Review of Okuma Helios Fishing RodsReview of Okuma Helios Fishing Rods A detailed review of the Okuma Helios series of fishing rods. Very detailed and in-depth!
By Gary Kilmartin
I finally got a chance to try out this new rod from Okuma, the HS-CM-701M. This is the very first rod from this company to find it's way into my hands. Okuma sent this rod to me for evaluation, so evaluate I shall. I really did not have any expectations; just a kind of "let's see what it has" approach.
Well, this rod offers a lot. First, this is Okuma’s top of the line rod; the lightest power stick in the Helios five rod lineup, which will cover most of the contact techniques in play today. There is no true BFS rod in the series, and no large swimbait capable stick. The Helios series seems to be all about the vertical, bottom contact techniques. I think they hit that target dead center. There is one moderate fast rod in the series.
First; this is a nice looking stick. Straight blank, guides in alignment, tight wraps, neat epoxy, and everything is fitted together well. The rear EVA grip is nicely sculpted and not too short, which has come to be an issue these days. The EVA butt grip is a useful size. The entire seat/grip/handle assembly is a perfect length. Not too long, There are some nicely fitted metal checks and trim pieces, giving the rod a JDMesque look. All in all, an above average build for a factory rod.
Alps mini guides are used from stripper to tip. These are my favorite mini guides. I just cleaned out Anglers Workshop of their stock of these guides for a few upcoming rod builds. These are the guides I use for my own rods, and are what I use unless a customer specifies otherwise.
A Fuji EZKeeper hook keeper is installed just in front of the seat. I like these, and think it's about time a manufacturer started putting these on their rods. I like being able to put a hook keeper where I want it. I've moved it to behind the rear grip, where I think it belongs, for what I intend to use the rod for.
The reel seat is my only complaint about the rod. It's a Pac Bay Minima seat. I do not like split reel seats. I find them to be uncomfortable for long term use. I will give Okuma props for trimming away the excess threads. With a reel mounted there are no threads showing in front of the seat, and a nice tapered winding check, smoothly integrated into the build, making this much more comfortable in hand.
The rod's ratings are; 1/4-5/8oz lure, 8-17lb line, medium power and fast action. I tend to take these things with a grain of salt. I prefer to find out for myself just what a particular rod is good for, and that's what I did with this one. I tried a few different reels, and a variety of baits.
First up was a Daiwa PXR spooled with 6lb test Invisx line. I wanted to test the lower end of the lure range. Tied on a 4/0 light wire EWG hook, t-rigged a straight worm, and trimmed it down until I had a bait/hook combo that weighed 0.25 ounces. No problem casting that. So, I started cutting pieces off the end of the worm and tested casting to find the real bottom end of the rod's capability. When I got to the point where the worm was just barely long enough to still be rigged I stopped. The rod was still loading and casting the bait nicely. It weighed 0.17 ounces. A bare 1/8oz jighead was too light to load the rod. So, 1/4oz was good; 3/16oz was good. 1/8oz was not. On the top end, a 1/2oz tandem spinner bait, with out trailer was about as heavy as I would go with this rod. Casting this weight was no problem. Retrieving that bait put a pretty good bend in the rod, so I would not say it's good for that. A 3/8oz double willow spinner bait was ok. Right in the sweet spot for this rod was the 4/0 hook, and a 4" senko, Yum Houdini shad, Super Fluke, a Poor Boys tube with 1/8oz internal weight, and an unweighted 6" fat Robo worm. All baits in my don't leave home without list.
Next up was a Daiwa SS SV, spooled with 8lb test Supernatural mono. Then an Alphas 103 R spooled with 10lb Tatsu. Got pretty much the same results.
With the Minima seat, the PXR and Alphas are really too small to be very comfortable. The SS SV has a permanent home on a rod I built specifically for it, so I needed to find a reel for this rod. I tried a Fuego and a TDZ. Both felt better in my hands. Also tried a ZIllion; an original ZIllion, not the new version. That reel felt fine except for the weight. It seems a shame to saddle such a light rod ( 3.3 ounces on my scale) with such a heavy reel. The TDZ is probably going to get the nod.
I also tried a lipless crank, a medium depth crank and a jerkbait. The rod is right at the edge of being too long for jerkbaits, in my hands, but as long as I was standing at the end of my dock, it was fine. I would be too long when walking the bank, but should be fine off a boat. This makes for a nice jerkbait rod. The tip section is fast enough to impart the action I like, but soft enough to keep a fish pinned on a treble hook.The only fish I caught on one outing was on the X-Rap, and it stayed buttoned up through three jumps. A shallow crankbait would also be fine on this rod. A deep crank would not. The DT-10 I tried put a pretty good bend in the rod while retrieving, giving a labored feel, so I did not bother trying a deeper crank.
OK; now for the subjective stuff. This is a very light weight rod. 3.3 ounces on my scale. It is very crisp in hand. The split grip, split seat, and mini guides all contribute to this light, crisp feel. Sensitivity is very, very good. Even with mono, I had no problem decoding what my bait was doing or coming in contact with. It has a medium power rating, and I'd say this is spot on. A Loomis medium, not a St Croix medium, if you know what I'm saying. They call it fast action. I'd say it was just a bit towards a mod-fast action, in a good way.
I've become a lot more fond of mod-fast action rods in recent years. I think a mod-fast rod is a lot more versatile than a fast action rod. And I don't care much for extra-fast action rods except for just a couple of specific techniques. The 8 - 17lb line rating might be deceiving. When using the reel with 6lb line, i had no sense that I had too much rod for the line, or too light a line for the rod. I wouldn't try #4, but 6 felt fine. I did not push the upper end at all. I determined quickly what I would be using this rod for, thus felt no need to try any bait or technique requiring heavier line that 10. I did get hung up a couple of times, and decided to put the rod through a stress test, and just pulled back on it to put a deep flex in the blank. I broke off the 8lb mono. At the point where the line snapped, there was a pretty deep flex in the rod. I personally would not use 17lb line with this rod.
The bottom line is; this rod has found a permanent place in my quiver. I'll have a TDZ, or a Fuego mounted on it, spooled with #10 Tatsu, and will be throwing a Super Fluke or Houdini shad. The rod is perfect for that, but is versatile enough to make the cut when I'm out in my yak. I only take two rods on a yak trip, so they need to be multi purpose sticks.
I built a rod rack into my Jeep which holds eight rods against the roof, and out of the way. Which eight depends on where I'm going and when. But about half of the eight are always the same. This is going to be one that is always along for the trip. I can't give it any higher praise than that.
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