Saltwater fly rods have tough jobs. They should be able to cast larger flies a good distance, but a solid short game is essential, too. On top of the diverse casting demands, they also need to be up to the task of battling strong saltwater fish, all while being able to stand up to harsh saltwater environments. The new Winston AIR SALT rods sound like they can do all of these things and then some!
Released in 2018, these ultra-premium rods use Winston's famed and unique Boron III technology which blends boron and graphite in the blank for improved performance. As a big saltwater and streamer angler, testing one of these was not just an option—it had to be done! We recently had a 7-weight AIR SALT sent out so we could hopefully get a taste of how this stick performs in both fresh and saltwater arenas.
Line Weight: 7
Material: Graphite/Boron III
Measured Weight: Approx 4.13 ounces
Stripping Guide: 2 NanoLite Stripping Guides
Snake Guides: Hard Chrome Titanium-Colored Snake Guides
Reel Seat: Anodized Aluminum
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
Winston uses some damn fine cork, and this rod continues that trend. It's clean, smooth, tight, and looks great. Your reel will find a home on the anodized-aluminum reel seat complete with Winston engraving, and there's two up-locking rings (each with a gasket) that tighten with extreme smoothness. Below is a fighting butt that's rounded-off to be gentle on the gut during long battles.
The blank is built using Winston's Boron III technology which utilizes advanced carbon fiber (and the new SuperSilica resin system) along with boron fibers in the butt section for added strength and energy transfer. The color of the blank is.....wait for it.....Winston green, but rather than being all glossy, AIR Salt rods are given a "stealth matte" finish for reduced glare. The rod is void of alignment dots or a hook keeper.
The AIR Salt 7-weight is set up with two nanolite stripping guides and titanium-colored snake guides. Wraps are glossy green to provide a tad of contrast against the flat blank, and the only trim you'll find is some red down around the logo. It's clean, simple, and built with typical Winston quality which means you won't be left disappointed!
I tested this rod exclusively with a Cortland Liquid Crystal Guide WF7F line which has a 30-foot weight of 200-grains which is about a half size heavier than AFFTA industry standards. My original plans for testing this rod included tossing bigger streamers for largemouth bass and hitting the beach to sight-cast to some beach snook, but I wound up using it strictly for bassin' due to wind conditions and being a bit backed up with review gear.
Ehhh.....they gotta get bigger....
With the word "AIR" in the name, I was expecting a lightweight, lively stick. The physical weight of the rod isn't bad at about 4.13 ounces, but yikes, it felt heavy while casting. I actually test casted the rod with two different reels; one very light one under 5 ounces, and another that weighed 7.5 ounces to see if it would improve the balance/feel at all. Either way, the swing weight was a turn off. Couple the heavy feeling with some wind and a chunky fly, and it was somewhat of a chore to use at times. On the plus side, there's plenty of power available for casting those bigger flies.
....after losing a couple 4-pounders I finally found a better fish that stayed stuck!
Casting feel was okay overall, but this rod did best at modest to longer distances. This is a stout, fast stick with a tip that appeared to be on the thicker side, so it woke up better for me with more line in the air and was able to cast a solid distance. Even at the distances where performance felt best, I still wasn't getting that noticeable feeling of precision and my accuracy didn't seem to be quite as consistent as I'm used to. I like my saltwater-oriented rods to be lightweight and fast with an intuitive feel, but unfortunately I just wasn't quite getting that here.
The packaging and craftsmanship of the AIR SALT 7-weight was exceptional, but I was disappointed with the performance. This came as a surprise because I really enjoyed the 5-weight freshwater AIR I tested last year right here, but this just goes to show you how much models can vary, even if they are in the same or very similar series' of rods.
Winston AIR SALT rods are all 9-feet long and come in 6–12 weight sizes. At $975 across the board, these rods command a premium price. Every rod includes a beautiful graphite tube and soft rod sock.
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