What is it with some of these Japanese lure rods ? I will never forget picking up my first red Tenryu (French designed) lure rod and being utterly amazed that a rod like this even existed when for years a spinning/lure rod to me was a mere floppy stick of an add-on to my beachcasters. Over the last couple of years I have been lucky enough to play around with and thus start learning more about some of the specialist Japanese lure fishing rods, and while I suppose that at first I was a bit sceptical that a rod rated say less than about 35-40g casting weight was going to deal with my fishing, pretty quickly I think I came to realise that for the most part we can fish pretty light and do what we need to do just fine. Without a doubt it was these French designed lure rods that opened up my eyes - but bearing in mind that fishing rods are very personal things and that what I like you might not, I can't help but be drawn more and more towards some of these Japanese lure rods that are made for shore fishing. I fish with a lot of Japanese lures after all, so surely it made sense in the first place to at least have a look at some of them ? Sure, I don't personally like fishing with soft/through-action rods, and perhaps I did once rather ignorantly presume that Japanese rods were all like sticks of liquorice - but how wrong could I be ? And once again I simply don't give a stuff what rod length you or I get on with best because it's up to you and it's up to me and if we are getting our lures out there and catching fish from the spots we go to then we must all be doing something kind of ok ?
I have had a thing for IMA lures ever since I first saw some all lit up and looking pretty damn attractive in a display unit I think at the first Nantes show I went to. The first two IMA lures I got hold of then caught me bass immediately and I have been hooked on them ever since. When I heard that IMA were coming out with a lure rod I was of course pretty interested to see what it was all about, although I can't pretend I knew very much at all about the brand APIA from Japan with whom they have collaborated on this design. On my most recent trip to Ireland I got the chance to fish with this new IMA x Apia Foojin' AD Energy Flow 92ML rod for three full days out of the seven I was fishing/photographing. The rod is rated up to 34g and is 9'2'' long - and yes, I lay the blame purely at the door of high-end Japanese lure rods for "easing" me into the longer rods a bit. I will admit to first picking up the rod and giving it a waggle and thinking that it was feeling very interesting, but that no way was it going to cope with the heavier lures we might use. It just felt too light, responsive and "not-long". I was also somewhat sceptical to see cork handles on the rod, albeit where the back of your rod hand sits is duplon. I was also slightly confused by the "up to 34g" rating - did this mean the rod makers were saying that you could essentially cast and fish with almost any weight of lure up to 34g ?
So from the off I was liking how the rod felt from a mere waggle, but because I am a human being and I suppose that I am naturally a bit sceptical, I was also having some doubts. I was struggling to get around how a lure rod this comparatively long could possibly feel this light, responsive and fast, and this I suppose gave rise to me not believing that it was going to deal with the heavier/bigger lures - and I suppose also that it could not possibly cast something really light. But if there is one thing that I have learnt to do with fishing rods is to wait until I have cast and fished with them before I go and make up my mind. I waggled an expensive Japanese lure rod recently for example that felt awesome, but when I went fishing with it for some reason it just did not suit me at all - but I know some anglers who absolutely rave about it. A mere waggle means very little, and I could imagine anglers coming from say a "French-style" lure rod (if there is such a thing), picking a rod like this IMA x Apia Foojin' AD Energy Flow up (where do these names come from ??!!) and wondering what all the fuss is about...............until you clip on a lure and go fishing with it. Holy cow. I categorically wish I had never, ever laid eyes on this particular lure rod. Yes, I have an increasing problem with lure fishing tackle these days, and yes, I love testing gear out, but what happens when something impresses you so much that you don't want to hand it back ? Talk about my initial worries being way off the mark.
Over the three days I fished with this IMA x Apia lure rod I landed numerous bass to around the 6lb mark with it, but take it from me that it will land any bass that we are ever going to hook with no hassle at all. It ain't the size of fish we need to worry about - it's where we hook them and what they then do. I fished with hard lures (surface and sub-surface), weightless soft plastics and plastic/jig head combinations that were bounced along the bottom (mainly the Fiiish Black Minnow that was killing for us in Dungarvan Bay), and it was this rod I was using when we had one of the maddest couple of hours' bass fishing I have seen for a while. We had an epic afternoon flooding tide on the Copper Coast when the bass were going absolutely loopy on the surface and almost every single time we put an IMA Salt Skimmer over them it brought about a massive swirl/slash and often a hooked fish - something to put in the memory bank for sure, and the fish were properly fizzed up and angry as well. Taking surface lures ? No way. Trying to kill surface lures ? That was more like it.
As I have said before, I was not really into the longer lure rods, but that very high-end Graphiteleader Argento Super 9'7'' definitely helped change my opinion of how a longer rod could actually feel (but at a price of course). From the off this particular lure rod felt much shorter in the hand if that makes sense. I am more than comfortable with the almost "stupidly good for the money" Graphiteleader Argento RV 8'6'' model and I have to say this this IMA/Apia rod felt no longer at all when I was fishing with it. Which is what I personally want. I will also admit to very quickly falling in love with the cork grips on the rod, although I do like that there is that bit of duplon for the back of your rod hand. The rod is rung with Fuji K guides and overall it just reeks of absolute quality.
Anyway, the rod puts hard minnows out there like you would expect - with frightening ease, and yes, they fly. Don't ask me how, but the rod seems to deal as easily with a (little) MegaBass FX9 that weighs 11g as it does with a heavier IMA Hound 125F Glide at 20g. Nick Roberts even produced this tiny little DUO popper up in north Kerry that I am guessing weighed no more than about 3g, yet still the rod whacked it out and I could actually feel what was going on if that makes sense. I have to assume with this being an IMA rod and considering their range of hard lures, then being able to blast minnow-type lures out there was sort of pretty important..........
It's pure joy to with the weightless soft plastics on the rod such as the OSP 6'' DoLive Stick (wow do these things cast well), the MegaBass Cattle Tongue and various senkos like the 6'' Yamamoto and the 5'' Wave Worm/Bamboo Stick thing. I don't know if the rod is designed with lures like these in mind but to me it does so just about perfectly. This IMA/Apia rod has got one hell of a tip on it - I don't know enough about rod building to know how it's possible to make such a "steely" (yes, that word again) lure rod at this comparatively long length that has such an incredibly responsive tip that does not simply collapse, but crumbs have they done it here. I have played with a lot of different lure rods now over the last few years and this IMA x Apia Foojin' AD Energy Flow 92ML rod is without doubt up there with the best rods (for me) that I have ever fished with. Bumping those soft plastic/jig head combinations down the current with a softly, softly sink and draw technique seemed to me to be done with consummate ease as well. So far so scarily good............
But when I first cast out a surface lure like the IMA Salt Skimmer (14g) I was at first not sure whether the rod was going to cope really well when you are required to put a "walk the dog" action on a lure. But by the end of that mad session I was completely at ease with putting action into a surface lure at range and feeling everything that I needed to feel, i.e. the rod tip slamming over with a bass on and putting action on the lures. I guess my initial surface lure scepticism perhaps came from being used to fishing with a shorter lure rod and how that shorter rod then sits in the hand when you are working surface lures. The tip on this particular rod seems to work really well with the surface stuff - and at the end of the day you simply can't argue with silly numbers of fish launching themselves at the lures.
So how about the heavier lures ? About the heaviest hard lure I own is the Xorus Patchinko, and although the stated weight is 27g I have always thought that perhaps it actually weighs a bit more because it doesn't half feel heavy when you are more used to fish with somewhat lighter lures (does anybody actually know whether 27g is an accurate weight for this lure ?). Remember my initial wondering if a rod that felt like this could really cope with something as relatively and heavy as the Patchinko ? Well put it this way - I just giggled when I cast this lure out. I have no idea how far the lure was going and I am not about to speculate because most anglers wildly exaggerate how far lures and lead actually go, but I can't ever remember personally putting a Patchinko so far. Can a lure actually fly ? Probably not, but I reckon it was pretty close with this missile clipped on. Of more importance to me though was the fact the rod was not even exerting itself, and believe me when I say that I was not holding back at all. Sure, I do adjust my casting style to (hopefully) better suit different weights of lures and different rod actions, and with a lure like the Patchinko on this longer rod I am going to naturally fish with a slightly longer drop and slow down a touch to really allow the rod to load properly - completely different to how I cast say that "little" FX9 for example when I would move the rod much faster through the casting arc. Now I have not cast anything heavier than that Patchinko on the rod, but the ease with which it deals with a lure like this leads me to believe that the "up to 34g" rating is perhaps pretty much spot on - which kind of blows my mind when I think about how well it dealt with that tiny little DUO popper.
I don't know what more I can say about this rod really. I know nothing about Apia rods other than I believe that they are very well respected out in Japan and I have no idea if the other Apia Foojin' AD rods are anything like this collaboration. I do know what I like and don't like in a fishing rod though, albeit that some of these Japanese rods are changing what I used to feel about 8' plus lure rods. Sometimes when I am thinking about a rod that I am fishing with the odd phrase literally jumps to mind, and with this one it was pretty quickly that "no way a rod this length that feels like this has any right to be this steely yet so ridiculously responsive at the same time". Or something along those lines !! I know that a rod like this is not going to be cheap, but I have no idea what it would actually cost when bought in the UK, indeed I don't even know if it's going to be made available to buy over here. All I can recommend is talking to the Bass Lures people if this insanely awesome lure rod might float your boat. It's floated mine and I still have it here to test on a more long-term basis - in truth though I know what I want to know about this IMA x Apia Foojin' AD Energy Flow 92ML rod, and that is that I wished I had never laid eyes on the frigging thing because it's going to be a sad day when this stunner goes back from whence it came..........