I recently visited Brent Auger and Brandon Moon of DRAGONtail Tenkara and had a chance to get a detailed look at a new tenkara rod prototype code named the “IceWING zx390“. Like their highly successful DRAGONtail Mutant zx380, the IceWING zx390 is a triple position rod. But unlike the Mutant, the IceWING uses their proprietary method of incorporating a small amount of fiberglass into the graphite at strategic locations along the blank. This gives the rod added strength and imparts a sweet, smooth action that graphite alone can’t achieve.
Brent loaned me the IceWING zx390 prototype so that I could test and fish with it. Lucky me! He did want me to clarify that although the current name is the IceWING zx390, the name and cosmetics may be changed for the finalized version.
Like most of DRAGONtail’s tenkara rods, the IceWING has an overall coloration of dark graphite and has a matte, non-glare finish. The rod designation is turquoise in color, and the lower sections all have turquoise accent rings on their tip ends.
The handle is very good quality cork, with leading and trailing cork composite rings. It has a classic hyotan gourd or double hump shape. True to DRAGONtail’s design goals, its curves are neither too aggressive nor too weak, but are “just right” for a comfortable and secure hold on the rod.
Like the other DRAGONtail offerings, the IceWING zx390 is planned to be released with two different tip caps. You get both the standard insert plug and a universal tip cap. You decide which you’d like to use. The tip plug has a loop of extra lilian material, just in case you have to do a field repair. The butt cap is black nylon plastic with a zoom segment retention post, is knurled and has a coin slot. No decompression hole is present.
In this prototype version of the IceWING, the lilian is red, of generous length and is attached to the tip section via excellently executed glue joint. The tip segment easily passes through the second (from tip) segment so the rod can be fully disassembled for drying and cleaning. I know I’m biased, but I hope that the finalized version of the IceWING forgoes the problematic micro-swivel.
|Extended Lengths||287 cm / 9′ 5″ |
341 cm / 11′ 2″
390 cm / 12′ 10″
|Nested Length (with tip plug)||70 cm / 27.6 inches|
|Cork Grip Length||25 cm / 10 inches|
|Weight (without tip plug)||90.3 g / 3.2 ounces|
|RFI:||3.5 / 4:6, Slow, Full Flex|
3 / 4:6, Slow, Full Flex
2.7 / 4:6, Slow, Full Flex
|Rotational Moment @ 390 cm||6.5|
I cast the IceWING using a 380 cm #3 line, with 3 feet of tippet attached. The rod casts very smoothly and has a rich, full flex action. It feels somewhat similar to the Mutant, but better. It’s hard to put into words, but in my hands the IceWING feels less wobbly when full extended. It cast my #3 line with plenty of control and conviction.
The rod’s balance is very good to excellent, even when fully extended. As “zoom” rods often suffer from having their balance and dynamics degrade when fully extended, DRAGONtail has focused on designing a “zoom” rod that has excellent balance and dampening at all usable lengths. Although I’m not convinced that a “zoom” rod will ever feel as good as a fixed length tenkara rod, the newer generation DRAGONtail rods are getting pretty close.
The fish I caught were nothing to challenge the rod. But the 10-14 inch rainbows and brown were great fun on the IceWING. Hook sets were solid and long-line releases were rare. Despite some current, I felt in control of the fight and really enjoyed the encounters. Here is a video I put together of some of the fish that I took using the IceWING. I fished a level line and unweighted kebari.
I liked the IceWING zx390. It’s a smooth casting rod and although it has a soft, full flex action, it sets the hook and controls fish well. Because it has DRAGONtail’s proprietary blend of graphite and fiberglass (like the DRAGONtail Kaida and FoxFIRE) it holds the promise of being able to manage fish a little larger than the DRAGONtail Mutant. Rod dynamics such as balance and dampening are very good to excellent, and casting a light level line seems to be what this rod has been designed for.
Again, it should be noted that since this rod is a prototype, it’s name, coloration and other minor details may change for the production runs. When talking with Brent, he doesn’t have a specific date for release of this rod, as he wants to make sure that the finalized production rod will be as perfect as he can get it. In other words, if you are interested in this rod, please be patient! Production of the IceWING zx390 will come, but it may be a little while. For more details, contact DRAGONtail Tenkara.
Disclaimer: My opinion regarding this rod is just that, my opinion. Your opinion may differ. Also, your rod may not have the same length, issues, or functionality as my rod. There are variations between rods, even in the same production run. No description can fully tell you how a rod feels or fishes. For this, you must personally hold, cast, and fish the rod, then make up your own mind. I was loaned the IceWING zx390 prototype and I returned it to DRAGONtail after this review.
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