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Rod Review

 

A Serious Exterior with a Lively Personality, the Douglas XMatrix Swimbait Rod (continued)

 

Casting: When I first started fishing big baits slinging the larger, and heavier, swimbaits they really did a number on my arms and shoulders. Part of it was adjusting to the heavier baits, but one major factor was that in the early swimbait days many of the technique specific rods were absolute broomsticks. While they were capable of casting big baits they were built so stiff, and heavy, that hours of fishing swimbaits really took a toll on angler's muscles.

 


Though designed for casting baits up to 6oz. this stick is no broomstick and casts a wide range of lighter baits effortlessly

 

This Douglas XMatrix stick definitely falls into the new-school of swimbait rod design, where powerful doesn't automatically mean heavy or overbuilt. Douglas calls their blank design proprietary because they make use their own prepreg layup and blend of bonding matrix. The result is a stick that feels crisp and powerful, but also is light and responsive.

 

This Douglas rod loads nicely and slings big baits confidently. Rated from 2-6oz. I found the sweet spot for this rod between 2-5oz. but it is able to cast 6oz., or even slightly heavier baits as long as you cast smoothly, or make lob style casts.

 


This rod is so well balanced that even one handed casts with baits 2oz. and under is easy

 

With the "clean slate" design methodology in mind I asked Douglas's lead designer, Fred Contaoi, about the type of swimbaits that this particular rod was designed for to which he responded:

 

"I designed the DXC 7116F around the Gancraft 250 and the Deps Silent swimmer glide baits. Through the early years of big bait fishing I found the rods usually too heavy in the hand and too stiff for glide baits. Most rods used were either flippin sticks or salmon back-bounce rods. I needed to build a rod that you could cast and fish all day. Light in the hand with ability to cast the aforementioned baits without helicoptering the lure in the cast. It had to have a soft enough tip to not pull the hooks out of the fish and have the subtle feel you have when a bass takes the glide bait."

 


A familiar Fuji reelseat provides a nice platform for traditional or larger sized 300 reels that are often employed for swimbait work
 

Sensitivity: The Douglas 7'11" rod weighed in at 7.3 ounces in the lab but the minute I picked it up I was surprised by how light the overall rod felt in hand. This is a result of not only the lightweight materials used in the rod's construction, but excellent overall balancing.

 


Having a light well balanced rod dramatically reduces fatigue when swimbait fishing. Even with a rod up configuration when fishing wakebaits or rats for example is easy with this rod

 

Even when I paired large swimbait oriented reels on the Douglas rod it never felt off balance, or unwieldy. This excellent balance adds to the overall sensitivity of the rod as I never felt tired fishing this stick, and with the longer rear handle I was able to comfortably tuck the rod under my arm or against my torso during retrieves. With the Douglas rod I was able to easily detect changes in structure, and bites telegraph through this rod very well, making it one of the more sensitive swimbait rods I've fished in recent years, and especially at this price point.

 

Power: When reviewing the Douglas rod's deflection curve results there were not too many surprises. I feel that the rod is accurately rated, and it slides under heavy hitter swimbait rods with a design that is best suited for tossing baits between 3-5 ounces. Similarly to our on the water observations this rod isn't built like a broomstick, and favors a balance of power and handling to deliver a rod that is easier, and more comfortable to fish, over longer periods.  

 


Fig 1 : The chart above illustrates the deflection characteristics of the Douglas swimbait rod against the historical averages of similarly powered rods we've tested over the past twenty years

 

Personally this is the kind of swimbait stick I like to use when fishing wakebaits and rats, when the angle of the rod is higher up and a lighter tip makes it much easier to impart the right angle, and action, on those type of swimbaits. But rest assured even though the Douglas rod feels light it has plenty of power to deliver those instant hooksets and confidently pull fish back towards though boat, and there are many times when that softer, softer parabolic, action provides an advantage when it comes to helping keep treble hook swimbaits pinned.

 


The Fuji reel seat holds securely holds larger reels like the 300K and keeps them close to the EVA handles on the Douglas rod

 

Design and Ergonomics: When it comes to styling I think the Douglas rods are clean, but also conservatively styled. There is nothing in your face about this rod, no extra machined pieces, or a fancy reel seat with carbon inserts, or even much use of color or graphics on the blank.

 

The fanciest cosmetic element is probably the recessed aluminum butt cap, and even that is pretty well hidden. Anglers that favor clean styling, and functionality, will like the straightforward design. While some other anglers may find the overall design a bit conservative.

 


The recessed aluminum butt cap is a nice touch and is in keeping with the clean overall styling of all the Douglas rods

 

When it comes to ergonomics the rod definitely prioritizes function over form. The extended sculpted foregrip is probably the most polarizing feature on this rod. Most swimbait rods have a small foregrip, or just a metal fore-nut. Douglas has clearly designed the foregrip on this rod to be a functional grip.

 


The rod has a large sculpted foregrip that is designed to be held when tucking the rod to improve comfort and reduce fatigue

Next: That uniquely sculpted extended foregrip design...

 

   

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