Most of those who analyze fly-fishing products get it for free. Wouldn’t that be nice, free inventory to use at my discretion? The concept of free definitely creates impetus towards a biased response. Should you have personal interested towards specific companies or products that may slant your review even more? When it’s all said and done, there’s even and opportunity to make a little extra money off e-Bay from those excesses acquisitions.
If you’re publishing your findings and seeking advertising dollars, the significance of a manufacturing account may have an influence on your findings, especially in the early stages of a publication. One would be reluctant to piss off a key account by giving their products an unfavorable review. It’s also common knowledge in our industry for manufacturers to pay to have their products favorably reviewed. If it works for politics, it only seems unfortunately natural here.
I found it interesting that rarely do you get any background information on the testers. In fact in the last publication I received, I’d never heard of the guys. Having been in the business for 25 years, I don’t know everyone, but I have a pretty good handle on most of the key players.
In another recent publication the testers were listed as a saltwater guy, steelhead guy and a guy from
George Anderson did a very good review on 5 wt. Rods. He dedicated a fair amount of space to qualify his expertise and validating his opinions. The outcomes of his rod choices were fairly obvious since he worked with a number of the top rod companies. Of course those rods being influenced by his preferences rated as some of the best rods in his ranking. His biases were identified and his choices only seemed natural.
As I read this new publication and shared it with my fellow employees, including a number of valued customers, we were most perplexed by the rod reviews and rankings. I must say over the years that in most systematical reviews involving rods that I’ve found their analysis to be puzzling. This one to seemed to follow this unfortunate path. Point and case!
The SAGE TCR 905-4 was rated as the best all around trout rod of those tested. The review included Winston, Scott, and several other very reputable rod manufacturers products. After looking at the rankings from best to worst, I then read the accompanying analytical review written by the testers. Remember when you where in grade school and had to match a description to a specific object? If you had done this simple grade school exercise with this publication you would have flunked.
The TCR is a fairly straight forward specialty rod. If you asked 10 shop owners who handle the line, I bet you’d get at least 9 of them to agree on its qualities and attributes. I would guess that none of them would have described the rod as it appeared in this review. Makes you wonder what these guys were smoking.
Before I continue and get my head handed to my by Bruce, Mark or Jerry from SAGE, should they stumble upon my Blog, I better clear the air. First off, the SAGE TCR is one of the finest rods available and SAGE Rod Company is unquestionably one of the leading rod manufactures in the industry. For some the TCR would be a great all-around rod. However, so would the SAGE SLT or TXL along with many of the other rods that were included in the publications testing. It truly depends on ones casting abilities, the way they fish and the techniques they employ. To emphatically rank a rod as being the best for you just because it tested well for those who reviewed the product bears no merit. I am sure that Bruce, Mark, and Jerry equally been perplexed by such reviews on more than one occasion.
In another series, a magazine reviewed and rated the leading waders. One of the testing categories was the ability of the wader to with-stand DEET. What they neglected to inform the consumer of was the amount of DEET, applied to the waders for an extended period of time had a toxic rating of 100%. A puddle would accurately describe the application. An unrealistic proportion at best. This part of the test carried a significant amount of weight as it pertained to the waders ranking and those that tested poorly were reviewed rather poorly. Personally, I’ve never used any product that carries a skull and crossbones warning on the label.
The point is, if you’re in the market to choose a fly-fishing product, the majority of these analytical reviews are biased and very misleading. They may offer some valuable data and insight, but in most instances are filled with a fair amount of individual bias and misinformation to appease those who provide them with their products and dollars. If it can be helped you should never invest in a product, especially rods, without being able to get a hand on one or two.
I’m sure I’ll get some feed back on this piece, but my motivation is simply to enhance an anglers fly-fishing experience. If you ask me what product is the best, my answer most times is the one you like. That’s one of the very cool aspects of our sport, from the style of fly-fishing you prefer to the equipment you choose to pursue your quarry with. Those who write reviews and rank fly-fishing products do not do the equipment they analyze justice and rarely rank equipment based on how it would suit a style of angler. At times, and more times than not, it is obvious. Their inconsistencies leave consumers making in appropriate decisions and confused. Should you consider the motivation and influences behind the process, it’s easy to see how opinions can be compromised. As they say when making an important medical decisions, “get a second opinion”.