UPDATE: I went to the Shakespeare website and they no longer seem to manufacture them. You can however still find them online, at places like the store mentioned below.
Ultra light & Ultra cheap:
In this post I am reviewing a Shakespeare Micro Series Graphite 4/5 two piece fly rod. It had been on my radar transiently for the past few months, still I was hesitant to purchase this rod. $19.99 MSRP for a seven foot two piece 4/5 weight fly rod? This has to be garbage. I’ve been burned by cheap rod deals before, how was this going to be any different? Motivated by the desire to produce content for this Fly and Dime project, I made up my mind. Clicking the “add to cart” button on the Sportsman’s Warehouse website, I had already begun to flesh out the rest of the combination. My spirit floated, certain this was either going to be a laughable failure, or a spectacular masterpiece no one previously bothered to discover. I couldn’t wait to discover in which way it would play out.
When unboxing the purchase, the lack of heft in the rod impresses. Without a reel it was incredibly light, but that also made finding a reel to balance somewhat perplexing. The first few reels, even without line spooled on it weighted the balance uncomfortably behind the hand. Throwing off the balance further are the two major issues I have with the rod; the plastic downlocking reel seat and the over-sized and economy-class cork handle. This is obviously where they made their money on this offering.
What they saved in the user-end of the rod, they made up for in the rod itself. The first stripping guide while steel rather than titanium or ceramic, it is polished stainless. The wraps are sealed neatly and trimmed out nicely, black with a bit of silver to cap them off.
One touch that I really appreciated was the offset hook-keeper. This feature is a personal preference, I happen to like it on the left hand side of the rod rather than the typical underneath location.
Casting this rod, it is my firm belief that is a true 4 weight, pairing well with a double taper, GPX taper, or (what I used) the 120 grain HERITAGE ULTRA PRESENTATION™ 4 weight line. Side note: This line retails at $49.95, which is not a bad price. I found it on sale for about $20 less than that, so shop around. Trying to mitigate the weight ratio, I spooled about 75-100 yards of 20lb backing on a old tuna-can style Martin 61 instead of 100 yards of 30lb. The 61 is a vintage light-weight click and pawl reel that I bought for $5 bucks at a booth in Round Top, Texas. There are certainly lighter offerings out there, but the size and weight of this reel was the best balance I could find without blowing past the “Fly and Dime” mission statement. As it was, this combination finished out at around $60 bucks, not counting shipping.
This combo isn’t going to appear in any fishing magazines, and you’re probably going to get judged (albeit silently) by the snootier anglers on the water. That said, when the felt hits the creek-bed, it’ll land the fly exactly where you intended. The medium action keeps fine trout tippet safe and your presentations delicate. The light weight is perfect for someone who maybe has shoulder issues, or even kids. Actually, this would make a great combo for starting young ‘uns out.
In summation, unlike other budget rods in the same price range, the rod itself is a quality rod. It wasn’t an undiscovered gem, but it wasn’t an unmitigated disaster either. The seven foot length made casting under trees easier than traditional 9 foot rods. The cork and reel seat are the big short comings here, but with a starting price cheaper than most available blanks, this isn’t a bad deal. In the future this website will look at upgrading this rod at home by replacing or altering the lower quality areas without adding much cost. Final verdict, I like it. I don’t love it, but it won’t gather a lot of dust before I use it again.