"In a world overflowing with status quo, there are but only a few
who pursue excellence as a matter of principle."
I couldn't wait to get my hands on the new Batson XST RX8 salmon/steelhead blanks in the 11'6" length. I have had the pleasure of owning the 13' 3pc. XST since it was introduced to the market and love it, but the length was too much when fishing the smaller tributaries and ditches during high water events. I chose to go with the stronger of the two XST 11'6" blanks because many times, when fishing these small tributaries (AKA:ditches), log jams and wood piles will afford steelhead a quick place to duck and cover resulting in frustrating fast-action break-offs. I felt having the extra power at my disposal would allow me to run a higher test mainline/leader and put them on the bank faster. If you haven't had the opportunity to see the XST blanks first hand, you're missing out. The action, fitment and "Titanium Chrome" finish is extremely well engineered and aesthetically pleasing. Batson Enterprises offers some truly outstanding values when it comes to high performance blanks. The new XST models are fine examples of their pursuit to be the very best in steelhead float rod manufacturing!
The Grip Assembly:
You likely noticed, if you skipped ahead, cheated and scrolled down to the photographs, that there is something uniquely different and special about this build besides the blank; Carbon fiber grips baby!
A little behind the scenes information and their creation and who made them: There aren't many rod crafters that possess the experience necessary to build the grips required for this project. Carbon fiber grip crafting is a niche within a niche in the grand scheme of rodbuilding and utilizes processes that require experience and a skill set developed through trail and error. Not to mention the additional tooling and material investments that must be made to master their production. In other words, you don't just wake up one day and decide to build grips like these because you think they look neat and you've got experience with cork. It is a little more involved than that! I contacted a fellow rodbuilder and what he delivered is absolutely outstanding! I'm blown away by how good this grip set looks coupled together with the titanium chrome finish of the XST1383F blank.
If you're not familiar with carbon fiber, it is a woven material (much like fiberglass mat is woven) that is extremely strong and unbelievably light. Commonly used in the performance sports car, military and aerospace industries, this stuff is high tech! I had heard and read good things about the feel and performance of these types of grips in the fly and spinning communities and figured this would be a perfect opportunity to try a set out on a float rod. There seems to be such attention made to overall mass and its effects on the enjoyment of float fishing, it made perfect sense to use this lightweight material on a high performance float blank. How light? How about 1/2 the weight of cork? Yes, that light!
The common belief is that because the grips are so glossy that they would somehow turn slick when wet. Have you ever stripped a car of its wax coat to apply another? Well in between, the wet surface of the unwaxed painted car body isn't slick at all. If anything it is almost "stick-um" tacky. This is what happens when these grips are wet or gummed up with fish slime. They're very tactile and sticky. Because of the way they are engineered (built over a foam core) they are extremely sensitive. Meaning, you'll feel every strike as the grips transmit the force well. Under load, they will flex in the core as much as you need them too. How much? They're are successfully being used on both tuna and ocean surf spinning rods...yes, that much forgiveness is built into the internals of the grip.
With this rod, the adventure ends, but another awaits my attention....
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