Just like with conventional rods, fly rods can be crafted with specific purposes in mind. Examples of these would include rods with oversized guides and beefed-up actions for saltwater usage, or rods that are soft and delicate geared towards targeting trout on smaller waters with dry flies. These sticks can be great and all, but many anglers simply want a rod that's made for more generalized usage. This is where the Sage SONIC comes into play.
SONIC fly rods are made for the angler that prefers versatility. Capable of fishing a multitude of different flies, lines, and techniques, these rods range from 3–8 weight for fresh or saltwater pursuits. Aiming for the lower end of that spectrum, I chose a 9'0" 4-weight to test out on local bass waters. Let's see just how well-rounded this rod proves to be!
Length: 9 feet
Line Weight: 4
Measured Weight: Approx 2.80 ounces
Stripping Guide: Stainless frame / ceramic insert
Snake Guides: Hard chrome snakes
Reel Seat: Aluminum with hardwood insert
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
Price: $575.00 (all models)
Starting at the grip, here you'll find that awesome snub-nosed handle that Sage puts on all of their lighter rods. Some may disagree, but I have been a fan of this grip shape ever since I first experienced it on my old Sage ONE 5 weight. The cork used on my SONIC test rod was of the Super Plus variety and sported a quality look with excellent comfort.
The reel seat features aluminum hardware with an attractive hardwood insert. Sage's longer, more angular reel seat hood works well and adds a touch of visual appeal to an otherwise basic component. Featuring a single up-locking ring, it tightens with a very nice ramp-up in pressure and locked my reel in solidly each time.
Finished in a juniper blank color with charcoal wraps and some gunmetal trim, my SONIC rod was seriously classy to look at. Here you'll find the standard single stripping guide and chromed snake guides which are all sized appropriately for a 4-weight rod. No alignment dots were added to the ferrules. At the base of the blank is a typical wire hook keeper for securing small flies, however 6 weight and heavier models sport Sage's familiar "hidden" hook keeper built into the top of the reel seat.
Scanning the rod up and down showed no signs of poor craftsmanship and the ferrules fit together perfectly. It can be hugely disappointing when you buy a beautiful, costly rod only to find one or more sloppy mistakes upon close examination! Thankfully that wasn't the case here.
I tested the rod with a WF4F line with a 30-foot grain weight of 126 grains which puts it just 6-grains over the "ideal" rating provided by AFFTA.
SONIC rods feature Sage's KONNETIC technology which is explained in their words below:
Improved accuracy is a result of smoother tracking and increased line speed and line control... all features of Sage’s revolutionary Konnetic Technology®. Creating an impossibly light blank with enhanced hand-to-fly sensitivity, Konnetic Technology utilizes advanced modulus positioning that places carbon fibers to exacting tolerances. This creates slimmer blank profiles with unparalleled strength and efficient energy transfer throughout the shaft. Konnetic Technology’s highly responsive and robust blanks feel connected, offering significantly enhanced torsional stability and minimal vibration for casts that track effortlessly and accurately.
As advertised, the 490-4 Sage SONIC flexes with a solid, crisp action. Despite my test line not being particularly heavy and the rod having a fast action, I thought the rod did just fine at short range and offered a fair amount of feel. A heavier line like the RIO Grand would help the rod load more to improve its short performance, but I have mostly gotten away from these heftier lines as of late and wouldn't call it necessary for close casting with this model.
It came as no surprise that the performance really opened up at more modest distances. This is where the fast action really shined with tight loops, good tracking, and basically just felt "right" here. The power was ample but didn't come off as being too much—just a nice typical fast action that a versatile rod like this one should have. Windy conditions and tossing streamers wasn't an issue, but I can also see the rod still working well for laying out softer presentations with dry flies especially when more distance is needed.
At further distances the SONIC also gave a strong performance and made quick work of long casts. I didn't cast the rod in any areas where I had the room to truly max it out, but casts of roughly 70 feet or so weren't a huge challenge. Besides, I rarely need a 4-weight to cast that far anyhow! Most anglers with some skill should find it totally capable of nailing long-distance targets.
The rod's swing weight felt fine but didn't strike me instantly as being super lightweight. I have certainly experienced lighter rods, but this one is still plenty pleasing to cast for long periods. Fishing with a fly rod that has a heavy swing weight is not much fun and thankfully this SONIC is no boat anchor.
The SONIC 490-4 is an interesting offering at a modest price point. You get a solidly fast-action rod that fishes confidently at all distances and offers tidy, classic looks. This would be a wise choice for someone that needs a higher-performing, versatile 4-weight but wants to avoid the extreme investment that a top-tier rod demands.
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