Performance Tackle is a high end shop located in Southern California. It’s the kind of place where you could pick up the latest butterfly jigs and the latest 22nd Century 12 inch cut-tail Triple Trout. Their custom freshwater bass rod lineup is extensive with 9 lines and 40 total models. The SBR swimbait lineup has light, medium, and heavy action blanks which are available with standard or down wraps. The rod reviewed here is a down wrap - meaning that the guides are placed to wrap around the rod. The best way to describe it is to say that the butt section of the rod looks like a conventional rod and the tip section looks like a spinning rod. Retail price on the swimbait lineup is $280 to $295.
The words that come to mind when I stare up and down the length of this rod are refined, minimalist, and balanced. There is nothing on this blank that doesn’t need to be there. The EVA Foam split grip handle puts just enough grip for your hand and no more. And it’s well thought out, with a small foregrip that could have been left out on a flipping stick or a worm rod, but shouldn’t’ be left out on a swimbait rod.
The wraps on the Fuji Alconite Concept guides are precise and extend just far enough past the guide foot to hold it in place. Something to understand about custom wrapped rods is that the further you wrap past the foot of the guide and the more epoxy you use – the whippier the action of the rod will become. As a kid we used e-glass ocean rods with under wraps and tons of epoxy and let me tell you, they were whippy! This rod is the antithesis of whippy. You get the true feel of the blank here.
Musky rods have been telescoping for many years, but to my knowledge the Performance Tackle SBRX’s were the first true largemouth bass style telescoping swimbait rod on the market. There may have been other custom builders doing rods like this earlier, and I apologize if that’s the case, but I keep a strong finger on the swimbait rod market and this was the first one that got on my radar as something that could be easily found and purchased. You should be able to fit this rod in any rod locker.
Details, let’s talk details: The reel seat is a Fuji TCSM. I’ve fished the rod for a year and half with no issues there. There is a hook keeper and judging by the photos on the Performance Tackle site I think the design of the keeper has been updated from what you’ll see here in the photos of my rod.
Being paranoid, I cut the hook keepers off of all my rods to avoid that once in ten-thousand casts situation where the line gets tangled in the keeper. Inevitably the one cast where you get tangled up is the cast when a 10+ hits. Regardless, both styles of hook keeper they’ve used work fine if you’re a fan of convenience.
The action of the SBRX80M is designed to hit the all-around sweet spot for big bait fishing and I think Performance Tackle has done well in this pursuit. There are not many rods that I feel comfortable throwing an 8” Hudd and a 9” Slammer on, but you can certainly do both here. My feeling is that the rod leans a little more toward the hardbait side of things, but there is enough tip here to throw rubber baits.
But let’s split some hairs here for the guys who owns (or want to own) a half-dozen swimbait rods. What exactly would you throw on this rod? In the hardbait zone I’m thinking BBZ-1, 10” Triple Trout, 3:16 10” Wake Bait and any of your heavier hardbaits that need a little less rod tip action to make them swim. In the soft-bait zone I’m going to grab this rod for 6” Basstrix, 5 and 6” Big Hammer, Osprey Tournament Talon, 6” Weedless Hudd, and anything that fits in that smaller heavy category where you need some power on the hookset but don’t need a more tiring heavy duty setup.
I like to bring this rod ocean fishing when I head down to Santa Barbara for calico bass and rock fish. Matched up with a Curado 300 it’s a perfect setup to fish Big Hammers on 15lb fluoro or 50 braid. What’s hilarious is how many people have literally grabbed the 2nd guide on the rod and said, “Hey man your guide is crooked”. Some people have even tried to bend my guides think they’re doing me a favor. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The advocates of down wrap (or spiral or acid wrap as it’s also called) will tell you that the big benefit is less torsional twist. You know what torsional twist is if you’ve ever set up hard on a bass and had the rod blank twist to the side at the tip. A lot of the Loomis rods do this for some reason. I understand this notion but having fished down wrap swimbait rods for 5+ years now I’m still not totally convinced that there is some big tangible benefit in terms of fish fighting or fatigue when using a down wrap rod. This isn’t so much a con as it is an observation if you’re debating whether to get down wrap or regular.
Overall the SBRX80M from Performance Tackle is a super high quality, well thought out swimbait rod that offers the convenience of telescoping action. Yes the price is high, but the rods are backed with a limited lifetime warranty, and they just have that great custom feel that you don’t get off the shelf. If you’re a serious swimbaiter looking for a rod for the baits I outlined above, check this one out. The shop is at 4221 Katella Ave. Los Alamitos, CA 90720 or online at www.performancetackle.com.