It's not often I'm really surprised by what a rod will do after initially doubting it....

Very few 30g or 35g Japanese designed lure/seabass rods will really cast and fish the weights they say they will. I'll sound biased with this one being such a positive test (you'll see), but it's not in my best interests to tell customers that a rod will cast a weight that it won't. But the new Hi-Tide SSD 90ML has just shocked me a bit.

I've just taken the rod over to the river in town, along with a selection of lures to test the limitations of what the rod will cast and fish. We all know that casting a 30g metal is a different thing to casting a 30g plug, so the physical weight of any lure - when matched against the casting weight marked on the rod - is always a bit hard to predict. And it's why buying online is such a minefield!

When these rods arrived last week, I looked at the 90ML (rated to 35g max) and decided pretty quickly that that might be a bit ambitions. Although faster and slimmer than the Saltyshape Dash model it replaces, it's not a "stiff", extra fast rod like so many aspire to be these days - which is a good thing. I did feel it wasn't too far wrong, but I liked the idea of it being a "32 grammer" with the way it felt - forgiving enough to fish a soft lure but just about pokey enough to whack a larger surface lure like the Patch 140 or Sakura DynaStick 135. It would usually be a bit too much to expect a lure rod that feels so light to do anything more...

A bit about my setup and the conditions first. As we know, there are so many variables with fishing that what I've found today may well change or be limited by rougher weather, thicker lines, and stuff like that!

Test tackle & Conditions
  • Rod: Tailwalk Hi-Tide SSD 90ML (7-35g)
  • Reel: Tailwalk Speaky 3000
  • Line: Tailwalk Power Eye PE WX8 #1.2
  • Location: A low tide, river Camel. Wadebridge town centre.
  • Weather: Wet. The wind isn't too bad but a little gusty.
  • Water: Flat calm, but flowing.

I started casting a sensible, 30g Apia Seiryu Hyper (casting jig) just to get some line out and settle the rod in. I wondered at the time - being the very first lure I'd put on one of these - whether this already felt about the comfortable maximum to really blast it. It cleared the river easily, upstream at an angle. Plenty in the tank yet. This first cast actually lodged itself in the mud on the far bank and I was pretty much pulling for a break by the time it eventually jumped out. That's probably 60m for a tester. Others would go further by angling more upsteam but I obviously don't have the ability to measure them.

I'll explain everything in more detail but as I rotated through the box, I found:

Sakura Dynastick 135F (25.5g) - a chucky surface lure very much like the Xorus Patchinko 140 but with a more cupped face. I expected the rod to struggle with this one before the test. It's lures like this that always push "30g" lure rods to their limits. In reality - with the Hi-Tide SSD 90ML - piece of pi55!!!!! I was fully expecting to need to go for the 90M to be able to fish these properly. Again, we must bear in mind that the conditions here for the test are basically flat calm with very little wind though..... the 90M will have it's place for sure! I just couldn't believe how easy it was to cast and fish this lure today. I was expecting a struggle in both respects. That being the case with the larger lure, you can imagine how easy and sublime the Apia Argo 105 was...

Dynastick 135 out of the way with a huge TICK, I still couldn't imagine the 36g Apia Punchline 130 being fishable. Bar the Apia rods, I don't think I've seen or used a Japanese lure rod that will take MORE than it says (I still don't suggest this, but it's nice to know what they'll do). A 36g metal is one thing, but not a 36g Needle/Punchline. But it did it. I was tentative to start with but made sure my last cast of the test was a belter with this one.

And then the lighter end. Everything in between was just easy and comfortable, so it was obviously top and bottom end of the weight scale that are important. On with the Fish Arrow Flash J Split 5" Feco (a new, softer plastic version of this lure). No added weight, just a weedless hook to suit. Slightly lighter than a DoLive 6", Evobass Lance or SG Gravity Stick, it was the perfect test (about 12g). An easy one to fish in these calm conditions, but I must admit, if the lure were any lighter and the wind any stronger I might have been struggling a bit. That said, this is at the lightest end of the scale and bear in mind that it's unlikely you'll be fishing an unweighted plastic in a gale, and that most other lures of this style are slightly heavier anyway, the rod is bang on really - giving you the extra little bit of power for no real sacrifice at the lower end. It'll fish all of those popular, unweighted SPs with ease.

In conclusion:

The 35g rating is spot on. While I've cast a 40g Seiryu Hyper (I did lob it) and 36g Punchline 130 easily enough with it today, in typical fishing conditions and from a sales point of view, I'd still have to recommend not treating the rods like 40g animals.

Its funny how pleasantly surprised I can be by a rod that actually just DOES WHAT IT SAYS IT DOES! So rare is that these days.

The other thing that I find slightly limiting at the heavier end of the scale is the length of the handle - although slightly longer than last year's Saltyshape Dash and by no means short when compared to the majority out there, with 30g+ on the end I felt like I wanted a bit more grip length to really hammer the casts. Completely comfortable and a beautifully designed reel seat and rear grip but two inches more would have been amazing. That said, I've just got back and compared the 90ML with the 96M - which does indeed have that extra 2"! That's next for testing! 42g rating and that extra handle length for good measure - this is looking good! Back to the 90ML, the handle length was actually perfect for pinging the sub-30g lures with ease, and made working the topwaters super simple.

So, it's looking a super versatile tool. Easy with everything from 12g-35g, and with every type of lure. At least in these calm conditions.

Among other initial comparisons, the new Hi-Tide SSD range appears to be slimmer in the butt than the original Saltyshape Dash (SSD) Seabass Game rods that they replace. The joint is smoother - as in, there's less of a stagger from where the tip slips over the butt spigot. But it's also a faultless combination of tip and butt when power is applied as well. Across the range, I think everyone will be surprised at just how much power is hiding that only really shows itself when there's a line through them.

A blog post will follow on the website to compare all of the models once I've been out for future tests. But if you want a 9' allrounder, buy the 90ML now.