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The Sage ACCEL: A selfish review

While this is a rod review it’s not necessarily to benefit my readership (all 11 of you). Rather this is a purely the result of a selfish endeavor to determine if the new Sage ACCEL might be the next addition to my quiver. You see, I am looking for a very special 4 weight rod.

My favorite rod, overall, is my Z-Axis 490-4 that I’ve had since Sage first launched the Z-Axis series in 2007. I’ve fished this rod so much that it’s like an old, reliable friend: always there, always willing and always able. The Z-Axis has a sensitive tip section and plenty of backbone: in my opinion, a perfect combination that makes the rod light to cast and fun to catch small fish on, but capable of handling fish up to 20 inches (as if I ever catch fish that size). I’ve shuddered at the thought I should ever lose it or break it (knock on wood) and not be able to get it fixed (does Sage keep a large stock of old blanks?). And so to ease my anxiety I recently began looking for another Z-Axis in the same configuration to have as a back-up; finding one in excellent condition has proven impossible so far. It was during my quest for another Z-Axis that a discussion came up with an associate who had tested the new ACCEL. In his estimation the ACCEL felt a lot like the Z-Axis and he suggested I give it a go. But you can’t take another’s word for something like that—fly rods are highly subjective things.

Upon my request I received an ACCEL 490-4 demo rod from Sage to test out. The rod was brand new and had not been out of its green ballistic nylon tube yet (except obviously before the rod was placed into the tube at the factory). I’ve always preferred the aluminum tubes with a screw-on lid and gasket seal, but Sage has always offered their less-than-top-of-the-line rods in nylon tubes with zipper closures. Nothing really wrong with that, unless you automatically (and inaccurately) associate a lower-priced rod with less than top-of-the-line performance. I have many different Sage rods, and all but one have the aluminum rod tubes. What does that say about me?  (Don’t answer that question). I should point out that that I’ve never had a zipper fail on an aluminum tube, and the aluminum doesn’t hold any moisture after sitting in the bottom of a boat. Other than that, my take on the matter is that the style of rod tube has more to do with perception of the rod’s quality. Both style tubes will protect their contents, which is all that really matters.

Ballistic nylon tube (top); Aluminum tube (bottom)

Many people look at the history of different rods from a manufacturer and try to draw relationships—create a family tree, if you will. Well, don’t try to do that with the Sage line of rods. Instead look at each new rod as just that: all new. I actually spoke with a source from Sage and they had this to say:

“New rod designs are based on the materials (mix of graphite and resins), tapers, components, etc. available to the designer to create something completely new each time. Each rod family is created to be unique with its own purpose and personality. Sage does not see the lineage story as essential to the Sage customer and that is not how they are developed.”

So there you have it: the ACCEL is neither a cousin to the Z-Axis, nor a half brother, or anything of the sort.  And the ACCEL certainly isn’t the red-headed step child of the Z-Axis, or any other Sage rod (it’s green, after all). The ACCEL is a new rod all its own.  Acknowledging that, I will be drawing comparisons between the ACCEL and the Z-Axis.

Despite that the name “ACCEL” conjures up images of speed and acceleration, Sage has dubbed the ACCEL a medium-fast action rod. The Z-Axis was labeled fast action. The Sage ONE is also a fast action rod, which I’ve cast (and reviewed HERE), and I would agree that it is. By comparison to the ONE my Z-Axis is noticeably slower—still fast, but definitely more flex in the tip than the ONE. Personally I like the feel of the Z-Axis better, despite liking the ONE a great deal. But the question on this day is, would I like the ACCEL?

I don’t particularly care a whole lot about aesthetics when it comes to rods (or clothes, according to my wife). So the fact that the ACCEL is an attractive bright green blank, considerably lighter in shade than the Z-Axis, didn’t factor into my assessment of the rod one way or another. The Z-Axis was made with a reverse half wells grip while the ACCEL comes with a a full wells grip. I prefer the look of the grip on my Z-Axis, but again that’s merely personal preference. The ACCEL is a nice looking stick, but I wasn’t looking to judge a book by its cover—I was looking for feel.

Z-Axis (top); ACCEL (bottom)

I always start with what some consider a worthless act: the old wiggle test. Side by side, the Z-Axis and ACCEL both look and feel nimble. To the average eye, the blanks are the same diameter. They’re both made from the same generation 5 graphite technology. The ACCEL (2-5/8 oz) is actually lighter than the Z-Axis (3-1/16 oz), but again for the average person, which includes me, that’s not a huge difference: both are light in the hand. When wiggling the rods side by side, the Z-Axis recovers a bit faster than the ACCEL, and I could see and feel the ACCEL flexing farther down the blank than the Z. But there was a definite similarity. 

Next up was the lawn test. I mounted my go-to 4 weight reel lined with RIO Gold WF4F line and began waving the ACCEL back and forth with only 15 or so feet of line out front. Gradually I began feeding more line, but living in suburbia has its limitations and my restrictive homeowner’s association doesn’t allow me to cast farther than about 30 feet (remember, 60 total feet is required to cast a forward distance of 30 feet). Because lawn casting didn’t really afford me a true assessment of the ACCEL’s range capabilities, and no lawn trout were biting anyway, I took my Z and the ACCEL down to the river. There, I had more than enough room needed to test the limits of my casting ability rods.

The ACCEL threw as much line as I was capable of doing, and it did so nicely out to about 44.5 feet. Compared to the Z-Axis it didn’t quite seem to have the same “punch” that can shoot an extra few feet, but for the intended purposes of a 4 weight rod the ACCEL will cast as far as I need it to: after all, a 4 weight isn’t exactly a power tool. The ACCEL is smooth and effortless to cast, and it throws nice tight loops. It’s no slow action rod by any means, but it bends farther down the blank than does the Z-Axis, which accounts for why I can cast a bit farther with the Z. The ample tip flex makes mending a breeze, a downfall of stiff, fast action rods. The Z-Axis has ample tip flex so mending has never been a problem with that rod. Again, a similarity revealed itself. The ACCEL felt remarkably like an old friend. I fished for the better part of the day, throwing Reverse Spiders for coastal cutthroat trout, of which I only caught one. It wasn’t a very big fish so I wasn’t able to enjoy the true fish fighting capability of the ACCEL. I also threw a few tungsten cone-head streamers and the rod did a fine job of chucking those heavy flies. It wasn’t an ideal match-up, but these weighted bugs are better suited for a 6 weight. By the end of the day I forgot that I was fishing a strange new rod. 

Conclusionary thoughts: The ACCEL feels quite like the Z-Axis, despite that the Z-Axis was, at the time, the premium offering from Sage and came with a $700+ price tag (and an aluminum rod tube). The current top shelf, all-around rods from Sage today are the Method and ONE, with price tags of $800. The ACCEL comes in at $595, making it a step down in price and perhaps perceived quality. But based on my observations, which are my own and may have little bearing on you, the ACCEL is my first choice of the current all around rods from Sage, making it the best—for me. The ACCEL may be a bit a slower casting rod than my Z-Axis, but that’s OK because I’m slowing down a bit myself. 

So, to answer today’s question, would I like the ACCEL? Yes. So much so that I’ll have placed an order for one of my own before this review is read by all 11 of you. And if I find that I can’t live with the ballistic nylon rod tube, I’m sure I can find an aluminum replacement.

9 thoughts on “The Sage ACCEL: A selfish review”

  1. The burning question in my mind is how you know what an old reliable friends is like. Aside from that I think it’s a good review considering it’s graphite and not glass. So simple even a caveman can do it. I’m seriously glad you’ve got one ordered sir.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      You raise a valid point about old and reliable friends, Howard. I have old friends, and a couple reliable friends, but no old, reliable friends. I actually already received my new ACCEL and it is joining me on a trip to Canada this weekend. I won’t likely catch any fish, but I’ll enjoy the casting.

  2. Ah, a reconciliation of skill with an appropriately priced rod. I find myself figuratively in the same boat after a summer of the ultimate unaccomplishment, not once stepping out to fish and concluding that a more expensive unused rod just ain’t worth it. I like my Sage Flight 5 wt., sort of a lower end Z Axis – which may say something about me as well – but I face similar difficulties in finding an equivalent 4 wt. If I don’t find what I’m looking for, perhaps I have a new rod to consider. Looking forward to your words about the rod’s performance in America North.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      One might argue that the ACCEL, even with it’s less than top-of-the-line Sage price tag, is still too high priced. Another might say that at $599 its a bargain. Reckon it all depends on the individual. Same goes for the performance: some may say that their $150 rod casts just fine, while others will claim that their uber high-end rod casts better than anything else. Fly rods are highly subjective. Me personally, I like to support a local company and I think Sage makes great rods at all price-points. Since you already have a 5wt, I’d look at a 3wt rod, and I bet the ACCEL would fit that bill nicely.Of course that is just my opinion so take that with a grain or two of salt.

      1. Agreed. I do like the idea of going with local or semi-locally manufactured gear and have accepted that sometimes that comes at a premium. I find myself leaning toward Sage rods and Galvan reels, which are manufactured just about two and a half hours away from me (and 15 minutes from the family cabin). I do want a 2/3 wt. as well, but a 4 wt. (currently a to0-bendy low-end rod) is becoming my “usual” rod. (The ulterior motive behind the new 2/3 wt. is that I can hand down my existing rod to my bro, who needs to get out to those small streams we found less than 15 minutes away from his house to play with those small cutthroats.) As for rod feel, I’m not too picky but do prefer to not have my arm feel like a wet noodle at the end of the day.

  3. Damon says:

    I was in a similar situation about 18 months ago, although the rod I was looking for was something as a contrast to my old sage RPL+ (purchased in 1995 or so). I wanted something a bit softer and more forgiving and more fun than the RPL+. On big water, I love how far the RPL+ can throw a line, but I never found it to be a finesse rod in any way. It’s also the only 5 weight I’ve ever used to take a 35# salmon, so there is something to be said for its power.

    After looking at a lot of options, I went with a Hardy Zenith at a price pretty close to the Accel’s price. I’ve been thrilled with it and it’s become my first choice most of the time. My wife and son mostly fish either with a Winston Passport or a St. Croix Legend these days, and the RPL+ usually gets pulled out for bigger waters requiring longer casts.

    The great thing about fly fishing these days is how many great options are out there these days. I think I own 5 rods and 5 reels these days (not many compared to many of my friends), but there are 4 different rod brands and 3 different reel brands in there (Sage shows up twice in my rods, Ross and Orvis twice in reels). And, I like them all, at the right time and place.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      I completely agree with you. The beauty of having so many good rods to choose from and at many price points is that there’s something for everyone…and many great offerings that we may not need, but end up wanting just the same 😉 I’ve got a couple Orvis reels, a Redington, an Allen, a Sage and a few Ross reels. All are good, all are not equal as far as what I paid. As for rods, I have mostly Sage, a Redington, and an Allen. Again, all good and all over the board as far as what they cost. And my wife need not know how much gear I have. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Lance Jensen says:

    Thanks for the review. I purchased one for my son’s graduation from WSU this weekend. I’m a very proud Papa.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      I’m sure you’re very proud, Lance. But you know, they’ll give anyone a diploma at the land grant university located in Whitman County. I know—my daughter got one recently. Congrats on the graduation and the new rod. He’ll dig it.

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