ZENAQ Rods – Ben’s First Impressions (Snipe & Plaisir Answer)Ben Field
2023 has been an exciting year. Not only are we embarking on a new chapter in AOF history with the closure of our retail premises – enabling us to grow online and through our distribution sales – but we have seen some incredibly high-end products coming through the door.
With Japanese brand, Apia having taken a huge jump in popularity this year (rightly so!), we now have another very high-end competitor to be playing with. And on paper, even higher spec!…
Zenaq have long been on my radar. A brand of mythical mystery. Legendary. They’ve always been up there in a pedestal, in the clouds. Yet with all of that they’ve never been available to anglers in the UK. They are known not only for their high quality, but the unique features that their rods include. As somebody who’d previously not had the pleasure of seeing one of their rods, until I started my research this year I couldn’t fully comprehend why they are building them the way they do. The strange guide system – which increases casting distance , “feel” and lure control (apparently) – is the obvious focal point. I’ll talk about it more later and direct you to their promo videos, but you have to ask questions when you see it…
The other elephant in the room is price. Zenaq rods are unquestionably and unapologetically NOT cheap. Retail prices in the UK are anywhere from £700 to £850 for these models (models and prices listed here).
I’m just like any of our customers. When a new rod arrives at HQ I want to waggle it! I’ll form an opinion in 10 seconds. It’s human nature. What I enjoy about fishing rods though – especially good ones – is that it’s becoming more and more obvious that you have to fish with them before they give their game away. The 10-second waggle will give an initial impression, and then the genuine fun comes when you realise you were totally wrong! It’s almost disappointing if they turn out how you think they will. Clever rods surprise you. Saying that, I tend to see through most of them these days, but occasionally one catches me out. And I always hope they do.
So on to the rods.
Within our first shipment we had numerous rods arrive from their various ranges. Some I won’t mention here as they’re heavier rods designed for the overseas market, but of interest to bass anglers are the PLAISIR ANSWER and SNIPE ranges. In brief, Plaisir Answer is their “seabass” range, while Snipe is a versatile range of allrounders suited to fresh or salt water depending on your requirements.
Their quite differently designed. Snipe are light and steely. Plaisir have that very Japanese, elastic, glassy feel. The latter is the clever one…. The Snipe gives itself away, but what it shows is exactly what most people will want.
Snipe S86XX Longcast (RG)
I think this is the rod that most UK anglers will adore! Like I said above, it’s very light, steely and super, super crisp. Imagine a rod a bit like a cross between a Major Craft Tidrift and Seabass Custom (rods we recommend for their crisp, light feeling) and then add a dollop of something magic. It’s rated to 40g too which seems about fair on first impression – so it has a bit more poke than the two aforementioned rods as well. Josh has already reserved himself one – and he’s a picky bugger! There’s not been another rod of this style that has knocked either of us back this much. On paper it’s not even that light, but the aluminium part of the reel grip, along with the bulk of the EVA balances it up really well. Plenty of power in the butt. A tip that surface lure fans will absolutely love. That extra dollop makes all the difference.
Snipe S76X (RG)
The baby of the bunch from what we had arrive. Quite different to the 86, feeling faster and lighter in action. A really sweet little rod that would suit calm conditions where accuracy is important and you’re working smaller lures. I’m certain it will love a small surface lure. I discussed with another customer how I think it may do a Patch 125, but that would be absolute tops! Even that could be a struggle. It’s the type of rod that -whether you’re in fresh or salt – it would also love a 3″-4″ plastic on heads up to about 10g max. A fairly short handle, but that’s what you’d want on a rod like this. Ultimate little wand for working light lures. There’s still some poke in the butt though. I wouldn’t fish for big fish in snaggy areas with one, but if your spots allow for some fun, it’s a beaut’. It may end up being a popular freshwater tool actually for the perch and zander guys as well.
Plaisir Answer PA89 Technical Surfer (RG)
Though the Snipe 86 will be most peoples fave, this is the one that I picked as my initial rod of choice. Rated to 28g, it feels like it will easily do to around low 30’s. I absolutely love the grips. The blank has a slightly broader diameter than the likes of the most comparable Apia Foojin’Z Urban Dino 90ML and Foojin’RS Springer 88ML – both with similar specs. The one area that differs between all three is the section around 3′ down from the tip. The Springer is finest – which in the most basic generalisation, explains it’s more progressive action. The Urban Dino is next with a slight step up in diameter here – which adds some grunt and makes it feel more tippy than the Springer. And then the Zenaq adds another millimetre – which gives it slightly more poke again in that area. The tip does bend though, and it’s not a stiff rod either. I know already that this one will feel more responsive with a line through it. It’s a classic “meh” rod – for want of a better word. Sometimes the very best, easiest, lushest rods to fish with can feel average on the rack. The Zenaq doesn’t feel in any way average, but since I know that most of our customers will come in wanting “crisp and steely, please”, the Plaisir rods are not that. Neither are the Apia’s or many of the true Japanese rods. It’s not their style, normally. Depending on how this one behaves with a line through it, it could be an amazing allrounder.
Plaisir Answer PA93 Cast Master (RG)
Every time I stop to actually think about fishing with this range, the one I’m most excited about fishing, changes – even while I’m excitedly writing this. For our open coast fishing on anything but a rough day, this could actually be the one for me! With a typical sub-20g plug, a belly weighted Gravity Stick or a sub-30g metal, the 93 might just be insane! It feels a bit more progressive than the 89 – being rated to only 25g (again, feels like it’ll handle more), and 6″ longer – but that’s also what’s going to make it such an efficient rod with a “normal” sized lure on the end. Again all theory, but…. it just feels like…. luxury. It’s not just the phycological element that comes in with knowing its going to cost you £800+, but you just have to look at it. And feel it. These rods aren’t made to be expensive just for fun. There’s some really clever stuff clearly going on in the blank and the way the rod balances, feels, looks… the quality is all over it. Again, I love the grip. I do need to measure the tip diameters on these as they actually look fairly chunky (both 89 and 93), but again, not stiff. I do think you have to be familiar with Japanese rods to appreciate them on first inspection, but I can’t wait to have a cast! Due to the action and length, I’d predict the 89 (and definitely the Snipe) will be nicer than this one with a surface lure, but for everything else when you need some length………
Though I know many will pick up the Plaisir rods and question them immediately, I can’t wait to fish with them above all others. The Snipe’s action and appeal are obvious. With that one it will be more about working out how much weight it will really cast. I feel like the Plaisir rods will be the proper casting tools, and the ones that will fill me with confidence when fishing them with our typical range of bass lures on the coast. In fact, I can tell you now that if you’re working a lure a lot, the Snipe will be the one. If you’re spending less than 25% of the retrieve working a lure, that’s where the Plaisir will smash it. Again, only predictions at this point (hopefully I’m fishing them this week), but the differing actions will each have their benefits.