Sage ONE: a review

I’d been wanting to test cast the new Sage ONE ever since hearing about it a few months ago, but due to high demand in the world of rod reviewers I had to wait my turn. Recently on a particular Wednesday I learned that it was my time. Two days later it showed up via my favorite brown parcel delivery van. That’s the kind of power and influence the Unaccomplished Angler has. Or it could just be that Bainbridge Island-based Sage manufacturing is only a short ferry ride from Seattle, and Seattle is only 25 miles from the testing facilities of the Unaccomplished Angler. Whatever the case may be, I wasn’t expecting the rod to arrive so quickly. After opening the box I took a few moments to stare at the pieces that I held in my hands. To clarify, the rod was not broken into pieces during shipping; all was as it should be. I just wanted to take it all in for a bit before piecing the rod together. The ONE is aesthetically easy on the eyes; understated, but with a certain cool factor. The blank is “black ice”with bronze-toned wraps. A walnut and bronze-colored, aluminum anodized up-locking reel seat. Chrome plated guides.

What? Another Review?

There are many reviews out there for this rod, with more likely being added daily. So how is another review beneficial to you, the reader? Many reviews will regurgitate the same information, and regardless of what the reviews say, all are subjective and may mean nothing to you. Casting any rod is the only way for the individual to know if it’s the right one for you.  In this review I will draw comparisons between the ONE and my Z-Axis that I’ve had since the Z was first introduced. Since the ONE is replacing the Z-Axis the comparison makes sense in that regard. For me personally, it makes even more sense because I absolutely love my Z-Axis. It’s my go-to trout rod that I begrudgingly set aside only when conditions call for a 6 weight. For a 4 wt rod, the Z has a lot of backbone so I use it most of the time. If I were going to be replacing it, the ONE would be a natural rod to consider.

Kicking Tires

Anyone who has ever grabbed a rod knows that the old “wiggle test” really tells you nothing meaningful about the rod’s casting characteristics. It’s akin to kicking tires when you go to look at a new car. But it’s something most of us do, so once I assembled the ONE of course I gave it the old wiggle test. The rod I wiggled was a 486-4, meaning it’s a 4wt, 8’6″ 4 section rod. At 2-7/16 ounces it felt not-surprisingly light in the hand. My Z Axis 490-4 (9 foot, 4 piece), at 3-1/6 ounces, is a little heavier than the ONE but the difference could not be noticed from my perspective. The Z-Axis  has a reversed half wells grip that I am very accustomed to, so obviously the ONE, with its full wells grip, felt different (not a bad thing). The full wells grip will make the rod more comfortable in large hands (not a problem for me). The side-by-side wiggle test did reveal that the ONE is stiffer than the Z-Axis–there is noticeably more flex down the shaft of the rod with the Z. But both are considered fast action rods.

Out on the Lawn

I’d read about the incredible tracking and accuracy of the ONE and was eager to get it out on the lawn. There’s been a lot of talk about Konnetic™ technology, whatever that is. And Sage uses the tagline, “Accuracy Redefined” to describe the ONE, which is said to have virtually no lateral or torsional movement. I was curious to see if I would notice, or better yet–if I could defy those claims. I decided I would grip the rod incorrectly with my thumb to the inside, and break my wrist (not literally, mind you) to see if I could thrown some line off course. Then I gripped the rod properly, with my thumb aligned down the spine of the rod, locked my wrist and employed proper technique. I noticed two things: First, casting poorly comes easily to me; secondly, the ONE does a very good job of maintaining a true course. In other words, I noticed that it does have very little lateral movement and the energy seems to flow in a straight line, as is intended. But if you use improper technique you will not get the casting results you want, even with the ONE.

While not an apples comparison due to the additional 6 inches of length with the Z-Axis, I was able to cast equal amounts of line with the ONE. The lawn casting session revealed that in my unaccomplished hands, the ONE felt very similar and yet different than the old Z-Axis. I definitely felt more flex down the blank with the Z, but that’s not to suggest that the ONE is anything resembling a broomstick. On the contrary, due to it’s slim profile you can definitely feel it load, and it does so quickly. But lawn casting isn’t the ultimate test for a fly rod–getting it out on the water, actually fishing it was what needed to happen next. For the record and much to my dismay, while lawn casting I did not hook up with a single Lawn Trout.

One fishy rod

Fortunately within a week I had an opportunity to test the rod on the water and off to the Yakima River I went, with the ONE cradled safely within the rod tube for my Z-Axis (the demo rod didn’t come with a tube). I will say that while no rod will make you a better caster, the ONE may make you a better angler. At least this ONE might because I caught a nice rainbow within 5 minutes of the put-in. Believe me, that doesn’t happen very often (if ever) on the Yakima. I landed half a dozen fish on this day: enough to discover that quick hook sets are a snap due to the tip flex of the ONE. And when the fish put their noses down in some heavy current, the rod flexed enough that I enjoyed playing the fish. The tip is quite sensitive such that the 5X tippet was well protected. Casting my weight forward line with a large single dry fly or a large single dry fly with a dropper was a easy. One thing I’ve always really liked about my Z-Axis is the rod’s ability to pick up a lot of line off the water and get it moving in the air quickly.  The ONE did not disappoint in this regard. The wind blows often on the Yakima and thankfully it wasn’t much of an issue on this particular day. Still, it blew for a while and the ONE punched through the gusts in fine form. The rod put my fly where I wanted it to go and did so very efficiently. By the end of the day I felt that while perhaps not quite an extension of my arm (as Sage says), the ONE felt like an old friend: very similar to my Z-Axis, but different. A bit more nimble perhaps? Casts that really were right on track? I don’t want to say too much for fear of pissing off my Z-Axis, which has been very good to me and I need to continue being good to me for years to come. It was bad enough that I left the Z at home and borrowed it’s rod tube for this day on the water with the ONE. If I say anything else flattering about the ONE, I’m likely to regret it.

Premium rod

With a retail price of $715, the rod as tested is going to cause many to roll their eyes and make snide remarks. Others will openly admit they wish they could afford it and will hold out for the time when they either win the lottery or the ONE can be found on the used market. And then there will be those who will buy the rod without blinking an eye. Me? I’m not parting with my Z-Axis any time soon, but after my kids are both done with college in a few years I may have some disposable income once again. Then I’ll go shopping for a ONE.

If you’d like one of two free Sage ONE hats, quickly head over to my Unaccomplished Angler Facebook page and leave a comment where indicated.



  1. Derek Young

    Well, you were on my boat – that’s why you caught a fish in the first 5 minutes. Good, honest review though.

    • Kirk Werner

      True dat, Derek. I could have given you props for the fish, but since Sage was paying me big bucks to conduct the review so the emphasis needed to be on the rod. Thanks again for that great day on the water.

  2. Sanders

    Onederful review! Sounds like a winner. I’m a Scott man myself, but might have to go the shop and give this One a good wiggle.

    I hope your Z-Axis doesn’t give you the cold shoulder after you shunned her for the little test on the Yakima. It reminds me of yelling “car ride”, and having both dogs run to the door really excited. Then having to watch CiCi drop her head and shoulders as I tell her that it’s only the two bulls going on the ride…

    • Kirk Werner

      Thanks for the comment, Sanders…a strange thing, this loyalty to different rod manufacturers. I’ve cast Scotts and Winstons and Orvis and Loomis, etc and they are all excellent rods. For whatever reason I fancy myself a Sage guy. I’m thinking that any day now they’re going to put me on their pro staff ask me to please distance myself from their brand, at least publicly. I recommend you don’t wiggle the ONE.

  3. Mysticfish

    Not sure how good the ONE is if you could not raise at least 1 lawn trout, but I think its clear that it is slightly improved, as all new models should be. Looks like ONE more rod I’ll have to get or maybe several. Just when I was thinking my TCX’s were the bomb, Sage ONE upped the ante. The ONE will likely be the best for at least a couple more years and then what, the ONE.2 or the ONEx?

    Note: For more consistent lawn sport, try putting some peanut butter on your dry fly and go for squirrel.

    • Kirk Werner

      Fred, I’m going to take your advice and try a little PB (Peanut Butter) next time. Should work since rubbing a little PB (Power Bait) on my fly always seems to help when on the water. But don’t tell anyone because that’s not only unethical, but illegal, and I’ve already got a record. I think they may have to do as you’ve noted in the future and designate versions of the ONE. Like Microsoft has done with Windows. Only hopefully better.

  4. Patrick

    Don’t know about this…if it’s such a ONEderful rod, putting one in my hands would mean all the blame for the ugly casting would fall squarely on my shoulders…

    • Kirk Werner

      Kinda makes you ONEder if one shouldn’t perhaps stick with crappy rods so that we have a place to lay the blame for our horrible casting skills, eh?

  5. cofisher

    Good review. While I have to admit that I’m a Sage fan and have owned several, you know I fish with that crappy outdated fiberglass. See what you can do, will you Kirk? I’d love to own a Sage glass rod.

    • Kirk Werner

      Thanks for the comment, Howard–I’ll see what I can do. As you know I have great power of influence with Sage (and many other big players in the industry). Perhaps I can convince them to produce a new glass rod just for people like you. What to call it? Sage Windknot? Sage 1949? Or perhaps the Sage TWO?

      • Fred Telleen

        I like the “Sage Windknot”. Now that’s just really funny.

  6. chuck

    Actually the wiggle test tells me a lot about a rod immediately. I can tell if its stiff in the butt section and how whippy the tip is! This does reveal something about how it will perform! The difference when I wiggle my TCR is noticeably different than my old SP!
    Having said that; Sage is like all other companies; they gotta keep ya jumping through the next hoop to sell the new rods. In my humble opinion the XP was as good a rod as has ever been built and anything after that in terms of technology is lost on the average angler. Most guys don’t fish enough to be able to cast a fast rod like a XI2 or a TCR. The high modulus fast rod paradigm is probably irrelevant for the average guy! I bet most guys will cast better with a slower rod anyway! So, the new rods are great if ya can cast a fast rod but most guys don’t need one of these fancy rods , frankly! Go buy an XP on ebay and save yourself a fortune!

    • Kirk Werner

      Stop being argumentative, Chuck–this is my blog and what I say goes. If you don’t like it you can just get off my property! Wiggling gives a certain sense of how the rod may feel, but there’s no substitute for lining it up and putting it through the works. I will give you credit for being right about one thing: most will cast a slower rod better. Oh, and we also agree on the XP. I’m a huge fan and have them in 6 and 8 wts. The 10 foot 8 wt is a great steelhead nymphing rod, except that I don’t nymph for steelhead.

  7. TC/The Trout Underground

    So how come nobody accuses *you* of being a company shill when you do a rod review?

    It seems unfair.

    Anyway, nice review. It’s hard to compare an 8.5′ rod with a 9′ model (8.5′ always feels so much lighter and quicker) , though I have to wonder out loud why you didn’t simply send the 9′ z-axis back to Sage.

    If you’re caught, you can gasp and pretend innocence. But there’s always that chance they’ll just think it was their mistake (or a rod sent back for repair).

    You’re a good writer, but I’m starting to wonder if you’ve got the kind of deviousness needed to be a successful blogger…

    • Kirk Werner

      Because nobody takes me seriously, Tom. I’m like the village idiot whereas certain others are more akin to the governor. With great power and influence comes some seemingly unfair criticism so you’re just going to have to accept that. Thanks for suggestions…You’re giving me a lot of good ideas about how I can mature as a blogger. Do you sell How-To tapes on the Trout Underground? I’d be interested in buying in.

      • TC/The Trout Underground

        Clearly, you need to watch my “10 Top Most Devious Tips For Blogging Success (Including Creating a Fake Family & Pet So Everyone Won’t Realize You’re Basically The Unabomber With a Fly Rod)” Tape.

        A best seller…

        • Kirk Werner

          Where can this tape be purchased, other than on the black market or via a back alley, face-to-face, cash-only transaction. You don’t have to answer that.

  8. Chuck Atkins

    Touchy , touchy! Geeeezzzzzzz! Ultimately, I think the sales pitch for all these new high modulus , fast rods does a disservice to the average angler! I catch most of my fish within 40 to 60 feet! I use an old SP almost all the time! I have faster rods but I rarely need them. I think they discontinued the TCR because nobody could cast it! I put a streamer express line on it – over-lined significantly……..I love it!

    • Kirk Werner

      Sorry I was a little tense that day. I don’t necessarily see that faster rods are for casting farther- they just match a different casting stroke. For those amped up on Mountain Dew, a faster action rod fits their stroke better than it would for someone on quaaludes. Yes, a faster action rod MAY allow a person to keep more line in the air, but for me that’s secondary. As you noted, who needs to cast beyond 60 feet? Maybe some people, not me.

  9. Stephen

    Thanks for the very practical hands on review of the new One rod. Nicely done.

    • Kirk Werner

      Stephen, thanks for stopping by with the comment- I’m glad you found some value in my review.

  10. Bart aka Porter (WFF)

    One vs. XP in 6-7-8-9 weight? The Z-A was nice in certain weights i thought, mainly 5 and below….Have you compared the ‘One’ to the Xecptional Performer rod in 6 and above? I have not, just curious if you have. I’m stuck on XP 6 weights above…This is the only rod that I have casted that feels fast but has that dam sweet flipant tip the just shoots line no-ones business. The rod is very good to great at fighting fish too….. I need to cast a One before I spout to much.

    • Kirk Werner

      Porter, nice to see you here in the kitchen of the UA. I’ve not done a comparison of The ONE to the XP. As you know, I also fancy myself a fancier of the XP though not to the obsessive extent of some others ;). My thoughts on the Z vs XP are as follows: I love my Z in 4wt, but have never cast an XP less than 6 wt. I like my XP 6 weight more than my Z 6 weight. I really liked the ONE in 4wt and will have one some day. I think the tip sensitivity and firm backbone make the ONE more like the XP than perhaps the Z, although rods can vary so much through the weight designations…I do know that I would like to find an XP in a 7 weight 4 piece just to have for when my 6wt is too little and my 8wt too much. You really should cast a ONE. Then again, maybe you shouldn’t…Thanks for stopping by.

      • Porter

        Dang…just bought an 896 One ….Let you know. Gotta unliad a couple to house it if it passes the mustard.

        • Gísli

          So, how is the ONE 896 holding up? This is the type I’m thinking about for my Atlantic salmon single handed fishing as well as seatrout.

          • Kirk Werner

            Sorry, I can’t speak to the 896 as I have never cast it. I would imagine that in an 8 weight single hander, the ONE would be great for throwing big bugs to big fish. It’s a bit stiff, in my opinion, in lighter weights.

          • Gísli

            Thanks Kirk, nice review by you, but I was hoping the Porter guy had registered listening to responses to his comment where he said he just bought the 896

  11. Ron Pippin

    I have been eyeballing the ONE since they came out, I’ve thrown a Z-Axis 5 wt. for quite a few years and really love the balance and weight of the rod. If my son isn’t fishing with me I grab his Z and use it for my second set up. I had the opportunity to have a custom ONE built by Dan Delekta in Montana with custom burl wood and really nice thread work. Not that I could afford it but just have a hard time not buying nice rods, it tends to keep me in the dog house, my only excuse is that it is healthy and fishing is good for the heart and soul. I have found the ONE to be a little easier to control in the wind than the Z and still have the SAGE light feel…..I really like the Sage ONE.

    • Kirk Werner

      I’m in agreement- the ONE is a sweet rod. I love my Z-Axis 4 weight too much to retire it just yet. By the time I’m ready, Sage will have something even better than the ONE. I have no idea what they’ll call it though…

      • Mike

        They’ll call it Sage X. But I bet that you’re not done with your Z-Axis just yet…

        • Kirk Werner

          I’ve heard good things about the new X, but you are correct. I’ve been rotating my 4 weight Z-Axis with the 4 weight Sage Accel that I picked up a couple years ago. They’re very nearly interchangeable without noticing much of a difference—I like them both and see no need for a new rod any time soon.

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