If you're brand new to fly fishing, figuring out what setup to buy can be a little daunting. Thankfully, rod and reel combos make it super easy to get that part taken care of quickly. Ranging from cheap to very costly, combos are available to fit all types of abilities and budgets. Fitting into what I'd call the "affordable" category, Redington's CROSSWATER combos include nearly everything you'll need to start fishing. Other than the newly-redesigned rod and reel, you'll also get a nice rod/reel combo case, matching RIO Mainstream fly line, backing, and even a tapered leader. I'm often curious to see the performance of these products from the lower end of the pricing spectrum, so the good folks at Redington sent over a 5-weight combo to let me find out!
CROSSWATER Test Rod Specs
Length: 9 feet
Line Weight: 5
Measured Rod Weight: Approx 3.41 ounces
Stripping Guide: Stainless frame/aluminum oxide insert
Guides: Chrome Snake Guides
Reel Seat: Black Aluminum
I was genuinely impressed by the looks and quality of my CROSSWATER 905-4 rod, especially considering these rods only cost $79.99 if purchased separately! Not only were there no cosmetic blemishes to speak of, but this rod is a real looker from tip to butt. You won't confuse it with your $800 sticks, but I was very pleased with the level of refinement for a rod costing well under a hundred bucks.
The cork grip is of decent quality with some filler visible, but remains very comfy and smooth. Below, there's a simplistic reel seat sporting the CROSSWATER name on the top of the barrel. A single blue locking ring and matching slide band do the job of holding the reel to the rod, but I do wish there was something like a gasket in between for an improved feel when tightening down.
The blank is finished in a vibrant high-gloss blue color with lime thread accents around the logo area and at each ferrule. It looks GREAT! There's a single stripping guide along with chrome snake guides, all bound to the blank with wraps that are a slightly lighter shade of blue for some mild contrast. There's also alignment dots and yes, a hook keeper—both features I wish every rod had!
CROSSWATER Test Reel Specs
Line Size: 4/5/6
Weight: 5.1 ounces
Diameter: 3.5 inches
Spool Width: Approx 1 1/4 inches
Backing Capacity (20 lb): 100 yards
Drag: Rulon/Stainless (not fully sealed)
Tested Max Drag: Approx 5lbs
Machined/Cast: Cast polymer
Quick Release Spool: Yes
R/L Conversion: Yes
At first glance, the CROSSWATER reel (especially the front) looks really, really similar to the i.D. series, but there are subtle differences. First off, while the i.D. is made from cast aluminum, this one is comprised of a polymer. Most of the reel is relatively smooth to the touch, but I did notice a slight bit more texture to the surface when compared to the i.D. which is very smooth all over. It's also not quite as refined, most notably along the spool rim which didn't have super precise edges. Keep in mind I'm looking at this with an especially critical eye—these things are very minor and barely noticeable unless inspecting closely.
The second big difference I noticed was in the design and structure of the reel. The i.D. is full-framed and flat on the back to accept a multitude of decals, while the CROSSWATER is much more open. This reel also has a "spoked" design on the inside of the spool, while the i.D. has a single thick cross bar.
Besides those differences, both reels share a lot of matching features. The CROSSWATER boasts the same large arbor, big drag knob, quick spool release, soft-touch handle, and semi-sealed rulon/stainless drag system. Keeping in mind that this reel only runs $49.99 by itself, a price that I feel is extremely fair for the offering.
Equipped with a medium-fast action, this rod is perfect for those just learning to cast or others that simply want a more forgiving action. Being used to fast and extra-fast rods, I had to alter my casting stroke by slowing down a bit. Once I quickly adjusted, I found the CROSSWATER to be a good performer. The rod doesn't feel especially light while casting and the tip could be a little softer for even more feel in close, but overall the castability was really nice.
At close range feel was fine, while longer distances were handled with ease. It's a pleasant rod at those moderate "realistic fishing distances," but what really surprised me was how easily it could cast for distance. Measuring 80-feet, the included WF5F Mainstream line is shorter than the average premium line, but I was able to shoot the whole line clear of the guides with consistent ease. While peacock bass fishing in hot weather, I also switched lines to a heavier and longer WF5F RIO Bonefish (160-grains @ 30-feet) coupled with a 10-foot Scientific Anglers SONAR Sinking Leader (50 grains) along with a weighted fly, and it handled all of that heft relatively well on mostly short to medium range presentations.
The CROSSWATER reel winds-in line at a good rate and the spool doesn't have a particularly wide width which makes finger-leveling line simple. The handle is a fine length/thickness and has a very, very slight taper to it. While there's no patterning/texturing built-in to the handle surface, the rubbery soft-touch portions of the handle are both comfy and promote a confident grip. Since there's no excessive play between spool and frame, cranking feels nice and stable. Also, for retrieving excess line in a hurry, the spool is relatively "free" and spins several times when smacked or slapped.
Pull line from the spool, and there's a hint of stickiness upon startup. After line does begin to flow, it continues with good consistency and doesn't bind, jerk, or stick. There's no issue at all with grabbing and adjusting the rear drag knob, as it protrudes quite a ways out from the frame and has nice texturing to it. Full drag is achieved with about two full turns of the knob, and there's soft detents along with loud clicks throughout the rotation. I measured maximum drag at right around 5 pounds.
To remove the spool, unscrew the center cap and pull the spool/frame apart. To reattach, just re-seat them together and screw the center cap back in. The center cap didn't always want to screw back in correctly on the first try, but that's a brief and minor setback. One nice feature is that the center cap doesn't easily detach from the spool unless you unscrew it more than you have to or simply just pull it off.
Let's see: separately, the rod costs $79.99; the reel $49.99; WF5F Mainstream line is $39.99, plus the backing, leader, and rod/reel case. Let's just say altogether everything has a value of around $200. Available in different lengths, in weights 4–9, and in two and four piece configurations, Redington sells these combos for just $139.99 across the board. That's a pretty stellar deal!
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