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Rod Review


Make No Bones About It, The New Z from Kistler (continued)

Sensitivity: This is where the new HMx-ray blank by North Fork Composites really stood out. Kistler's minimalist build on the ZB3LHM73 really lets the blank talk to your hand and tell you what's going on at the end of the line. I was pitching an unweighted, four and a half inch, Roboworm Ned Worm around docks and other visible structure and could swear on a couple bites that I could feel the fish inhale the bait even before that telltale "tick" when the bait hits the back of their throat.

NFC's new HMx-ray blanks are unsanded.

Next I tried dragging a three eighths ounce jig along the bottom and through some scattered clumps of grass, and I easily able to distinguish between mud, rock, and weeds although at times, rocks felt like bites! Finally, I tied on a Megabass Vision OneTen Silent and then it was game over because the fish were very responsive to this bait and the hits were almost bone jarring the rod felt so crisp and powerful.

Fig 1 : The chart above illustrates the deflection characteristics of our
Kistler 2019 ZB3LMH73 against our baseline medium and medium heavy powered sticks.

Power: Speaking of power, Kistler Custom Rods rates this stick as a Light Medium Heavy which is their way of saying it falls somewhere between medium and medium heavy. This is what its deflection chart tells us too and actually, even though the chart shows us the ZB3LMH73 leans more towards medium the more load is applied to the blank, out on the water, it felt very much like a typical medium heavy stick to me.

Checking out the taper.

Design & Ergonomics: We touched upon the ZB3LMH73's build earlier and noted it comes with a split rear grip made of cork. This is a change from the previous generation Zbone that was built with a kind of composite cork grip. The change back to standard cork is a much more classic look. The rod's reel seat is also classic with Kistler relying upon the standard Fuji ECS reel seat instead of the polarizing ACS or the more contemporary SK2, split reel seat.

No extra, decorative items to finish off the trip - just the necessities.

The ZB3LMH73 weighed in at a mere three point four ounces (3.4oz) on our scale at the lab. This is pretty darn light for a rod with this power rating. Putting it in perspective, during our Search for One campaign back in 2010 we tested twenty six different "medium heavy" powered rods and came up with an average of 4.92 ounces. G.Loomis's 2017 MBR842C GLX, a medium powered rod weighs right around 4 ounces.

Another reason the ZB3LMH73 is so light? Micro-guides.

The ZB3LMH873's balance point is eight and half inches (8.5") above the midline of the reel seat, but the rod's overall weight is so low, its balancing torque number is still really close to the two, better balanced GLX sticks in the table below. This stick strikes a really nice median between light and well balanced.

Lab Results for Kistler 2019 ZB3LMH73

Avg RoD (2-32 oz)
Measured Weight (oz)
Balance Point (inches)
Balancing Torque (ftlbs)
Kistler 2019 ZB3LMH73
2017 MBR842C GLX
2017 MBR843C GLX
TSFO 26 Rod Avg

This rod features Fuji stainless steel framed SiC guides throughout except for the tip top and stripper guide which both feature Torzite inserts.

Price & Applications: Kistler's 2019 model year Zbone are available for pre-order and range in price from $520 - $550 depending on the model. The ZB3LMH73 is priced at $539.99 and is a very worthy Search For One candidate if you're in the market for one rod to do it all. Additionally, and one of the things we really enjoy about Kistler Custom Rods is you can have them build a stick your way through their online Build Your Own tool. In fact, if you're interested in a custom order 2019 ZBone, the order page is already up: Custom 2019 Z Bone Build Your Own Rod.

Kistler makes use of Kigan's hook keeper for the new ZBone.


Kistler 2019 ZB3LMH73 Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Nice, clean build 9
Performance Sensitivity is where this blank makes its mark 9
Price Kistler's Z is a lot of bones... 5
Features NFC's latest and greatest blank, mix of Fuji SiC and Torzite guides, standard Fuji ECS reel seat, Kigan hook keeper 9
Design (Ergonomics) Super light build that's also pretty well balanced 9
Application Excellent Search for One candidate 9

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:


+ Among the most sensitive rods I've fished - If you're into high end, price point doesn't really factor in, but for most people, $500+ for a rod is a lot to ask.
+ Very light for rated power  
+ Walks the line nicely between weight and balance  
+ Available in Kistler's Build Your Own online ordering app  

Conclusion: The partnership between Kistler Custom Rods and North Fork Composites is producing some real quality, made in the USA rod options at price points from $200 on up.

What's really exciting to us about the new, 2019 ZBone sticks is the use of NFC's latest and greatest HMx-ray blank. The ZB3LMH73 was the very first stick we've fished built on the foundation of that blank and the result is noteworthy, It is light, crisp and among the most sensitive sticks at its rated power I can remember fishing.

The ZB3LMH73 performs even better than the previous generation ZBone and has earned Kistler Custom Rods yet another Editor's Choice Award.


Of course, it is a flagship series and thanks to the ZBone's price point, this is not a stick for the mainstream. However, if you're a gear head like us, the benefits of this build will outweigh the hit to your pocket book. Maybe you don't care for some of the spec on the production rod? Even better, you can change them with a custom ordered 2019 ZBone built to suit your needs. I didn't think it was possible for Kistler to improve upon their Editor's Choice Award winning LEXF-3MH-70 we reviewed in 2016. I was wrong. The ZB3LMH73 performs even better and has earned Kistler Custom Rods yet another Editor's Choice Award.









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