Sage changed things up a bit this year when they put their best foot forward and released the SaltHD to replace the 3-year-old Salt, disrupting their traditional 4-year replacement schedule. In traditional Sage fashion, the SaltHD has won every award it’s been up for including the prestigious IFTD “Best in show” award. While it’s clear that there’s nothing stopping the Sage marketing juggernaut, read up to see how this rod really performs.
The SaltHD follows the long line of marquee Sage saltwater rods in its look and feel. It’s got a “Squid Ink” blank color (really a dark, dark, blue) with blue trim wraps, black thread wraps, and all of the usual Sage look and feel. Trim wraps and thread wraps add a nice touch to the Salt HD. The reel seat is black anodized aluminum and is laser etched for easy rod identification. Anodized aluminum is durable and highly functional. The cork handle of the Salt HD is made with high-end cork. The rod's blue trim is made from a deep blue powder to give the rod a true saltwater appearance. The Salt HD also includes a hook keeper for functional fly storage on the water. Hard chromed stripping and snake guides finish the Salt HD in typical Sage fashion. The Salt HD comes in 6 through 13 line weight models and a 16wt bluewater rod.
In an effort to continue to provide you with better and better information, I’m going to be introducing a few new measurements in this review. One is swing weight, which, while not new, is new to these reviews. We’ve created our own swing weight calculator based on the information in this article. After reviewing hundreds of rods, I find that swing weight (aka MOI) is the best indicator of how light a rod feels when you’re casting it.
The problem with swing weight is that, while great for comparing rods, it’s not actually useful or intuitive. This SaltHD 9’ 8-weight has a swing weight of 103.7 gm2, which means nothing to me on its own (we have started to track swing weights of common rods in this chart to alleviate that problem). To that end, I wanted to create another measurement that would make more sense on its own, but also provide some insight into the construction of the rod beyond what it actually weighs. I’m calling it the Balanced Total Weight (BTW).
To calculate BTW we find the weight needed to balance the rod and add it to the actual weight of the rod. We do this by attaching a lightweight reel and then adding weight to the reel until the rod is balanced. We think BTW is a worthwhile measurement for several reasons. First, it will give you an indication of how heavy your entire setup will be relative to others. Second, it’s intuitive. Unlike swing weight, ounces are easy to understand. Finally, it BTW is a much better measure of how the weight is distributed than just looking at the overall weight of a rod.
DISCLAIMER: I am by no means advocating that this is the required reel weight or that you need to be sure that your setup is balanced or that your preference for how it balances will be the same as mine. Nevertheless, we will be publishing this weight for all of the single hand rods that we test going forward.
After much ado, here’s how the SaltHD stacks up:
Sage is usually spot on with their weights, but not this time… they listed it at 3.9 oz, but it actually came in at 4.15, which makes it heavier than the original Salt (though only marginally). It’s a little sad to think that Sage has stopped innovating on the weight front. While other brands are pushing forward, this feels like a bit of a reversal.
Like the Salt before it, the SaltHD isn’t a distance champ. If you’re looking to power a fly line through the heaviest winds or impress your friends in the parking lot, I’d recommend the Sage Method instead.
The SaltHD is a rod designed for the flats (or at least this 8-weight is). It’s deadly in close (30-65’) despite its fast action, which is where you’re going to be taking most of your shots, particularly if you’re wading (think skinny water Tarpon or Bonefish). Once you move further out, the rod just doesn’t have enough oomph to keep up with more powerful rods. This means the lifting power of the rod is a bit below average, too. It’s almost like this is a 7-weight which is pre-overlined.
I cast 3 different lines on the SaltHD: the new Rio Flats Pro, Rio Bonefish, and Airflo Tropical Punch. Flats Pro is going to be your best bet for in-close work. Think wading for bones or pounding mangroves. If you’re looking to carry a bit more line for longer casts, I’d recommend Rio Bonefish. It’s a better choice for anglers fishing for a flats boat. Finally, Tropical Punch was probably my favorite line overall (no surprise there). This line shot through the guides quicker than the other lines. It also seemed to be the most accurate at longer distances. The Salt HD also supports sinking lines for deep water angling.
The new SaltHD is one of the most caster friendly Sage saltwater rods… ever? It’s got more feedback than the old Salt, and way, way, more feedback than the Xi3. Like most saltwater rods we see these days, the SaltHD has a soft tip which progresses into a stiffer butt section to give you more fish fighting power. The Salt HD is perfect for small Tarpon and other saltwater species that require a more powerful rod. If you're looking for a saltwater rod that will allow you to make quick shots at close-distance fish, the Salt HD is the fly rod for you.
Take a guess…
I feel like as I re-read this review, I may have been overly harsh on the new SaltHD, so I took a few more casts with it this morning, and, the truth is, it’s a really nice rod. It’s just not pushing the boundaries of rod design. The good news is that if you liked the Salt, you’ll like the SaltHD, and it’s totally a worthwhile upgrade. If you’re still casting an Xi3, this rod blows it out of the water. Bottom line: It does everything just about anyone can ask of it in a flats scenario and more, and is backed by a great company and warranty. Buy one today with our price match guarantee.