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Blackhole Challenger and Cape Cod Special reviews

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#1 fishordie

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 08:36 PM

I recently returned from a 15 day on the wonderful Royal Polaris where I continued to have a chance to play with some very new Blackhole Challenger rods and to continue playing with some of my older B.H. Popping rods. It is rather interesting to note that with the latest influx of newer long ranger the amount of folks throwing and dropping artificial lures has multiplied dramatically. Where in the past there might have only been a few of us throwing artificial lures in front of the bait tanks or in the bow we now are looking for open spaces between other jig slingers. Even on a Wahoo bite, I am and have been seeing more artificial throwers than bait slingers for the last year or two. If I were a selfish person I would note something to the effect that this sort of swing "Sucks" but since I have been preaching the joys of artificial work in conjunction with the fun of fishing bait for years, I am very happy more folks are trying and sticking with these techniques in order to really get more out of long ranging. 

I do believe, with this wonderful increase in angler participation with artificial lures, the door has been opened here on the West Coast to what many anglers from around the world have known for years. The move to develop and use lighter yet stronger materials in the creation of rod blanks has taken the industry into the next direction. Smaller diameter and lighter weight rods, in conjunction with more efficient reels, means the majority of anglers can make more casts, drop more drops, cast further, retrieve better, and with proper technique land fish faster. We now are reinforcing the concept that more anglers are willing and able to try poppers and surface iron to yield the immediate gratification of that visual blow up on the lure or the tug of the drop jig, without the need to continually go to the bait tank and we see we are almost catering to the newer approach that this fast paced world has yielded. This all adds up to anglers finding they are having even more fun, with a wider variety of techniques, than in times past. For too many years, slinging artificial lures were relegated to only the best casters as the majority would only throw a few times before getting tired of back lashes, short throws or the pain that comes when un-used muscles come into play for casting while pain or aches set in. Today, everyone who has the desire to use artificial lures gets to play if they just spend a little time practicing. 

So, with all that in mind, I have been so fortunate to have been able to watch and play with the amazing rods that Blackhole continues to develop over these last many years. For those who are unaware, Blackhole is a very large rod builder company who continues to push the envelope of technology to produce some of the finest blanks and rods on the market. Although I have been using their Cape Cod Popping and Jigging rods successfully for several years now, Blackhole's decision to break into the West Coast market has yielded the new Challenger series. 

With this new Challenger series I am somewhat reminded of my espousing the use of smaller reels for bigger fish starting in 2004/2005. Though my results were amazing I did catch some heat from some very experienced anglers, skippers and crew members who were steeped in the tradition of big fish were only caught on big reels. The notion that anything under a 50 or 50 wide would be used to catch cows was simply barbaric and would be a detriment to the sport. In my opinion it was not that 50 size reels were too big rather the amazing new reels coming to market gave the angler a choice to go smaller without burning up the reel with higher drag pressures to offset being spooled by big fish vs. the old days were the choices were limited. Those who chose to go smaller felt they had a more stealthy and maneuverable rig in their hands. Many have never gone back to 50 size reels or bigger except on their kite rigs. 

Most anyone who has fished with my in the last many years know I have put my Blackhole rods through hell on bigger fish using high drag settings. My Cape Cod Popping rods have withstood the ongoing torture of 40 pounds of drag from my Stella Spinners while being rail rodded on their sides with the rod bent to the max as well as being fished using the old style pump and wind technique. I have yet to break one and believe me, I have tried. As a note, I never "High Stick" as any rod will break should the angler make the mistake of performing this dastardly deed. 

The Challenger series takes this light weight/small diameter approach to the next level for both bait and artificial lures. Because I was curious to see if a conventionally wrapped rod was any different that a Spinner type rod I received 1 of each style in the following configurations. Though the blanks are identical there is a slight difference in bend patters between the different styles but not enough to make any noticeable difference in performance:

The Challenger 761 MH, 801M and 801H along with the amazing new Tai rod. Unfortunately, the Tai rod came with the tip broken so I was unable to use it as my intent was to take what appears to be a Blackhole trout rod and use it for bigger fish to show what this technology can do. I already know Kil has taken this little, tiny rod and caught very, very large fish with it but I really was looking forward to using it here on the West Coast. Bummer but it will be repaired and used on my next long range trip. Each of these blanks was used successfully to catch long range style fish. I did not use these Challenger rods for the giants but I did use the Black hole popping rods for that application and which they performed perfectly.

The first thing one notices when picking up any one of these Challenger rods is the amazing light weight but it is when the rod is flexed that the angler is astounded by the amount of backbone these exhibit. Every angler who has pulled on these rods starts out thinking they can be fairly relaxed when they bend the rod and then realize they must give serious attention to their own posture and positioning in order not to be pulled over by recoil of these amazing tools. The smiles and cries of astonishment really reinforce the technology Blackhole as infused into these rods.

I believe the 761 and 801M configuration are phenomenal bait sticks be it for Albacore, Yellowtail, small and medium tuna and Wahoo. No doubt hey can handle bigger fish when put in the hands of an experienced angler but for the majority of anglers, this is how I would use them. I interchanged several reels on these rods using everything from a Shimano Saragossa 10K to a Shimano Trini A 30 to a Shimano Tranx to a Daiwa 400 Lexa. No doubt I preferred the smaller reels on these rods for stealth but the fact is these rods can hold up to most anything an angler fishing 40 or even 50 pound string can throw at it. For 20 - 30 pound work, normally associated with our local and short long range applications these things are simply phenomenal. Put a bigger reel to hold more line capacity and use these to go for those picky Blue Fin when they are only eating 25 pound string. 

The Challenger 801 H is my favorite for most all applications as the rod just fits my needs almost perfectly. I say almost in that the only thing I would change on all of these rods would be to put a longer fore-grip on it. The reel seat and rear grips are already located perfectly and are top of the line components. Fuji is used on the factory rods for reel seats and guides. I highly suggest all anglers look at their reel seat locations for casting rigs on other brands as too many folks pick rods which are too short, from butt to reel seat, and will notice a real and verifiable feel when they go to lengths that are a little longer than usual. This rod is a super, multi functioning rod in that it can fish bait, lighter artificial lures as well as bombs or jigs for wahoo. I fished mine with my usual 100 pound short top shot and 100 pound Spectra to throw bombs to Wahoo and jigs to Tuna and Yellowtail. Though I did not use this rod for bait, the rod performed flawlessly on artificial lures. For those looking at an all purpose stick for those 8 day and under trips or for fishing Wahoo, this rod is awesome in both the conventional and spinner versions. Absolutely worth comparing all the Blackhole Challenger series rods to any and all west or east coast rods.  

if you are not here today you could not have been here yesterday and I NEVER want to hear.... You should have been here yesterday. When in doubt go fishing.

Teach a child to fish and they will never go hungry. Teach a parent to fish and they will always have something of value to teach their children.

We need more father's teaching their daughter's how to fish so our sons will have someone worthwhile to marry, date.... or at least hook up with.

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