Apia Foojin’RS – First ImpressionsBen Field
I’ve been talking about these rods for months. All of the available information suggests that the new Foojin’RS rods from Japanese legends, Apia, should be something a bit special.
Would they be?
On 3 January 2023 they finally landed at AOF headquarters.
I was up to my armpits trying to fix our very broken website at the time. An “upgrade” ended up breaking the whole thing just before Christmas. But anyway, when two massive boxes full to the brim with rods came through the door, the next hour was always going to be a write-off. Especially when I knew they were our most hotly-anticipated and long-awaited bass rods, ever!
An evolution of the original Foojin “R” (ending 2016?) – and now replacing the amazing Grandage STD rods – the Foojin “RS” actually has more in common with the highest level Foojin’Z (2021) than either predecessor – which is really why expectations were so high. I’d studied the specs for months. Watched all the videos. Had Zoom calls with the guys and girls at Apia in Japan – including the lead designer. His own words were that they are “much better than the Grandage”. Talk about raising the bar! If you’re not familiar, the Grandage rods are phenomenal.
I was nervous in a way. We know Apia rods are amazing, but so many times over the years I hoped for something and found it not quite match the ideas I’ve had in my head. Selling around the £400 mark, these rods aren’t cheap – although still some £200+ less than the Foojin’Z. The fact they share the same blank technology and carbons as the “Z” will make anybody question what an extra £200 will actually buy them. Either that or have you wondering where they’ve cut corners on the “RS”. They can’t be that good, surely? Many of Apia’s own pro-staff openly admit in the promo videos that should they close their eyes they can’t really tell the difference. I suspect a little bit of over-enthusiastic excitement about a new rod, but it seems like Apia really are genuinely impressed with what they’ve come up with this time around. The excitement in Japan is real.
Day 2 waggle update: Having now played with the Z’s side by side with the RS rods, we can definitely spot a few differences. I’ll report on these in a separate, upcoming post.
So what are they like?
I should say at this point that my thoughts here are only PART ONE of what will be an ongoing series. During the middle part of January I’ll get chance to strap some reels on and bash the whole range around on the most rugged bit of Cornish coastline I can find. With sessions continuing after that, in early February I’ll post my full review covering how they actually handle, the differences between the models and literally anything else that I can think of. There are so many good rods out there these days. They’re all different in their own little ways, so for me it’s just about explaining those differences as best I can and letting you pick the one you’re most drawn to. Whether that’s an “RS” at the end of this, or not.
So…… WHAT ARE THEY LIKE?????!!!!!!!!
In no particular order, the first rod I came to was the Vivogue.
The Vivogue was always going to be the most hit and miss of the range in terms of length and specs. At the 9’6″ length, if it’s right for British bass anglers (we fish a bit differently to the Japanese, using a wider mix of lure types for our “seabass”), it could be brilliant. You think 9’6″, 38g maximum rating, winner! My gosh though, even having handled hundreds of not thousands of bass rods over the years, I really need to fish with this one. It’s different. A lovely amount of power, but the tip is quite soft. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but my first impression is that it’s a rod that is going to be a touch more specialist than your normal off the rack bass rod. North coast soft plastics – perfect! Big Patchinko – NOT amazing. An unweighted Dolive and a Patch 140 are always great benchmarks at either end of an all-round bass rod test, but the Vivogue is hard to put my finger on at the moment. If you’re catching decent fish on smaller lures, it’ll be ideal. Needing the length, but also needing lightness in the tip. Time will tell! Can’t wait to cast it!
Beautiful. Since it’s the first rod I will quickly mention the cosmetics and build. Typically Apia, and style wise right up my street. Not outwardly blingy, but there are enough little luxury touches here and there, that when you look… wow! The traditional red band of the “R” series is back, and I love it.
If you were familiar with the old Foojin’R range, it’s a little like a nicer, somehow more clever version of the “Art Magic” rods in that range – with their very soft tip.
SKY HIGH 99M
This is more like it! A great example of exactly what us UK anglers typically like in a bass rod. This one may be long at 9’9″ (rated to 42g), but it’s so well balanced with a perfect all-round rod kind of action – not too fast, not too soft. Just awesome. I can tell you now, it’s the surf rod of the bunch. Again, a proper north coast rod for us down here. Bigger lures (of all types), rougher seas. The hype is real.
Hold your horses. One rod that really stood out from the Grandage STD range was the 93 “Lunker Hunter” model. It was hard to tell whether the new “Lynx” (below) or the Desire 95MH would be the closest match for that rod. The guys at Apia hinted that it could be the Desire, so a guy called “Henry” (who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy who has one) has been chomping at the bit to see it. Well, Henry, personally I reckon you’ll prefer the Lynx.
The Desire is another different rod for the RS range. Powerful. It’s a tool you could really horse a fish on. Rated to 50g, it’s a step above any of our normal bass rods. The 9’5″ length combined with this extra power does however make it the perfect rod for blasting big shads, or fishing a decent size metal in to deep water. If you were in to rough conditions, big lures and big fish then it’s absolutely a rod for you! I’d go as far as saying that there are no 50g rated rods from JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) that I truly trust with the types of lures (big shads) that we fish here. I’ll really find out what it can do when I’m on the rocks. The double leg butt guide also adds another insight in to the increased level of robustness. It’s the only rod in the range to have this.
I always thought that the Springer 88ML would be the most in demand rod in the range, but our customers seem to know something I don’t as so many have tipped the Lynx as their next rod. And who can blame them?! I’ll happily eat my hat for this one. The Lynx feels EPIC! Having now handled it, I know it will be the most popular rod in the range. Although saying that, the Springer could yet surprise us when it comes to the fishing part. It depends on how heavy the Springer (rated to 32g) will go. More on that below…
9’3″ long and rated to 42g, the Lynx has everything covered on paper. Being such high quality, a 42g rating shouldn’t put people who fish light lures off of the idea of it. Though the fishing may prove otherwise, it feels to be one of those rods that will do it all – within reason. The all-rounder.
During Japanese public test days, anglers over there picked the Springer 88ML as their favourite. The Lynx was second. I can 100% see why. The Springer is lighter. It’s slimmer. For an Apia rod I am actually shocked at how slim it looks – even though the 11.9mm butt still puts it a whole millimetre behind the Tailwalk Hi-Tide TZ (the slimmest JDM seabass rod I’ve measured). It’s just such a little peach of a rod. Although I’ve just mentioned the Hi-Tide TZ for different reasons, I often talk about that rod for its unique characteristics. Nothing is even close to how those feel. Annoyingly I’ve not had one at hand while picking up the Springer, but it really does seem to have that same kind of elasticity and feel as the Tailwalk.
Aside from feeling and looking absolutely amazing, the one quibble I may yet have with the Springer is that maximum casting weight of 32g. Will it handle that much? I’m not sure. It feels lighter than that. If it does surprise me by casting and fishing it, this will be THE all-round rod for 60% of people considering an RS.
As rods get physically heavier, they only really show their spots when you’re fishing with them. It is this style of rod that Apia have always excelled though. Because they care more about rod balance than its physical weight, their long rods feel light. A bit like a pimped version of the Grandage STD 106MH, I’m confident the Beluga will do the same things. For those in the know, these are shore jigging, big shads, long distance casting weapons. I don’t advertise it but the Lure Rage guys use them from their kayaks too – yes, in the 10’6″ length. And the fish they’ve landed on them are ridiculous! I can trust no other Japanese brand to handle the things they do with them.
The tip of the Beluga actually pushes in to the butt section (rather than what is typically the other way around). Normally it creates a rod with a wonderful tip and a more powerful butt – since the power really kicks in as soon as the blank diameter quickly increases at the join. This is exactly right here.
Other than telling you that they feel typically light and well balanced given the length and power, I need to fish with these.
Every rod in the RS range is a bit different. Not just different lengths of the same action and style. Genuinely different. It’s a range to cover all bases. You could really buy one of each and be covered for every UK, shore-based bass fishing situation that will ever arise. The Springer 88ML is rated down to 3g and would probably cast it(!), While the Beluga and Desire will hammer the bigger stuff. The Lynx and Sky High are perhaps the only two that even share similarities from what I can see at the moment, so the rest should be fairly easy to pick between. Especially the Vivogue, feeling so different to everything else out there at present.
Without wanting my own over-excitement to run away a little, the RS rods appear to have been well worth the wait. And I’m relieved. More than anything I’m just really looking forward to getting out more again from this year and putting rods like these to the test. I’m fishing with Henry Gilbey where we’ll share our thoughts over the coming couple of weeks, and posting my own ideas on what is scheduled around the beginning of February.
I can’t wait to have a cast now. I’m out fishing them all side-by-side on January 20th!