absolutely brilliant and would save you £374 over the ZR5. We worked our way down through this range in very quick succession, all at 13m so it was a very direct and quick comparison (obviously we went back to each afterwards - I was a bit obsessed).

It's a little bit unknown at the moment whether the ZR5 will handle a battering with big weights on a carp venue. It's so light that you do wonder. Having said that, I've played stacks of carp on the Browing I'm using and it feels brutally strong to be honest, even if it's not designed for it. Since we play carp very differently these days (no more poles in the air) it's the top kit at short range that really takes the abuse. Supplied with a mix of match and power kits, the ZR5 could very well be the most perfect all-rounder for anybody wanting to spend less than a grand!

Best bet for a very, very nice package from within the ZR range would be to get yourself a ZR5 AND their ZR Margin pole. The kits are compatible and the margin pole itself was very nice too, for those days when you know you'll be baggin!

Speaking of margin poles, there's obviously been a lot of talk about the super expensive, 9m "Multi Margin". In the shops for £525, it's completely compatible on every section with all of their Scottish built poles. Is it worth the money?!...

In a funny kind of way, yes! It is, as you would expect, the stiffest and lightest margin pole I've ever picked up. At the same time it felt immensely strong. What more can you say? If you want the very best, this one really is it right now. That section compatibility is becoming a required feature by many anglers today. If I had one request, it would be that I would have loved to have seen it built as an 11m pole as standard. Bloody nice though! A 13m silvers pole in combination with a compatible 11m margin pole would be the ideal mix for my own fishing.

Anyway, they were the picks of the bunch really. The G50 and MW were as you'd expect them to be really. Because they're both designed with a bit of extra power in mind, they're not as light nor as stiff as other poles mentioned above (even the cheaper ZR5). If you're hauling big weights of carp every week though then they are nice poles. It's a close call, but I think I'd buy the Connoisseur over the Match Winner personally.


That pretty much wraps it up I think. Obviously there was a lot more on show than just those few products, but those were the bits from each of the main categories that stood out, even if it was occasionally for the wrong reasons. I wish I'd been able to get more and better pictures, but camera problems left me having to use my phone!

We had a great day and took plenty of time browsing over everything ten times or more. I'm so appreciative to have opportunities like this to look at complete product ranges all at one go. Certainly it has helped clarify which products I will and won't be stocking in the shop over the next 12 months. There are a few massive positives to take from the product ranges. You can never expect to love every single product any brand, but certainly they have far more that I like than I don't. Hopefully the guys at Daiwa won't hate me for it though. I love the products and the brand.

Happy purchasing people! If you need anything let me know!