Fishing with a high-end rod is typically pretty awesome, but I've always felt a different kind of satisfaction from fishing those rods that deliver excellent performance and quality at more affordable prices. First shown off at IFTD 2017, Sage's latest entry into what I'd call the "modest" price point category comes in the form of the new FOUNDATION fly rods. A couple months after the show, Sage was kind enough to ship me a 5-weight FOUNDATION outfit which includes a 2250 reel, RIO Gold Fly Line, backing, leader, and combo rod/reel case. Despite everything arriving together, I reviewed the reel separately here....so now it's the rod's turn for critique!
Length: 9 feet
Line Weight: 5
Rod Weight: 3 1/16 ounces
Stripping Guides: Stainless frame/Aluminum Oxide insert
Guides: Hard-chrome snakes/tip top
Reel Seat: Aluminum
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/No
FOUNDATION fly rods are crafted using Sage's Graphite IIIe Technology which (in Sage's words) "brings power and durability resulting in a more connected feel throughout the casting stroke, making longer and more accurate casts possible. Constructed using glass scrims within layers of graphite, Graphite IIIe rods are noted for their light weight, dependability, and smooth feel."
Simplicity is the name of the game regarding the cosmetics of our test rod. The blank is non-glare black with the single stripping guide and snake guides secured with black wraps. There's no hook keeper, no alignment dots, and just two thin bands of silver trim between the logo and handle.
The handle is the typical Sage snub-nosed cork grip that I actually started really favoring back when I bought a Sage 590-4 ONE rod several years ago. This grip style just suits me very well and I'm glad Sage is sticking with it. The quality of the cork seems decent with some filler visible here and there.
Fly reels snuggle into a non-glare black anodized-aluminum reel seat that features a single up-locking ring and a thin slide band adorned with the Sage logo. There was no issue with the smoothness of twisting the ring and it locked my reel in securely each time.
The rod is basic in the looks department, but I found it to boast very good build quality. No parts were loose, wraps were tidy, and the guides and blank were straight. When all four pieces were joined and the rod was flexed, everything felt smooth with no "tick" that would indicate poor-fitting ferrules.
I really had a ball testing the 590-4 FOUNDATION. I received the stick just as temperatures were cooling off here in South Florida and the local bass were really starting to chew. I used the rod as a combo with the included Sage 2250 reel and RIO Gold WF5F line (146 grains at 30 feet) and caught a good number of largemouth bass ranging from little 6 inchers to over 4 pounds....insanely fun and the rod felt crisp and strong with a good fish hooked up.
The "fast" rating of this rod is spot on. It's a solidly quick stick that has no problem throwing a dumbbell-eyed streamer when needed. On very short casts I did think the rod felt a little on the numb side, but that seemed to improve as the casting distance lengthened. I spent much of my actual fishing time making presentations requiring about 20-40 feet of line out, and at those distances the rod offered some pleasant feel and feedback. The FOUNDATION handles much more line equally well, as during a lawn-casting session I found that firing out the whole 90-foot fly line wasn't a huge challenge. The weight of the rod while casting felt about average—no complaints.
Currently, FOUNDATION rods come in 4–8 weight sizes with all measuring 9 feet and priced at $325 across the board. If purchasing just the rod, expect a nylon-covered rod tube with inner dividers, while the combo comes in a nylon-covered rod/reel case (pictured) to easily transport everything together as one unit. I caught a lot of fish on our 5-weight tester and found it to be an enjoyable and capable rod that got the job done. If you'd like to get into the Sage brand without breaking the bank, the entry-level FOUNDATION is the obvious place to start!
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