Two Penn boat rods at opposite ends of the price scale are tested and compared by Isle of Wight angler, Des Westmore.
The merits of two rods from the Penn stable are compared here. Both sport the ‘Braid’ assignation but each target different ends of the market. The Powerstix Pro Braid 20/30 has an extremely competitive £64.99 price-tag, while the Waveblaster Evo Braid 20/50 sells for a more extravagant £229.99. To the naked eye, aesthetically and otherwise, the rods looked similar in many ways. My task was to determine how they differed in the performance area, and if the near £150 price differential can be justified.
Both blanks are formed from what Penn describe as ‘24 ton carbon’. The assumption, short of taking a hacksaw to the blank, is that the more expensive Waveblaster Evo incorporates more material in a more complex lay-up process. Both rods incorporate genuine Fuji rings. The Powerstix has round three-legged round rings in a black finish, while the Waveblaster sports much more expensive SiC oval rings, often referred to as ‘Braid’ rings. These attractive rings are popular but do receive some criticism for easy damage. Usually double-legged rings are fitted at the bottom of the rod, with single legs along the tip. This helps preserve the rods action, but they do get bent easily. Penn have addressed this problem on the Waveblaster by fitting double-legged rings throughout. Nine rings plus the tip dress the Powerstix, with 11 plus tip on the Waveblaster. A bit of detective work determined that the oval rings on the Waveblaster would set you back well over £100 alone!
Both rods are unequal section two-piece rods. The Penn Powerstix is a slim rod, with the tip section joining the handle handle via a slender, dual-diameter spigot. The spigot section effectively takes the load and a larger diameter collar at the lower end interfaces with a counter-bore in the tip. The result is one of the best disguised joints I have seen; a virtually invisible junction and superb, seamless composition. The Waveblaster joins further up the rod, with the low diameter tip plugging directly into a large diameter butt section. The Waveblaster is 8 feet in length and breaks down to 5 feet, while the Powerstix is 8ft 2in length, packing down to 6ft. Both rods are supplied in a cloth bag and hard rod tube. The Powerstix blank is a smart burgundy colour with matching whippings tipped with silver. The Waveblaster sports with black tipped gold whippings and a blue finish that accentuates the carbon cross weave.
Both butt/handle sections have Fuji rings and Penn branded reel seats. The Powerstix reel seat is slim and cut-away so that the blank can be seen through it. The Waveblaster has a much bigger reel fitting with gold anodised aluminium collars reminiscent of a lot of blue water big game rods. Both rods have an EVA foregrip, with the cheaper Powerstix further EVA covered all the way to the butt cap. The Waveblaster is left bare lower down, but also incorporates a Fuji gimble with a rubber cover.
“Exceptional bite detection”
I was looking for a body of opinion in this instance rather than just Westmore’s take and enlisted some reliable help. Paul Hunter used the rod on his own boat and connected with a 22lb blonde ray on the first trip. As the picture shows, nearly all working ‘action’ is in the tip section, with the butt section staying practically straight under load.
Paul said: “The rod has exceptional bite detection for a 50lb class. It feels good and handles well under substantial load. And even then there’s plenty in reserve should more resistance be required. I also believe that lower handle grips are superfluous and like the fact the Waveblaster has none. Nothing wrong with the rod all told, but £230 is a lot of cash to part with when there are some excellent boat rods available for less than half that outlay.”
Another small boat owner, Milo Pragnell loved the Waveblaster and was gutted when I asked for it back! He thought the rod was fantastically sensitive for the line rating and praised the action and length. But he did make the point that the lack of a lower EVA grip encouraged scuffing if placed tube type rod holders.
The action of the Powerstix was found to be the opposite of the Waveblaster by the experienced test group. Where the Waveblaster was surprisingly sensitive, the inexpensive Powerstix has more backbone than expected. For simple value for money it is very difficult to direct any criticism at the Penn Powerstix. This is a great rod to use and one that deserves high praise indeed. I worked the rod hard, taking conger to an estimated 55lb without any hiccups. The Powerstix adopts a clean curve under load and I never felt that the rod was overloaded with an eel of these proportions. I also used the rod with shads for pollack, and it’s an excellent ‘hopping’ stick on 8-12oz of lead. The tip is sensitive but not soft, which is perfect for this style of fishing.
The Penn Waveblaster’s big price-tag brings consequently high angler expectations. The rod’s function, performance cannot and quality throughout are not in question. The only issue for pause is are there equally good rods of this ilk and quality that cost less? For the Waveblaster, the Daiwa TDXB 20-50lb and the Shimano Antares 30-50lb are comparables. If looking for a quality downtider to cover most bases, and have no budget constraints, then the Waveblaster deserves to be short listed.
At the opposite end of the price spectrum, the Penn Powerstix offers fabulous value and performance, it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with are the Abu Ambassadeur 20/30lb which replaces the Conolon in 2010, the IMAX Stroke 18/22 and the Daiwa Sea Hunter 20-30lb. The Penn Powerstix is a rod gem that is sure to have lots of anglers groping for their credit cards. Visit Penn Fishing for more information.
Thanks to Brian Gourley and Gregg Woodford for their picture input on this review.