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Rod Review

Getting a Grip on the New Helium: Kistler Custom Rod's Helium 2 LTX

Date: 9/16/07
Tackle type: Rod
Manufacturer: Kistler Custom Rods
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 8.58

Introduction: For the most part, the world of bass fishing rods is a tangled web of look-a-like products and outlandish marketing claims. Very few products stand apart from the crowd in terms of appearance or performance, and even fewer distinguish themselves in both arenas. Most anglers pursuing the pinnacle in both appearance and performance seek out the talents of custom builders, but the wait for some of these carefully wrapped masterpieces can be eternal. One manufacturer with which we're familiar has made it their mission to bring to the market, readily available rods with custom build features. Today, we look at their now two year old, top end product: Kistler Custom Rod's Helium 2 LTX and the He2HC76T (7'6" Heavy Action Telescopic Flipping Stick).

Kistler Helium 2 LTX He2HC76T Specifications

Material Proprietary Graphite Blend
Length 7'-6"
Length from Back of Reel Seat to Base 11"
Line Wt. 15lb - 40lb Test
Lure Wt. 3/4 oz - 2 oz
Pieces Telescopic
Guides 9 + Tip (SS Frame, Copper Zirconia Insert)
Power Rating Heavy
Taper Fast
Rod Weight 6.1 oz
Manufacturing Country USA
MSRP $369.99


Impressions: The original Helium series made its debut here on TackleTour in March of 2003 winning our coveted Innovation Award for Kistler's use of pioneering spirit as much as their delivery of unique design and performance in a production rod. Most who have sampled the original Helium product for themselves since our review would agree. The Helium 2 LTX, then, comes with some lofty expectations.


Finally, our first look at the Helium 2 LTX


Our introduction to the Helium 2 LTX product actually came during ICAST 2005 and to be honest, we were a bit taken aback. The reason for our reservations? While the detailing on the rods looked good and they felt light and responsive, we could not get over the new grip material. Trey Kistler is constantly on the search for materials and design implementation ideas to set his product apart from the rest, and the grip material on the Helium 2 rods is no exception. Our best description of this new material would be to liken it to a thin, rough thread wrapped tightly around some kind of Styrofoam-like core. The result is grip that overall feels very light in hand and able to transmit rather than dampen vibrations but at the same time, has a disturbingly hard and rough texture. Would it work out on the water? Well, there's only one way to find out.


The Helium 2 LTX He2HC76T is a telescopic rod

Lab Tests: The Kistler Helium 2 LTX He2HC76T feels pretty much like your typical 7'6" telescopic flipping rod in hand. We compared this rod against a broad spectrum rods including the Helium LTA He76HC, Loomis BCR864 GLX, Daiwa Steez STZ711HFBA Compile-X, and Powell MAX 766H Flip. Of these sticks, only the latter is really considered flipping rod material.


Fig. 1 : This RoD Deflection Chart shows the deflection characteristics of our Kistler Helium 2 LTX He2HC76T compared to a Helium LTA He76HC, G.Loomis BCR864 GLX, Daiwa Steez STZ711HFBA, and Powell MAX 766H Flip.

Rate of Deflection (RoD): Our He2 stick had a shallower overall deflection curve than all but one of these rods, but with loads up to about six or eight ounces, the relative rates of deflection were similar to the lighter powered rods showing the He2HC76T has a very nice tip. After that weight range, and especially after 20 ounces of pressure the deflection curve of our He2HC76T quickly catches up to the 766H. The overall weight of our He2 flipping stick is 6.1 ounces shows it's the heaviest of the bunch but also one of the better balanced - especially when compared to the Powell MAX 766H Flip. In fact, held one after the other, the He2HC76T feels much lighter than the 766H thanks to better balancing.

Lab Results for Kistler Helium 2 LTX He2HC76T

Avg RoD (2-32 oz)
Rated Power
Measured Weight
Balance Point
Helium 2 LTX He2HC76T
Left & Right
6.1 oz
Helium LTA He76HC
Left & Right
4.6 oz
Daiwa Steez STZ711HFBA
Unable to Discern
4.0 oz
G.Loomis BCR864 GLX
4.7 oz
Powell MAX 766H
5.6 oz

The He2HC76T comes with 9 stainless steel framed copper zirconia guides plus the tip top

Real World Test: I fished this rod from the end of Spring 2007 through that same Summer on the waters of Clear Lake and the California Delta. I used one of two reels (see Field Test Set-Up matrix below) and was primarily tossing jigs and TX rigged worms, but after seeing Kistler ProStaffer Steve Kennedy win the BASS tournament on Clear Lake this past spring by tossing a Huddleston swimbait on his similarly rated He2HC711T, I had to try a couple of swings with some swimbaits too.

Our He2HC76T matched up with an Antares DC7 and a TnT Cooch's Wadda Jig

Complete Field Test Set-Up for Kistler Helium 2 LTX He2HC76T

Shimano Antares DC7
Supertuned Daiwa 2004 Custom White TDZ 103HL
20lb Sunline Shooter FC
65lb Suffix Performance Braid

But the reel I preferred on this rod was my Custom White 2004 TD-Z 103HL modified with spool bearings by ZPI, a ZPI Platinum Carbon handle, cork knobs, CarbonTex drag washers, and a ZPI RC-001S Mg spool in MJR


Pitching and Casting: Naturally, the He2HC76T would not be my first choice in tossing swimbaits, but it will handle casting chores with these huge offerings "ok". I tried both a Huddleston Deluxe trout swimbait along with the Shellcracker from Black Dog Baits and preferred the lighter Shellcracker with this rod. The Huddleston Deluxe really made the rod feel overloaded. Regardless, the action on this rod is a bit fast for swimbaits in general, but it was something we wanted to test given Steve Kennedy's recent success with the He2HC76HT's big brother.


Punching matts with the HeHC76T

Back to conventional presentations with this rod, the He2HC76T handles pitching and flipping duties with baits in its rated range just fine. From a punching bait rig consisting of a 1.5 ounce tungsten bullet weight plus plastic bait to a half ounce TnT Wadda Jig plus trailer I was able to cast, pitch, punch, and of course flip with accuracy. The relatively soft tip we discovered while this rod was strapped to our RoD WRACK really carries over onto the water and helps this rod load up nice and easy for just about any presentation.

The He2HC76T is rated to for baits up to two ounces which is great for punching, but not our first choice for swimbaits.


Sensitivity: Much like the Daiwa 7'1" Compile-X (STZ711HFBA) I reviewed earlier this year, I had some very high expectations with this rod. It has that light, lively feel in hand often attributed to very sensitive rods and of course, it's a second generation Helium. It's no secret that one of my favorite rods not just in the Kistler line, but overall is the He76HC, and since the He2HC76T is the next step up in the Kistler line of evolution, I figured I'd like it all that much more.

Nice detailing at the top of the reel seat and of course, the requisite Kistler hook hanger - especially beneficial on a jig and worm rod.

So what happened with this rod? Well, while the He2HC76T is not going to eliminate those occasions where the only indication of a bite is the sight of your line swimming off to the side, it is a sensitive stick - especially for a telescopic rod. In fact, while I would still prefer this to be a one-piece stick, not one time while I was fishing this rod was I lamenting the fact it was not a one-piece. But to be honest, as with my Compile-X rod, I was hoping for more.

Hunting for that big bite in the tules


Power: If there is one thing this rod does not lack, it is power. As show in our RoD WRACK tests, it is noticeably more stout than it's cousin, the He76HC, and very worthy of its heavy power rating. Time and time again I was able to easily work bass out of heavy cover so imagine my surprise on one cast out to the deep side of an underwater shelf. I cast my a half-ounce TnT Wadda Jig tipped with a Yamamoto Flappin Hog and felt it hit the bottom in about 25 feet of water. One little pop of my rod tip to get the bait moving and I felt that tell tale *tick* of a hit.

Got one! Good one! Get the Net!

I pointed my rod tip down, reeled in slack, and set HARD. The fish barely budged but I could feel it thumping on the other end of the line. I called for Zander to grab his camera so we could get some action shots. The more I battled the fish, the more I was certain this was a good one, and the He2HC76T was not letting me down. Finally, after a brief tug of war, the He2HC76T prevailed and the fish began to surface. In the pale green waters of Clear Lake California rose, of all things, a channel cat of approximately five-pounds!

Doh! What's at the end of your line Cal?

I say approximately, because in the jawing that ensued, as I knelt down to try and grab the fish because no one wanted to get the net slimy from catfish goop, the fish made a lunge and came off the end of my line. Photo opportunity lost, but the battle was quite memorable - as was the teasing I received from Zander and JIP.

The guide and thread wrap detail of the He2HC76T

A closeup of the blank's finish

Next Section: Details in design









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