Good evening All,
I was fortunate enough to test out the new Blackhole Cow Special 3rd generation blank on my recent 14 day trip on the Intrepid. As usual the guys at Bob Sands Tackle in Van Nuys, Ca. did a perfect custom wrapping job. Also, as usual, I set this rig up with a longer butt section and front grip section so I can both rail rod and harness fish the rig.
I really tried to give this rod a workout for everything from fly lining sardines, weighted work using sardines and squid for bait as well as using it on drop type jigs. I was fortunate enough to hook up to two big fish but only landed one... bummer. Though it was not a cow it weighed in at the dock at 197 pounds so close enough for testing. The one that chewed through was bigger as we saw the bite. For this test I set my strike at 30 pounds but as usual my intent is to get about 24- 25 pounds of drag on the first run by only going about 2/3's of the way on the drag lever until the fish has really set the connections on that first run. From there my intent was to fish this rod with at least 30 pounds of drag. Unfortunately, twice, my 30 pound drag settings by pull gauge felt like 20 pounds on the first run and therefore both fish dumped a ton of line from my reels until I could get the main drag knob, or in one case Dave Taylor helped me get that drag knob set while I thumbed the spool. The good news is these events allowed me to just place the butt of the rod, with a gimbal, into my plate, get the harness set, place the fore-grip of the rod on the rail and just crank to test the rod. This allowed me to place full pressure on the fish with little affect on my rapidly aging body. With my now smaller diameter spool the drag setting would actually be higher than 30 pounds until I gained a bunch of line back.
It is important to note most all of us who have had experience with cows in the past felt these particular fish were as tough or tougher than any we had previously dealt with. These Tuna were built like tanks and fought like wildcats so this was a great test for the rod.
Upon inspection and comparison to it's predecessor this generation 3 is definitely a bit beefier and just slightly heavier. However, it is still smaller in diameter and lighter than the Calstars and Super Seekers. Though I prefer a ultra stiff rod I felt the bend pattern of this rod was excellent and compared very well with the Venerable SS 2 X 4, Calstar 770XXH and Phoenix 3X but not as stiff as the 3X or 4X Calstars, Super Seekers or newest Phoenix 4X and certainly no where close to the SS 3 X 5.
Getting back to the battle it was clear this rod could be railed and or harnessed with no problem at all. At 30 pounds of drag I simply put the reel into low and cranked non stop until the fish came up. The first fight was less than 30 minutes and would have been less had the reel not dumped over 500 yds of line on that first run. Cranking in low for 550 yds or so is just not that fun but none the less the rod handled the event perfectly. Once the fish was up and down it was not problem getting it past death circle very quickly as I bumped the drag lever to close to 35 pounds as I went past strike. Again, no problem for the rod or me as the shut off seemed to be in the right place. Plenty of buffer in the first 1/3rd of the rod blending into a very nice shut off.
I really only had to actually lift the rod just prior to the gaff as the rest of the time I could just keep the fore-grip on the rail.
As I mentioned before, the second hook up on a big fish resulted in the same dumping of line as the first. I was not real happy with that but it had nothing to do with the rod. I will be taking those reels to the manufacturer to analyze what might have happened but once again I got strapped in, put the rod on the rail and was having a great time chatting up the fight as I noted joked around with those around me cranking 30 pounds of drag while in a harness and with the foregrip on the rail was just too easy. I probably go a little too carried away with the trash talking about how well the harness/rail combination works but that is just part of the fun. No problem with the rod but at some point the fish charged the boat. Since I am fairly used to this happening I am quick to make sure the reel is in high gear and I crank as fast as possible to keep the line from going slack. In this case I had a circle hook on and was very confident I was going to land this bigger model. Too confident as it turns out as when I came fully tight again I could feel the line was rubbing on the fishes mouth and the brute was giving some vicious head shakes. NOT a good feeling especially since I was using 100 pound Mono. 10 minutes into the fight the fish won his freedom by chewing through. The good news was the fish was getting close to the boat when this happened showing the ability of this rod to put the wood to the fish.
In my opinion, for the majority of fishermen out there, this 3rd generation is a great rod. Fished out of a harness or on the rail those who are not really trying to put the hard wood and beef to the fish will really like this stick as it can handle the stress but is lighter and smaller in diameter than its competitors. Most anglers I am watching to date are not putting the hardwood to the fish and are simply taking more time to land their fish for various reasons. For those of us who prefer stiffer rods such as the SS 3 X 5, SS 6463 XXXXH or 3X/4X 770 Calstar and now the new Phonix 4X for this application, especially if those anglers are putting a ton of drag to the fish on the rail and can pull hard, then this might not be the rod for you. But for the majority of anglers this Blackhole cow special 3rd generation from Kilsong and Blackhole is going to be a great option.
As far as a rod for dropping jigs it worked great for west coast style jigs. If you are looking for more of the Butterfly technique this may be a bit too stiff for that application but I did try it. Unfortunately the Yellowfin were not interested in Asian drop jigs of any kind nor West Coast heavy drop jigs at all. Really strange as it seemed we were metering fish at night yet could not even get a tap on any of the rigs we tried. However for pulling nice quality Yellowtail away from structure this rig handled it with ease. Those buggers never had a chance.
Here is a photo of my and the fish I actually landed. The one which chewed through was clearly ugly and not worth my time to land or be photographed with..... Hey, its my fantasy and I will believe what I want. By the way I am the one on the right....