Browning Black Magic gold II Review

The original Browning Black Magic was an iconic pole that passed into match fishing history but is fondly remembered as the stuff of legend. 

When it first appeared in the mid-1980s, Bob Nudd – the man everyone tried to beat – championed it. Frankie had Two Tribes, Oxford bag trousers were all the rage away from the bank, and the Ford Sierra estate was the fishing vehicle of choice.

The first Black Magics to arrive in the UK superseded Browning’s Red Spiral Titanium pole, which back in the day would have set you back a whopping £800 or so.

However, many anglers still bit the bullet because when it came to long-lining on deep venues such as Ireland’s lower River Bann, the Black Magic power pole delivered in spades. With its put-in joints and super-slim profile, it was strong and easy to use... a must-have tackle item of its time. 

It also had enough linear action to swing out a hefty float, and would have been fitted with long, solid carbon flick-tips (preferred to elastics back then because hook-ups were quicker and fish could be plucked from the water and swung to hand double-quick). 

The fishing in Ireland went a bit pear-shaped not long after that, and big sponsored events such as the Embassy Pairs dwindled as their advertising budgets evaporated into thin air along with the cigarette smoke that had made them possible in the first place.

Happily, though, things have changed. The Irish festival scene is back on track, and quite possibly healthier than ever before… all of which brings me nicely on to Browning’s latest incarnation, the Black Magic II Gold. 

The seven-sectioned 12.5m pole is built from the same carbon fibre, and to the same high standards, as its more expensive Xitan cousins. Yet it carries a price tag of around £459.99, or £399 for the 11m version… and for that you get three spare pre-bushed (no cutting back needed) top kits and a cupping kit.

Venue for the live test was the ever-reliable Willows Lake on the Decoy complex near Peterborough. Several easy-to-reach islands lend the water nicely to medium-length pole fishing on the 11m line.

The latest Black Magic Gold shares some of the original pole’s traits, being strong, with a good section wall thickness. This enables it to cope with big fish and the occasional ‘agricultural’ strike. 

Its stiffness at 11m is more apparent than at its full 12.5m, as it does have a bit of bounce and play during shipping. But it’s nothing less than easy to fish with. Its flexible power-playing action makes it ideal for targeting big lumps in the margins, or fishing up against snags. 

Other big plus points include an exemplary gloss finish that sees the pole run through your hands like a greased grass snake. Its put-over joints come together and apart with a reassuring swish, and never jam. 

Three spare top kits and a cupping kit enable you to fish the margins, up in the water, or with a paste rig, so it’s ideal for commercial fisheries.

The verdict: This latest Black Magic II Gold bears very few similarities to its predecessors. But it is nicely on trend for the modern commercial angler, and very well suited to the keen club matchman. Built with abounding strength that will cope with the largest commercial fish, it has faultless, reliable section joints and is definitely built to last. 

Price: £599 (12.5m) or £499 (11m), cheaper if you shop around. Spare Power top kits are available for £45.95  

Fox Matrix MTX 1 Power Pole review

Having recently run the rule over Matrix’s classy top-of-the-range MTX 4 Ultra pole, I was keen to find out if the somewhat more modestly priced entry-level MTX 1 Power Pole could offer a comparable performance. 

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Obviously, the differences in pole lengths, balance, weights and prices would need to be taken into account. After all, the flagship 16m MTX 4 will set you back around £2,999.99 whereas the 13m MTX 1 will relieve you of less than a quarter that amount, at £500. 

All four versions of the new Matrix MTX poles are pitched as viable all-rounders, with a slight leaning towards commercial fishery tactics with regard to the two cheaper Power models. Moreover, from what I have seen, Matrix has called that about right. I can assure you that no corners have been cut in terms of materials and workmanship; in fact, attention to detail comes shining through. All models boast the latest hi-tech carbon materials, finishes and decals. The poles also feature a series of extras such as mini extensions, cupping kits, and pre-bushed side puller Power top kits as standard, which combined offer the angler a very high level of tactical flexibility.

So to the live test itself, and there few better venues for this style of all-round commercial Power Pole than Lincolnshire’s Rushfield Lakes complex. It offers multiple lake choices all requiring different tactical approaches from deep-water with pellets and corn on Horseshoe Lake, through to shallow far bank work on Canal and Mallard Pools. You can add in a fair amount of margin tactics on all of the lakes, making the new entry level Matrix, that incidentally comes with a raft of spare kits, the ideal tool. 

With a midweek match on Horseshoe Lake, and Mallard Pool busy with pleasure anglers, I settled into a swim on Canal, which, like most snake lakes, is bossed by a far-bank approach using ‘rat-hole’ tactics with pellet, corn, maggots or bread hookbaits. The pool is quite small with an average width of around 13m, and hosts around 30 pegs. It still holds some seriously weighty finned inhabitants, and the venue is super-popular with local anglers and gets fished most days, so the carp have seen it all before! 

It’s all about the far bank where the depths are fairly shallow, from 1ft-18ins. When you hook a fish, it pays to get it out of the shallow water as quickly as possible, before it gets a chance to spook everything else in the swim.

Having said that, almost everything that you do hook tears off down the canal at an astonishing rate of knots. As the fish are also able to dive back towards the near bank this can cause havoc with your top kits, especially if you’re using a hefty hollow elastic. The pole needs to be fast through the hands, and have enough stopping power to cope with a fair amount of downward stress if it’s not all going to end in tears and expense for the angler. You’re left with little choice but to employ bully-boy tactics. However, on such a hard-fished water you’re unlikely to even get a bite using heavy line and big hooks. You need to get your kit perfectly balanced to stand a chance of catching a few. 

My arsenal of choice was a hollow size 11 elastic, 0.15mm hooklength line and a size 16 hook with a banded pellet hookbait, which is standard stuff for most commercial fisheries. 

The MTX 1’s pre-bushed, and new Revolve side puller Power top kits proved ideal for this type of normal commercial set-up, and could easily be fitted with much heavier elastics. 

Starting by fishing across to the far bank at the pole’s full 13m length with its mini extension fitted into the back of the butt section, the MTX 1 shipped smoothly enough to be able to feed accurately with a small pot.

The pole proved stiff enough for me to be able to feed with a catapult while holding it. It isn’t unduly wobbly, top-heavy or unbalanced. Playing fish proved a doddle as the MTX1 is indeed a Power Pole. Understandably, it isn’t as rigidly stiff or lightweight as the flagship superstar MTX 4. However, it is a very impressive all-round commercial venue performer considering its price!

Verdict: If you’re into commercial fishing for fish of all sizes, and you don’t need to fish beyond 13m, then the Matrix MTX 1 Power Pole at its asking price has to seriously looked at. As an introductory model its one of the best I have used, stiff, well balanced, and pleasingly lightweight (940g at 13m) so it’s not going to give you any backache or gip. In addition, Matrix’s new Revolve side puller kits are quite superb, and it comes as standard with three of these, plus a match kit inside the pole 

Price: £500.

Bob-Co Sensas Nanoflex 855 Power Match 16m & 14.5m poles

Every so often an item of fishing kit passes across our tackle desk that represents outstanding value for money, with a massive saving on recommended retail. 

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That was certainly the case when I got wind of the Sensas 855 Power Match pole designed exclusively for tackle shop Bob-Co. There’s a choice between a 16m or 14.5m out-and-out power pole at way below half the normal asking price. A 16m pole for £599... now that surely demanded further investigation!

Bob-Co asked for a power pole armed only with pulla power kits, something you won’t find in any other pole package in the current or older Sensas ranges. The French giant duly obliged, and the end result is a top-flight long pole at a jaw-droppingly low price.

Whether you go for the 16m or 14.5m package, you get the same list of goodies. The main pole comes with a Pulla kit inside plus four spares, a rigid cupping kit and pole cups, all stashed away in a Sensas pole holdall. 

The kits are rated to No18-No20 elastic and feature a reinforced side puller slot. Another bonus of the 885 is that it is totally compatible with other Nanoflex poles in the Sensas range.

The test

Leighton’s Pool at the recently redeveloped Yoke Hill Fishery near Oundle, Northants, is a typical mixed fishery – 16m wide and stocked with more than a dozen species. 

It’s just the job for an on-the-bank test and the plan was to fish the pole at its full length to the far bank, then come shorter for a bit of shallow fishing. These approaches would ask different questions of it.

Potting in a little groundbait and corn at 16m, there was little bounce in the pole as it snaked out to its full length. I can’t lie and say the pole was arrow-straight at 16m because there is some droop, but certainly not enough to make fishing with the 855 a chore.

First drop resulted in a bite and a crisp response on the strike. You need to put a bit of effort into the lift, but nothing Herculean, and with a small carp dispatched into the net I was soon back out and nobbling another. 

The average stamp was around 1lb, and good fun they were too on a light elastic that allowed the fish to power off and put a real bend in the pole. I could now feel the power of the pole – it’s got a very solid feel to it, with no creaking or crazy bending that leaves you feeling the least bit out of control. 

Now, it’s often said of long poles that they lose a bit in terms of balance and response when you go out to 16m, but take a section or two off and they become a different beast. 

I gave that theory a crack to fish at 14.5m on the deck and 13m with a shallow rig, and found it indeed to be the case. 

Any droop and bounce vanishes, and reaction time on the strike is vastly improved.

The shallow rig produced plenty of F1s around the 1lb 8oz mark, and these can be real fast-biters. The Yoke Hill fish are no different, but the speed of the 885 on the strike is reassuringly quick – and it’s rigid enough to keep lifting, dropping and slapping the rig without busting a gut.

Eventually, something bigger found the banded 6mm pellet and tore off for a tour of the peg. Steering the fish away from snags was easy and, like all good power poles, the 885 lets you really pull and transfer the effort you’re putting in through the pole to be in total command. A 5lb carp was soon in the bag. Super stuff!

Not only is the pole great to fish with, but it’s robust into the bargain. 

I can be a little ‘enthusiastic’ with a pole, and the 885 was also thrown around a fair bit. Not a mark was left on it, and it went back into the bag looking as though it had never been used.

Verdict:

If you want a long pole for carp fishing then get hold of one these as soon as you can, as I doubt they’ll be in stock for too long! 

Strong, robust, balanced and responsive, the 885 does everything that you want from a pole for carp fishing. While it may not be the best at full length, for fishing back from the 13m length little will beat it for the price.

How to buy:

To get your hands on these incredible pole deals, visit the Bob-Co website at www.bobcotackle.co.uk, give them a call on 01132 499943 or pop in and see them at their Leeds superstore.

Preston Innovations 16m Response XS carp pole

This new Response XS Carp pole from Preston Innovations, like its predecessor, is aimed squarely at the commercial match angler.

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Durable and hard-wearing, it’s a tool for bagging big weights and taming powerful carp, while at the same time retaining exceptional balance and responsiveness.

Because it’s built around the same mandrel as all the other poles in the range, all sections are fully interchangeable. This makes it the ideal second pole for existing Response owners. 

An attractive feature of the new XS Carp are nine (yes, NINE) spare 2.4m top kits, including a Kupping Kit. All are pre-fitted with genuine internal PTFE bushes, and supplied with Preston Roller Pulla bushes. These all but eliminate elastic damage and significantly improve the pole’s fish-playing performance.

FItted with the reinforced half-extension that comes as standard, the pole measures a true 16m. 

To that little lot you can add three Bi-Conical mini extensions that fit from the fifth section upward, section alignment arrows, and an Easy Ship finish that ensures your fishing will not be compromised whatever the British weather may throw at you.   

Taking a closer look at the new XS Carp pole, it’s noticeably heavier than its stablemates. Indeed, it’s made from same high modulus Torayca Japanese carbon fibre as all other top-end Response poles, but as you might expect of an out-and-out power carp pole, the cut of the cloth makes for awesome section wall strength, while re-designed section joints are as tough as old boots.

Built like a tank it may be, but it certainly doesn’t handle like one – it’s as nimble as sports car, with a fair turn of pace thanks to its superb Easy Slide finish. 

I discovered that and much more about the pole while testing it on a very windy afternoon at Decoy’s Beastie Lake.

At this time of year, most of the lake’s heavyweight occupants can be found loitering around the margins, and as they have a proper fondness for corn and micros several lines can be fed – waving tails and muddied water betray their ponderous presence. 

The fact that this pole comes with three Bi-Conical extensions makes it ideal for margin work. They not only provide that bit of extra reach, but they give you something to really hang on to when a big fish is hooked. 

On the day, perverse as only carp can be, they didn’t seem overly keen on feeding close in, so it was a case of going long, starting at 13m. The pole’s extra bit of weight actually helps when it’s blowing a hooley, as it offers some semblance of steadiness without the angler having to constantly lean against the wind. 

Anway, fishing at this longer length it wasn’t long before the first Beastie bruiser arrived and elastic streamed from the tip. I leant hard into the fish just to see how much pulling power the new XS Carp can generate, and I can tell you, it was impressive. 

As you can see from the image, I was fishing from a peg on the strip at Beastie. This can be a real pain when you’re using a long pole, as it needs to be broken down several times when shipping back so as not to interfere with the peg behind you. However, the live test proved how easy the pole is to unship under pressure – new ones don’t always want to come apart until they are worn in a bit, but the toughened joints of the XS Carp are not only bullet-proof, but they glide together and come apart with a reassuring swish. 

My only slight gripe about Preston’s latest carp clatterer is that it’s definitely better at 13m than at 14.5m, and obviously it follows that it’s better at 14.5m than it is at the full 16m. That said, it’s very usable at its longer lengths, and there’s no denying its serious stopping power, superb section wall and joint strength, and a spares package as good as you’ll find anywhere.

Verdict: If you're an out-and-out commercial match angler looking for a strong pole that will last you a long time, Preston’s latest Response XS Carp pole could well be for you. The spares package is quite outstanding, as are its tough build and bagging performance.  

Price: £1,499.99

Middy Muscle-Tech 1150 Precision Carp

This tackle editor has learnt that when Middy calls to tell you about its latest tasty bit of kit – in this case the new Muscle-Tech 1150 Precision Carp pole – it pays to sit up and take notice.   

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So, when the new postie threw the aforementioned item on to my desk with a resounding thud, I never feared for one moment that I’d open the tube to find shattered shards of carbon. If anything, my desk would be the injured party.

Sure enough, no damage at all, and no surprises considering the pole employs the new T-Core
anti-shatter technology. It’s as tough as boots, yet surprisingly light for a power pole weighing just 675g at 10.3m and rated to a pec-popping size 20 elastic. 

Reinforced section joints, and top kits with reinforced carbon side puller wraps on the second and third sections, further add to the pole’s impressive credentials. 

You get a Power 2 kit in the pole and another as standard, with a bonus cupping kit. A Precision F1 2 kit is available separately to fish at a precise 10m length – all top kits fitting on to the third section.

Middy claims its Muscle-Tech has a balance ratio of 17.6 Newtons, which I have no reason to doubt. The only Newton I know anything about is Sir Isaac, who had an apple fall on his head while the tree was being whacked for windfalls by some 17th Century Sawyer with a pole…

Seriously, though, I know Middy has invested a lot of research and development in this pole and is rightly proud of it. So where to live-test the new Muscle-Tech?

Few commercials can boast fish as weighty and numerous as Decoy’s Oak strip lake. One of their favourite tricks is to launch themselves up the lake at the speed of a cat with a banger up its behind, resulting more often than not in broken line, elastic, pole and dreams. I had, though, kitted the pole out with Middy’s Reactacore Hollow elastic, the yellow Saturn size 14-18... hellishly strong, soft at the hook-up stage, but gradually tightening up the more it’s stretched – brilliant.

The new Muscle-Tech soon accounted for a netful of huge fish (see image) that had often been written off as irresistible forces or immovable objects.

Verdict: 

If you're in the market for a super-dependable commercial carp pole, then definitely have a close look at Middy’s latest Muscle-Tech 1150 Precision Carp pole. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. 

It’s easy and comfortable to handle, and much lighter and stiffer than you might expect for an out-and-out power pole. 

An adequate, though not extensive, spares package gives you a couple of tactical options.

Price: £499.99

Matrix Torque Carp 8.5m Margin Pole Review

A good margin pole always earns its keep on commercial fisheries. 

True, it may not see sunlight that often but when the occasion demands, gearing up with an out-and-out brute of a tool will give you something no amount of money, good pegs or pristine bait can – confidence!

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Matrix bills its new Torque Carp Margin model as being incredibly strong. After punishing tests on big-weight UK fisheries it’s come through with flying colours.

Measuring 8.5m long with the included Strike mini section fitted, the Torque is long enough for most margin situations where the fish may put some distance between themselves and you. It’s rated to a fearful 20-plus elastic and gets its power from the ultra-durable cross-layered carbon sections used in its construction. This effectively locks in the strength, resulting in sections that won’t creak or budge and inch when you put your shoulder into the fight.

Its supplied Power top kit has an enlarged ceramic side puller slot that’ll take thick hollow elastics with ease. A large tip bore means no cutting back is needed, and the Torque weighs just 490g at 8m, making it perfectly manageable when fished for two or three hours solid. Last but not least, the price is a bit of a snip! 

The enduring heatwave might be a bit too much for river fishing but it couldn’t be better for commercials, with big weights aplenty being caught from the margins all around the country. 

Magpie Lake at Rookery Waters, near Huntingdon, is one such venue in fine form – so it didn’t take long to pick it as a test venue.

Gearing up with the recently-released Matrix Slik elastic in the 14-16 yellow grade through the top kit, I reckoned a pot of corn and pellet would soon get the carp climbing up the pole. As I poked a rig just inches away from a thick bed of reeds at the full 8.5m length the Torque did feel heavy compared to a lighter match pole, but that’s the nature of the beast.

It’s very stiff, though, with no bounce when shipping out. That means no spillages if you are using a small pot on the tip for feeding, and no annoying tangles when you get halfway out into the swim. Don’t lie, we’ve all been there before! 

There’s a lovely finish on all sections to help with shipping and unshipping... full marks so far.

Fish number one was a small stockie mirror that didn’t put up much of a scrap, but the quick bite did show the rapid response of the Torque when hitting sharp dips on the float. It’s as quick as match pole, and that’s impressive for such a powerful beast.

Next drop, a 4lb common was dragged from the reeds in quick time. This was what I’d been waiting for – I didn’t hold back and heaved like billy-o to put maximum pressure on the pole. 

It bends nicely (unlike some very powerful poles where a lack of flex can cause them to break), allowing the elastic to do the work while absorbing each run and lunge.

There’s a very ‘solid’ feel to the Torque, which harks back to that confidence I talked about earlier.

I was in no doubt that I could pile more pressure on if need be, and the fish enjoyed a view of the landing net within mere minutes.

Half a dozen more similar-sized fish followed, along with a few stockies, and I was now into the swing of things, knowing how much hammer I could give the pole. The answer – if you ever doubted it – is a lot.

The ultimate test came when I hooked a big carp somewhere other than in the mouth. It charged off at breakneck speed and it was all I could do to hold the pole steady and trust in its strength and power to stop Mr Carp in his tracks. It did, too, resulting in that familiar foul-hooked sideways waggle as the fish was unable to muster any more power against the might of the Torque.

Yes, the hook pulled out of the tail at the net but by now I’d seen and felt enough of the Torque to know it’s going to be a winner!

Our verdict: The size of fish in commercials now warrants a proper margin pole if you’re serious about your fishing, and I reckon Matrix is on to a winner with the Torque. 

It’s supremely strong, yet doesn’t fish like a broom handle, and is long enough to reach where you want to be on most pegs. The price is attractive too and won’t be money wasted when a bit of edge bagging rolls round every summer!

Price: £189.99

preston innovations 8.5m Response Margin pole review

Spurred on by the continuing success of its iconic Response poles, Preston Innovations has extended the range to include a new 8.5m Response Margin, the subject of this week’s live test.

This Response beauty comes with two spare pre-bushed, Roller Pulla Power top kits, and together with the one that comes inside the pole, these provide enough flexibility to tackle most margin scenarios. 

The pole, which Preston claims to be the highest-grade margin model it has ever produced, uses the same super-high modulus Japanese carbon cloth as the three longer Response poles and, rather handily, the top kits all interchange. This is great news, particularly if you’re already a Response owner. 

The new 8.5m Response Margin, though, is obviously a fair bit more ‘robust’ than its longer stablemates. It’s more in its comfort zone subduing angry match-winning margin munters than it is sacking on silvers. 

As you might expect of a top-end power carp pole, the carbon cloth from which it is built is applied in a totally different way from its less gutsy amigos. That means added linear power, awesome section wall strength and reinforced, super-reliable joints. 

Built like a tank it may well be, but it certainly doesn’t handle like one. It’s as nimble as a sports car, with a fair turn of handling speed courtesy of its superb easy-slide finish. 

I chauffeured the pole up to Miracle Baits boss Steve Gregory’s super-popular Rushfield Lakes complex near Lincoln where, pulling into the car park late on a Monday afternoon, I was amazed to find the big fish-dominated Horsehoe Lake angler-free, giving me carte blanche on peg choice.

The downside of such situations is that everything with fins descends on your bait, rather than the just the targeted big fish. 

So with this in mind I rigged up with a hard 8mm hard pellet on a hair-rigged lasso, to try and deter the ravenous mini hordes. 

Despite my efforts, Plan A failed abysmally as everything from rampant roach to marauding micro carp swarmed around any feed that went in… foulers rubbed fins with fish that didn’t look big enough to tackle an 8mm hard pellet, and it drove me potty.

A change to two big pieces of worm merely served to encourage wasp-sized perch, which had stayed out of the way but now joined in the feeding fiasco. Then, out of nowhere, my half-hearted swipe at yet another sideways movement of the float saw the No14 Preston Hollo elastic disappear from the pole-tip at a rate of knots – so fast, in fact, that I’d have bet on another foul-hooker. Not until the elastic had all but bottomed out did I realise the Response had barely any curve in it. It was as stress and strain-free as a dormouse on tranquillisers as it and I battled what seemed to be a double-figure carp. 

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The lightness, agility and all-round pleasing handling belied the awesome stopping power packed by this poker-like 8.5m pole. 

How big that fish was I will never know – as is often the case with foulers, at the point when I started stripping elastic from the Roller Pulla top kit my unseen opponent made a bid for freedom, and the hook pulled. However, it had provided me with enough of an insight to tell that the latest Response is, as Preston claims, by far the best it has ever produced.

As the evening progressed, a few more proper fish were duly hooked the old-fashioned way – in the mouth – and netted within a few seconds, proving that Preston’s latest carbon offering is not a pole to be messed with.

Our Verdict: 

The 8.5m Preston Response Margin is a quite outstanding margin pole, offering everything you’ve come to expect in the way of fish-stopping power, super-tough section walls, and reliably smooth anti-ovalling joints – not to mention an easy-slide finish and top-notch handling. Well balanced, light and rigid, with an ultra-responsive tip speed, it feels quite unlike your normal margin pole.

If you already own an M50, M70 or M90 you’d be mad not to have the Response Margin in your holdall to tackle snag pits and big brawling fish.

Price: £269.99

Browning Black Magic Carp 11M pole review

Now in their third decade of production, Browning’s evergreen multi-award-winning Black Magic poles rank among the most popular of all time. 

The originals were no-nonsense tools to cope with large fish using hefty elastics and resolute rigs. 

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As time moved on, though, all Black Magic models acquired a more modern feel, their added section wall strength making them much stiffer and more robust than their predecessors. 

They also handle better, and their top-kit packages are designed in keeping with modern commercial tactics. That said, the Black Magic tradition of performance at an affordable price remains unchanged. And to that end, this latest Black Magic Carp is a proper chip off the old block.

This all-carbon 11m pole is reasonably light at 958g, given that its thick section walls defy ovalling or splitting even in the hands of the most Shrek-like angler. Browning uses the same technology brought into play for its European Hyper Carp models, but with a slightly toned-down linear action that allows it to absorb and cushion pressure, rather than destroy all in its path! 

Make no mistake, though, it can really dish out the punishment if need be. That I found out for myself on the live test at Decoy’s lump-filled Oak strip lake in Cambridgeshire.

The fish in Oak are big, very big in fact, with the potential to cause you much grief and lose you a lot of tackle if you don’t come properly tooled-up for the job.

With that in mind, I prepared the Black Magic by cutting 10ins or so off the top of its supplied Power top kit, stiffening it right up. 

More importantly, that made it possible to fit it with a large internal diameter PTFE bush. 

Next I threaded through what must be the mother of all elastics… Browning’s 30mm Xitan Microbore Rocket Red, which laughably carries a 17-21 rating.

If your car breaks down on your way home from fishing, just take this stuff out of your top kit, tie it on to your bumper and get someone to tow you home.

To see this type of pole perform at its best you have to take it as close to its limits as you dare. I reckoned if the Power top kit could stand the pounding it was likely to get on Oak, using the car breaker’s choice of elastic, then surely it could subdue just about anything else that took a pull at it!

While tying up a suitable rig I had thrown a few handfuls of soaked micro pellets and corn down the margin. Goodness... glancing down, all I could see were whale-like tails waving at me, and feeding vortices large enough to capsize a canoe. 

Wondering why on earth I’d tied on one of my favourite floats, I lowered the double corn-baited size 16 hook into the maelstrom.

To quote A Question of Sport: “What happened next?” Well, I didn’t actually see the bite, just an awful lot of bright red elastic between me and whatever was was charging headlong up the pond.

One moment it was slowing down, the next it was coming up in the water and running towards me. Yet there I was, shipping back with nothing broken. Guess what? I had the top kit back in my hand (as you can see from the image, right) and the rest, as they say, is history.

This Black Magic Carp is a great power pole at an affordable price, well capable of dealing with double-figure fish without so much as a creak.

Oh, hang on, it’s the phone. “Hello Sue, yes of course, I would love to come on A Question of Sport... if I can bring my pole!”

Verdict: By my reckoning one of the best Black Magic poles yet, this does just what it says on its butt section – ‘Specialist Carp and Big Fish Pole’. 

It’s not the stiffest pole I’ve ever handled, but it doesn’t need to be, as it’s a proper workhorse that will last you for years.

The reinforced joints won’t let you down, it ships well enough, and its 11m length puts you well within reach of the nearside shelf and, on most commercial fisheries, the next vacant platform. 

My sole criticism is that I would rather it came with two spare top kits rather than just the one.

Price: £249

FRENZEE PRECISION FXT 6E POLE Review

I had two very good reasons for wanting to get Frenzee’s new flagship pole in my sights.

Having live tested the awesome powerhouse FXT Edge pole a couple of seasons ago, then handled the original 16m Frenzee Precision FXT long pole, I was keen to pinpoint any improvements made.

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Equally important to me, my old Essex County team mate Jon Whincup, a man with more big match wins under his belt than Alex Ferguson, has been banging on about how damn good the new FXT 6E is. He recently wielded one brilliantly to brush aside a very talented Decoy winter league field, myself included!

So arrangements were made to live test the Precision FXT 6E at Decoy’s fish-stuffed Six Islands Lake. However, rather than ask Frenzee to send along a shiny new pole, I thought it would be much more interesting to get the man himself to come along with his well-used example and talk me through why he thinks it’s the bee’s knees. He did, after all, have plenty of input into its design.

Okay, I hear you say, as a sponsored Frenzee angler surely Mr Whincup is bound to sing the pole’s praises. Fair comment!

However, this quietly spoken and very modest giant of a man, who has trousered more match winnings in a single season than anyone else in the history of our sport, wouldn’t use anything he wasn’t 100 per cent satisfied with, and much the same can be said for all the top boys!

Plenty of banter set the tone of the test. Which one of the seven dwarfs was the height my seatbox set for? Then, of course, ‘Whinny’ just had to single out the only pole rig in my entire box with a bent stemmed float and a slightly dodgy hook. 

This was always the Essex County way – everything perfect, nothing left to chance. Jon had lost none of his perfectionism.

He told me that significant improvements in wall strength have been made to all the butt sections, which I know first-hand cannot be ovalled or squashed in the hand – basically they are bullet-proof. 

This does increase the overall weight, but there’s a case to be made for slightly heavier poles performing better in the wind, as they are inherently more stable. 

However, the new FXT 6E is pleasingly crisp and responsive at its tip-end, making easy work of connecting with fast bites and controlling short line rigs, even at its longest lengths.

The super-slick finish kicks in from its third section, helping to slide the pole through the hands faster than a soapy stoat.

Precision marker points, equally spaced along every section from the fifth downwards, definitely make it easier to judge fishing and feeding distances. Another big plus point is the ‘one top kit does it all’ side-fitted Eeze Glide arrangement. This certainly helps to simplify which elastics to carry.  

That said, it’s also worth noting that the new light-coloured ‘Stubby’ No1 kits that fit on to the second sections are also available. These pre-bushed 3.2mm, 4.3mm and 5.2mm tips provide you with a wickedly stiff top kit that’s just the ticket for F1s and big carp alike. 

Frenzee Stubby x3_1.jpg

Our Verdict: 

Clearly, this is a pole for all seasons, built to last and able to withstand as much punishment as you care to dish out. 

A bagger’s delight, it’s every bit as much at home being used at its shorter lengths to plunder nearside cover for margin munters as it is splashing shallow rigs for F1s up in the water. 

Actual lengths are on the generous side – 13.1m (13m stated), 14.8m (14.5m) and 16.5m (16m). Weights are 1,055g, 1,305g and 1,520g respectively.

For my money, it’s more of a top-end commercial pole. However, as Mr Whincup was quick to point out, he’s won plenty of silver fish matches using his. 

Price: £2,799

browning xitan advance 716L 16m pole review

Browning's third generation flagship Xitan Z16L pole is a bit special – hardly surprising, considering that the Xitan range (starting in 2008 with the Z3 and Z4 models) has been a pace-setter ever since. 

Main image Xitan 16.jpg

The company was the first to introduce long butt sections, pre-cut and bushed top kits (and top-kit package choices) – not to mention factory-fitted side pullers. 

Now, anglers in the upper echelons of match fishing tend to stick with their favourite make of pole… or rod, or reel, for that matter. I have half-a-dozen or so mates who all own Xitan poles. They love them to bits, catch loads of fish with them, and rarely break sections in the process. They think these poles are brilliant, and nearly all these characters have upgraded their Xitans every time a new model appears.

I was lucky enough to have a quick waggle with a prototype Advance Z16L late last year when I visited Browning’s Bremen factory, and for my own reasons I was desperate to get out on the bank with the finished product. Here’s why...

Let’s not pull any punches here, this is a top-end flagship pole costing around three grand, not cheap by anyone’s reckoning. But here’s the rub. Browning already has a top-end flagship pole in the Sphere Zero, that I rate as one of the top three poles in the world today. The Sphere is a bit dearer than the latest Xitan, but not by much. So I was intrigued to find out how, if at all, the two flagship poles differ.  

As far as top kit, spare and short fourth sections and mini extensions go, both come with more than enough to divvy up among your friends. The real clue to how and why these two exceptional poles are completely separate entities became apparent even before I wet a line.

Browning Xitan 14 top kits.jpg

It just so happened that I had a Sphere Zero pole in the car with me as I pulled into Steve Gregory’s Rushfield Lakes car park. Putting this, and the Xitan, together, it’s apparent they are built on completely different mandrels. 

As for performance, the Xitan Advance Z16L would make a perfect all-rounder but is the ultimate pole for commercial carp fishing. Its long sections impart a real feel of sturdiness, enhanced when you fit the square-sectioned ergonomic pole protector. 

It’s also clear that Browning has used the experience gained from developing the Sphere to make the Z16L significantly lighter and stiffer than any previous model, without sacrificing any of the strength and reliability that Xitan poles are renowned for. 

The Z16L is a true length 16m pole without the need for mini-extensions or extra-long top kits to reach its full length. With its pole protector fitted it measures 16.7m, and, with further extensions available, that can go up to 18m.  

The Z16L package also includes a radical new multi-length top kit design, which allows the same kit to be used as a conventional 2.6m two-piece item or as a one-piece kit of 1.95m – perfect for F1s, fishing shallow or when using short elastics for silver fish. 

Even when taking the one-piece route the pole still reaches a true 16m. The pre-bushed and side puller fitted Multikit it comes with is an ultra-stiff top kit that should meet your every need in the elastic department. 

Our Verdict: On the day, I handed the Xitan Z16L Advance over to Steve Gregory, a Sheffield lad who has caught as many big carp on a pole as anyone you’ll ever meet. He certainly doesn’t mess about! 

I left him while I had a walk round the lake, all the while keeping an eye on what he was doing with the precious Xitan.

His verdict on the pole couldn’t have been better if he’d owned and fished with a Xitan for years, and was just what others had told me: “Brilliant!”

Price: £2,999 (16m UK set)

Daiwa’s new Yank ‘n’ Bank Pro Power pole review

Spurred on by the success of its iconic Yank ‘n’ Bank rods and poles, Daiwa has extended the range. 

Among several new items, the 14.5m Pro Power Pole is the subject of this week’s live test. It comes with enough spare top kits to cover every commercial fishery scenario and is built around the same fast-taper mandrel as the new 13m Power Yank ‘n’ Bank pole, with sections that fully interchange with the current 9.5m Yank ‘n’ Bank model. 

The Pro Power pole is designed to be that little bit more robust than its stablemates and is built from the same high-modulus carbon fibre cloths as many of Daiwa’s far more expensive poles. 

However, the cloth from which it is cut has different specifications to give added power and awesome section wall and joint strengths.

Built like a tank it may be, but it certainly doesn’t handle like one – it’s as nimble as a sports car, with a fair turn of handling pace. 

I discovered that and much more while testing the pole at Miracle Baits boss Steve Gregory’s super-popular Rushfield Lakes complex – although with the car’s temperature gauge reading minus two, it was never going to be an easy day. Ice was forming at an alarming pace across the surface of Canal Lake and I found my confidence rapidly ebbing away.

However, this L-shaped lake is jam-packed with fighting-fit carp, which put up a devilish scrap even in the coldest of water conditions.

I rigged up with a 6mm disc of punched bread set to fish at dead depth in the deepest water – no feed, just the hookbait.

Just to make things even more interesting, it started snowing (that Beast from the East again!). 

Luckily, before hypothermia could disable me, the float gave a little waggle and disappeared from sight. Oh joy! With a lightly-set No8 hollow elastic streaming from the pole-tip, the fish charged straight underneath the ice.

I was reminded of something my Angling Times predecessor Dave Woodmansey once wrote – he described a carp pole as having ‘enough pulling power to drag a snarling Alsatian from its kennel’. This time around it was a very angry carp that needed extraction. 

Playing a decent fish underneath ice will exert an awful lot of stress on a pole. You need to keep piling on the pressure, but you can’t see where the elastic is going – all you know is, you need to keep it and your rig line well away from the razor-sharp edges of that ice.

At this point you learn the strengths and limitations of a pole. And I can happily report that the new Yank ‘n’ Bank Pro Power does exactly what the name suggests. 

Should you have a recalcitrant Alsatian that needs dragging out of its kennel, get yourself a Yank ‘n’ Bank Pro, tie some hefty elastic to the dog’s collar, and give it go. Trust me, the dog will move first!  

Price: Expect to pay around £765  

Our Verdict: the 14.5m Pro Power is a chip off the old Yank ‘n’ Bank block. It has many of the build qualities of its thoroughbred Daiwa stablemates, and it comes with a more than handy selection of top kits and accessories. All this makes it an outstanding one-stop commercial weapon, quite capable of delivering a super power play performance both down the margins and at longer range. 


Daiwa Tournament Pro XLS 16m

FEATURES

• Choose between More Power or More Match kit packages

• Integral taping system on
sections 5, 6 and 7

• Diamond Satin slide-easy paint on sections 8, 9, 10 and 11

• Supplied with Air XLS holdall

Arguably the most iconic pole of all time, Daiwa’s legendary Tournament Pro has been refined to meet the exacting demands of modern match fishing. 

The new Tournament Pro XLS combines reliability you can stake your life on with a proven track record. Such is its reputation that if you draw next to someone using one it’s a racing certainty that you’ll be in for a tough match – as long the workman is even half as good as his tool, that is.

So why would Daiwa even attempt to fix something that clearly isn’t broken? The fact is, the 100 per cent UK-built Tourney Pro has been re-worked with cutting-edge carbon advancements. These include integral taping on its fifth, sixth and seventh sections, a Diamond Satin slide-easy paint job on sections eight, nine, 10 and 11, and extended length 13m, 14.5m and 16m butt sections – albeit by only 10cm in each instance.

Despite these improvements from Daiwa nothing particularly earth shattering has happened to the overall feel of this, its latest incarnation. Instead, minimal advancements add in small increments to the pole’s overall performance. 

Elongated butt sections help to shift the pole’s fulcrum point further down towards the butt, reducing its downforce. This means more responsive handling, with a more rapid tip speed and recovery rate. The latest Diamond Satin slide-easy finish on the larger sections makes shipping in or out at any length a super-slick operation, so long gone are the days of the infamous Tourney Pro ‘sticky squeaky’ effect. 

Integral taping on the top sections sees them fairly rattle through your hands, something to make the silver fish speed freaks hug themselves in delight.

But the new model isn’t all about shipping speed, as proved on the live test at Decoy’s carp-rich Six Islands Lake. Pinging pellets long is currently the in method at Decoy, so that’s just what I did. 

At 13m (nine sections) there is no mistaking that this pole is a chip off the old block – just a stiffer, quicker, easier-to-handle chip! The unmistakable steely feel of the original is still there as you ship it out to 14.5m, and at its full 16m it remains a joy to fish with. 

Feeding accurately with a catty, using a short-line rig and holding the pole was not a problem, despite a nasty side wind. Its linear rigidity and balance is up there with the very best. 

Its strength comes through in abundance when you lean into a fish that doesn’t wish to go in the direction you want it to. It also seems that Daiwa has sorted out the irritating joint-sticking that had been known to accompany its new poles. Not once during the test did any section even threaten to come apart, and they came together with a reassuring swish.

When the Tournament Pro was introduced in 2004 it came with six spare Match and Power top kits and cost £3,999. This latest version has exactly the same price tag, but you have a choice of eight Match or Power kits, making it even better value for money than the original, the performance of which it matches and then surpasses.

Price: £3,999

Angling Times Says: The go-to top-end pole for discerning match anglers, the latest Tourney Pro has improved technical specifications and spare kit packages. A true all-rounder in every sense, it’s more than capable of snatching silvers at speed, bagging commercial carp, or running a long line down a river. It’s an iconic pole with a proven track record which, just like a fine wine, only improves with age. 

Mark Sawyer