Winston Saltwater Air 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 Air Salt 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: The Saltwater Air is a quick-recovering, high-performance saltwater fly rod series built with a few important features. Winston uses SuperSilica lightweight resin systems and their famous Boron III technology to craft incredibly light rods that are durable and solidly strong. Winston claims they built these rods with a fast mid-section (a departure from traditional Winston rods) and stiff butt sections for increased lifting power on the largest fish in saltwater.
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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We found the 6wt to be one of the slower rods in the series if not the slowest. This rod features sort of a parabolic action with a fast tip and a softer mid-section. It also felt slightly heavy in hand although we didn't record the swing weight. That being said, this is a great rod for anglers looking for feedback and feel with smaller flies at short range in the salt. Plus, if you're fishing a 6wt fly rod in the salt, you've downsized from the more commonly fished 8wt for finesse and small flies anyway. While this is sort of a technical 6wt, a select few anglers will definitely appreciate it.
Best Use: This is a rod that's best used for smaller saltwater fish like Snook under dock lights or small Redfish in the Florida marsh.
The 7wt Air Salt was one of our favorites. This rod is pretty light in hand, snappy, and features a stiff mid-section as marketed. This isn't a rod for large flies and 'chuck-and-duck' fishing, but it would make an excellent Bonefish rod, especially while wading the flats. This rod is accurate across the range of saltwater distances and has ample power to propel flies through light wind to long distance fish. The softer tip also allows you to drop a small Bonefish fly delicately without spooking fish in shallow water. Overall, this is a nice offering from Winston and it fits into the series really well.
Best Use: This is a Bonefish rod and a great choice for other smaller fish that eat smaller flies at any distance.
The 8wt rod is a powerful one. So powerful, in fact, that we had trouble loading it at 40-feet, even with SA Amplitude Grand Slam. As we pushed the rod back to 60-feet, however, its accuracy was spot on and the powerful butt and mid-section really made casting at longer distances smooth and effortless. The recovery speeds were also noticeably better than other 8wt rods we've cast, especially at longer distances. As you can guess, a rod that's this powerful is also a great choice in windy conditions.
Best Use: This is a great boat rod and a phenomenal choice for anglers targeting Bonefish, Redfish, Permit, and more from a boat in windy conditions.
This rod and the 7wt are similar in design, taper, and flex. The trademark taper of the Air Salt is exemplified by this rod; it has a stiff butt section, stiff mid-section, and a softer tip. That taper contributes to high power levels, heavy lifting power, and increased accuracy at longer distances. This is important in a 9wt because these features make it a great Permit rod but also a great rod for blind casting to Stripers in the northeast. Although this isn't the lightest 9wt on the market, Winston has built sacrificed weight for performance and we think it's a good move on this particular model.
Best Use: This is a great rod for saltwater fish at longer distance including Permit, Stripers, Redfish, and more.
The 10wt also has a stiff butt and mid-section. That, like other rods in the series, leads to loads of power. That being said, the soft tip on this rod led to inconsistent accuracy for us. While we didn't have a problem with the softer tip on the other rods in the series, for whatever reason we couldn't quite figure out this 10wt. It's possible we partnered this rod with the wrong line and, in fact, we feel that it could potentially cast a lighter line than the shooting-style 10wt lines that are built for fast action rods. Perhaps a line with a longer front taper would be easier to control with the soft tip of this rod.
Best Use: This is a lightweight Tarpon rod or a great rod for big Striper/Redfish, especially when blind casting.
Contrary to our casting notes on the 10wt, the 11wt has a stiffer tip/mid-section that's ideal for heavier Tarpon-style fly lines. This rod is accurate across the board and maintains the power seen throughout the series. In particular, we found this rod to be highly accurate at longer distances (beyond 60-feet) which makes it a great rod choice for throwing flies at laid up or cruising Tarpon. In fact, if you're looking for a Tarpon rod, this is (by far) the best in the series. While an 11wt is getting too big for Stripers and Redfish, this rod could also be used on Jacks, smaller GT, and other large saltwater fish.
Best Use: This is a super-charged Tarpon rod and should be used for big flies, windy conditions, and big fish.
We struggled to find the right line for this rod. Most 12wt rods, especially in a powerful series like this one, cast SA Grand Slam pretty well. In this case, however, we thought this line was a little heavy for the Air Salt 12wt but your preferences may vary. With the right line, however, this rod is pretty powerful in a refined kind of way. The rod's taper works to deliver medium-sized flies accurately and delicately to spooky fish from large Tarpon to GT and other large saltwater fish.
Best Use: Use this rod for GT, Tuna, Tarpon, and any time you need to make a delicate(ish) presentation to a big fish.
The 7wt and 9wt were our favorite rods in the series. These rods feature high power levels, softer tips, and an ideal rod taper for saltwater fishing in a variety of scenarios.
Least Favorite Rod:
The 6wt doesn't fit into the series as well as the other rods. This is a fine 6wt for anglers who prefer a slower rod action but it's not ideal for saltwater fishing in high winds.