Sage Salt R8 Rod // Saltwater Rod Thoughts and Review
I first test casted all the models, and decided to pull the trigger on one of these for an upcoming trip. In this article I'll break down each rod that I personally tested and my thoughts.
I personally chose a 9 weight which somehow has eluded my quiver over all these years, and excited about the Salt R8 rods. I'm taking it fishing for Baby Tarpon in April, STOKED. Although I test and fish a lot of different brands, Sage has been my go-to rod brand more than any other over the years. When its time to fish... I just reach for a Sage more than any other... except in the saltwater realm. In the past 10 years I haven't landed on a Sage Saltwater rod that I was madly in love with. I wanted to... but it was a forced relationship. The predecessor to the Salt R8 was the Salt HD and it didn't give off good vibes. It was a hell of a fish fighting tool, but folks couldn't perform their best casts. It didn't have a friendly power curve.
Now we have the Salt R8. It's Sage's 8th revolution of graphite, and its a "friendly bender" that rebounds with great line speed. No complaints. There are lots of other more detailed reviews on the materials, guide spacing, etc. If you are shopping, surf around. Read all of this. I'll offer a few of my thoughts and line pairings based on my history with the rod thus far. I will include Sage's flagship video as well.
Salt R8 Rods I have Casted and Tested
I have cast the 6,7,8,9,10, and 11 weight rods. I skipped the 12 and 15 weights. My arm was pretty tired from puttin' the hammer down casting these rods. I thought they were all fine rods, no runts. Below are my thoughts on the rods, with the lines I would pair up.
Before You Begin... Get a Free Line at Red's
We carry a big inventory. Before you go start shopping around for the best deal, keep this in mind. If our shop shows an R8 in stock its actually HERE. No backorders, no drop shipping from Sage. It's here and will ship same day. If you put a fly line in the cart with an R8, it will ring up FREE at checkout along with free shipping. Buy a reel, and we'll spool it all up. As you shop around, remember you can trust Red's to ship it right, fast, and take care of any problems that might arise.
A Few Details on the Rod Overall Package:
You can learn about R8 Technology, materials, etc. on the Sage website, I won't get into the details. At $1,100 we hold this rod to an extremely high standard and it seems to have met all of them as far as "overall value" goes in comparison to other comparable models.
- Fun to cast (as far as salt rods go)
- Seems trustworthy and durable (taken these on two week long salt trips, hearing good things from customers about reliability thus far).
- Plenty of power
- Well thought out first stripping guide (anti tangle angle)
- Fine cork, nice reel seat.
- Nice looking tube, sock is above average. Love the quick lock retainer string.
Salt R8 Video Review and Tips for Heavy Rods
Salt R8 6 Weight Review
Line Tested and Approved
RIO Outbound Short WF6 (sinking or floating), both jam.
Sage Salt R8 7 Weight Review
Lite duty Bonefish? Ok, I can go with that. This was one of the nicest casting rods in the line-up, paired up with RIO Elite Flats PRO WF7W line... it was butter. Very nice tradeoff using the lighter rod, slightly heavier line (compared to a Bonefish taper) and this made it so easy and nice to cast. Plenty of reserve power. Typically I like 8 weight rods minimum for everything in the salt, they hold up better and can do bigger and tougher jobs if necessary.
HOWEVER. The Salt R8 7 weight would be an exception for me if I had any fatigue or joint issues in my casting arm, was newer to saltwater fishing and wasn't planning on blasting 80' Hail Mary shots into the wind. For calculated shots at sub 50', which is most shots, this is a great combo.
Line(s) Tested and Approved
Sage Salt R8 8 Weight Review
This is the core of the lineup here. It was a fairly big jump to the #8, and you can feel it in the rod(s) when you have the 7 and the 8 side by side. If I were buying one Sage Saltwater Rod... this would be it. Super Bonefish rig, and strong enough to toss Permit crabs, Baby Tarpon flies, Snook minnows, and most light in shore species. 8 weights are my favorite. I've found them to be the happy-medium between a heavy lifter and a light tackle rod. The Sage R8 8 Weight is built with what feels like just the right lifting power, casting power, and a forgiving mid section so you don't feel like you have to hit the throttle hard for a 25' touch cast.
I was told that this rod liked a slightly "buff" taper like a Flats Pro or a RIO Premier Redfish line. I was also told it didn't like a traditional Bonefish taper like the RIO Elite Bonefish. That was wrong. This rod ate line up no matter the taper and the pairing of the RIO Elite Bonefish and the Salt R8 8 Weight is a deadly sniper rig for an experienced caster that wants to reach out. You do have to have some head length out for it to "feel good" though.
Lines Test and Approved:
RIO Elite Flats Pro WF8F (easy caster, great at sub 60' beyond that you'll lose some accuracy) - Snook, Baby Tarpon, Permit, or other Grand Slam Applications.
RIO Elite Bonefish WF8F (excellent choice for Bonefish anglers that can double haul and have a solid cast). Very accurate at long ranges.
RIO Premier Redfish WF8F (didn't test the XP version)
Sage Salt R8 9 Weight Review
This is the rod that I personally have. Love it, not a big jump to the #9 from the #8 IMO. A bit heavier, but not totally different creatures. I wanted this rod for Baby Tarpon, but it will be as a super stick for lots of flats critters. I can see myself using it for lots of resident Tarpon, Redfish, and Permit.
Lines Tested and Approved:
RIO Elite Flats Pro WF9F (easy caster, great at blasting for distance but not awkward in close)
RIO Elite Permit Line WF9F - Casts a lot like the Flats Pro but has a little extra beef in the front for turning over heavy crabs at the end for a quality presentation.
There are lots of lines for Stripers, Tarpon, Redfish, and more that this rod would be happy to give free rides too. I just didn't test any others.
Sage Salt R8 10 Weight Review
This is where things get "salty". The jump from the #9 to the #10 feels bigger as I'm sure the rod designers knew that anglers reaching for a double digit weight need it to have some serious lifting power when pulling on Tarpon and Pelagics like Roosterfish, Dorado, GT's, Jacks, Cuda and some other nasty critters.
You'll really see a big jump here. IMO this rod is too much for Permit casts, and I would hate it in the Mangroves for juvy Tarpon. I would definitely take it for mid-sized Tarpon, most GT's (Lord willing Christmas Island opens again someday!), and maybe Roosterfish but I prefer a little buffer rod for the big East Cape Roosters where I often fish. 98% of Roosters are fine on this rod however.
It's going to be tough, reliable, and a great stick for tough critters.
Lines Tested and Approved:
RIO Elite Flats PRO WF10F - Awkward at 20-30' but hey, what isn't on a powerhouse #10 rod? Starts coming to life at 40'.
RIO Tropical Outbound Short WF10F/I - This is the line I like for Roosters and Dorado. It blasts line, no power limitations. Fine for short fast casts. Would be a tough combo in the Mangroves however. On the heavy side and the line just wants to run away on you into the brush.
Sage Salt R8 11 Weight Rod Review
Tarpon Tamer. I'm sure it would be happy to tame other species like GT's, Roosters, and big Dorados. Its a beef stick and felt more like a lot of my 12 weights, but it casted easier than a lot of other 10 weights I've had. It just feels strong. The #11 has become the preferred Tarpon stick for most Florida Keys guides and this rod will be very popular no doubt. That's where they tested all the prototypes!
I didn't spend a tremendous amount of time on this rod, but I did through the cast the new RIO Tarpon Line with the clear floating tip. It was a nice match and casted better at close range than I thought it would. Especially in low light, Tarpon can be right at the boat so whatever combo you land on make sure you can throw a quick 20-30' shot.
Line(s) Tested and Approved:
Sage R8 12 and 15 Weight Rods
While I didn't cast these rods, if you are looking for a heavy lifter you have a few options here. The 12 wt. with the FG (fighting grip) is a good choice for light billfish, Costa Rica Tarpon, many Tuna, big Roosters, and other bluewater fish. Once you go full Marlin or big Sailfish... grab the 15 weight.
I may take the #12 to Baja this year and test it, I'm sure it will launch a RIO Outbound all the way across the Sea of Cortez, but I already have some rods I really like for that fishery.