By Louis Cahill
I have loved Winston fly rods since I cast one for the first time, but this is something completely different.
I just got my hands on a Winston B3 Plus 11 weight and took it to the Florida Keys for tarpon. I only own a couple of Winston fly rods but they have been among my favorite trout rods for a long time. When it came to saltwater, however, I have always favored rods with a much faster action. Anyone who fishes the salt will no doubt understand.
Winston has become synonymous with the word “feel.” Largely thanks to their own marketing, and “feel” has become synonymous with “slow.” For years that has been fairly accurate, but recently rod designers have taken advantage of new technologies the make rods with both powerful actions and feel. It’s a very exciting trend and think history will remember the rods of this era as a turning point in rod design on par with the shift from fiberglass to graphite.
The Winston B3 Plus is a classic example. This rod is as good as any fast action rod on the market today. Better, in fact, than a great many. I believe it’s a turning point for Winston. A watershed moment when a classic brand with one of the most revered histories in fly fishing stepped firmly into the future.
I have a pretty nice selection of 11 weights. 11 is kind of a magic number for me. It is the perfect rod weight for tarpon, in my opinion, but it’s also the point where rod designers and casters alike start to struggle with castability. While a 10 weight is an easier rod for most anglers to cast, and I know a lot of anglers who fish them for tarpon, they don’t have the authority of the larger rods. As we move to the 11 weight, we have some serious fish fighting power, but the rod becomes more physically demanding to cast. I think you can tell a lot about a family of fly rods by fishing the 11. Everyone has a good 5 weight, a good 11 is a gem.
The B3 Plus has quickly become one of my favorites.
It has a remarkably powerful action without sacrificing feel. If that is vague to you, what I mean is that this rod lets you know when it loads. If you are in the top 1% of skilled fly casters, this may not be important to you, but if you are not, its importance can not be overstated.
We all know that saltwater fly fishing is incredibly challenging. It requires skill that is somewhere between science and magic. It is the kind of fishing where absolutely everything has to come together, including your gear. If you are at the point where you don’t understand how a fly rod can be worth $800, you don’t understand the salt.
Here are a couple of the challenges you face and how a really well-designed fly rod like the B3 Plus helps you meet them. There is always wind. Don’t waste another second of your life debating that. If you can’t cast in the wind, you need to learn how, and you need a rod that’s up to the challenge.You need a long leader and you need to turn it over completely, every time. Yes, into the wind. A good saltwater rod has to be able to do both of those things, but we’re not done.
Sure, you need to make an 80-foot cast but you also need to make a 30-foot cast quickly and accurately.
You need a rod that loads quickly with a short line, but is capable of carrying 60 feet of line in the air. You need a rod that will form a laser tight loop but still land the fly delicately. You need a rod that will pick up the entire head from the water, throw a tight, accurate cast with no false casting, and still let you know when the fly line is straight behind you, without looking away from the target. That’s a hell of a lot to ask. It’s the kind of problem that keeps rod designers awake at night.The B3 Plus does all of this and, in addition, offers you the power to fight the toughest big game species. It’s one of the best big game rods I’ve fished.
I’m excited about this for a couple of reasons. It’s an amazing tool that I’m excited to have in my bag. This rod is going to put me on a lot of tarpon and what’s not to love about that? But I’m also excited about what this means for high performance rods across the spectrum. I have not fished the other models of the B3 Plus, I’m told by friends I trust that the entire line is solid, including the 5 and 6 weights for streamer enthusiasts.
Most of all, I am excited to see a rod company I love turn a crucial corner. Critics have long dismissed Winston rods as old fashioned trout-centered sticks losing relevance in the sport. You can’t say that about this rod. It is a forward looking line cannon that stands up to anything on the market. That makes me very happy and it makes our sport stronger over all.
ENOUGH OF THE WARM FUZZY STUFF, HERE’S WHAT YOU GET IN THE B3 PLUS.
Action A very modern action on par with the very best cutting edge rod designs. Rods like the Scott Meridian, T&T Solar and Orris H2. Fast action that doesn’t compromise feel. High recovery rate without stiffness and tippy action. The B3 Plus lets you have it all.
Quality Legendary Winston fit and finish and unsurpassed blank strength along with quality components that will last a lifetime. This is a high performance rod that will not spend half its life in the warranty department.
Effortless Line Shooting The magic of the B3 Plus isn’t all in the blank. The guides on this rod are designed to pump out line like a fire hose. That’s huge in saltwater and streamer fishing. Why carry line when you can shoot it?
Strength Yep, it’s got boron. This can be a highly debated topic. Boron fibers are much thicker than carbon fibers. They add a bit of weight to the blank and some folks can’t deal with that but as far as I’m concerned it’s a non-issue. As long as the rod does not feel heavy in the hand and the weight doesn’t affect the action, I’m willing to carry a few tenths of an ounce if it pays me back in fighting power and durability. Mark this up to personal preference.
If this sounds good to you, get out to your local shop and cast a B3 Plus. Forget what you think you know about Winston rods, this one is a different animal and in all of the right ways.