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Rod Review

The Kistler Crankbait Composite, all the action of glass, with the sensitivity and weight of graphite

Date: 4/21/04
Tackle type: Rod
Manufacturer: Kistler
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 9.00

Introduction: Kistler rods has built up a loyal fan base among pros, weekend anglers, and tackle enthusiasts alike. Never one to rest on their laurels, Kistler continually innovates to bring uniquely designed and constructed rods to market. The new Crank Bait Composite is the most recent creation from Kistler's brand new Graphite Plus series. A series that attempts to pack a new level of performance into a package that anyone can afford.

Kistler Crankbait Composite (KCBCM7) Specifications

Material IM7 Graphite and Fiberglass Composite
Length 7'
Line Weight 10-15lb
Lure Weight 1/8-3/4oz
Guides 7 plus the tip
Rating Medium
Color Graphite Grey
Action Fast
MSRP $119.99

Trey Kistler is among the most devoted manufacturers in the industry, and is constantly on the lookout for exciting new blank materials, never shying away from the opportunity to employ new design concepts into his rods. When I first took a look at the Crank Bait Composite, from Kistler's new Graphite Plus Series, the first thing that came to mind was...the Helium LTA. The Crankbait Composite has the same innovative motif, but makes use of yet another new-found blank material.


Kistler's rods are very application specific, with each rod built to excel at a particular technique. Glass rods have remained popular among old school anglers that prefer the soft gentle action only afforded by fiberglass. The downside is that fiberglass is heavy and tiring to cast all day, and not nearly as accurate or sensitive as pure graphite. Kistler searched all over the U.S. for a blank material that could produce the authentic action of a glass rod, but still offer the refinement of high modulus graphite.


Kistler's new Graphite Plus Crankbait Composite rod may make use of new materials but popular features like the Kistler hook hanger remain in the design

Materials: Kistler's Graphite Plus rods exploit a mixture of graphite and fiberglass in the composite construction. This is not just a fiberglass core, finished with a graphite wrap. In contrast, the Graphite Plus is actually a 42 million modulus graphite rod infused with fiberglass throughout the entire blank! This gives the rod blank a very unique "woven" look, which really must be seen in person to fully appreciate. The final result is a very lightweight rod that feels and reacts like a pure graphite rod, but has the soft tip feel that glass anglers demand from their traditional crankbait rods. The material looks similar to the Helium LTA blanks, but is slightly heavier and feels more full-bodied when whipped back and forth.

Complete Test Rig for Kistler CrankBait Composite

Rod Kistler KCBCM7 7'
Reel(s) Team Daiwa-X HSDF
Line 12lb Trilene Big Game


Real World Test: As with the introduction of the Helium, Trey told us as much as he could about the unique new blank stating that this new blank "combines new technology with old school knowledge to create what I think is a above average blank." We were eager to put the new Crankbait Composite to the test, and fished a number of local Bass lakes, running every size, shape, and action crank we could muster.


Under the sun you can see the complex composite makeup of this sophisticated rod blank

Casting/Retrieving: Our test rod was the new 7' model Crankbait Composite rod (KCBCM7). Most of the time when I fish crankbaits I prefer rod sizes of 6'6" or 7', simply because these sizes give you the ability to cast a significant distance. Because crankbaits are great fish finding lures, the ability to cast a good distance is a key attribute to a superior crankbait rod. In this category the Kistler Crankbait Composite did not dissatisfy. The rod has a very soft tip thanks to its dual makeup, and can cast even lighter cranks with a nice soft whip. With a gentle sweeping motion or the flick of your wrist you can toss crankbaits with no difficulty. One of the things I liked best about the rod was the ability to whale bigger cranks thanks to the graphite backbone, or lightly lob tiny ones right in front of structure. I have fished other rods that excel at one or the other, but few that are so multi-talented.

When retrieving the soft tip allows you to bring cranks to life, and is excellent for subtle jerk techniques, or even walking surface baits back in a nice back and forth motion. Anglers will find that they have a lot of freedom when it comes to applying different types of retrieves with this rod. Tug lightly and the soft tip will advance cranks in a arc motion, pull hard, and the stiff butt of the rod kicks in causing your cranks to lurch forward. Overall the rod feels more flexible than normal graphite rods, but never feels sloppy. If I had to pick which type of material the rod feels more like I would still lean towards a pure graphite rod.


Kistler's "Smart Touch" reel seat concept is a real winner when it comes to improving sensitivity and accuracy of strike translation

Sensitivity: Kistler rods are among the most sensitive rods I have ever fished, in fact you are hard pressed to find a more sensitive rod than the Helium LTA, and the new Crankbait Composite definitely follows this tradition. I was afraid that the composite blend of this rod would affect the sensitivity, but my fears were laid to rest the minute I started fishing deep diving cranks. Every touch, bump, and strike, translated perfectly through this blank. The rod is above average in sensitivity, and performs just as well as any pure IM7 graphite rod.

Where Kistler easily one-up's the majority of the competition is with their "Smart Touch" reel seat. There is simply nothing on the market that quite compares, and while it is rumored that many companies are preparing to introduce imitations of this unique design, that doesn't change the fact that Kistler is a leading pioneer of this innovation...and it is effective! By removing the fore grip from the design anglers are able to directly place your index finger right on the blank itself, and feel every vibration before it even touches the seat. The effect is awesome, you can detect the most minute strikes with clarity, and the overall rod feels lighter and more accurate. Kistler knew the "Smart Touch" reel seat was a key basis of why their more expensive rods were so popular, and it is good to see this innovation extended across all products in Kistler's lineup.

The Crankbait Composite uses the familiar soft foam endcap we first observed on the Kistler Helium LTA

Power: The Crankbait Composite has a much softer tip than many of the rods I fish with. While this may cause anglers to feel like the rod does not have as much power, you have to take into account that this rod is application specific. With that said we loaded this rod to the max by ripping plugs and Yozuri Mag Minnows we usually reserve for Striper duty. It was during these tests that the Kistler Crankbait Composite showed us that underneath its refinement is a beast waiting to be unleashed. This rod has plenty of backbone, and while we don't recommend high sticking this long rod, it certainly can load up when necessary. Anglers just have to get used to seeing the front tip of this rod dip the minute a fish hooks up, but don't be afraid to do your share of muscling, this rod can take the burden! Anglers who are already used to fishing fiberglass rods will find the Crankbait Composite to load much quicker, and experience more of each and every clash with those big fish.

Shore anglers will love the ability to cast great distances with the Crankbait Composite

Price: Kistler brings popular features found on their higher priced rods down the spectrum, introduces a new composite material, and still manages to maintain a price that is 10 dollars lower than their California Series rods. At a price of $119.99 these rods are a fantastic deal. Even though Kistler as a company continues to grow, each and every rod still has that custom look and feel, as well as attention to detail that makes them so desirable. There are a plethora of mass produced rods costing 20-30% more that don't have any of Kistler's innovative features or even the same level of detail in design.


Fishing deep diving cranks was easy with the nice soft motion the rod afforded us, and we were happy to not no loss of sensitivity with the clever composite blank design

Applications: There are actually two applications that I felt this rod excelled at. These were fishing just about any type of crankbait, and doubling up as a finesse plastics rod. The same soft tip that makes this rod so good for generating soft realistic crankbait motions can be employed to bring weightless rigged plastics to life. I found the 7' size was perfect for tossing weightless rigged senkos into the pocket, or even some light pitching duty. But what this rod does best is exactly what Trey built it for, to fish crankbaits. Graphite anglers that demand light, responsive, incredibly sensitive rods will be able to compete with the pure glass angler's soft finesse actions. Hardcore glass anglers may not find the rod soft enough, but I think the rod does a good job finding the happy medium between the two materials.


Kistler Crankbait Composite (KCBCM7) Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Kistler is among the top custom rod builders, and it always amazes me how they are able to pack so much quality and detail into such a affordable rod 9
Performance Great sensitivity and weight, while not as flexible as a pure glass rod, the rod is as sensitive as a pure graphite rod 9
Price This is a great rod, and really priced at a very aggressive price. For what you are getting this is a great deal 9
Features Full of features like the Kistler Hook hanger, special composite materials, sensitive "smart touch" reel seat...and the list goes on. 9.5
Design (Ergonomics) Great contoured cork that makes extended fishing easy, and a soft foam butt cap that rests easy on your arm. The smart touch reel seat is a fantastic innovation, and we are glad to see this highly ergonomic feature on a rod of this price 9
Application This rod is a application specific rod, and is a fantastic crankbait rod, but we found a few other uses for this rod including finesse plastic fishing 8.5

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Exciting new blank material L Hardcore glass anglers may not find rod tip soft enough still
J Multi-Talented  
J Soft Flexible Tip  
J Great Sensitivity "Soft Touch Reel Seat"  

Conclusion: I can't say enough about how much I like the Kistler Smart Touch reel seat, it is among my favorite rod innovations, and a fantastic addition to the new Crankbait Composite rod. This rod hails from a new series of Kistler rods that boast a exclusive fusion of graphite and fiberglass to bring the best of both worlds together in one superb application specific rod. This rod lives up to the bill, and is a true Kistler...chock full of innovation and quality construction down to the smallest detail. In the world of competitive fishing the need for more and more application specific rods has grown ten-fold, and it is for those anglers that yearn for the unique soft action only fiberglass can offer, and still demand the responsiveness and sensitivity of graphite, does Kistler produce this exceptional Crankbait Composite rod.

Until next time....Tight Lines!









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