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Rod Building Article / Blank Review


 

Swimbait Rod Build: A Blank to Handle All your Big Bait Needs and More: Phenix Rods Titan Long Fall

 

Date: 10/31/23
Tackle Type: Rod
Manufacturer: Phenix Rods
Reviewer: Cal






Total Score: 8.17 - GREAT

Introduction:
One of the biggest challenges anglers who fish big baits for bass face is finding the proper stick to launch their oversized lures. In the early days, most turned to rods built for other species like musky. Today, there are quite a number of choices for those slinging baits that weigh up to about six ounces or so. However, once you cross over to the truly large baits, rod options seem to dwindle. Throw in the additional wild card of needing that stick to be no longer than seven feet, eight inches, and there might be just a handful of production rods that can handle the assignment. Fortunately, if you play in the world of building your own, or ordering a custom rod, the options once again open up. Here’s my story with Phenix Rod’s TJXL710H-B Titan Long Fall blank.

 

Phenix Rods Titan Long Fall TJXL710H-B Blank Specifications

Material Toray T40 Carbon Fiber + Nanolite Resin
Length Blank = 7'-10" but trimmed to 7'-6" for this build
Line Wt. 35lb - 90lb
Lure Wt. Jig Wt 200 - 480g (~7 - 17oz)
Pieces One
Power Rating Heavy
Taper Moderate
Blank Weight 4.6oz specified : 4.3oz measured
MSRP $199.00

 

Background: When speaking of truly large baits, I’m talking about lures like Roman Made’s Mother (11.3oz), DRT’s Ghost (9.1oz), Illude/Lunker Fighter’s Zombie Rat XL 2 and 3 piece rats (9 & 9.5 oz respectively), and Gan Craft’s Jointed Claw 303 (9.3oz). Of course, my Gan Craft Dead Sword R-One KGB-00 9-800SEXH can handle these baits, but that stick is 8’-0” in length when fully assembled and does not fit in my rod locker unless I break it down to its two pieces. The longest, fully rigged stick I can get into my locker is 7’-8” but 7’-6” is easier to deal with, hence the need for something shorter.

 


DRT Ghost : Lure Weight 9.1oz

Several years ago, at ICAST, while visiting with Phenix Rods, recognizing the fact I'm into tossing big baits, one of the team members pulled me aside to show me a saltwater stick with a very thin diameter. It was extremely powerful and had a nice, moderate taper. He told me guys in Southern California were using the blanks as the foundation for their swimbait sticks. I was intrigued and made a mental note of it, but over time, that post-it fell out my ear and disappeared into the ether. I remembered the conversation, of course, but not the line of rods/blanks and Phenix has such a wide array of saltwater blanks, I couldn't reconstitute that post-it by simply surfing their website. It didn’t matter that much since I wasn’t building rods at the time and wasn’t in the spirit of ordering a custom as I had too many factory rods to fish and write up. I just don’t like forgetting details like that.


Illude/Lunker Fighters Zombie & Zombie XL 3pc (right) : Lure Weight 9.5oz

Last year, after sharing my build on Phenix’s B-USB-C 790H, Jesse LeMar of LitLures, reached out to chat about his favorite Phenix blanks to use for his swimbait fishing was a saltwater blank built for long fall jigging techniques made popular in Japan. He told me, the heaviest powered blank, that TJXL710H-B can easily launch a Roman Made Mother. Best of all, the blank is specified at only 4.6 ounces and his built rods are light and agile. This time, I made a note on my computer and added the blanks to my list of potential projects to keep me busy over winter.


Gan Craft Jointed Claw 303 : Lure Weight 9.3oz

Impressions: Phenix Rods’s Titan Long Fall TJXL710H-B is indeed a thin diameter blank measuring only 14.07mm at the butt. However, its tip is relatively thick at about 2.67mm. It comes with a glossy coat over its entirety and tipped the scale at 4.3 ounces. The lure rating for this blank is 200 to 480 grams (roughly 7 to 17 ounces), but is specified as jig weight. I'm not familiar with the long fall technique, but I assume the jigs are simply dropped over the side of a boat and not necessarily cast. So that lure rating may or may not translate to bass fishing. The line rating for this blank is 35 to 90lbs braid. In hand, it really does not feel like a blank that can handle huge bait duties and it all has to do with the diameter of the blank - it's so thin! By comparison, the B-USB-C 790H I built on last year measures 16 millimeters at the butt and that blank is only rated for up to 8 ounces in lure weight.

Phenix Rodsís Titan Long Fall TJXL710H-B tipped the scale at 4.3 ounces


 

So with the blank in hand, the next decision to make is components and handle configuration. My current favorite reel seat is Fuji's PMTS Micro-Trigger with back stop hood. It's a cutaway reel seat intended to be installed with a carbon tube, so unless the diameter of your blank is very thick at the point where you're installing the reel seat, that cutaway window in the seat is just decorative. Not exactly ideal, but the ergonomics of this seat are wonderful. I really like the micro-trigger, and the shape of the seat is very comfortable in hand. I choose the back stop hood both for the extra security but also to take away the need to cut the thread side of the reel seat to minimize exposed threads. That back stop hood is longer and does a good job of using all that thread space.


Fuji's PMTS Micro-Trigger reel seat is my current favorite. That minimal trigger is very comfortable to fish


The backstop hood (right) has the added benefit of covering up all that extra thread there's no need to trim the seat prior to installation

As for guides, what many may not realize is Phenix Rods has their own line of guides they make available for sale under the brand name Essex. In my personal builds, I don't normally stray from Fuji guides, but given this is a Phenix blank, I'm all about that same brand mojo if it makes sense. Within the Essex line are some options for stainless steel framed guides with SiC inserts, so I ordered a set of guides with which to build out this blank.


Through their sub-brand, Essex, Phenix Rods also sells a full line of guides

As for that grip, my current preference, in general, is for a full rear grip, no foregrip handle configuration. However, I really liked how light and free-wheeling my B-USB-C 790H build handled last year and I built that stick with a split rear grip, so that presented me with a bit of a dilemma. An added complication however is I also wanted this handle to be at least 16 inches in length for added leverage and control during the cast. The longest full grip handle I've been able to piece together to match my preference in aesthetics (i.e. a tapered, not single diameter handle) from my grip material of choice is about fifteen inches. There are no such restrictions when going split.

 

My original build on this blank with a split rear grip (16 inches from back of reel seat to end of rod)

 

That material preference of which I spoke is the carbon fiber options from CFX Composite Grips. My method of constructing that longer handle is by taking their three and three quarter inch split casting grip and their fourteen inch full casting handle and piecing them together at a diameter matching that of the trim rings made to go at the back of the Fuji SK2 reel seat. I then use one of those trim ring options at that transition as an accent. Needing an extra inch for this build, I reached out to CFX Composites to see if they had any other full grip options.

 


Zander's full rear handle build crafted from two 14" CFX grips (17" from back of reel seat to end of rod)

 

Turns out, they were working on some new, tapered swimbait rod handles to be available at sixteen and eighteen inch lengths with the option to trim down to suit size. I asked if I could order some and it was game on. However, I still liked the idea of a split grip to save weight, so in true TackleTour fashion, I built both. Actually, counting the one I assembled for Zander, the total is three builds. While waiting for my order from CFX, I managed to figure out a way to create that long, solid handle out of two CFX fourteen inch handles. A costly alternative (each grip is $35.50), but an option nonetheless. Zander's wrap is built with the full length of that blank (7'-10") and a conventional orientation of guides. My split rear grip build is 7'-6" in length, and my full grip build is 7'-8". Both are built with guides spiraled to the left.


My full rear handle build from CFX composites, soon to be released, swimbait handle (this one measures 18.5" from back of reel seat to end of rod)

Real World Tests: The finished weight for the split rear config came to just over ounces (6.1oz). That build actually has a mix of guides, because I discovered, while laying everything out prior to assembly, I had some spare Fuji guides laying around. I ended up using those for the stripper, transition and running guides on this build. They're a mix of SS/SiC and SS/Alconite. Both full grip builds came to about seven and a half ounces (7.5oz) in total weight and are outfitted with the afore mentioned Essex SS/SiC guides (all double footed).


First build paired with my Revo5 Winch

After installing a Fuji Ez Keeper on each of my sticks, the final step was deciding which reel to pair with each build. For the 7'-6", those honors went to my Abu Garcia Revo5 Winch. A product, as it turns out, was also in need of some time on the water for its own evaluation and review. I spooled the Winch with some PowerPro Hollow Ace (40lb) and installed a top shot of 40lb Sunline Saltimate Nylon leader material in preparation for some huge bait duty.


After installing a new leader into the hollow braid, I paired my second build with this 2020 JDM Shimano Exsence DC SS

I paired my 7'-8" build with my 2020 model year JDM Shimano Exsence DC SS. This is essentially a saltwater version of the Shimano Scorpion 150DC but dark grey in finish. I matched this reel with a carbon fiber Gomexus power handle with color shift, TPE knobs. It's been several years since I've dabbled in the aftermarket handle replacement game, and I'm unwilling to spend more on a handle than my fishing reels. Gomexus offers some reasonably priced alternatives.


The moment of truth? Roman Made Mother time.

Casting: To test the blank's limits while casting, I stuck with the 7'-6" build because that that stick, at that length, was the reason for this original effort - something to handle huge baits that will easily fit in my rod locker. With that, the moment of truth came on the very first cast. I attached my Roman Made Mother to the end of the line and let it dangle from the rod's tip for a bit to get a sense of how it loads. The tip flexed more than I would like, but some gentle swings left and right gave me confidence the TJXL710H-B could probably handle casting the bait.


Tip loads ok with this 11.3 ounce bait

I began with a gentle lob and then worked my way up to a full on cast. To my surprise, the blank handled casting duties with the Roman Made Mother. The blank has an uncommon resilience with a sort of bend but don't break springiness to it. While you can execute overhead casts, for me, smooth, efficient lobs worked best. There is a secondary reverberation of which you need to be wary and usually manifests itself with anything resembling a snap cast. That reverberation most commonly results in a backlash which can then stop your bait mid flight and if your leader or line game isn't strong, you can wave goodbye to that bait.


To my surprise, the blank handled casting duties with the Roman Made Mother

A smooth lob is my normal casting motion with big baits anyway. Bad things usually happen when I try to bomb a big bait with a violent cast, so I just stay away from that kind of effort now. Otherwise, on the low end, I was also able to cast and fish a three quarter ounce (3/4oz) Rapala BX Big Brat Squarebill quite effectively. That was a little surprising. Turns out this blank is special in its ability to handle a super wide range of baits and making you feel as though it is ideally suited for whatever lure weight you are casting - with perhaps the exception of the Roman Made Mother. The TJXL710H-B can handle it alright, I'm just not positive it'd be my first choice for an eleven plus ounce bait. My evaluation of the blank is anything between one to ten ounces is in its wheelhouse. This blank is an ideal candidate for those "if I can only have one swimbait stick" scenarios.


As usual, Zander getting right to work catching on his new stick

Sensitivity: My goal with this stick was for something to toss relatively large, hard bodied big baits. In this regard, the TJXL710H-B is really just an oversized crankbait stick. Sensitivity is not paramount because the hits with baits like this are unmistakable. All that having been said, the TJXL710H-B is more than sufficient in giving you the feel necessary to dissect what's going on at the end of your line so you can properly work your lures. Quite often glass cranking rods and those made from low grade graphite feel dead in your hands. That is absolutely not the case with this blank.

Next Section: But will it cast a Roman Made Mother?

 

   

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