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Rod Review

Creature Fever : ZBone in the AmaZon


Date: 6/27/12
Tackle type: Rod
Manufacturer: Kistler Custom Rods
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 8.67 - EDITOR'S CHOICE!

It's been a solid couple of years since our last in depth look at a Kistler Custom Rods product. Our last rod review from this manufacturer? The then brand new, ZBone custom order stick built upon a Kistler specified blank rolled by Gary Loomis's new venture, North Fork Composites. It was, at the time, the first rod an angler can order by rolling into a manufacturer's website and selecting from a list of available options to literally specify and build their very own custom rod. As far as we know, Kistler Custom Rods is still the only rod manufacturer to offer this experience and while our first experience with a Cuztom ZBone was a successful one during our Search for One campaign, we felt it was time to renew our impressions and put the ZBone through even more extensive trials. Here's our look at the ZBone LE 5H.


Kistler Custom Rods ZBone ZBLE-5H Specifications

Material North Fork Composites/Kistler LE Graphite
Length 6'-8"
Line Wt. 14-25lbs
Lure Wt. 1/4 - 1 1/2 oz
Pieces 1
Guides 8 + Tip (Fuji K-Series Micro Ti/SiC) spiraled left
Power Rating Heavy
Taper Mod-Fast
Rod Weight 3.9 oz
Origin Made in the USA
MSRP $550 as specified


Impressions: More than the actual stick, the experience ordering and specifying your very own ZBone is unique and exciting. Those experienced in working with a true custom builder might think otherwise, but not everyone knows or has access to a custom builder and even then, the decisions that you need to make in order to order a custom stick from traditional builders can be daunting.


A new theme means we get to test a new ZBone. This time it's the 5H.


Kistler simplifies this process by guiding you through a set of available options and then they take it a step further by helping you visualize your decision with a live-view mockup of your new rod's handle assembly! Further, if you don't see something on the list of available options on their site, you can email or call the factory and straighten it all out.


A slightly different handle configuration for this one as we go for light weight over balance in this stick.

Our ZBone LE 5H had a specific purpose in mind. Yes, our theme for 2012 is Creature Fever, but even before that, I wanted this stick for my return trip to the Amazon. Having been through the journey once, this was the perfect opportunity for me to have a rod built by a major manufacturer specific to what I needed. What did I need? The perfect stick to throw and work a wood chopper.

And of course, we still favor the micros.

The spec's on my "perfect" chopper stick? Six feet nine inches (6'-8") in length, a handle long enough for two handed casts, but not so long as to get in the way when ripping the chopper (9.5"), and as light as possible while still being comfortable to hold in that intense Amazon heat. This meant a split rear grip made of eva and a Fuji's new split reel seat. In the Amazon, it's all about braid, so I chose Fuji's new K-Series Micro Guides (ti/SiC).

We specified this stick with one purpose/destination in mind...

Field Tests: The Fall of 2011 saw my return to the Amazon fishing with Steve Yatomi of Adventure Travel Alliance. The only thing that would have made things more perfect for this trip was if this stick was available as a two or three piece and if it was the only stick I needed to bring with me on this adventure. But of course, things don't necessarily work out that way when you're a TackleTour Editor.

Ripping woodchoppers in the Amazon for Peacocks!

Casting: The recommended casting range on Kistler's ZBLE-5H blank is one quarter ounce up to one and a half ounces (1/4 – 1 ½ oz) – just right for the KLures wood choppers I had in mind that range from one and a quarter to one and a half ounces in weight. I paired this stick up with two different reels during the course of this trip, an Abu Garcia Revo MGX and a Daiwa T3 Ballistic.


The result of all the specification and anticipation? My custom order ZBLE-5H handled the wood chopper beautifully and even worked well with the half ounce hair jigs we use down in the Amazon. Casting was effortless particularly with the Abu Garcia Revo MGX. This reel made a wonderful match for this stick keeping the combo light, easy to grip, and responsive.

Turns out it also handles jigs very well.

Back at home, fishing with the same combo on Clear Lake, CA, this heavy powered stick was even fine casting the light and refined Megabass Vision 110, so its tip loads well on a variety of lure types and weights.

As well as the Rapala XRap Subwalker.

Sensitivity: We remarked in our previous review regarding the surprising sensitivity of the ZBone sticks thanks to the high grade blanks Kistler uses from North Fork Composites. Nothing has changed over the last couple of years as our ZBLE-5H performed wonderfully in this department fishing everything from jigs in the Amazon to soft plastics back at home on Clear Lake, CA and the California Delta.

A closer look at the new Fuji split reel seat. Custom rod builders had been cutting seats for years and now Fuji is finally offering this configuration stock.

Sensitivity freaks know, the fewer components and weight installed on a blank the better a blank's efficiency in transmitting information to your hands. The minimalist build out on this particular stick with its spiral wrapped micro guides and split reel seat and rear grip enhances an already sensitive blank.

Our ZBone ZBLE-5H has a moderate fast taper, but plenty of power to subdue mean spirited peacock bass.

Next Section: Power to the "Z"nth degree









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