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Rod Review

Lighter than air, the new Kistler Helium LTA is a must have for anglers looking for an edge

Date: 3/3/03
Tackle type: Rod
Manufacturer: Kistler
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 9.00 + TT Innovation Award

Introduction: Kistler Custom Rods introduces a new rod built with secret graphite ingredients for an incredible strength to weight ratio. The Helium LTA is a advanced fish combating rod, and a must have for anglers seeking an advantage in ergonomics and sensitivity.

Kistler Helium LTA Special Specifications

Material Semi-secret graphite composite
Length 6'9"
Line Weight 12-17lb
Lure Weight 1/8-3/4oz
Guides 8 plus the tip
Rating Heavy
Color Graphite
Action X-Fast
MSRP $219.99

When Trey Kistler told me that he had created a new rod unlike any I had ever seen, or felt for that matter, you can imagine my interest was immediately peaked. In 2002 we took a look at two Kistler signature series rods that had the look, feel, and performance of a premium custom built rod. The Helium LTA is a dramatic departure from the other Kistler rods we had tested, and I would soon discover the Helium also represented a considerable deviation from the conformity of traditional rod materials and design. The minute I picked up the 6'9" Helium LTA Kistler sent us I knew it was something special. The rod was incredibly light...even lighter than the wispy GLoomis's IMX 783C 6'6"!


This is one fast rod, notice how the tip arches during the cast

A New Design: Kistler has never been afraid to alter conventional rod design and always innovates to produce a better rod. Their removal of the traditional upper cork handle, proprietary Kistler "smart touch" reel seat, and bent hook hanger were all welcome design implementations that improved the overall feel of the past Kistler rods. Now they venture one step further with use of new guide and blank materials never before utilized by any other rod manufacturer.

Complete Test Rig for Kistler Helium LTA

Rod Kistler He69APC
Reel(s) Team Daiwa-S (Japanese Edition)
Line 12lb Sufix Tritamium Plus


The Secret Materials: Trey told us as much as he could about the top secret blanks that the Helium employs without giving away the classified ingredients. No other rod manufacturer as of this time is utilizing this unique material, and lab and field tests have shown the rod to be lighter and still more durable than any traditional graphite blanks. Kistler has decided to market the Helium rods as a semi-secret composite of graphite and other unknown components which increase the strength and lighten the overall weight of the Helium.


David Dudley, the 2002 FLW Millennium Champion explains what makes these Helium rods superior to other rods. “Feeling more strikes truly comes from your ability to sense vibrations through the nerves in your arm. When your arm is tired, your sense of feel is reduced. Therefore, lighter rods heighten your reaction.”


Kistler "smart touch" reel seat allows direct contact to the blank, also notice no cork handle on top of the reel, this helps reduce weight and increase vibration transmission

Real World Test: We had the opportunity to test the Helium LTA 6'9" rod which is designed to be an all purpose medium-heavy casting rod. We analyzed the Kistler Helium LTA in many largemouth and striped bass applications to assess the rod's finesse, sensitivity, power, and durability.


The contoured cork and soft foam butt cap are both designed to maximize comfort and reduce casting fatigue

Casting/Retrieving: The Helium casts like a dream thanks to slick new guides and a total weight that won’t ever weigh you down. Even with hours of casting your wrist feels little stress and the innovative soft butt cap is very comfortable against your forearm. This butt is much more comfortable than traditional plastic caps employed by many other manufacturers. The reduction of fatigue allows anglers to get more fishing in. Casting distance is also excellent as the rod does an superb job catapulting lures forward. Line passes through the zirconium titanium plated low profile guides very quickly on casts and retrieves. These ultra slick zirconium rings are durable, ultra light, and equally attractive with their striking blue finish. Because of their low profile to the rod your line passes in very straight line through the guides so that friction is greatly reduced.

The titanium guides are almost weightless, and the attractive blue zirconium rings are slick and durable for soft casts and silky retrieves

Sensitivity: The Helium’s most impressive attribute is it's amazing feel. The new material is an absolutely fabulous conduit for even the slightest ticks on the other end of the line. During the test we actually had to adjust our fishing style to accommodate the upgrade in sensitivity! The Helium was simply more sensitive than any of us was used to, so we found ourselves a bit overzealous when it came to setting on what we originally detected as strikes. After a hour of use the Helium feels like a perfect extension of your senses, easily transmitting the most delicate taps.

Unlike many standard 6’6” rods the extra 3” at the tip of the Helium add to the sensitivity and is a real asset when finessing plastics. When you get a strike not only do you feel it but you can observe the rod tip dance back and forth. At one point when retrieving a single tail grub across a steep point I was suddenly taken with what felt like a lunker of a fish. After the set the fish went ballistic taking the lure, spooling line, and causing the Helium’s tip to whip about. When the fish was about to break the surface I yelled to JIP..”Get the net!” Standing side by side we saw the fish come barreling in and JIP had a good laugh as I proceeded to lift a 10 inch Crappie into the boat. This rod is super sensitive! Every fight is one to relish, and I liken the experience to fishing with a fly rod two weights smaller than what it is intended for. Every fight feels like a tug of war with a trophy fish, and is enjoyable to the very second you haul the fish into the boat.

Impressive specifications for a rod this light

Power: You would think with this much sensitivity you would need to sacrifice a great deal of power. This really isn’t the case with the Helium. While we do feel that the traditional Helium rods have more backbone the Helium’s power is still very respectable and the rod can be bowed with confidence. Just to prove the Helium could handle big bass we spent a day field testing the rod fishing for Stripers. The rod managed these robust fish with authority.


The 6’9” Helium LTA does have a very sensitive and fast taper so you will need to lift appropriately to set that hook. With so much sensitivity anglers may find themselves pointing the rod tip to the side or downwards in all the excitement but if you can just remember to keep that moving tip up and away from the head of the incoming fish you will have no problems whatsoever.


We were happy to see the innovative Kistler hook hanger was integrated into the Helium design


Innovations: Kistler adds a couple innovations and features to the Helium LTA that set it apart from competitor offerings, these include:


1) Modified Hook hanger: The Helium LTA sports the famous Kistler hook hanger that is so simple yet works very well. The hook hanger is actually on top of the rod by the reel seat and bent over so that when stowing lures on the rod you don't ever have to thread a hook through the hanger. Instead the hanger is bent so tension of the line is enough to hold the hook securely. In addition the hanger holds the lure firmly flat against the rod preventing it from moving and scratching the graphite.


2) Modified reel seat: As mentioned earlier in this review, the Helium LTA features a modified reel seat removing the unnecessary cork grip on top the reel seat so that subtle vibrations transfer better directly through the blank.


3) Ultra-Lightweight: Hiking from one fishing hole to the next is made easier with a rod as lightweight as the Helium. While carrying or fishing with this rod you never feel as if your arm is burdened. To maximize the experience you should add a magnesium reel like the Shimano Chronarch Mg or the ultra lightweight Daiwa TD-Z for a combo that will weigh in below the bantamweight class.


4) Ergonomics: The Helium LTA's soft foam butt is a welcome addition that is not only lighter than traditional plastic caps but is more comfortable against your forearm.


Pair up the LTA with a magnesium reel and you have one of the lightest combos available on the market!


Price: One of the reasons that Kistler rods have won TackleTour's Best Value award in the past was for their amazing value. With the Helium you are getting a assortment of new features and the opportunity to fish with an exclusive new material…but all this now comes with a larger price tag. Simply put is this rod worth it? At a price tag that puts the Kistler in direct competition with St. Croix legend Elite and GLoomis IMX rods is this rod a worthy alternative? Our answer is…absolutely. For just a little less than the premium competition you can get your hands on a rod that performs just as good in the durability and casting department and even better when it came down to sensitivity and weight. In addition to excellent attributes the Kistler Helium is like the new kid on the block, with a fresh face, and an attitude to match. You are sure to get plenty of attention when fishing this hard core challenger.


Kistler Helium LTA Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Whatever this new super graphite blend is we hope that Kistler employs more of it on their other rods, it is fantastic in terms of durability and sensitivity 9
Performance Great sensitivity and weight, not as powerful as the original Kistler Signature rods but a major advancement in terms of finesse and sensitivity 9
Price This is a premium rod and priced accordingly. It is competitive with competitor pricing for a rod of this caliber. 8
Features Full of features like the Kistler Hook hanger, special materials, zirconium titanium guides, sensitive "smart touch" reel seat...and the list goes on. 10
Design (Ergonomics) Great contoured cork that makes extended fishing easy, and a soft foam butt cap that rests easy on your arm 9
Application This rod will excel at finesse fishing applications but can also be used for some hardcore fishing and even light saltwater duty 9

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Exciting new blank material L Doesn't feel as powerful as some of Kistler's signature rods
J Lightweight zirconium titanium guides L Hard to find in local stores, best place to look is at Kistlerrods.com
J Ultra sensitive  
J Great ergonomics  

Trey Kistler designs some of the best new rods on the market, and the new Helium is truly representative of how far Kistler is willing to go to provide a unique solution and experience to anglers. For us the Helium was definitely not more of the same, rather the new materials and attributes of this rod was like a well needed rejuvenating shot in the arm. While we wish other rod manufacturers would go as far as Kistler does to deliver a uniquely new implantation the fact is that most manufacturers will stick with the same formula and keep simply tweaking it. While it isn’t always a good idea to build from the ground up the Kistler Helium proves that when done right the result is nothing short of breathtaking. If you are lucky enough to find one of these rare custom rods definitely consider treating yourself to a unique new fishing experience. Use of pioneering new materials, designing in more comfort, reduced weight, and increased sensitivity make the Kistler Helium a worthy recipient of TackleTour’s Innovation Award!

Until next time....Tight Lines!









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