Call it a serious indulgence that I am not even going to try and justify, but you only live once and all that, and for a fair while now I have been itching to see how good the top of the range Shimano Japan Exsence bass lure rods might be. My interest was then piqued plenty more when an Irish bass angler I know kindly let me have a few waggles with his 3-piece 9’6’’ Shimano Exsence which felt so nice I nearly did a runner with it, and then a while back somebody kindly left a very detailed comment/review right here of a couple of the brand new Shimano Exsence Infinity range of (sea) bass rods that he had bought (a big thank you by the way if you end up reading this, and I blame some of me now owning this rod on you!). My brain went into overdrive…………….
I obviously get to play with a load of different rods via my blog and what I do but I have never bought a bass lure rod outside the UK - when it comes to lure rods especially I firmly believe in buying from UK sources if you can for a number of reasons. But with Shimano UK not exactly going hell for leather into the bass fishing world (when of course they so frustratingly could with all that good looking gear Shimano have got over in Japan) and me having a growing suspicion that some of their Exsence range of bass rods might suit me, my mind was nearly made up. I ummed and aahed for a while because the idea of importing a fishing rod and taking such a punt on something that I had never even seen worried the hell out of me, but one morning my finger “by mistake” clicked on buy and then I rather nervously waited for the thing to arrive.
Before I get into what the rod is like, I am not remotely going to try and justify what I spent on it or whether I actually need it or not (obvious really), and I am going to review a rod here that you will most likely never even see unless Shimano UK one day get their bass fishing act together or you choose to go down the road I have here. Lure fishing is obviously my thing, I love fishing tackle, I saved up, and that’s it really. Naturally I was a little worried in case the research I had done into this rod and with all the language problems that I might end up with something I didn’t really like, but I couldn’t find a way around that.
When the comparatively little tube arrived and I somewhat apprehensively but also very excitedly pulled my brand new Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod from within (and there is also a 9’6’’ 5-32g version, as well as a more powerful 9’6’’ 6-38g), let’s just say that my heart was a fluttering as I put it together and had a few waggles, and yes, it’s very light at a quoted 122g. First impressions? Rather interesting but not quite sure about the tip, and within no time at all a reel was strapped to the new rod and out I went to take Storm for a walk and have a bunch of casts on my local estuary. The reel I put on the rod could only be my increasingly beloved Shimano Twin Power XD C3000HG, and yes, I am fully aware that there is a brand new and not bloody cheap, stealthy looking black (ninja?) Shimano Exsence 3000 spinning reel out there that I am sure would sit perfectly on this Exsence rod. Be still my beating heart and man the turrets against the ever present fishing demon in my head telling me that I need it!
I spent a not inconsiderable amount of dosh on taking a gamble with this rod, but I would be perfectly honest - if a bit sad of course - and admit whether my gamble had not paid off and I didn’t really like the rod. It felt very “together” when I had those first few waggles, but you and I both know that a few oohs and aahs mean very little until you get it out fishing and run through the different lures and techniques you might use. So now that I have used the rod a decent number of times, what do I think of it? Did I mess up by taking a punt on it, or is this brand new 9’ long bit of technical Japanese engineering going to make my life a whole lot better?
Put it this way, and it’s a big phew as well - I have never, ever fished with a 9’ lure rod that has done it for me as much as this Shimano. The rod just feels totally “whole” - the feeling of tension and control when you pick it up and fish with it is unlike any other lure rod I have ever used. It’s very steely but not remotely too poker like, and the tip blends so seamlessly into the mid-section which then blends so seamlessly into the butt section and it all works so beautifully well together that when I cast and fish with this rod it feels like the most natural thing possible. Cast after cast is so stupidly effortless and precise, it recovers ridiculously quickly, and you are not going to get the best from this rod by thrashing the living daylights out of it - nice and easy does it and holy cow those lures fly out there. Bring it through as smoothly as possible like a proper fly angler might turn their loops over and this Exsence Infinity responds so well that I find myself purring as I am fishing with it. Seriously. There is not an ounce of strain when you load the rod up and send your lure out there, and whilst I accept completely that casting is merely a means to an end of getting your lures out there, I enjoy the actual casting with this rod so damn much I could do it all day.
And then I get to retrieving my lures with this rod. Note that I wasn’t quite sure about the tip when I first waggled my brand new Japanese gamble - but oh how those waggles divulged virtually nothing! I knew for example that from the first waggle with the considerably cheaper HTO Nebula 9’ 7-35g lure rod that I was going to really like it - you either love that sort of lightning quick, poky sort of feel or you don’t (I do). It’s a hell of a lot of rod for not nearly enough money and what you see is what you get - and yes, I like that very much.
But this Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod is very different. It so, so needs to be fished with for a while to fully appreciate how utterly sublime it is. I haven’t drunk since I was 18 and I never liked wine anyway, but it’s a bit like a decent bottle of red needing to breathe for a while before drinking so that it can be properly appreciated and understood. Sure, the rod’s nice and fast, but there is just so much to it that has opened up to me over time. If I was a little apprehensive about the tip on this Exsence from those first few waggles then those worries if you like flew away as scarily easily as my money did to Japan to buy the thing.
I am not a technical person when it comes to rods and reels so I don’t know how Shimano Japan have achieved this, but I’ve never fished with a lure rod where the tip feels so natural and correct and such a perfect and seamless part of the overall rod. You can bend it perfectly easily if you pull on it - which indeed it should - but when you actually fish with it I can’t stop purring at how frigging amazing it is. Perfection? Well I have never fished with a 9’ lure rod that I like more, put it that way. I have loved the Major Craft Truzer 9’ 10-30g for a fair while now, but for me this incredible Exsence Infinity is a serious step up. Chalk and cheese………..
Rung with Fuji Torzite guides and an overall handle design which I like so much that when I now turn to a different rod I am left wondering why on earth all butt grips especially aren’t like on this Shimano one, it seems to be the case that a lot of of money can sometimes buy you a rod which never seems to be remotely trying or overexerting itself whatever you throw at it within its casting ratings. That APIA Foojin'AD Flow Hunt 810ML 8'10'' 7-32g (review here) falls into this category, as does the properly stunning Tailwalk Hi-Tide TZ S90ML 9’ 7-24g (oh how I want you!). This outrageously talented Shimano Exsence Infinity breathes that sort of rarified air, and then some.
Now I didn’t buy a 9’ rod like this to bang something like the Xorus Patchinko all day long, but the ease with which that lure gets out there is amazing, and working it is a doddle. An IMA Salt Skimmer on this Shimano rod is an absolute disgrace it feels so good, and there is just no need to lash the lure at all. Bumping the Fiiish Black Minnow around over a shallow reef is great, and putting various hard lures out and bringing them back in feels about as good as any rod I can think of that I have ever fished with. I gambled on this lure rod and went for the 9’ version because it’s my favourite lure rod length, and I wanted a really high end rod that might cover the bulk of my regular bass fishing when I know that I am not going to be faced with those hectic kind of bouncing conditions which tends to call for a different approach anyway.
And of course what I was really, really hoping for was that this Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod might be a bit of a peach when I am fishing with soft plastics such as the 6’’ long OSP DoLive Stick especially. I fish with soft plastics so much these days that of course it influences the rods I err towards. I was hoping, but of course I didn’t quite know how it might turn out……...
Well this rod is so good with soft plastics like the DoLive Stick that it’s kinda cured me of my longing for the ultimate lighter lure rod. Don’t get me wrong, I do love dropping down a notch and fishing that smidgen lighter for bass when I feel I can, but this Shimano Exsence Infinity has turned out to be so ridiculously able and responsive and direct with the soft plastics and various other lighter lures that it’s now covering all those bases for me - when I need it to feel like a lighter rod in calmer conditions it does so, but when I need to step things up a bit and say bang a Patchinko or Hound Glide out, the rod feels just as good. This rod honestly feels as good fishing a small soft plastic such as the baby 4.5’’ OSP DoLive Stick as it does casting and then retrieving the 27g Patchinko II at the amazing range you can get this lure out there. It’s just not breaking a sweat whatever you throw at it within its generous and I think very accurate casting range of 5-32g.
As an example, I was standing on a rock the other day, hoping for a depths of winter bass and fishing with the little 4.5’’ OSP DoLive Stick which weighs about 8.5g when rigged on a 3/0 weedless hook, and also bear in mind that I had the strong as frigging rope 26lb/0.18mm Sufix 832 braid on my reel - that small soft plastic absolutely flies out with the merest flick of the rod, and working the lure back gets me purring again it’s such a delight. I then changed to a 30g Fiiish Black Minnow (20g Shore Head meant for the 140mm body, used with a 120mm Black Minnow body which weighs about 10g), cast it out there, and this outrageous Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g lure rod felt as easy casting that 30g lure as it had the 8g lure a moment before. It’s just not breaking a sweat. Bumping/swimming that Black Minnow across a very rocky bottom is as easy as twitching a little 4.5’’ DoLive Stick around. And so on. Try as I might I just can’t trip this rod up. I have used a lot of good lure rods over the years, but I haven’t yet come across one that feels as effortless and in complete control of so many different lures, lure weights and techniques as this particular Shimano rod. I don’t know anything about how Shimano Japan have made a lure rod this accomplished, but holy frigging cow they must know their stuff.
The feeling of responsiveness and control really is quite something - yet again it strikes me how the whole rod is working together. There’s enough give in the tip - but not too much which as I said I don’t like - yet it doesn’t feel like it’s just the tip doing the work with you when you are actively working your lures. The overall tension if you like through the whole rod just feels perfect when you actually animate a lure instead of simply winding it in, and I seriously can’t think of another lure rod that has ever felt quite the same. As I said at the start, this rod was a present to myself that I obviously don’t actually need, but I am on the way towards justifying it in my head because it seems to so perfectly be a few different rods rolled into one and therefore money is in fact being saved! Or so my twisted logic goes. Holy cow am I now trying so hard to resist buying the longer and slightly more powerful 9’6’’ 6-38g Shimano Exsence Infinity lure rod to add to this beauty for those times when I need to step things up a bit. I’ll get my coat……….
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