Winston Alpha+ Model-By-Model Fly Rod Review
We get questions about specific rod models all the time. "How does the 9wt compare to the 10wt?" and "When should I use this rod?" and "What line works best on this rod?". In an attempt to provide better info so you can make a more informed buying decision, we decided to start a 'model-by-model' blog series. We recently had the opportunity to cast every rod in the Winston Alpha+ Series. This article is designed to pass that info along to you. Of course, like our shootouts and other casting commentaries, these mini-reviews are based on our casting style and preferences. Your mileage may vary.
Series Overview: Winston’s new Alpha+ series is designed for the largest fish on earth. The rod’s extra-fast action helps deliver big flies and fight large fish. A fast-action tip and insanely strong butt section contribute to the rod’s ability to both propel large flies through heavy wind and lift big fish from their murky lies. The Alpha+ encourages incredible line speed and easy distance casting without carrying a lot of line in the air. These rods are beastly and, as Winston says, you’re going to need a bigger net.
We were lucky enough to cast every single rod in the series with a variety of fly lines… here’s what we found.
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The 9' 5wt Alpha+ comes in two different grip configurations: a Cigar Grip or a Full Wells Grip w/ Fighting Butt
Full Wells Configuration: The 5wt, like other rods in the series, isn't a delicate 5wt made for dry flies or finesse. This rod has a really stiff butt section for increased lifting power on Bass, large Trout, and other freshwater species. This rod's performance at middle and longer distances was superb. This is a highly accurate rod but it does require near-perfect timing; it's not a rod for the novice trout angler. If you're looking for a streamer rod, this 5wt is a great option in freshwater scenarios when a 6wt is too much.
Cigar Configuration: We were surprised by the different actions of these two 5wt rods. The 5wt with a Cigar grip is much softer than the full wells version and feels more like a classic 'Winston'. We found SA MPX to be a little too heavy for this rod so we downsized to RIO Gold which was a better fit. We were left wondering how this 5wt fit into the series and why an angler would choose this rod over the Air 5wt or the Pure 5wt.
Best Use: This is a rod for freshwater streamers, Bass, large Trout, small Pike, and other large freshwater species. This rod could also be used to throw large dry flies at long distances out of a drift boat in windy conditions.
The 9' 6wt Alpha+ comes in two different grip configurations: a Cigar Grip or a Full Wells Grip w/ Fighting Butt.
While we didn't get to cast the Cigar version of this rod, the 6wt with a Full Wells Grip was powerful, accurate, and fit into the series well. This is a defining rod in the series with a powerful butt section, solid fish-fighting power, and great performance at longer distances. This would be a great rod for Bonefish on the flats, large Bass flies like poppers, and some light Redfish work. That being said, we could feel the heavy swing weight of this rod while casting it. It's a powerful rod but it's also heavy.
Best Use: Use this rod for Redfish, Bonefish, heavy-duty freshwater, and light saltwater.
The 7wt was one of our favorite rods in the series. While we thought the 6wt felt heavy, we were pleasantly surprised by the light, snappy feel of the 7wt. Plus, we found ourselves casting out to 80-feet with ease. This is truly a rod that does a lot of work for the angler and makes distance casting easy and efficient. This is a rod that encourages both accuracy and distance which is a dangerous combo (for the fish, of course). This would be a great rod for small Stripers in the northeast, targeting Bonefish out of a boat in windy conditions, and pulling Snook out of the mangroves. This rod is highly accurate and one of the best 7wts on the market for windy conditions and large fish.
Best Use: This rod can be used to target a multitude of species and should be used for distance casting, large flies, and fighting heavy fish.
The 8wt is another powerful rod in the Alpha+ lineup. While it isn't as fast as some of the other rods in the series, it does have some extra reserve power which makes it a great rod for Bonefish in windy conditions. It's also a rod that casts well with a shooting-style line like the SA Titan or RIO Outbound Short. As such, this is also a great rod option for targeting Stripers in the northeast when blind casting is the technique of choice. Overall, we like this rod slightly better than the Winston Air Salt and think that it offers anglers a little more versatility, performance, and accuracy.
Best Use: This is a rod for Bonefish on windy days, Redfish, Stripers, and more.
The 9wt Alpha+ is in line with the series. This is, like other models, a fast action 9wt with a stiff butt section for increased lifting power for large Stripers, Bull Redfish, and even Pike/Musky. While we thought the Titan was a tad heavy on this rod for our casting style, it's definitely workable and would be a solid line choice in high winds when casting large flies. This is a highly powerful rod with great accuracy across the board and would make a nice Permit rod, too.
Best Use: This is a rod for large flies, heavy fish, including Bull Reds, Permit, Pike, Stripers.
This is a beefy stick, no two ways about it. The 10wt has loads of power and is a big upgrade over the 9wt. We really enjoyed casting SA Amplitude Tarpon on this rod and found it pretty easy to cast well beyond 80-feet. While this certainly isn't a lightweight 10wt, it's a rod that provides the technical angler with incredible power and line speed for those windy days chasing Tarpon and other large gamefish. That being said, the timing window on this rod is small which means it's not a rod for beginners. If you're a capable angler, however, and can access the rod's stout butt section (choosing the right fly line helps with this), this rod is incredibly powerful.
Best Use: Use this rod for technical Tarpon fishing and other large gamefish like Musky and Bull Redfish in Louisiana.
Our casting notes on the 12wt are similar to the notes on the 10wt. Again, this is a stout, heavy rod designed for the experienced angler. This 12wt is pretty large for a Tarpon rod but would work well for larger species like GT, Arapaima, and more. As a replacement of the previous Winston BIII Jungle Series, this is a great rod to take into the jungle when you're targeting large fish and need to be able to cast heavy flies and you're planning on doing some heavy lifting after the hook set. This rod (like the 10wt) has loads of power.
Best Use: This is a rod for Arapaima, GT, and the largest fish on earth.
The 7wt Alpha+ wins the award in this series. This is a rod that is smooth, effortless, highly efficient, and a technical angling tool. We think anglers with intermediate-expert angling skills will find a lot of performance in this rod. Plus, it's a ton of fun to cast and fish.
Least Favorite Rod:
We struggled a bit with the Cigar Grip 5wt. While it is a nice rod, it doesn't fit into the series very well and if we were in the market for a 5wt we'd choose the Air or the Pure instead.