When it comes to the fight between manufacturers to produce rods, nowhere is the battle harder fought than at the budget end. Almost every manufacturer produces a superb range of affordable rods and the biggest problem faced by the consumer is deciding which to go for.
Trying to pick differences in action, features and quality gets more difficult all the time, because so many rods from different manufacturers are so evenly matched. With what’s achievable, and the currently available technologies and carbons being pushed to their limits, there’s very little difference between rods – it’s almost getting to the point where price is becoming the best way to pick a budget rod.
Having seen this, Daiwa, producer of some of the most hi-tech and expensive rods around, has decided to charge in with the brand new Matchman range of rods, all priced under the magical £50 mark. Four three-piece pellet waggler rods with lengths from 10ft to 13ft and four two-piece Method feeder rods from 9ft to 12ft make for a very comprehensive range.
My first job when I got my hands on these rods was to look for compromises and corner cutting. To produce rods at such a low price point must mean cost savings somewhere.
After carefully looking over the minimalistic ceramic-lined stainless steel guides, screw down cork reel seat with cork handle and EVA lower, all appeared to be what I’d expect for a sub-£100 rod, let alone a sub £50 one. In fact, the shorter rods in both the Method Feeder and Pellet Waggler versions were indiscernible from many high-end rods just from a mere inspection and a waggle.
It’s only in the longer 11ft, 12ft and 13ft rods that the loss of recovery and slightly thicker blanks confirmed that I had a cheaper range laid before me.
It was at this point that the names troubled me a little, as pigeonholing these rods into either ‘Method Feeder’ or ‘Pellet Waggler’ categories is a shame, as the range would make ideal allround waggler and feeder rods for any kind of venue, not just commercials.
Another observation was the unusual finish. The butt section of each rod has a smooth matt finish, while the upper sections are raw carbon.
After a spot of investigation, I learned that the finish stiffens up the lower section, while weight is reduced higher up the blank by its exclusion. This two-part look is a little unusual, but if it delivers greater performance then I’m all for it.
Happy that the longer rods were more than acceptable for under £50, what I really wanted to know was just how good the short ones are, and the only way to do that was via a live test.
Venue choice was Makins Phase 2, a fishery full of smaller lakes that are well suited to shorter rods, leading me to the choice of the smallest of the lot – the 9ft Mini Method Feeder.
As luck would have it, the weather had just switched from unseasonably mild to “bloody freezing” over the weekend, so even catching a fish would be a good start!
Snake, however, didn’t disappoint. An underarm lob with a new Daiwa small 20g Method feeder that I was also trialling, loaded with pellets and a yellow wafter, soon saw a healthy bend right through to the butt. While feeling light and forgiving in the hand and displaying a formidable bend, the rod still didn’t feel underpowered at any point, even with the first fish, which must have been nearing 8lb.
After a couple more, I worked my way further out, which this time required an overhead cast. Again, the rod felt glorious, the only issue being that I still hadn’t been able to fault it in any way. Even as the day progressed and I made bigger casts, I was blown away by the smooth action and fast recovery. Was this rod really only £50?
Bites could only be described as savage. Carefully set, the fine and sensitive carbon tip sat looking at me with only the occasional tiny pluck giving away the presence of any fish – then, without warning and usually while I wasn’t looking, the rod would just leap around and would sit waving at me in the rest. Despite spirted fights from both larger fish and a few scrappy little carp which have a habit of bouncing themselves off the hook, I didn’t lose or bump a single one, which is yet further testament to just how good this rod is. I’m now struggling to decide just why you would want to pay more for such a short rod when you get this kind of performance for £50?
As for my final thoughts on the range? Well, if you only have £50 to spend on a rod, then you’re hardly likely to find anything better when it comes to the longer rods. As for the 9ft Mini Method Feeder, though, I’m not fussed if your budget is £50 or £500, this rod is worth a look!
Price: £49.99, www.daiwasports.co.uk