8 Weight Buyer's Guide - The Champion of Light Heavyweights?

July 5, 2018

Every angler should have a "light heavyweight" rod.  Sort of a Roy Jones Jr. type, fast and quick enough to move around the ring but packs some punch and power when necessary.  The longer I have fished the more I enjoy a crisp casting and highly accurate 8 weight rod.  The other comment I'll make here, is that if I'm fishing with an 8 weight rod I am likely fishing for what I consider "high stakes" species. Often I'll drive or even fly a long ways in hopes of catching a coveted specimen. These are usually fish that are tough to catch, therefore I want the best gear I can afford. It makes a difference.  Whether you like it or not some rods are better than others and they are often more expensive.  While I don't consider myself a "rod snob", in the 8 weight arena you will notice that I am always fishing domestic built rods of high caliber.  The same is not true when pursuing trout, bluegills, and bass back home.  Can you still have the same results with value gear? Of course! I hate leaving anything to chance and am definitely more confident making tough casts, especially in wind or in an environment with spooky fish.  Often you only get one shot.  
This spring I was due for a new "all water" 8 weight that I could use as my light saltwater setup for targeting Bonefish, shallow water Permit, and perhaps some other lighter weight in-shore species.  At the same time, I was really in need of an all around 8 weight that I can use for Steelhead, light Salmon, Smallmouth, Largemouth, and an upcoming trip to Kamchataka for bruiser rainbows.  I sampled quite a few rods, and settled on the Sage X (and the Loomis Asquith). Both are light enough that I wouldn't hesitate to throw streamers for trout in Alaska or employ either of them in many situations that would typically call for a 7 weight or even a stout 6. It's just a fabulous rod with a light touch, and a strong enough butt to get the job done on surging fish.  At the end of the day my personal favorite is the Sage X.
I am lucky enough to be able to cast and purchase pretty much any rod I want.  We sell a ton of brands so for me the selection is nearly endless.  While I have a few true saltwater rods in the #8 variety, I wanted something I could make the essential short cast that would also make itself useful in river situations where roll casting, mending, line feeding, and other close combat maneuvers are essential.

Sage "X" 8 Weight Rod Review and Considerations

I frankly have no criticisms of the Sage X rod that I feel don't come with an advantage on the other end of the spectrum.  What I mean is, if you want a super strong blank that will throw heavy flies into the wind, the cost is overall mass weight/swing weight and finesse at close range.  That being said, overall this seems to be the most well rounded 8 weight rod in our shop IMO.
Don't expect this to be the best performer at 100', which frankly is a damn near impossible cast in live conditions, I don't care how skilled you are.  I am a VERY strong caster and the more I fish the more I appreciate a lazer shot at 75' rather than a sloppy blind cast at 100'.  The trade-off here is that the Sage X Rod has a better short game due to its slightly moderate action.  Anything I seemed to cast at less than 75' seemed to wind up with a hook in the lip haha.  In big wind at ultra long range I had to "club up" and grab my 10 weight Loomis Asquith. Yes I fish the Asquith in the 10.  It's absolutely awesome. That's my long range magnum.
The other obvious trade off with an "all water rod" using it in saltwater is the consideration of durability.  You'll see in the video associated with this blog, that I explain the differences in construction between all water and saltwater rods.  Saltwater rods are built for tough boatside battles, lifting stubborn fish from the depths, and picking up a long line and a weighted fly and punching through a gale force wind.  While these are all admirable considerations, they aren't necessary 100% of the time.  Especially in your #8 which should be used for Bonefish, light Permit work, and other small in-shore species.  If I had to choose a single 8 weight to own, it would be a premium level "all water 8 weight".

Other 8 Weight All Water Rod - Top Considerations

The review on the Sage X 8 Weight is simply my opinion, but as stated I am pretty unbiased as we sell many great brands. All of which build awesome rods!  These are subtle observations of craftsmanship, feel, and overall VERSATILITY.  The X is an extremely versatile caster.  I will make some other suggestions, at this price point its only fair to offer some of my other top picks and perhaps these brands or price points fit within your loyalty and budget.
G Loomis Asquith 890-4 - This rod is amazing. I personally prefer the Sage X by a nearly imperceptible magin (for an all around 8 weight), but pundants everywhere favor the G Loomis Asquith toting its Spiral X technology as the next best thing since the internet was invented.  I have to agree, the Asquith is an outstanding rod. I actually have both the 8 weight and the 10 weight, but for an all around #8 I just love the versatility of the X Rod. I'll need to follow up with the #10, because I cannot remember casting a #10 that is as easy to throw for speed and distance as the 1090-4 Asquith but I'll need to put it side by side with the Sage SALT HD.  Consider this rod the direct rival to the Sage X 890-4.  
G Loomis NRX 890-4 - Funny that 2 Loomis products consistently show up on top of the heap.  The NRX has been a front runner for years and like Sage, is built right here in our home state of Washington.  I love the NRX, but find it a bit more distance and line speed oriented than the Sage X, and a touch faster than the Asquith.  Anyone can cast the Asquith or the Sage X, but the Loomis NRX action favors more experienced and stronger casters.  IMO If you are looking for raw line speed and distance potential from your 9' 8 weight, look no further.  

Maximum Value Combined with All Water Performance

TFO BVK 890-4 - This rod has been a hit for years and continues to be the "standard" at which most other non-domestic rods are compared to. It's the highlight of the TFO family. The BVK is an outstanding rod, well rounded, easy to cast. 
Douglas DXF 890-4 - This label has been really gaining much momentum over the past couple of years. This particular model, the DXF, in most weights is regarded as one of the better non-domestic rods. It's a bit more than the BVK but in my opinion has better looks and approximately equal performance.
Redington VICE 890-4 - This rod is fast action, great distance potential, throws super tight loops. Nothing to balk at.  At this price it's really got only competitior, the TFO BVK, which has the market cornered on budget 8 weights.  It's one hell of a rod however, I've tested this a bit in the yard and have been blown away.  My 8 weight trips are pretty high stakes, which motivates me to fish with top end gear but if your budget is in the $200 range for the rod only give this a shot. 

Maximum Value for Saltwater Specific Applications

Redington Predator 890-4 - This rod is bruiser. It's not the fine casting tool that many of the all water rods are but its tough. You can TRUST this rod not to break a tip on the slightest impact of Clouser minnow.  It would also be a great candidate to hold up on small Tarpon if you needed to use it as a Mangrove rod which requires toughness. 
ECHO Bad Ass Glass - Fiberglass tends to be more durable when flexed heavy and these rods will get the job done. TOUGH ROD.  They are also really fun to cast making swinging big sticks fun.  The 8' 8 weight "Quickshot" is the best budget rod for fishing Mangroves.  
Sage MOTIVE 890-4 - I love this rod. I've fished it EVERYWHERE... except in freshwater. Its a great caster as long as you never need to roll cast or mend haha. It's just not made for that action.  I love it at $500 for a US built Sage rod that offers fabulous durability and high performance in one rod. It's not as dead ass accurate as other Sage rods, but an awesome product nonetheless. 

Maximum Performance for Saltwater Specific 8 Weight Rods

Sage SALT HD 890-4 - If you need a rod that will live in the saltwater and is your precision rod for Bonefish, shallow water Permit, small Jacks, and other lightweight in-shore species then look no further.  Tough, deadly accurate, will pick up a ton of line off the water and re-cast it.  I'll probably take one of these on my next Christmas Island trip as the Blue Fin Trevally I always seem to hook while targeting Bonefish can tear up lightweight rods.
  1. I own a 9 ft. 8 wt. Fenwick Aetos fly rod. Looking for an appropriate line for Texas Redfish. Am considering Rio Winter Redfish as well as the new InTouch cold water short. I also have some interest in OPST single handed Skagit systems. Any thoughts?
  2. Just wondering have you ever tried an Arctic Silver rod??? I've tried a good few and these rods outdue all others I tried, making casting easier and a much much much better feeling and experience when fighting a fish!!! Every person I've given my rod to try on the Atlantic Salmon rivers here in Newfoundland Canada tell me it's the best rod they had ever tried. If you haven't experienced one then you are missing out. It definitely get people talking on the rivers. Cheers