A rod of two halves, and before you start accusing me of stating the bleeding obvious when yes, this DFR 9'6'' 6-28g lure rod is indeed an equal section two piece rod, there is in fact a point to my statement - on the one hand I think this rod is very good for some of my fishing, but on the other hand I do have some reservations about it. As always though, you must bear in mind that fishing rods are personal things, and anything you read here is me and the way I happen to lure fish.
Most likely you're going to buy this lure rod for two main reasons - you want the kind of awesome custom build that Richard Cake provides via his Dorset Fishing Rods company, and secondly because you are after a slightly longer lure rod that is designed to deal with the kinds of lures we tend to fish here in the UK and Ireland - proving yet again how much symmetry we have with how the shore based (sea) bass anglers go about their fishing in Japan (this rod is built on a T Russell BXL blank that Richard sources out there). So first things first - yes, the build quality is simply fantastic, and if you choose to have Richard build a rod (or few) for you then he will help guide you through the different options and choices you need to make. By no means do you have to go for these lightweight Pacific Bay guides for example, but I really like them. Take it from me, he builds a seriously class rod and his attention to detail is staggering.
So what's the rod like? Well it's a little longer than I am used to using, albeit I have fished lots and lots with the (so wish it wasn't Limited Edition) 9'3''APIA Foojin'X Grove Stream 93ML 9'3'' Max 32g lure rod (check my review of it here). Tie me down and I would go for around a 9' long lure rod for the bulk of my bass fishing, but I get why some anglers like longer rods in their quest to put lures out a little further when required - although to me it's debatable whether a few inches really makes much of a difference if you take other factors into consideration such as rod action, how well (or not so well) various anglers can cast, actual casting styles, lures types, etc. It matters not though - simply use what you like and I'll get on with doing the same thing.
If I take into consideration some of the lure rods I have fished with fairly recently, I would put this 9'6'' DFR rod action at around medium to perhaps nudging medium fast. I like how it doesn't have some horrible soft tip stuck on the end of a scaffold-pole, rather it all bends together in a way that makes for some very easy fishing - if that is you think about your casting and how this rod might work best. Stick a lure on like the IMA Hound 125F Glide and it's almost alarming how far you can get it out there, but if you lash into the rod at the fastest speed you can move it, you'll wonder what on earth I'm on about - nope, the trick is to slow down a bit and load the rod right up from the back and then simply let the lure fly. Move too fast and the rod just can't keep up and load properly, and you can tell this when a long-casting hard lure goes out there with a waggle on the arse-end instead of flying like an arrow - and this of course cuts down on distance. So we need to slow down a bit and make sure the rod loads the whole way through - you can really feel it when this happens, and it's quite something.
So as a regular (hard lure) minnow kind of lure rod I really like this thing. Sure, I have to adjust my timing from fishing with a faster/steelier rod, but once you're there it's just such an easy lure rod to fish with. Effortless long cast after effortless long cast puts my shallow and medium diving lures out as far as I can recall them going, and the rod is plenty light enough to fish with for long periods without ever thinking that I'm using something a little longer and less wand-like that I might use more regularly. Easy is a word that keeps coming to mind with this 9'6'' DFR - easily efficient if you like. It seems to be a rod born to cast and retrieve, and it does it very well.
I am ok fishing surface lures with this rod as well, but I am not going to pretend that this rod would be my first choice for them. It might only be 9'6'' when compared to say a more regular 9' I might fish with (9' Major Craft Skyroad etc.), but the easier action in the mid section especially makes me feel it's better suited to casting and retrieving sub-surface minnows rather than working say an IMA Salt Skimmer. Yes, I suppose I prefer a slightly faster, more "crisp" action on a rod for working my surface lures.
If there is another specific method that to me is so incredibly well suited to using a good 9'6'' lure rod, it's bumping something like the Fiiish Black Minnow along the bottom in current. Yes, you might well use any other kind of paddletail/jig head combination, but it's the Black Minnow for me because time after time it works for bass, and this 9'6'' DFR rod is just sublime for blasting say the 120mm/12g Black Minnow out, letting it hit the bottom and then fishing a controlled sink and draw as it trundles down the current in an estuary. I can feel everything, and like with trotting a float down a river for roach on a long coarse rod, a bit of extra length feels like it's helping with the whole process.
The one method I don't get on very well with this rod is when I'm fishing with soft plastics that are rigged weedless and quite possibly weightless as well. Sure, you can fish them perfectly well, and you yourself might well pick the rod up and find it to be just perfect for fishing soft plastics like this (senkos, swim senkos, DoLive Sticks etc.), but it's something about the action on the rod that to me doesn't feel sufficiently "precise" for lure fishing like this. A shorter, steelier lure rod feels like a wand in my hand when fishing weedless/weightless soft plastics (or perhaps with small belly-weights on the weedless hook), but in my mind this DFR 9'6'' rod has been designed to fish with sub-surface hard lures and I presume vibration lures etc. It's just not "crisp" or precise enough for me to feel like I'm holding a wand in my hand and efficiently working various soft plastics especially. I come back again to the rod action feeling best suited to casting and retrieving.
As I say again and again, rods like this are very personal things. I understand plenty more than I used to about how the Japanese shore anglers tend to lure fish for their bass, and to my knowledge weedless and quite possibly weightless soft plastics don't really come into their mix. It just so happens that we come across certain lure rods that we reckon can fish almost any lure method very effectively, whereas if I personally was after a lure rod that would effortlessly put sub-surface lures out a country mile if needs be then this rather stunning DFR 9'6'' would be high up on my list. I managed to have a few chucks the other day with another 9'6'' rod that Richard at Dorset Fishing Rods can provide, built on a blank from St. Croix, and this rod felt that bit "crisper" or steelier - and I reckon could be better suited to soft plastics. Whatever the case, it's seriously worth getting hold of Richard here (check Dorset Fishing Rods on Facebook as well) and asking about various custom build options and of course the growing range of rod blanks he can provide. It's outstanding that somebody with Richard's knowledge and skills is working to provide UK lure anglers with gear like this, and I take my hat off to him.