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TFO Unveils New Products

ICAST is over. We at TFO are back home from the trip to Orlando, but if you missed the world’s largest sportfishing show, do not despair.

We introduced quite a few new items at ICAST this year. On the fly side, we welcomed the Axiom II-X fly rod, the NXT Black Label Kit, and the BVK SD. As for spinning gear, we have the Tactical Bass Elite and Tactical Bass series as well as the Professional Walleye series.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a serious fly fisherman or an angler who prefers traditional spinning gear, TFO offers quality options for everyone —- from new anglers just getting started to seasoned professionals.

Here’s a bit more detail about each item, all of which will become available to consumers in the coming months:

The Axiom II-X: The Axiom impressed. Then came the Axiom II, which drew rave reviews. The Axiom II-X has a tough act to follow, but with if you want a rod that will deliver a big-time cast without sacrificing accuracy, this satin-blue stick is for you. Retails for ($349.95-$369.95) in weights 5-12. For more info, check out the video below.

The BVK SD: Need a reel to go with your new Axiom II-X? There’s no better choice than the BVK SD. Those who have the BVK swear by it. But get this: The BVK SD offers everything its predecessor did —- with a sealed drag system —- for the same price. Maintenance is minimal, so there’s no more worrying about the interior components. Now they’re fully protected. The BVK SD runs from $199.95-$229.95 and comes in four sizes I, II, III and III+.

NXT Black Label Kit: Fly fishing doesn’t have to be expensive, nor doesn’t it have to be complicated. In essence, that’s the premise behind the NXT Black Label Kit. You get a rod, reel, backing and fly line, all for a very reasonable price ($219.95-$229.95). Since the rod and reel and line are pre-matched, you don’t have to worry about pairing those components, a process that can be intimidating for inexperienced anglers.

Tactical Bass Rods: So you’re a serious bass fisherman. Like to fish topwater? How about crankbaits? Maybe finesse is more your style? If so, our Tactical Bass series ($149.95-$169.95) is for you, no matter how precise your style of angling is.

Tactical Elite Bass Rods:  Whatever profession you choose, you need tools of the trade that will get the job done day after day. So it is with pro anglers and our Tactical Elite series. If you want to make a living fishing, serious tournament fishermen need a rod that will preform consistently day in and day out. By all accounts, our Tactical Elite series ($199.95) more than holds its own.

Professional Walleye Series: One of the biggest challenges in catching walleye is feeling the bite, but our newest walleye series provides enough sensitivity, from the handle to the tip, to help anglers counter this issue. And there’s the added bonus of versatility:  You can jig, rig, crank and troll with this rod ($99.95).

Comments on our new products? Check out one of our social media pages.

How to Catch Panfish on Fly

Is it brim? Or bream? Or both? They’re known by different names — panfish, bluegill, pumpkinseed, sunfish and shellcracker among others.

Semantics aside, theses small freshwater fish are known for their voracious appetites and fly-rod fun. Everyone who has ever held a cane pole in their youth probably caught one or two of these hand-sized creatures.

They’re everywhere in the Lower 48. You’ll find them in ponds, lakes and rivers. And there’s no better way to shake off the rust from a long-rod layoff. Panfish provide plenty of consistent action — on topwater or subsurface.

Below are a few tips for these feisty little guys.

When and Where for Panfish

Any pond or lake in the continental United States probably has panfish. Because they’re a warmwater species, they’re more prevalent in the south, southeast and mid-atlantic regions.

They’re not as sexy as trout, but they’re infinitely more accessible. Any retention pond or golf course pond likely will hold bream. With trout, you might have to travel. With brim, you might not have to leave your neighborhood.

The best time of year for panfish, in general, is in the spring, when the fish move into the shallows to spawn. The timing of this depends on geography and water temperature.  A good rule of thumb is 60, 65 degrees.

How to Fish for Panfish

Once you find a body of water, look for shade and shoreline structure — logs, patches of grass, stumps, sticks, etc. Work these areas early and late in the day. You can catch panfish all day, but it’s tougher as the sun rises, particularly once summer arrives.

Once the air and water temperatures warm, the little fish will head for slightly deeper water. Look for drop-offs. You may need an intermediate line to find deeper fish, but you can keep things simple with a floating line and a longer leader.

Simply cast, count to 10, let your weighted fly sink, then slowly retrieve your offering. How long you count, of course, depends on the depth of the water and where the fish are holding. A bit of trial-and-error is usually required.

You can also use a strike indicator. The plop of the indicator often will cause curious fish to investigate and yield a strike.

Flies to Use for Panfish

Poppers, poppers and more poppers. You simply can’t have enough of these. Boogle bugs and Sneaky Petes and Bumble Bees are known for their productivity. Toss these toward cover, let the rings created by the impact of the offering hitting the water dissipate and strip. Repeat, varying the intensity of the strips and the length of the pauses. Fishing with poppers is a waiting game. Panfish like to study their prey before the strike. Wait as long as you can stand it.

For subsurface flies, you can’t go wrong with standard trout nymphs —- a hare’s ear, pheasant tail or a brassie. A hopper-dropper can be a productive tactic when crickets and beetles scurry about.

For streamers, you can’t beat a woolly bugger or a muddler minnow. Bass like both as well.

The Gear for Panfish

Some anglers prefer a 2 or 3-weight rod. Small fish, light rod. Not a bad choice. However, it’s not a bad idea to swing a 5-weight, which provides enough backbone to make those bigger poppers turn over. And if you happen to run into a bass, you will have enough stick to win that battle.

TFO’s Bug Launcher, Axiom II and NXT are good choices. You don’t need a high-end reel. The NXT LA is a great value.

As for a line and leader. Stick with a weight-forward line and a 3 or 4X, 7-to-9 foot leader. Remember, this is not technical fishing. When in doubt, simplify.

Panfish often inhale their prey, so don’t forget your hemostats. Panfish have tiny mouths. Pliers usually don’t dig deep enough.

Panfish are a blast. They’re easy to catch and almost always willing to spar. They’re great for kids to learn or for inexperienced anglers to build confidence. Even veteran long-rodders can benefit.

Questions, comments about panfish on a fly rod? Feel free to visit one of our social media pages.

Part II: How to Buy Your First Fly Rod

So you want to learn to fly fish? First things first. You will need a fly rod.

Don’t be intimidated. There are a lot of rods out there to choose from — saltwater, freshwater, two-hand and single hand, all in different heights and sizes. Where to start?

Welcome to Part II of our learning-to-fly-fish series. Part I was the overview. Now it’s time to start assembling your equipment — and that starts with purchasing your first rod. Here are a handful of things to consider:

What do you want to fish for?

Are you interested in freshwater or salt? Big rivers or small streams? Bass or trout? Redfish or tarpon? Where you fish and what you fish for dictates the type of rod you’ll need. Although some fly rods are more versatile than others, there is no all-purpose, do-everything fly rod.

I, for instance, started with one fly rod; I ended up with more than a dozen after making the transition from trout to bass and freshwater to saltwater. However, the weekend trout/bass fisherman can get easily get by with one, maybe two rods.

What’s your budget?

Fly fishing is not a cheap sport. Although TFO offers reasonably priced rods compared to other fly rod manufacturers, our single-hand rods start at $89.95 (Bug Launcher series) and run as high as $399.95 (Drift series) with lots of options in between those price points. If you buy a rod, reel and line separately, you’re looking at investing two, three-hundred dollars, cheaper if you buy one of our NXT Kits, which includes a rod, reel and line.

Let your interest in fly fishing dictate your initial purchases. If you’ve taken a lesson or two and you’re in love with fly fishing, buy the best single-hand rod you can afford. It will perform better and last longer.

If you’re dabbling, it’s best to take a wait-and-see approach. Buy a rod at a reasonable price point —- the Axiom II (suggested retail: $339.95-$359.95) is a good option — and then decide how much you’ll actually fish. That way, if you fish only a handful of times a year, you haven’t invested a chunk of change in a rod that’s collecting dust.

What do you like?

Fly rods are categorized by length and weight. Length is self-explanatory. A 9-footer is your standard freshwater rod. You can buy longer rods, but they’re mainly for specialty types of fishing.

Rod weights are assigned to define the types of flies you can throw. The lighter the rod, the lower the number, the smaller fly you can cast and vice versa. For instance, if you were fishing for tarpon, you would want a 10 or 11-weight rod, which is sturdy enough to propel a fly the size of your hand 60 or 70 feet. For the record, the standard trout fly rod is a 5-weight.

Armed with the basics of this terminology and an idea of what you want to fish for, it’s best to go to your local fly shop and try out several different rods. What feels good to you?

Some fly rods are stiff, some are soft. Each angler usually has a preference and that’s largely defined by how they cast. It’s a decision each newcomer has to make. I recommend a slighter softer rod, which should help you feel the butt of the rod bend, very important as you learn to cast.

Are you prepared for the unexpected?

My first fly rod was handmade, gorgeous and casted like a dream. Unfortunately, it was made by local rod maker. The one drawback? It had no warranty.

You may not think you’ll break a rod, but chances are you will. I’ve broken three in a 30 years. The latest was a TFO Professional Series. It was my fault. I left it unattended in the back of my SUV and my dog’s crate rolled over on it. We all have our moments of carelessness that can cost us.

You will want a good warranty and trust me, even with the best intentions, you will use it. TFO’s no-fault, lifetime warranty covers breakage for any reason. My TFO rod was fixed and back in my hands in about a week or so. That type of customer service is hard to beat.

Suggestions on buying your first fly rod? Stories about your first fly rod? Feel free let us know about these experiences on one of our social media pages.