Sage MOTIVE 12 Weight Fly Rod Review
Updated: Mar 31
I don't use 12-weight setups more than maybe a couple times per year (if that), so I tend to shop for rods and reels of this size that are priced more moderately. There's some good choices coming in below what I'd call "premium" pricing, but the Sage MOTIVE seemed especially attractive. Priced well below the top-tier SALT HD fly rods, I picked one up a couple years back–even though I had never even held one before! Earlier this summer, my buddy Dave and I finally got to put this rod through a substantial test on big false albacore and Florida Keys tarpon.
Line Weight: 12
Material: Sage Graphite IIIe
Measured Weight: Approx 5.3 ounces
Stripping Guides: Stainless frame/SiC insert
Guides: chrome snake guides
Reel Seat: Aluminum
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/No
I've fished Sage's Xi2, Xi3, and SALT HD—all beautiful rods. Personally though, I prefer the look of the MOTIVE the most. The unique "Bluefin Blue" blank pops brilliantly in sunlight and just looks amazing!
All of the guides used are big and beefy to withstand punishment from big fish and pass large saltwater knots easily. Sage uses complimenting blue wraps along the blank with a touch of thin black trim around the logo area and ferrules. There's no alignment dots which would be a nice touch.
The handle portion is pretty straightforward with a full-wells grip made from a good quality cork and a black anodized-aluminum reel seat with double up-locking rings that tighten smoothly. Sage's familiar twin hidden hook keepers are built into the top of the reel seat and easily accept large saltwater hooks. Down below, the big fighting butt has a generously-flared end that's really appreciated during extended fights.
This is another quality rod from Sage with no defects in build quality or feel!
I haven't casted many different 12-weights before, but I do remember them not being super enjoyable. This one is no different. The rod, my heavy 11.4-ounce reel, and the thick WF12F line all make for a setup that doesn't exactly feel lightweight while casting. While the entire setup feels heavy to someone like me that's used to 5–7 weight combos, the physical weight of the rod itself at 5.3 ounces (on my scale) isn't bad at all. In fact, it's not much heavier than the comparable SALT HD. As far as 12's go, I don't pay much attention to physical weight or swing weight anyhow. I bought the rod for sight-casting to tarpon and casting into fish that are chummed up—not blind casting all day long where weight becomes more of a factor for me.
The MOTIVE was used with a WF12F Scientific Anglers Mastery Tarpon line (400 grains) and a RIO WF12I/I intermediate line (450 grains). It had plenty of guts to handle the slightly heavier sinking line, yet wasn't too stiff and produced good feel with the floater. Casts at really close range didn't feel dead to me, while shots at mid-range were accurate and smooth. I struggled a bit when trying to bomb the entire line, but I think that's due more to the fact that this is a 12-weight setup. The blank did feel like it lacked a bit of the "pop" that is probably amplified through Sage's costlier rods using Konnetic and Konnetic HD technology, but since this one comes in a few hundred bucks cheaper I can deal with slightly less performance.
The 1290-4 MOTIVE is an excellent weapon for taking on hefty saltwater fish. I caught several false albacore up to around 14-pounds and even had a 10-minute battle with a mysterious beast that eventually popped off. Was it a huge false albie or a blackfin tuna? I'll never know. My buddy Dave also put the smack down on a nice 50-pound Keys tarpon a couple days later which the rod handled easily. There's tons of pulling power down low and the wide end of the fighting butt cushioned both of our guts really well. Awesome!
I like that Sage offers a more affordable alternative to the premium SALT HD series and hope they continue on that path. This rod definitely makes a solid bluewater and flats stick while staying comfortably out of that high-end price realm that not everyone can reach. Well, five hundred bucks is still quite substantial, but the level of quality the MOTIVE offers totally satisfies this critic.