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. 

Preston Response.jpg

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. 

Main image Browning Black Magic.jpg

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.

Frenzee Opener_1.jpg

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