Balance, Power, and Precision for Unconventional Tenkara Fishing
Mike rides the power curve with a nice smallmouth on the hook.
As Summer slides ever closer and the weather here in Wisconsin continues to stabilize, our tenkara fishing focus shifts from trout to bass. We've started making the rounds on our local smallmouth streams, and slowly but surely, the bite switch is definitely moving into the "on" position! The timing couldn't have been better - we just got our first shipment of the new WISCO 2 rods in and we've been excited to get them on the water. We took them out to "Little Left Branch" to see if the Bronzebacks were ready to play, and got to put the rods through the paces on some nice fish...
If you haven't caught on yet - Badger Tenkara is just short of obsessed with fishing for Smallmouth Bass on Tenkara rods. Seriously - we are thrilled to live on some of America's most unique trout water, but we countdown to when the creeks warm up enough for the Bronzebacks to get fired up. I made it out over the weekend to fish a new section of a smaller river. Things started out so slow I almost packed it up and left - intermittent rains moved in and likely water wasn't producing. I told myself I'd fish one more likely run before heading back to the Jeep. Luckily...that is when the bite kicked in!
Tenkara fishing for Smallmouth on the Wisconsin river during the Crash feeding Frenzy
It is a great time of year on the lower Wisconsin. The weather is warm, the bugs are not yet too thick, and most importantly, the annual phenomenon known locally as "The Crash" has finally begun. What's that you say - never heard of it? It's a month or so period of time where schools of ravenously hungry, thug-like big river Bronzebacks cruise around corralling bait-fish in places they can trap them against restrictive terrain features - and then gorge on them in splashy feasts that boil the water as the entire school feeds and the baitfish attempt to flee for their lives. Bass fly through the air, smash fish on the surface, and swim in crazy circles as they pursue their prey. It sometimes leaves you awestruck just watching them, and it is almost enough to make you forget to fish - almost.
The Smallmouth Bass may be the perfect Tenkara sport fish
Quite possibly the Midwest's PERFECT Tenkara sport fish!
If there is such a thing as "Smallmouth Fever", Badger has caught a serious case of it! Don't get us wrong, we love the field-craft and rich traditions of trout fishing (both Japanese and American!). But the Smallmouth Bass is a ferocious opponent that may just be the Midwest's perfect Tenkara sport fish. Why is that? Being a warm water fish, it enjoys a range much wider than trout, so it is more readily available to a larger number of anglers. Most importantly - ounce for ounce and pound for pound, NOTHING fights like a Smallmouth on the Hook!
An opportunity opened up to explore a new section of Left Hand Branch the other day, and it did not disappoint. It was one of those evenings on the water that washes away the last few weeks of stress and reminds you of everything about fishing that you love. I caught about 30 fish in three hours, and while none that I brought to hand was more than 12 inches or so, even those "average" sized stream bass were a BLAST!
I fished the Classic rod with 12 feet of Badger-Lite line and 6 feet of 6lb test mono. Having the fished this water with the WISCO before, I knew that the rod was overkill for this kind of water - but the Classic is just right for these size bass. Size #6 Pass Lake flies with chartreuse wings (the "Nuclear" recipe") or white calf-tail proved yet again to be devastatingly effective against smallies.
Greeting me at the turn-style was this sign, posted by the Wisconsin Smallmouth Alliance. They are a great conservation group, similar in mission to Trout Unlimited. The sign's title really speaks to me. It's message supporting catch and release is a great way to ensure that we have good fishing for years to come, and the "fighter" nickname really suits the smallmouth attitude. It really stuck with me throughout the evening. Man, I hope if life ever puts a hook in my mouth and starts to pull me into a net, I fight back with the same spirit as a Smallmouth Bass!
Knee-deep in perfect Smallmouth water!
So, on to the fishing. This section of of Left Hand Branch is spectacular smallie water. Rarely more than knee-deep, it was full of classic structure - a rocky bottom and occasional patches of vegetation that made great holding lies. Casting to visible structure, edges, and current streams was productive. In slower, flat water where structure was harder to see, a steady prospecting pattern of dropping casts every 15-20 feet worked well, often pulling fish from every spot before moving upstream to repeat.
Dead drifts were effective, but many casts produced nearly instant top-water strikes! Since the water was shallow, most times you could see the fish rocket up for the take, and in the first catch of the video, you'll see the v-wake as the fish launches out of cover to make the strike. Another technique that worked really well was following up a big splashy presentation with finger taps to the cork grip during the drift. This noisy approach drew a lot of strikes, especially when used on the edges of cover.
The bass were really in the mood to feed. Not only did they bite steadily on the flies I cast, but I witnessed some minor "crash" behavior too! I stumbled onto a section of the stream where bass were driving shiners out of deeper water into the shallows where they would attempt the kill. It appeared to be one or maybe two bass hunting, instead of a larger school like we've seen on the Wisconsin river, but it was really cool to see. Check out the slow-mo footage in the video!
You'll see in the video that I had an intense battle with what would have been the "fish of the day" IF I would have landed it. We had a serious duel there for a while, but then the fly snapped off. I am certain that this happened because I had already caught a mess of fish on the fly and had not bothered to re-rig or even inspect my gear during that time. Especially with bass, I should be checking and making sure that the my gear is in order, because, bass teeth can do a number on tippet sections. That fish did give me a solid fight, so after taking a moment to vent, I rendered him a hand salute in respect. Fair warning fish - I'll be back for you soon!
Our friend Jim dropped us a line to tell us about the Woolly Bugger variant he's been slaying late summer Smallmouth with on the Kishwaukee River in Illinois. He has been having so much fun catching bass on his WISCO, he decided to call it the BADGER BUGGER. We thought that was pretty cool, and we also think it is a great pattern worth sharing - check it out!
#6 Eagle Claw streamer hook
Danville Light Olive 70 denier waxed 6/0
Olive Marabou tail
Pearl Krystal Flash
Body dubbed with Semi Seal Gold Halo
Body hackled with Wooly Bugger Saddle Hackle Olive Variant and Estaz UV Lights Glissen Gloss Fibers Chartreuse.
Beadhead size of choice. Make 13 wraps of .015 lead wire to the hook shank and push it up into the beadhead to steady the bead and add just a little more weight.
Saddle hackle and Estaz are twisted together before wrapping. After fly is done, brush out the entire body.
If the stream temps are too warm, try tenkara bass
It is HOT here in Wisconsin right now. Hot and dry. The trout streams are running a little warm, so Matt and I have largely left them alone and will continue to do so until it starts to cool some. But hey, the bass don't care, they like it! So when I had the opportunity to fish after a night shift this week, I naturally decided to chase some bass. I went to one of our favorite creeks. The fish there are not all that large, but they are plentiful and usually cooperative. Additionally, the creek is easy to wade and there is not much to snag on, which is nice for my post-night shift foggy brain.
The first big pool is always hit or miss. Today it was a miss. I know there must be fish there, but I'm guessing the fish get more pressure here than other parts of the creek, since it is right at the access point. No sweat, that's how it goes. The next pool was a different story. I cast along a downed log and hooked into a feisty little rock bass. Not my target species, but I always enjoy catching them. Where there is one rock bass, there are usually several, so I cast to the log again, and sure enough, another one came out to play. As long as I could get my fly to drift under the log, the fish seemed willing to take it. After catching a few, I moved up towards the head of the pool, and to my surprise, caught a bluegill. And another. I'm not sure I've ever caught bluegills in this creek before, but again, I won't complain. The next pool I is one I would consider marginal. The water there is deep enough to hold fish, but just barely. There is some nice structure, though, and a well placed cast will usually draw a strike. I was again surprised here to hook into multiple fish in a pool that is usually only good for one or two. It also turned out to be the pool of many species: smallmouth, rock bass, bluegill and one big ol' creek chub! Not too bad.
At the head of the pool, I hooked into two nice smallmouth, one which I landed and one that came off the hook at the bank. Both of these fish were decent sized, just under a foot or so, which is pretty average for this creek. I was using the Badger Tenkara UNC for a change of pace, and I have to say, it is a blast to catch smallmouth on the UNC! I was using about 11.5 feet of the Badger Lite line with six feet of tippet. With this set up, I was not missing out on much casting distance compared to the Classic or Bad Axe, but had the joy of fishing with an extremely light weight rod.
The "bigger" bass put a bend in the rod and made the fight pretty entertaining, but the rod still has plenty of backbone to handle angry bronzebacks. I look forward to testing the rod on the Little Left Hand river, where the bass are bigger and even meaner! During the dogs of summer, consider giving the trout a break if the stream temps are too warm. Go chase some bass. You'll be glad you did!
Big Smallmouth Tenkara Fishing on the Wisconsin River
I think the real measure of a fly fishing guide is the ability to put clients on fish despite adverse conditions. In the little informal guiding I have done, I have been blessed with days of favorable conditions, fish on the bite and having the creeks pretty well to ourselves. It is easy to look like a great guide on those days. On my recent trip with Kyle Zempel from Black Earth Angling Company, conditions were not so favorable, but Kyle still managed to get us into plenty of fish.
Kyle is a fly fishing guide based outside of Madison, Wisconsin. While he loves to fly fish (and guide) for trout, I think Wisconsin River smallmouth bass are his real passion. Kyle knows the river and its fish like few others. On the day of our outing, the river was at one of its lowest points in Kyle’s guiding career. Some of his “good spots” were now only inches deep. Not a great way for a guide to have to start his day. It is a big, sprawling river, so finding the fish can be no easy task. We were also facing gusting winds that proved challenging for casting at times, not to mention boat positioning. This was also Kyle’s first exposure to tenkara. No pressure here, folks!
A bit about the boat: Kyle owns what is probably the ideal boat for fishing the Wisconsin. It looks like an elongated skiff. It has a nice fishing platform up front. It can be drifted and rowed like a classic drift boat, but when you need to get from spot to spot, or back to the boat launch, Kyle fires up the jets. Yes, it is a jet boat! The jet motor allows you to cruise across the shallows of the Wisconsin River at speed. Drift boats are romantic, sure, and canoes have their charm, but the jet boat is really the way to go!
As we drifted down the banks of our first section of the river, we found the water level to be unexpectedly low. Repeated casts drew nothing. After giving it the college try, Kyle fired up the jets and hit the next spot. One of the great things about fishing on the Lower Wisconsin River is the opportunity to get out and wet wade. You can boat along the river, beach the boat on a sand bar and then fish to drop offs and structure as you wade in the shallows under the summer sun. It will make you feel like a kid again, for sure.
At one such stop we were fishing where a cold water trout stream fed into the Wisconsin. Feeling the cold water of the trout stream pour into the warm Wisconsin river was an enjoyable contrast. I hooked my first fish of the day there, a feisty fish we estimated to go about 17 inches. After letting the fish ride the rod for a bit, I started to hand line him in. I got him to my feet when, inexplicably, I arrogantly uttered “you’re mine now, fish”. Then he broke off. Talk about karma.
We drifted along again and then anchored at a section of river that offered a variety of fishing opportunities: rocks, logs, current fluctuations and bank structure. I handed Kyle the Badger Tenkara Classic rod while I continued to fish the WISCO. Kyle quickly landed a nice 14 inch or so bass, his first fish on tenkara. As he fished along a log, he hooked into a beast. I tried my best to coach him, giving him the abbreviated version of Rob Worthing’s “How to land big fish on tenkara” talk (should be required viewing for anyone chasing big smallies on tenkara). For better or worse, the fish wrapped itself around a log. I was able to net it, snap a photo and release it. The fish measured 20 ¼ inches. It is one of the bigger fish Kyle has caught on the river, and it was on a Tenkara rod! What impressed me even more than the fish’s length was its mass. The proportions of the fish were like nothing I have ever seen. I was in awe the rest of the day.
Kyle caught this beast, which was released safely so that it could report to work as an NFL linebacker.
Our next spot proved even better. The current here ripped along the bank of a small island, creating a deep channel. The perfect ambush spot for hungry bass to chase bait. We hooked one fish after another here. Every time the fishing would start slow down and I would think it was time to move on, another fish would hit. I did not land them all, but I landed quite a few! The biggest was 17 inches, which is the second largest smallmouth I have caught on the river. The largest was on my 8 weight fly rod, so needless to say, this was a much more interesting battle on the Classic! Most of the fish we caught in this section hovered around the 14 inch mark, some a little smaller, some bigger, but all vigorous and strong. I completely lost count of the number of fish we caught in this section, which is always a good sign!
At our next spot, we were treated to one of the iconic spectacles of fishing the Lower Wisconsin River: “the crash”. Smallmouth will chase bait into the shallows, then explode at surface as they feast. It is cool enough just to watch, not to mention fish. We drew repeated strikes from the fish and landed several more. It was pretty darn exciting.
Bring your “A” game! This is NOTHING like fishing for trout, even big trout. Pound for pound, I don’t know that there is another freshwater fish that fights like a smallmouth, and there are some big ones in the river. I highly recommend watching Rob Worthing of Tenkara Guides LLC “fighting big fish on tenkara” presentation.
Consider a “big fish” tenkara rod. We caught a lot of fish on the Classic that day, and it stood up to the abuse, but we were really asking a lot of the rod. The WISCO is a great rod for this sort of fishing!
Consider bringing a back up rod, spare tip section and/or field repair kit. These fish really push the limits of what can be done with tenkara. These fish can break rods if you are careful on how you play the fish.
I can’t wait for my next opportunity to chase big smallmouth on the Wisconsin River. You should try it, too!
Fishing the WI River Smallmouth Feeding Frenzy with Tenkara
Ben waiting for the water to boil.
Earlier this year we started hearing stories about an early Summer phenomenon that locals call "The Crash". The word was that the Smallmouth Bass in the Wisconsin River like to school up, drive bait-fish into the shallows, and then feast on them in a feeding frenzy that puts the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" to shame. When my friend Ben suggested we canoe out to a few spots where we'd be likely see the Crash and fish it, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to see it first hand!
This also happened to be a great opportunity put our WISCO rods to the test. Ben said we'd need some range to keep from spooking the school, so we rigged up with 18 feet of floating line and another 8 feet of 6lb test mono. The plan was to fish the surface with Crease Fly Poppers, similar to the one pictured below. We were lucky - the first place we checked had a school of Smallies crashing, so we pulled up the canoe and got set.
A Crease Fly Pattern similar to what we fished.
It was like an old west shootout! You stand there, ready to cast, waiting for the first sign of a disturbance on the surface. Suddenly, you'd see a bait-fish jump, or the swirl of a near surface take, and you'd cast out past it and pop/jig the retrieve back towards you. By then, most of the surface would erupt with jumping and thrashing bass as they picked off the trapped bait-fish. The strikes came as the frenzied bass mistook the crease fly as a fleeing victim - BAM! They'd crush it and the fight was on. Once we had them on the hook, we'd move them back and away from the "crash zone" to make sure we didn't spook the school off the feed.
We caught over a half dozen nice fish ranging from 14 - 17 inches and the WISCO was far beyond capable for the task. Moderate current with plenty of room and depth for the fish to run made no difference - when we decided to bring the fish in, it was done. The third and last segment has the best footage I got of the crash itself, check out the chain reaction on the water as the bass go after those bait-fish!
Look for more Tenkara vs. Smallmouth action coming soon!
Tons of Tenkara Smallmouth on the Downstream Swing
As summer weather began to set in, Matt and I decided it was about time we started chasing some warm water fish. We had the opportunity to fish a river we heard about some time ago, but had not yet made the time to explore. I'm really glad we finally did! For the purpose of utter obfuscation, we will refer to this Wisconsin gem as the "Little Left Branch".
We had some trouble finding the river, which really isn't all bad, considering that our misdirection led to the sighting of an older gentleman piloting his powered wheelchair through a small town, shirtless, in brightly colored pajamas pants with a large cockatoo on his shoulder. You just don't see that sort of thing every day. On the way home, we learned that some Amish buggies are equipped with headlights. It's about more than just the fishing, you see!
When we finally arrived at our jumping off point, we were greeted by a groomed fishing platform installed by a fishing club. There was a deep pool with swirling back eddy that looked very promising. It was big enough for us both to fish, so we started at opposite ends and worked towards the middle. Nothing. I'm sure this portion of the river gets some pressure, but it was still a little disappointing to draw a blank from such promising water. We then had to decide whether to move upstream or down. Upstream looked narrower with a canopy of trees, so we chose the downstream route. We decided to hike downstream and then fish back upstream.
After a couple hundred yards, we found a nice looking run with a bubble line along the far bank. I cast and quickly got into a fish, perhaps a 9 or 10 inch smallmouth. I lost him as I was about to net him. Our intel had told this creek is loaded with bass, but they are generally small, around 10 inches being the common size. Fine with us. A couple minutes later, Matt hooked into a larger fish that really gave him a fight. We were reminded just how pugnacious these stream smallmouth are compared to even wild brown trout. Frankly, they make the trout look a little lazy. Matt did a great job playing that vigorous fish, thanks in part to some great tips from the presentation given by Rob Worthing of Tenkara Guide LLC at Midwest Tenkara Fest.
I then noticed a very promising looking cliff pool downstream from us. Our original plan was to head back upstream, but this section of water looked too good to leave behind. I suggested to Matt that we alter our plans. I avoided the temptation to go straight to the cliff and worked my way downstream instead. I'm glad I did. There was a drop off a few yards ahead of the cliff pool that was more or less invisible. It turned out to be one of the most productive portions of the creek. I landed my largest fish of the day from that pool, and it gave up several more for both of us.
Most of our casts were down stream. The fish would take the fly on the swing or as it was twitched on the retrieve. They were not subtle in the take! Now, I have to say that Matt is pretty good at fishing downstream, but it feels very foreign to me; a little like writing left-handed. I'm just very used to fishing upstream. Our tenkara journey, though, has always been about learning and trying new things.
I should mention a bit about our gear. We were both fishing the Badger Tenkara Classic, which Matt has dubbed "the AK-47 of Tenkara rods". It is affordable, durable and can function in a variety of environments. We were both fishing Badger floating line. Matt had 4 pound test tippet, I had 6 pound test mono-filament. Matt was using a variation on his go-to fly, the "Nuclear Pass Lake", tied by our buddy Dale Hewitt. I was using a white cone head streamer. They both worked great.
We continued to move downstream from there. Fishing was steady from there on out. We were surprised at the size of some of the fish we caught. We caught many fish larger than 12 inches, which we were told would be exceptional for this creek. They were all fat, healthy and feisty. We came upon several pools that produced multiple fish for each of us. It was joyful, relaxed fun fishing.
Around sunset, we were fishing a very promising looking long run with plenty of depth and structure. For whatever reason, it seemed that the fishing had completely shut down at that point. Matt pointed out that the clouds had changed, suggesting an atmospheric pressure change. Depending on who you believe, such things can greatly influence fish behavior. As we waded back up stream, we saw some fishing frolicking near the surface. I figured they were carp, but as we got closer, we could clearly see they were gar, all in the two foot plus range. There were several of them roiling just below the surface, occasionally sticking their needle nose snouts out of the water. We guessed they were spawning, but also thought perhaps their presence put the bass off the feed.
Not every creek we explore turns out to be winner. This one was. Get out there and chase down those blue lines on the map. You never know when you will find a real gem!
The BAD AXE is not just an adjustable version of our CLASSIC rod, it is an entirely different animal. While both rods are 6/4, medium flex actions - they are at opposite sides of the spectrum within that classification.
The CLASSIC has a stiffer, general purpose action that makes it great for a wide variety of fishing. It's got the backbone you need to dig in your heels and stop that big fish's run if you need to, and it really shines throwing heavier lines, streamers, poppers, and clunky foam terrestrials. If you want a general purpose rod that can also cast larger payloads and force fish to the net, then the CLASSIC is a great choice.
The BAD AXE has a smooth, softer action that makes remarkably consistent casts. The rod is no pushover, but the action is more dynamic and makes everything on the hook feel a bit more sporty. It can still handle the bigger fish, but it does so with finesse rather than muscle. You will find it perfect for casting medium and light weight lines, especially the BADGER-LITE floating line that we will be introducing to you soon. If you are looking for versatility, refined casting, and more lively play, choose the BAD AXE.
We have been fishing the BAD AXE for several weeks now, so we put together some trip reports that highlight our experiences with the rod so far. Mike got out and hit a nice Wisconsin bass creek, and I've gotten the rod onto trout in Iowa and North Carolina. Read on to see how it fishes!
Well, we are pretty excited here at Badger Tenkara to have launched a new rod, the Bad Axe. It is our first multi-position rod, and one where we really put some serious thought into the design. Maybe it wasn't our best idea to launch it as Wisconsin's trout fishing season winds down, but hey, we're still new at this!
The Bad Axe is named after a river in Wisconsin's driftless region. No one is really sure where the river got its name, but you have to admit that it sounds cool. We also thought we could design some pretty cool graphics at some point, you know like a badger with an axe?
I had the opportunity to test the rod the other morning after working a night shift. My routine for working night shifts has become as follows: work my tail off all night, crash for a couple hours in the morning, go fish for a while then go home to the family. It is exhausting, but it allows me to earn a living, get out and fish and be available to my family. Not sure what I'm going to do once it freezes up.
This week, I went back to the small mouth bass creek Matt and I fished recently. We found that this creek more or less shuts down once the weather cools, so we may only able to fish it for another week or two.
BAD AXE Bass
I started by casting to the brush pile where I caught a few rock bass last time. Rock bass generally are not difficult to catch, but I got no action this time. Maybe no one was home. I worked towards the middle of the pool and hooked into a 10 inch smallie. Not a bad start. Most of the bass we caught in this creek are between 8-12 inches, so not huge but definitely fun on a tenkara rod.
In the next pool, it seemed that about every cast drew interest from a fish. I landed about half a dozen and had a couple other long distance releases. And then something changed. Have you ever experienced anything like that? It was a strange sensation, but I knew I would catch fewer fish after that.
In the next large pool, I cast several times without garnering any interest from the fish. I then walked back down stream, crossed the creek and stalked up the other side so I could cast to some promising looking structure. After dramatically altering my retrieve techinque, I did manage to catch three more bass from the pool. But that was it. It was like the creek completely shut down at that point and I did not get so much as a follow. I'm not sure what did it. I think it may have been the sun getting higher in the sky, but it was sunny when I started. I had hoped to keep an eye on the stream temperature that day to help me figure out when the creek will fish well, but my thermometer was missing in action. Strange.
All that being said, I should give you my impression of the rod. In short, I love it! It casts beautifully and accurately, and has a very nice look and feel. It is a bit softer than the Badger Classic. I fished 12 feet of floating Badger Line, 6 feet of 2x tippet, and #6 cone head streamer. It was a heavy rig, but the rod handled it without blinking. These 10-12 inch small mouth just about bent the rod in half, but then a 10 inch small mouth will put up a more vigorous fight than a similar size trout. I have no doubt it will handle larger fish just fine, but I got the feeling you need to actively play the fish a bit more, unlike the Badger Classic where you can just stonewall even very large fish. It was a ton of fun!
I think this rod is a pretty sweet deal at this price point. One thing you might notice is that it is longer than most other tenkara rods when collapsed. So far that has not been a problem. It still fits just fine in my Zimmerbuilt pack, and even when bushwhacking through the brush on my last outing, I did not feel like it was in danger. So, yes, it is longer, but so far that does not seem to be a big issue. It is still lightweight, well-balanced and easy to cast. Check it out!
BAD AXE Trout
When we designed the BAD AXE, we had three core principles in mind. We wanted to offer a rod that is practical, versatile, and fun to fish. Most importantly, we wanted to maintain a price point that made the rod accessible for as many anglers as possible. Once we arrived at the final specifications, the only thing left to do was wait and see how the rod actually performed when we got it on the water. The final version of the BAD AXE exceeded our expectations on every level!
I've fished it at both lengths, on some very different types of water in both Iowa and North Carolina. Its caught trout from 6-14 inches on dry flies, streamers, wet flies, nymphs, and kebari. I've fished furled lines, level line, and 3 different floating lines. The BAD AXE has performed well under every configuration.
I've found the cast to be smooth and crisp at both lengths, but one thing has really stood out to me throughout this process - the rod is extremely consistent. It fishes nearly the same for every line and fly choice I've tried on it. There are always going to be small variations, but I didn't have to adjust my casting stroke very much to make the rod perform well on any given rigging.
The rod really sings with our new BADGER-LITE floating line. It throws it so well, in fact, that a very experienced angler at the Appalachian Tenkara Jam (who prefers furled lines) fished this combo for 10 minutes before realizing that it wasn't a furled line! Stay tuned folks, even though we sold out of BADGER-LITE at the Jam, we will have more available soon.
The biggest fish I've caught so far on the BAD AXE is a 14 inch Iowa Brown Trout (top left in pictures below). He made some really solid runs on me, which is when I discovered how much more dynamic the rod's action is when compared to the CLASSIC. I never felt that the fish was out of control, or that the rod was in danger, but it definitely required more active play than I had anticipated. I am confident that the BAD AXE can handle much larger fish, but I believe it's action is optimal for making the Driftless standard 10-15 inch trout an absolute blast!