Joe Mahler

Hidden within the SAGE line-up is a gem. The Response 370-4 is a seven-foot three-weight rod that is a true workhorse – ok, a pony. I realize that it is not likely that a rod of this stature will never be the talk of fly tackle shows and expositions, but maybe this one should be.

I have never owned a rod lighter than a four weight, but last spring I was kayak fishing with Steve Gibson in a lake near Sarasota, Florida. It was tough day for sure. Windy, chilly, and the bass, bream, and crappies had a chronic case of lock-jaw. I had a seven and six-weight rod with me, Steve was armed with a two and three-weight. At the end of the day, Steve had caught 17 respectable fish, while I caught only two. We were fishing close to each other, even using the same flies, but Steve, with his diminutive equipment picked the shoreline apart like a micro-surgeon, while I simply blew through some of what proved to be the best spots. Steve explained that the down-sized outfits that he was using somehow changed his view of the shoreline and made him more focused. So, hat in hand, my search for the perfect three-weight began.

When it comes to equipment, “If it’s worth using, it’s worth abusing” definitely applies to me. While terms like “Lifting Power” and “Backbone” aren’t usually tossed about in light rod discussions, I knew that, although I was looking for a small waters rod, I never look for small fish. The rod I chose would need to cover a range of waters– from canals to lakes to backcountry creeks, on foot and by paddle, as well as a variety of species including bream, exotics (oscars, cichlids, and peacock bass), largemouth bass and even small tarpon. Kayak fly-rodders are usually from two different schools of thought on rod length. The first argument is that since the caster is usually seated, therefore closer to the water’s surface, a longer rod is helpful in keeping the back cast from hitting the water and help with distance overall. The other side is that being able to tuck a shorter rod inside the kayak will make it easier to navigate twisty backcountry creeks and, since super-distance casts are seldom necessary in a stealthy kayak, a short rod is a better choice for most situations. I tend to agree with the latter.

The Response 370-4, to me, is very much in line with the popular SAGE Bass series rods. It’s a fast-action rod that will handle more payload than one would expect. I often use flies ranging from #8 cork-bodied poppers, to #4 bucktail streamers on salt water hooks. The key with throwing the larger flies is to use a shorter and heavier leader than is typical. For bass and small tarpon, I use a seven foot 12-15lb. leader with a 20lb. butt section. Initially, I paired the Response 370 up with a 3 weight RIO gold line but found that, for my purposes, a 3 weight RIO Grande helps load the rod better.

In the six months that I have been fishing the 370, I have landed largemouth and Peacock Bass to 18” and baby tarpon to 27”. I have definitely put a bend in the rod, but I’ve not felt under gunned. The four-piece 370 comes in a tube that measures less than 26” in length. It fits in my travel bag, and is always under the seat of my truck. It has become a staple in my casting instruction sessions as an aid to build line-shooting skills, which the Response 370/ RIO Grande combination does beautifully. If you are looking for a little rod with a lot of attitude, take the Response 370 for a test drive.

Joe Mahler is a Sage ambassador, casting instructor, author, illustrator, and experienced kayak angler in Florida. To learn more about Joe, head over to his Facebook page andwebsite.