Winston AIR SALT Fly Rod Review
May 9, 2019
At the Red's Rendezvous X yesterday we cast probably 100 rods on the marked course for distance out to 80'. Typically the PNW Championship we host here each year is exclusive to 5 weight rods, but given the gale force winds we encountered, in the morning the sponsors and Red's all agreed that it should be an "open" and competitors could choose their rod based on the conditions.
This meant that folks could use any rod! This included Winston, Sage, Echo, Hardy, G Loomis, TFO, Redington, and Burkheimer. There was a division for the Non-Proffessional Casters, and a division for the Pro Casters.
Winston AIR Salt 7 Weight Rod
The Winston AIR Salt 790-4 again and again made its way to the Clackacraft Headhunter II Skiff (we had a boat on the lawn and casters stand in the boat to compete).
While there were lots of rods to choose from, this setup seemed to be the crowd favorite. As the writer of this blog, I'll be candid in saying that I chose the Sage SALT HD 790-4 when it came time for me to compete at a 60' shootout against the other pros. In all honesty, it wasn't just a choice due to the accuracy of the Winston, it was frankly because the caster in front of me was using the Winston! These were the two rods that the pro's gravitated towards in the final pro shootout. Both fantastic rods. When it comes to accurately casting the best saltwater flies, having a rod that will generate line speed, distance, and accuracy is critical.
The reputation of Winston rods in the fast action, super performance, and especially saltwater arena has typically not been good. I personally have only taken one Winston rod on a saltwater trip in all the years I've been taking guests to far away places chasing tropical trophies. It was a few years ago and other than a few casts I never fished the rod becuase it was wasn't up to the task. This new AIR SALT is a totally re-birth for Winston rods in the saltwater market. It won't have that spongy relaxed vibe of their trout rods, and it's NOTHING like the AIR Freshwater rods! The fact that they share the same name and color is about all they have in common. The AIR SALT is a sniper from 50' + feet, generating very tight loops. It's still fun and easy to cast as far as saltwater rods go, but if you expect to get that silky Winston feel you won't. This rod is built for performance.
The winner of the Non-Pro casting championship was Trisha Campbell. A great caster and student of the cast! She had been in the finals here before in year's past but finally pulled it off and won the purse. She was given her choice between a Sage or a Winston... her choice was the Winston AIR Salt 790-4. Go figure.
*Troy blasting a good loop into a stiff wind to a 60 foot target with the Winston 790-4 Air SALT
The winner of the Pro division was Troy Lichttenegger, a former guide and now a Winston sales rep and pro angler. He used the Winston 790-4 AIR SALT to win the pro division. He hit a small ring 6 out of 20 times at 65' in gusty winds! So there you have it. This family of rods should be in every saltwater rod conversation.
Line Recommendation for the Winston AIR SALT
The line that we like best on this rod is SA Amplitude Grand Slam. You can get either the "smooth" version that only has a texture on the float tip, but the light texture on the Amplitude Grand Slam from Scientific Anglers is the right line on this rod for optimal shooting of the line.
First Impression Video Review of the Winston AIR SALT
Finish and Craftsmanship Winston AIR Salt
This is an area where Winston has few rivals. The finish, color, wraps, and control of the fine detail is one of the many things makes a Winston rod different and better than less expensive foreign built rods. This rod is built to last, and it will look good in the process.
Pickup Power of the Winston AIR Salt Rods
While we don't have a quantifiable measure for the rod's ability to pick a weighted fly up out of the water and quickly recast it back at a fish. During the final round of the pro contest, the winner used the strategy of picking up all 60' of line (with a 7 weight mind you) and laying all 60' back down. This is typically the kiss of death, as its tough to get that 60' all the way back out behind you and tight, which is essential for making an accurate forward cast. I actually scored this find caster and he was able to drive that backcast all the way back tight behind him without having to strip any line back in. So... it has the power to pick up the line, and recast it without false casts. An important trait for a good saltwater rod.