ITB Fly Rod by Risen Fly
Towards the end of last year Ryan at Risen Fly approached me about field testing the soon to be released ITB rods. As you may have read in my blog “7 Innovative Companies You Should Know About”, Risen Fly is a web based fly fishing shop focused on value driven products. That said, the ITB rods will retail around $135 and compete with the likes of St. Croix, TFO, Redington, etc. While I’ve received products from companies in the past they came no strings attached, but the unspoken message of “if you like it, let others know about.” In those situations I prided myself on two things: 1) free product shouldn’t cost the integrity of a review, and 2) if I liked it I reciprocated more than the product value in goodwill. So I was relieved when Ryan asked for an honest review to improve the product before offering it up to the public, not just lip service. Here is the exact message accompanying the rod:
“Thanks for taking some time to check out our first series of fly rods. We wanted to get them in the hands of people in the fishing industry to test out before we fully take them to market. Please fish this rod hard and after you put it to the test fill out the following survey.
Please rank all questions from 1-10 and make any comments you would like. This rod will come in around $135. Warranty claims will be the lesser of the repair charge (something minor) or $25 to replace broken sections. Manufacturing defects are covered without a fee.
We are marketing this rod as a great quality rod to have as a main rod, but not a budget breaker. We expect these rods to compare to makers like Temple Fork Outfitters and Redington so please rank accordingly.”
The category questions included:
So with that in mind I took the rod to the water paired with an Orvis Battenkill reel. Below is the actual review I sent back with some minor stylistic edits to improve readability.
Fit and Finish/Visual appeal:
Case – I really like the shape of the rod case which is triangular and different from any of the others I own or have seen, making it really stand out. The clever design keeps it in place and not rolling around when transporting. The rod name sewn into the case and a personal ID slot is a nice touch when traveling. Again, two features I don’t see on other rod cases I own. Overall it seems well constructed. My only negative is the color. The rod is beautifully done in burnt orange and the case looks tangerine. I’d love to see the case reflect the color of the rod more closely.
Bag/Sock – I like the screen print of the rod name on the bag and the layout works. While the rest of the packaging and rod the expectation of the price, the bag doesn’t match up. Not sure how that impacts the overall cost and maybe it is a little thing, but I really like the feel of a cloth bag (Consequently when I sent the review in Ryan was already reworking this aspect and it has since been changed).
Rod – The color of the case and bag brought the overall score down, but I give high marks for the rod aesthetics. The components finish the rod well and rival any I own. The shape of the reel seat is unique with the beveled design. The cork looks and feels great and the wrapping is well done. Markings along the rod blank are subtle, but provide indication for alignment and identification which is a nice feature. One piece of information missing is the overall weight (in ounces) of the rod. Not sure if it’s important, but I like having the ounces listed on my rods. This may be similar to listing GPA on a resume and was intentionally left off, but the rod feels comparable to the more expensive 5 weights I own. There were a couple of very minor blemishes on the rod finish itself just below the alignment guides on almost every piece. May just be cosmetic, and didn’t affect the performance. The color choice is great and the wraps complement the look well.
Casting up to 25 feet Overall not bad. Felt a little stiff at “short” range, but improved at further distance. Streamers and heavier nymph rigs cast well throughout distance while dries and lighter rigs didn’t load the blank as well. The rod was as accurate as the caster.
Casting up to 50 feet I thought this is where the rod shined in the 25-50 foot range. It loaded well and again was accurate with dries, streamers, nymphs, etc.
Price/Value I did some comparison shopping at one of the big box stores and this rod is priced in a very competitive space. Only the $250-$500 range carried more inventory and will be compared with the Echo’s, TFO’s, Redington’s, and St. Croix’s models. All make very nice rods. I think this is the only point of entry for a new company breaking into the rod business. Price is a very important aspect when someone embarks into fly fishing, but creating brand loyalty and overall product offering catering to this audience is also important. Big box stores do well because they offer a large selection, low cost options, packages and one stop comparison shopping. Risen Fly’s business strategy works towards similar goals. That’s a long way of saying I think the price point is right. $135 feels like enough separation from $150 which looks like a price break based on my window shopping. It would be nice to have a reel under $100 to compliment it as well. I think the beginning/value angler will struggle spending more for a reel than a rod and the goal should be to capture both sales. Just a thought.
Warranty Warranty is tough to judge without having all the business information. As a consumer we love lifetime warranties with little to no out of pocket expense. I’m sure the warranty provided is comparable to others in the class. But since I don’t know the business cost it’s tough to value. If it doesn’t break the bank and similar rods offer similar warranties then this is a chance to separate. Customer retention will be won or lost on the service. Those that do it right have a cult following, those who don’t bleed customers. My thought is that if you believe in the product and it’s not going to bankrupt you, give as much as you can here.
Desirability/Gotta have it! If I were on the market for a new rod, at this price range and some of the items mentioned were addressed this would certainly be on my short list. Of course I had the benefit of casting first. One disadvantage to an online shop is the lack of opportunity for folks to handle these rods. Reviews, price and its look will get folks to consider a purchase, and once they have had a chance to fish them customers will stay based on performance, customer service and warranty.
“That's exactly what I was looking for. Thanks. Already taking care of the rod sock. Didn't think about it when I ordered it, and go figure the cheapest one available was used. One of very few things we're planning on changing.”
There is so much information and opinions on products these days making us more informed consumers. That doesn’t necessarily equal an easier decision making process. Through various platforms we help each other make better decisions, but the information is only as good as the person sharing it. I know others had a chance to work these rods over like Dub the Thorax and Eat My Fly Outfitters. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind sharing their opinions if you dropped them a line, but everything I saw coming from them was extremely positive. It’s humbling to be a part of shaping a product and I like the way Ryan/Risen Fly approached the release of these rods. Ryan had already thought through a lot of what I mentioned, and every interaction Risen Fly gives me reason to believe in the company.
To round out a 360 evaluation of this rod, I’m giving one away to a random audience member (think Oprah and look under your seat). My only request is that if you win, test the rod for a couple months and then drop me a line to let me know what you think and the rod is yours to keep.
Congratulations Christopher C. winner of the ITB Rod Giveaway
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