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Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

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2008/9/12 12:41
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This year I decided I would finally invest in a nice 9 foot, 6wt fast action rod for the Delaware (my 9 foot, 5 weight medium action WT rod just doesn’t cut it on the Delaware). I have anxiously been waiting for my local fly shop to receive their shipment of Winston BiiiX and Hardy Zenith rods after reading Yellowstone Angler’s 5wt shootout results. They finally arrived two weeks ago and since then I have test casted them 3 times (no/slight wind twice and extremely windy once). The store also carries Loomis and Sage so both the NRX and Z-Axis were also considerations (as was the Winston BiiMX) but I really wanted to focus on the BiiiX and Zenith rods. Each rod got a good workout, which included all your standard casts plus high stick nymphing simulation and single spey casts.

Although George Anderson’s comments were related to the 5 weight models, overall, I would have to say his comments about both rods, especially as it relates to performance at short, medium and long distances, are spot on the same for the 6 weight version. The BiiiX rod has incredible feel at close ranges and I would probably give the slight edge to the BiiiX at casting ranges up to 25 feet. And by slight, I mean slight. The BiiiX simply has a softer tip than the Zenith and has that classic Winston feel. It truly feels like my WT series rod except in a faster action version. The Zenith actually has incredible feel and is deadly accurate at short ranges too but it is a different feel than BiiiX – not better or worse just different. It’s difficult to explain and some may actually like the Zenith feel better but I personally liked the BiiiX feel better up to about 25 feet so that got my vote.

From 25 to 50 feet both rods felt incredible and are very capable of throwing tight and open loops accurately but the slightly stiffer tip on the Hardy rod enabled the Hardy rod to throw slightly tighter loops than the Winston rod. But honestly, both rods cast effortlessly, felt great, and I wouldn’t be disappointed with either for fishing within this range. I probably would call it a dead tie for performance within this range.

Now at distances above 50 feet is where the two rods definitely started to show separation, especially in windy conditions. Whereas at distances up to about 50 feet the Winston rod cast effortlessly, above 50 feet it felt like I was fighting the rod even with no wind. The tip just didn’t seem to have the strength to really support the line and it felt like I had to overpower the rod in order to build up line speed and accuracy suffered. (I also struggled to maintain tight loops.) Now I will be the first to admit that I’m not a proficient distance caster and very rarely cast much more than 30 feet of line but in no wind conditions I was able to cast up to about 60 feet of line somewhat accurately with the Winston rod but I never felt confident in the rod or got a comfortable feeling and the BiiiX topped out at about 75 feet and I had very little idea where the fly was actually going to land.

Now the Hardy rod was in a league of its own at distances greater than 50 feet and I was able to toss 70 feet of line with complete ease accurately (very similar to the NRX). At 65-70 feet the Zenith rod felt and cast as good and as easy as it did at 30 feet and when I concentrated on well timed double hauls I really got the line speed up and was tossing 80-85 feet of line pretty accurately and with tight loops (couldn’t manage to toss the whole line, though). And unlike the Winston rod where I was limited to about 40-45 feet of line on the pickup and needed one false cast before letting it go and inaccurately topping out inaccurately at 75 feet, the Hardy rod was easily snapping up 50-55 feet of line on the pickup and shooting it out to 70-75 feet accurately and with no false cast.

Now in windy conditions the Zenith rod blew the doors off the BiiiX – plain and simple. One of the days I went to test cast had a steady wind about 15mph with gusts up to about 30mph. Casting directly into the steady wind the Winston rod made it to about 45 feet with relative ease but beyond that I started to struggle and ultimately topped out at a very inaccurate 60-65 feet. So just like casting at greater distances under no wind conditions, I never felt comfortable or in control with the Winston rod. While I will not blame the rod for my lack of technique, I just never felt confident with the rod. When casting into the stronger gusts, the BiiiX topped out at about 50 feet.

The Hardy rod, however, was easily hitting 50 feet with very little effort and with a decent double haul I managed to reach out to 65-70 feet easily. In the stronger gusts I was able to reach about 55 feet pretty accurately and never felt like I was horsing or overpowering the rod. (Unlike the Winston rod, I felt complete confidence in the Hardy rod.) The results were similar at casting through the wind at a 45 and 90 degree angles. The Hardy rod is simply able to generate higher line speeds and tighter loops than the Winston rod and just significantly outperforms the Winston rod at longer distances and in windy conditions. And I fish Winston medium action rods so I am partial to Winston and really was pulling for the BiiiX.

While I did try the BiiMX, NRX and Z-Axis, it really still came down to the BiiiX and Zenith and up to 50 feet the two rods were essentially dead even (maybe a slight edge to the BiiiX) but I felt the Zenith’s performance at 50+ foot distances and in the wind would make it a better suited rod for Delaware conditions. I honestly was very skeptical about Anderson’s comments and very skeptical that a fly rod could perform equally well over a wide range of distances but somehow the Zenith does. And on top of this the Zenith rod is priced $110 cheaper than the BiiiX ($755 vs. $645). The only area where the Winston rod blows the doors off the Hardy rod is in the looks departments. Not many rods except maybe a Tom Morgan rod will beat Winston in the looks department.

As for the other rods, I really liked the NRX rod and this rod really gives the Zenith a run for its money at the longer distances. However, at shorter ranges, the BiiiX and Zenith have more feel.

The Z-Axis is a great rod and casts nice. I think it has slightly better close range feel than the NRX but I simply am not a Sage guy.

The BiiMX is a nice rod but it is very similar to the NRX rod – excels at greater distances. The BiiMX definitely has better feel at shorter ranges than the NRX and Z-Axis but not as nice as the BiiiX or even the Zenith.

Posted on: 2011/2/24 16:27


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2009/10/15 13:45
From Eastern PA
Posts: 10301
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GREAT review. I have a few Winstons, including the BIIIx, however if I was paying full retail it seems I would have to go with the Hardy rod. I thought the Hardy was supposed to be a few bucks more than the Winston.

One thing that people may take into consideration is the "Made In America" thing. So often folks have to sacrifice price for country of origin and here that is not the case.

Posted on: 2011/2/24 16:37


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith
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Joined:
2006/9/11 8:26
From Chester County
Posts: 9155
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Great rod review GW! I wish that all FFers would take their time and cast a few rods before making their decision on which rod fits them and is the best tool for the job. Thanks.

Posted on: 2011/2/25 7:37


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2007/5/25 23:37
From Downingtown
Posts: 238
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GreenWeenie,

Thanks for the post. Extremely informative and helpful for me partially because I have been weighing a big water wind stick and have been looking at the 5/6 in the Hardy, Z Axis and BIIIX.

Question on the Hardy - I'm assuming you got the 9 ft with the Half Wells grip. Did you look at/consider the 9ft6" Full wells /fighting butt model? If so, what were your thoughts?

Thanks

Posted on: 2011/2/25 13:07


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2009/10/15 13:45
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Posts: 10301
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Quote:

mrchunk wrote:
GreenWeenie,
partially because I have been weighing a big water wind stick


Why aren't you looking at the BIImx for big water high wind?

Posted on: 2011/2/25 13:12


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2007/5/25 23:37
From Downingtown
Posts: 238
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Quote:
Why aren't you looking at the BIImx for big water high wind?


Cuz I already have one in 5 wt and it is pretty good but not great when stretching over 25 ft or so


Posted on: 2011/2/25 15:36


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

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2008/9/12 12:41
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Correct, 9’ half wells grip. I looked at the 9’-6” version but really wanted to stay at 9’ max. If you are looking for a rod that can boom out line, the Loomis NRX is probably the best rod out there. It is a strong rod that actually feels pretty darn good too, it is very caster friendly, and is actually capable of working shorter distances but it doesn’t excel and have the feel like the BiiiX, Zenith and Z-Axis at short to medium range distances.

My two cents on the BiiiX, Zenith, Z-Axis and NRX are the BiiiX, Zenith and Z-Axis are probably the best choices if you are fishing distances of 15-60 feet (50 feet for the BiiiX) and the NRX is the best rod if you need to consistently reach out beyond 60+ feet. Not that the Zenith and Z-Axis can’t easily reach out to 70 feet, but if you are looking for a rod that will give you the most power/distance beyond 60 feet, the NRX has more power than the Z-Axis and Zenith. You just have to get by the finish.

Posted on: 2011/2/25 16:05


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2007/5/25 23:37
From Downingtown
Posts: 238
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Thanks. Let me say too that the primary purpose for my next purchase will be for big western rivers / boat rod. I've found that my B2mx 5 is sufficient in most cases but when the wind is really up, it gets gobbled up over 25 ft. I've tried my Sage VT2 6 and it is a bit too heavy for the many casts in similar situations. I'm thinking the Zenith 6 is probably the best fit here given the weight and power combo. I was only thinking 9'6" 6 with the expanded application of high water nymphing, steel head and possibly light salt applications. I will probably stick with the 9' 6 though.

Thanks

Posted on: 2011/2/25 16:26


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2009/10/15 13:45
From Eastern PA
Posts: 10301
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Quote:

mrchunk wrote:
Quote:
Why aren't you looking at the BIImx for big water high wind?


Cuz I already have one in 5 wt and it is pretty good but not great when stretching over 25 ft or so



I would go back to the dealer and have them check the rod for you. That is a high line speed, fast action rod. You should easily be able to shoot 60+ foot casts with great accuracy with a 5wt BIImx. The BIIIx is slower than the BIImx and you will never be able to get over the 25ft threshold with it if you can't with a BIImx.

Posted on: 2011/2/25 17:29


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

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2006/9/9 22:43
From Delaware Co.
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So what rod did you end up getting and why ?

Posted on: 2011/2/28 8:55
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Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2010/2/13 7:55
From Murrysville, PA
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GreenWeenie and Mrchunk, Did you both go for the 9ft 6wt Zenith? I decided I wanted to invest in my first high end rod this year. (I must admit the George Anderson Shootout got me to cast the Zenith) I wanted a high end rod for fishing small stuff around home but then also for my out west trip on the Bighorn and then Bitterroot, Clarkfork, Blackfoot rivers.

I actually have lost hours of sleep over this topic.

I bought a 9ft5wt, thinking it was a good middle of the road option. After a few sleepless nights I returned it for a 9ft 4 wt... A 4 wt is what I use 95% of the time at home so why did I get the 5 wt? The 4 will work well for my lighter rod out west. So for a minute I was fine having 1 high end rod and then fishing my older entry level 5 wt out west.

Well.... I have now convinced myself that I can justify buying a second nice rod this year specifically for my western fishing. I'm 95% sure I want to get the Zenith 9ft5 but am tempted to get the 6wt.

Thoughts? Perhaps I should just work every day between now and my trip and buy 3-4 more rods?

I promised myself I would not get sucked into the gear buying aspect of this sport but I am loving it.

Posted on: 2012/3/11 21:28


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

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2007/5/25 23:37
From Downingtown
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Pharmacist.

I ended up getting the Zenith 9 ft 6 wt. I couldn't be happier. I've taken it for a spin out west but didn't run into conditions last year requiring it's backbone but still fished it and my 9 ft 5 wt BIIMX as well. I used the 5 wt more when I was throwing dries on the Henrys and I used the 6 wt throwing big meat on the Madison and some other big rivers. It went thru the paces on a few streamer and nymph runs down the Big D here back home as well and it was excellent. Floating the D and driving big streamers up into the banks was effortless. The 6 wt zenith feels like a 5 wt in your hands and casts like it too. It thru smaller size dries when the time called for it just as well.

Posted on: 2012/3/11 22:53


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2012/2/5 12:28
From NE PA
Posts: 120
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Excellent review, and congrats on your new stick.

I was going to post about my new St. Croix Legend Ultra, but it seems inconsequential compared to a Hardy Zenith.

Posted on: 2012/3/12 17:13

Edited by NorthBranch on 2012/3/12 17:58:52
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Catch and Release fishing is a lot like golf. You don't have to eat the ball to have a good time.


Re: Winston BiiiX vs. Hardy Zenith

Joined:
2011/7/19 17:27
Posts: 12
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I am a dyed in wool Winston guy but cast the BIIIX six weight and Sage One back to back and the Sage One six was simply awesome. I have a five weight BIIIX and love it but needed a drift boat rod for the Delaware system. I also cast the Zenith last Summer and felt it was a little lifeless to me. Sage One blows it away.

However, this is as they say one guy's opinion

Posted on: 2012/3/13 21:40






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