2014 Tarpon Rod Roundup

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

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It’s tarpon season and if you are headed out in search of silver, you may be considering a new rod. I had the chance recently to try out four excellent eleven weight fly rods that are great for tarpon. The Thomas and Thomas Solar, the Winston B3SX, The Scott S4s two-piece and the Orvis Helios 2. Each has its strengths and individual feel. Hopefully these brief reviews will help you find the rod that’s right for you.

The Thomas and Thomas Solar


The new fast action Solar from T&T is a precision casting machine with a big WOW factor. When I let off my first cast with the Solar (into a stout wind) my buddy on the platform let out a pronounced, “DAMN!” The Solar manages to deliver blistering performance without sacrificing feel. The power is brilliantly balanced from butt to tip. It makes a short presentation with ease and delicacy and it will show you your backing. It’s powerful, accurate and castable. The quality and finish are wonderful, which you would expect from T&T. The Solar is one of, if not the best, saltwater rods I’ve ever cast. Casting it makes you feel like a rockstar and that’s a pretty good way to feel when your chasing the silver king.

The Winston B3sx


The B3SX, Winston’s fast action saltwater offering, is everything everything you would expect from a Winston and yet still surprising. I love Winston rods but, like a lot of people, I thought of them as a trout rod company. When I picked up the B3SX I expected great feel and castability. I didn’t expect a saltwater action that unloads like a canon. The powerful butt of the B3SX gives you distance and authority in the wind and the tip is soft enough for accurate short shots. A great all-around performer and a beautiful rod to look at. Boron rods are tough too, which is a plus in a tarpon rod.

The Scott S4s 2 piece


This has been my go-to poon rod for years. The castability of this rod is excellent. Eleven weights are a workout but the Scott seems to cast itself. The two-piece design is a great choice for smooth power transfer and strength. If you are intimidated by heavy super fast rods, this one is a great choice. It’s got all the performance you need with none of the struggle. Scott rods have a reputation for breaking, but this model has proven itself to be strong and durable. The only downside is, it’s a little more of a challenge to fly with a two-piece rod. If you’re a car ride from tarpon, it’s a no-brainier.

The Orvis Helios 2


The H2 is a powerful rod capable of taming the wind and laying out a lot of line. It’s a true tip flex action with a very stiff butt. The tip is soft enough for accurate short shots. It’s tough as nails, letting you show a big fish who’s boss. The H2 has an unusual double Wells grip with a rear-grip for casting and a fore-grip for fighting fish. The tarpon purist will argue against using the forward grip, but for the angler who doesn’t have a gym routine focused on fighting huge fish, it offers a little extra leverage and is less fatiguing. The H2 is a serious heavyweight contender from Orvis.

Don’t let tarpon season pass you by. Choose one of these great rods, get down south and dance with the silver king.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “2014 Tarpon Rod Roundup

  1. All of these rods are great, and they’ve all gotten great reviews this year. No doubt they are great tools for a saltwater angler. Unfortunately, I’m unable to drop such coin on a single rod. A great rod that’s easy on the bank account (in my opinion) is the Redington Predator. I bought the 6wt when they first came out with the re-vamped version last year. I liked it so much I bought the 8wt. A friend of mine owns the 10wt and its one helluva stick as well. While you won’t find an 11wt Predator, I can bet that the 10wt would do all an 11wt rod can do. These rods are bombers with some serious ass. I’ve recommended these rods to several of my friends, and anyone looking for a budget friendly saltwater or bass rod. At $250 it’s an awesome stick.

    • Justin, respectfully, I disagree. I like the predator and I have a couple of them. I like the 8 wait for Bass and even bonefish and I use the 10 for stripers. The rod is available up to a 14 weight, but the heavier rods are poor casters. Tarpon fishing is highly demanding and although the predator is serviceable I don’t consider it up to the task. A tarp and Rod must pick up a lot of line and lay it back down accurately and quickly. It needs an incredibly strong but section and components. When you consider the expense of Tarpon fishing the rod is really no place to skimp. That’s why I did not choose to review any budget rods for Tarpon fishing. It makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars on travel and guides and fish a rod that’s not up to the task.

      • I hear ya Louis, I’m just thinking more along the lines of a budget-minded angler, like myself. Always have, and I guess I always will. I’d much rather spend the money getting to a great fishing destination, than spend that money on a more expensive rod and miss out on a trip. And I truly believe that the angler’s casting ability, and fundamentals, make the biggest difference in the abilities of the rod which make it shine. Some might scream blasphemy, but it’s just how I view things. Either way, we’re all here for a good time.

  2. Looking back at this, maybe I’m not the best to ask about a tarpon rod anyways. Especially since I can count the amount of Tarpon that I’ve presented a fly to on one hand, maybe two. I’m sure I’d have similar expectations in a rod if I’d spent more time on the water chasing tarpon.

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