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Post 30 Sep 2014, 07:00 • #1 
Master Guide
Joined: 09/21/13
Posts: 704
Location: Perth, Western Australia
I received a marketing email from Swift Fly Fishing a couple of weeks ago, telling me about a new blank they are offering: a 3 piece 7'9" 10 weight called "The Bandit". As soon as I saw the details, I was hooked, so I immediately bought one. I was later told by a mate who had tried to buy one at the same time that I was very fortunate: apparently, only 5 blanks had been produced in this first run. So what you're seeing here is essentially a preview of the new product from the Epic stable.

The blank is pitched at fishermen who need a tough, heavy-weight rod for close combat with big fish. Situations where graphite rods may be the first victims in the punch-up between fisherman and fish are the chosen battleground for this weapon.

I built this one up following my usual (somewhat formulaic) approach, with Fuji Ti frame guides with SiC inserts though out. My concession to the expectation of fighting large fish was to put three "stripping guides" in place, since the fighting pressure will be applied via the butt section. I've also used nylon thread, rather than my usual silk thread found on my other Epic rods.

The weird grip is a commercially available ergonomic grip called the Maniform Grip. I need such grips to avoid the carpal tunnel problems I get from using factory grips.

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How does it cast? In a word, Wonderfully! I've cast a Rio Redfish floating line, Rio OBS WF10F/I and WF12F/I lines and a Rio Leviathan 450gn, the latter two in fishing situations (i.e. seated in my kayak, casting 50' or so with heavily weighted flies.) It's beautifully smooth and powerful, and although it's little overawed by the 12wt Rio OBS, it still handled it just fine. Dropping back to the Leviathan brought the rod to life again.

How does it fight fish? Well, it's a little hard to say. I was hooked up to a very large Pink Snapper (Pagrus auratus) briefly this morning. Even with plenty of drag applied, I was quickly into the backing and never really had the chance to dominate the fish before it "bricked me" on the rocks. In the short time I was connected to the fish, I had plenty of bend in the rod, and I look forward to a better trial next time out. It was adrenalin-pumping stuff while it lasted though! :)

To sum up, I think this rod will quickly become my new favourite for heavy-duty kayak fishing.

Cheers,
Graeme


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Post 30 Sep 2014, 07:14 • #2 
New Member
Joined: 05/12/13
Posts: 21
Location: Australia
Hi Graeme saw the blanks on the Swift website with little fanfare. Good to see someone has a built one in hand. Look forward to hearing more about it as you use it in the sound. How does the solitude reel balance it out?

The blank is sitting at the back of my mind for GTs, Goldens and permit at Exmouth and Barra in the north.

Maybe I'll see you and the rod at a casting day sometime.

Adam


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Post 30 Sep 2014, 08:43 • #3 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2460
Location: Orygun
I saw that....I'm very intrigued. Do you think that it being "only" 7'9" hampers its performance compared to say, something more along the lines of 8'3"? I tend to prefer rods from 8' to 8'6", so that's really the only thing that's given me pause. (in fact, the 9' length of the 990 is really the only thing holding me back from seriously considering that one).


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Post 30 Sep 2014, 15:16 • #4 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 10/20/11
Posts: 1712
Location: US-MD
Wow, now that's a sturdy looking rod indeed!


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Post 30 Sep 2014, 19:20 • #5 
Master Guide
Joined: 09/21/13
Posts: 704
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Adam, the Solitude is perhaps a little heavier than I'd prefer, but I like my rods to balance slightly tip down whilst fishing. It's actually "perfectly balanced" when full of line, sitting horizontally on my middle finger with a full spool of line, so it's not a long way off being "just right" for me. I might end up using the Tibor Riptide on it more often though.

All the fish you've mentioned are the ones on my hit list for the rod too. I think it will be perfectly suited to barra and mangrove jack in close quarters. I think you can bring the blank to the front of your mind ... :)

If you're coming along to the Saltwater Flyrodders casting day later this month (26th), you'll get to cast it.

Cheers,
Graeme


Last edited by Kalgrm on 30 Sep 2014, 19:48, edited 1 time in total.

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Post 30 Sep 2014, 19:46 • #6 
Master Guide
Joined: 09/21/13
Posts: 704
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Clarkman, I'm strongly biased, so take that into account when you read my answer. ;) I've now got four 10wt rods and only one of them is over 8' long. That's the one I won, so it doesn't count .... :)

How do you define performance? By casting distance? Casting pleasure? Fish-fighting ability? There's a myth circulating out there that says rods that are 8wt and heavier must be 9' long.

Most of my fishing is done from my kayak in saltwater. I don't need to cast more than 70' when I'm on it and I don't need complex mends (a simple aerial mend is the most I need.) I can easily cast all of my 10wt rods beyond 80' (including this Epic), so casting distance is not on my performance criteria list.

Shorter rods make inherently tighter loops, which somewhat compensates for their shorter length when reaching for distance.

Rods less than 8' long are easy to cast all day, even when "blind fishing". Their swing weight is significantly lower than the 9' rods, making them easy on the arm.

Shorter rods win out in a fist fight with a heavy fish. The shorter lever arm that the fish has against the fisherman puts the odds in our favour. There is also less "high-sticking" to do at the end of the fight. (Landing a fish from a seated position in a kayak almost necessitates high-sticking.)

So while I'm with you on hesitating on the 990, I had no such misgivings about this blank. You won't even notice the rod is 3" shorter than your 8' rods until the end of a long day's fishing, and when you do notice, it'll be for the right reasons. :) (I was even going to buy two butt sections for a 990, cutting one of them back to give me a 9' rod for the flats and a 8'3" rod for kayak fishing. I didn't end up doing it, and I'm now very glad I waited.)

Cheers,
Graeme


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Post 01 Oct 2014, 11:35 • #7 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2460
Location: Orygun
Thanks for the detailed answer Graeme. For me it's always about casting pleasure & fish fighting ability and THEN distance...you might have just sold me on that blank (unless I decide on either a beefed up Steffen 9wt or a 10/11--probably in that 8'ish range--before they get more of those in stock).


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Post 03 Oct 2014, 18:11 • #8 
New Member
Joined: 05/12/13
Posts: 21
Location: Australia
Graeme I think I'll be in the car that day travelling Carnarvon to Bunbury 1200km or so. We are in the process of relocating and that week I'll get my last trip to the back of Exmouth Gulf as a Gascoyne local.

Hopefully we'll both be around for the next one when I'm a little closer.

Adam


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Post 04 Oct 2014, 23:08 • #9 
Master Guide
Joined: 09/21/13
Posts: 704
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Now that I've had a chance to experiment more, I'm over the moon with this rod's performance envelope. Trying to find its limits, I've cast lines from a 6wt DT through to a 12wt Rio Outbound Short (OBS) and it hasn't missed a beat with any line so far.

I could comfortably and accurately cast the 6wt DT line just 10' or carry the whole line and punch out a 100' cast. The "self-loading" of the 'glass blank helped a lot with those short casts. The only thing stopping me using it as a 6wt rod is the mass of the rod itself: otherwise, it has similar characteristics to a production 6wt graphite rod (a little too stiff for the line weight and probably (?) not much fun fighting the type of fish one would normally seek with a 6wt).

Running an 8wt line over it was a revelation. Until today, I thought the only gap in my rod line-up was in the 7-8wt range (I have plenty of 4-6wt and rods upwards of 10wt). This rod works as well as an 8wt as it does as a 10wt, so I'll now stop looking for the rod to fill that niche. This is the one.

As a 10wt (its designed line weight) it is simply perfect for my style of fishing. A long-time user of graphite rods would find it too slow and might struggle to adjust their cast stroke, but any 'glass enthusiast would feel at home casting it. There is a lot of power in reserve, and I am able to carry at least half a Rio Saltwater Tropical 10wt line and shoot the rest, punching out enough line to make the backing knot draw tight. Of course, short casts to 10' are no problem with a 10wt line either ….

Casting a 12wt Rio OBS is easily possible too, although I only use this line on short casts with very heavy flies. The Rio OBS is known to be quite a heavy line, being about 2 line designations heavier than a true 12wt line due to its short head length. I haven't pushed this rod/line combo to any extreme distance, but laying out casts to 60' with a 6" weighted squid fly from the kayak was effortless. (I don't doubt that a WF 12wt line with a more conventional profile - longer head, longer front and rear tapers - would be quite easy to cast with this rod.)

So I'm sort of left in a quandary now. If this single rod can be used for all my fishing from 6wt to 12wt, does it render all my other rods redundant? Logically, I should buy two more of these blanks and have them rigged simultaneously to cover floating, intermediate and sinking options whilst on the water, or have one rigged for each 6wt, 8wt and 10wt fishing. If I ever went to Kiribati, I'd have one rigged with a 7wt line for bonefish and one rigged with a 10wt line for GTs. Or just take the one rod and swap lines as required by the targeted species.

If I had to be trapped on a tropical island with only one rod, this is the one I'd choose. (Choosing the line for it might be more difficult though! :) )

If you are contemplating buying a heavy duty 'glass blank to build up, I heartily recommend picking up an Epic Bandit.

Cheers,
Graeme


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Post 05 Oct 2014, 00:58 • #10 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/30/11
Posts: 1173
Location: Fresno, CA
Looks great, and really nice and comprehensive review.

I'm a bit confused how these style of grips work. Could you show a picture of it being held?


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Post 05 Oct 2014, 03:37 • #11 
Master Guide
Joined: 09/21/13
Posts: 704
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Here's the one on my Epic 580: It's a different rod, but I use these grips on all the rods I build for myself. (My hands don't get any smaller if I am using a 4wt rod … ;) )

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They work for me because the grip is big enough to allow my hand to actually grip the rod. Most commercial rod grips are too small for my hand.

(I guess someone might want to know what a grip that is too small for me looks like when I hold it. Basically, if my fingers can touch the heel of my hand when I hold the rod, I know the grip will cause me lasting pain in the tendons of my middle and ring fingers if I fish with it for more than about 30 minutes. Here's a normal grip from an 8wt rod when it's in my hand:

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This one is a Reddington. A Sage or a TFO BVK is worse …)

Cheers,
Graeme


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Post 08 Oct 2014, 05:33 • #12 
Sport
Joined: 01/29/14
Posts: 31
Location: Australia
After going to CI in August with my epic's,and reading your write up Graeme. A 376 or 476 and the bandit are all the rods required.


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Post 09 Oct 2014, 12:48 • #13 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 09/18/09
Posts: 4861
Location: Washington DC Region
Graeme,

My rod building has slowed down, but I am planning a Maniform grip for one of my upcoming rods, just to see how it works. I find that a much smaller grip works for me, but the maniform might be a different solution.

Nice looking build.


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Post 16 Oct 2014, 08:35 • #14 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2460
Location: Orygun
man, I keep coming back to this thread....awesome, just awesome. Have you had a chance to put it through a few more workouts?


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Post 16 Oct 2014, 09:28 • #15 
Master Guide
Joined: 09/21/13
Posts: 704
Location: Perth, Western Australia
I have, but not with much luck on the fish. I did manage a rarity for myself last Saturday: a 37cm yellow eye mullet. It's only the third one I've ever caught, so although it was not a large fish, it was an auspicious one as the first one landed on the rod. (Being a glass rod, I actually got a decent bend in the rod. Definitely overkill for that fish though.)

The session was actually a trial of repeated blind casting to get a good feel for its capabilities in that role. I like it a lot for that, but I think I should have used a line I was familiar with, rather than trying to wet-test a new line at the same time*.

Unfortunately, this weekend is a blow out for us locally, so there will be no chances to play with it again any time soon. I often wake in the morning thinking about casting with it though - it's just so much fun.

Cheers,
Graeme

* I'm playing with hollow braided spectra to make my own "artificial silk" lines. That'll be the subject of another thread when I've done a lot more testing.


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