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Rod Review


Versatility in a one-piece package, the Kistler Helium LTA He76HC
 

Date: 12/20/04
Tackle type: Rod
Manufacturer: Kistler
Reviewer: Cal






Total Score: 9.33

Introduction:
Early in 2003, TT introduced you to Kistler Custom Rod’s 6’9” Helium LTA All Purpose Casting Rod speaking the virtues of Kistler’s secret graphite blend to deliver a rod with unmatched sensitivity and strength to weight ratio. This year, we looked at another of the innovative rods in this lineup to see how the Helium blanks might benefit more technique specific applications. The He76HC is Kistler’s one piece finesse flipping pole – a non-telescopic blank promising, to the flipping and pitching bass anglers, a rod that is unmatched in weight, sensitivity and power.
 

Kistler Helium LTA He76HC Special Specifications

Material Proprietary Graphite Composite
Pieces 1
Length 7'6"
Line Weight 14-25lb
Lure Weight 1/2-1oz
Guides Stainless Steel Guides with Blue Titanium Zirconia Rings. 9 plus the tip
Rating Heavy
Color Graphite
Action Fast
MSRP $250.00


Impressions:  Though it is now, a common trend to offer flipping rods in non-telescopic configurations, at the time we acquired our He76HC for testing, we had not seen nor held a one piece flipping stick. When we pulled this rod out of it’s packaging tube, we were immediately taken aback by its light-weight, balance, and lithe tip. Our immediate thoughts were why hasn’t someone done this before? The logical answer to that question would lie in the reasoning that bass boat rod lockers are limited in length, therefore, flipping rods were originally designed as telescopic blanks so that they’d easily fit into those lockers. Despite that reasoning, given the advantages of a one-piece blank, we’re amazed it’s taken this long for the industry to respond with an offering such as Kistler’s He76HC. But how would this rod that impresses so well on the showroom floor, really perform out on the water? Would the lithe tip be too soft? Could this super-light flipping stick really power fish out of heavy cover? We set out to answer these questions and to find out if this rod might be suitable for other applications as well.

 

Aside from its length, the proportions of the He76HC are that of a standard seven or even six foot six inch length rod. Meaning the thickness of the actual blank and reel seat are not overwhelming. This translates to a rod that is wonderfully sensitive and light letting you cast and pitch all day without becoming fatigued.


Real World Test:
 Pitching and flipping presentations are a mainstay of bass fishing on the California Delta where fish holding structure is seemingly everywhere. From rocky levee walls to tulle islands to large, thick, and dense weed beds, bass are poised, ready to strike seemingly at every turn. For our real world test on the Delta, we matched our He76HC up with a variety of reels and put it through various flipping, pitching and casting routines.

 

Complete Test Rig for Kistler Helium LTA He76HC

Rod Kistler He76HC
Reel(s)

Shimano Conquest 51
Daiwa TD-S 103HL
Daiwa TD-X 103HSDL

Line

Yozuri Hybrid 12lb
Berkley
Fireline 20lb
Tuf-Line Braid 20lb
P-Line Florouclear 15lb

Casting & Pitching: The first question that came to mind when holding the rod and running it through our series of showroom floor like tests was whether or not the soft tip on the He76HC would really benefit us during flipping and pitching. Afterall, the majority of rods in this ilk and available on the market today are rather stout rods with equally stout tips. Lure presentation is dependent upon how well you can pendulum your bait while flipping. With the He76HC, flipping becomes almost a moot point, because the soft tip of this rod combined with its length allows deadly accurate pitching presentations. It’s not difficult to place a bait, like a 6” Yamamoto Senko, softly and right up next to your target structure almost forty or even fifty feet away with this rod. Should quarters become tight and pitching grow impractical, the easy loading tip of the He76HC is equally beneficial during flipping presentations as well. What’s more, given the relative light weight of this rod, it feels more like you’re fishing with a seven foot rod rather than a seven foot six inch stick. Fatigue is never a factor flipping and pitching with the He76HC. 

The He76HC, like all their rods, features Kistler’s classic “Smart Touch” reel seat – a true benefit for a rod of this size and power


During our tests, we decided to go outside the tackle box slightly by tying on both a Zoom Horny Toad and Buzzbait to see how well this rod would cast. Needless to say, with a tip that loads so easily for pitching and flipping, casting was a breeze as well and we were able to launch both baits distances where an effective hookset would be out of the question. We couldn’t have been more pleased with this rod’s casting and pitching performance.

 

Pitching is by far the best method of softly placing your lure accurately and quietly right through that two-inch wide hole in the cover beneath where you think a bass is hiding. This technique benefits greatly from a rod with a soft, supple tip. The He76HC possesses such a tip and allows deadly accurate pitching presentations.

Sensitivity: The question of sensitivity with this rod is almost unfair. Not only does it benefit from the classic “Smart Touch” reel seat, but the fact the rod is one-piece and the same gauge as many seven foot fishing rods, makes it seem foolish to think the rod is anything but sensitive – especially when compared to the classic, telescopic flipping rod. True to our expectations, we were able to detect even the softest pickups while fishing jigs, senkos, or Texas rig lizards during our fishing experience with this rod. One technique we did not get to experiment with prior to press but that we’ve heard from Kistler is very popular with this pole is fishing a Carolina rig. You can bet, should that situation arise, one of the first poles we’ll be reaching for to execute this technique is our He76HC.

Though more of a finesse flipping rod than a true power stick, the He76HC possessed plenty of backbone to both hook and land fish during our trials on the California Delta.

Power: Most anglers prefer to flip with a rod that is rated as extra-heavy or in the range of a five to seven power rod. The He76HC is rated as a four power rod and holds true to this form. As such, it is definitely more of a finesse flipping pole than a power flipping rod. Because it facilitates soft, quiet presentations so well, it’s difficult to resist the temptation of flicking your baits into the nastiest of cover with this rod. We gave into this temptation on several occasions but were never able to put the rod through a true test by hooking into any largemouth over four pounds. However, we can report we were able to land several bass in the middle of thick, dense weedbeds after they’d have taken our Zoom Horny Toads buzzed through and across small openings in these weedbeds. Never once did we question the power of our He76HC during these battles.
 

The He76HC possesses all the same characteristics and innovations found on all the Kistler Helium LTA rods including the “Smart Touch” reel seat (top right), innovative hook hanger (bottom right), foam rubber butt cap (upper left), and stainless steel guides with titanium coated zirconia inserts (bottom left)


Features: All Kistler Helium LTA rods come with a host of innovative features that have helped propel them into one of the fastest growing rod companies in the US today. Their innovative hook hanger that allows one to stow a rigged weedless worm in ready position has long been a favorite of ours. But perhaps the greatest innovation this company has shown is their commitment to customer service. This alone is enough to set them apart from many of the larger companies that are their primary competition. Whether the news is good or bad, Kistler Custom Rods, is interested in hearing feedback from their customer base to help guide them through necessary changes in current models as well as drive future products. This combination of customer service AND the provision of quality fishing tools is an invaluable feature of any company, let alone that of a fishing rod.
 

Close up shot of a two pound bass (left) that fell victim to a frog lure buzzed across the surface with braided line in the midst of a thick weedbed thanks to our He76HC (right)


Applications:
The He76HC is just about as versatile a 7’6” rod can be. We began our tests with this rod flipping and pitching jigs and Texas rigged plastics. Surprised as to the ease by which the tip loads during each pitch, we scaled back our offerings by moving to weightless senkos five inches and above. From there, we experimented with top water offerings fishing lures from floating frogs to plastic frogs to buzzbaits. Then, perhaps the most telling presentation we attempted with this rod is a growing trend introduced to us by Andy “Cooch” Cuccia, a local guide in Northern California and pro staffer for Yamamoto Custom Bait Company. This technique, known as the “bubba-shot”, is a shallow water, upsized version of the drop-shot using up to 12 to 15 pound test fluorocarbon line with the standard drop-shot set up pitched and flipped into and around shallow weedlines and other structure. Because this technique is used in medium to heavy cover, stouter tackle than the typical drop-shot setups is required – hence the term “bubba”. The He76HC suits this technique perfectly and is so powerful when employing this technique, on more than one occasion, we’ve flipped bass up to one pound in size completely out of the water and over to the other side of the boat on a hookset! This rod certainly has some very unique capabilities.


Ratings:

Kistler Helium LTA He76HC Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Kistler Custom Rods goes to great pains to ensure each rod that leaves the factory is straight and true. Our He76HC arrived in fine condition and ready to fish out of the tube 9
Performance Not an overpowering rod by any means, the He76HC makes a great finesse flipping and pitching pole and because of its one-piece construction, sensitivity is extraordinary. 9.5
Price Priced slightly higher than other rods in the Helium lineup probably due to its length, yet inline with the competition. 8
Features Most of us are quite familiar by now of the features offered with every Kistler fishing rod. Throw into the equation, intangibles such as exceptional customer service and we have ourselves a real winner. 10
Design (Ergonomics) The weight, balance, and comfort for a rod of this length are truly exceptional. 10
Application As versatile as a 7’6” rod can be, we were truly amazed by the range of applications we were able to fish with this rod. 9.5

Total Score

9.33


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J One piece construction for supreme sensitivity L The rod is priced at a bit of a premium
J Super light for a rod of this length  
J Ultra sensitive “Smart Touch” reel seat  
J Surprisingly versatile for a 7’6” rod  


Conclusion:
Looking for a rod that is both technique specific yet versatile? Does this sound like a contradiction in terms? The He76HC is just that – a contradiction to tradition. For years, bass fisherman have been conditioned to expect a 7’6” pole is configured in one specific way – a telescopic blank. These telescopic rods were meant for heavy duty, heavy cover action and were built thick and bulky to support these techniques. Not anymore. There is a growing trend in the industry to provide one-piece 7’6” and greater length poles to support techniques ranging from crankbaits to senkos to jigs to Carolina rigs. The He76HC is on the forefront of this trend and while many, like us, will acquire the rod conditioned into thinking it’s just a flipping stick, they will soon come to realize the true versatility a rod this length built with a lithe tip, strong backbone, and minimal weight can offer. The Kistler Helium LTA He76HC is truly worthy of consideration for anyone looking into a rod that helps you think outside of the tackle box.


Until next time....Tight Lines!


 

 

 

 

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