Sonik Sports SK3 XTR Long Term test
Sun 13 July 14
Northumberland based SONIK SPORTS have well and truly established themselves as one of the leading names in the UK rod market. This reputation has grown over the past five years based on the quality of performance and the exceptional value for money you get when you buy a set of SONIK rods. Over the past ten months the UKMA team have been out on the bank on numerous occasions, targeting big bream , barbel and carp, to see how well these stylish rods would perform in different angling situations. We tested them using different size and makes of reels and we loaded them with both mono and braided reel lines to see if the rods performed and handled different angling situations and tactics. After some severe usage over this period, the UKMA team are now in the position to off you the anglers an in depth users report on the SKRXTR 3 1/4 test curve rods.
The SK3XTR carp rods are the latest version of the original SK3 rods that were released some five years ago. The new generation take the range to a whole new level offering a far greater choice of option. The SK3XTR are built on a minimal matt-grey, multi-modulus, low resin carbon blanks, that produces a parabolic action which loads progressively to the tip, with 10% extra power in the butt section for those times when you really need it. They have been furnished with SONIKS very own Custom 18mm DPS reel seat, that we have tested and they will securely house all brands big pit and all larger sized free running reels. The SK3XTR rods feature double leg SIC guides throughout, for extra performance, strength and all round durability. You have a choice of either full cork or full duplon handle, with both options being finished off with gunmetal concave front and rear collars.
The Three Season, Three Venue Test
Part One – River Trent
As the majority of the specimen venues we fish on require either heavy terminal tackle or distance casting, we selected the 3.25lbs SK3XTR with full cork handle simply because we find full cork more comfortable, plus as tackle tarts they also look more traditional. We then took into consideration the best suited size rings to our angling and we opted for the 50mm butt ring option for two reasons. Firstly to reduce line slap on the internal of the butt ring which is essential when casting long distances and secondly because they give the rods a far more pleasing appearance on the buzzers. To see how these rods would perform chucking big gripper leads in access of 8ozs out whilst using braided reel lines. So we headed off to the tidal Trent near Newark in late June to give the SK3XTR’s a proper hammering, whilst trying to tame the resident big, hard fighting barbel that this awesome stretch of river has to offer.
On arrival we were greeted by the river running through like a rocket and 6 foot above normal levels at low tide, meaning if we wanted to present a static bait on the money, then at least 6ozs of lead would be the order of the day. We decided to use an Shimano 8000XTEA Baitrunner loaded with 15lbs braid as the low diameter of the braid will assist in reducing the rig being moved and towed by the fast, deep flowing water. After few exploratory casts we soon realised that a 10ozs lead or 8oz feeders would be the only way of keeping the rig static in these conditions, so the SK3XTR rods would seriously have to earn their keep casting these big weights around. So we tackled up and cast the rigs into the 16 foot deep hard flowing glide in preparation for hopefully one or two explosive takes, and we didn’t have to wait long for the first gentle six foot tap of the rod tip!
As we applied pressure to the fish the rod tip responded instantly by curving over to the relentless surge of the very aggressive beast at the other end. As more pressure was applied to turn the fish against the strong flow, the rod produced a flawless curve and this is when we felt the butt section kick in, producing a huge amount of controlled power that instantly turned the fish and after only a few seconds, we were now in control and very confident of landing the fish. Our major task was to get the fish away from the huge anti-erosion rocks that lined the margins, as the fish made its first attempt to snag the rig in this 16 foot high wall of sharp snags, pressure was applied and the fish instantly headed back into the main flow. This battle lasted for proximately 10 minutes and every time the fish made for the rocks, the rods power was used to raise the fish in the water and keep it away from the marginal hazard.
Although many barbel purist will tell you that these rods were well over-gunned for this style of angling, to be totally honest they performed perfectly and based on the condition of the river and the terminal tackle required to fish it, they performed superbly. They tamed this near double figure barbel perfectly and enabled me to land a few other fish by offering enough power to keep these hard fighting creatures away from the huge marginal snags that would have been a major problem on a standard 1.75 test curve specialist rod.
Part Two – The Lagoon, St Ives Lakes
Our next goal was to find out how the SK3XTR 3.25 test curve would perform on a 38 acre water n search of big bream, tench and hopefully a stunning Ouse valley carp in October. With large beds of marginal weed and depth up to 18 feet, this was far from being a runs water but with a bit of knowledge and good conditions, we felt confident that we would eventually trap one of the many big specimens that reside in this mature lake. After finding the spots with a marker rod, we decided to pre-bait two areas, one a silt bed at the back of a huge weed bed and the other was a small gravel area surrounded by silt. Both areas were roughly 75 yards out and around 90 yards apart. So with the two spots selected and pre-baited, it was now time to select the rigs and terminal tackle that would hopefully entice one of our target specimens into having a feed and hopefully take one of our hookbaits.
This session gave us the golden opportunity to also try out the SONK TOURNOS 8000 big pit reels for the first time. We loaded the reels with 16lbs Nash D-Camo line as this line offers superb anti abrasion properties that would be essential if we had to play fish of any size through the dense marginal weed beds that covered the margins in front of our swim. On the business end we set up three standard lead clip systems, loaded with 2.5oz leads, with three different presentations and rigs to establish what worked best to fool these cautious creatures. With our reel line clipped up to the spots and all three rigs loaded with bait, we proceeded to cast each rod out to its designated area. We loaded a 3 inch long stick on each rig which weighed roughly 2ozs each making our total casting weight 5 ounces which the rods cast out accurately with no effort at all.
The casting accuracy achievable with the SK3XTR 3.25 test curve was a good as any rod we have tested in this price category, although we were only casting roughly 75 yards the rod tip instantly recovered eliminating the reel line being restricted by unwanted tip bounce. The 50mm butt ring made casting of the 0.40mm diameter reel line to 75 yards a very easy affair and after the session I was able to cast the 3oz lead well over 130 yards even with heavy line. the session was also a very rewarding one, as i finally broke my bream PB by 4ozs, with a stunning 12lbs 6oz specimen that although not the hardest fighting fish I’m likely to catch, it definitely made for a few squeaky bum moments as it tried to bury me in the dense weed but the rod controlled the situation admirably.
Part Three – Abbey Lake (Cambridgeshire)
Our final test was to take the SK3XTR rods out for a winter work out on a five acre estate lake in rural Cambridgeshire. So in early December we headed off for a 36 hour stint in search of the stunning commons and mirrors who dwell in this tranquilly located irrigation reservoir. Yet again we paired the rods with the TOURNOS 8000 reels but this time we used 13lbs KRYSTON SNIDE reel line as it sinks perfectly and the clear green colour makes it near invisible in the tap clear water conditions we were going to be presenting our bait in. with simple rigs and single pop up hookbaits surrounded loose fed particle and a few chopped boilies we were hoping to simply get a bite as the temperature was near freezing during the day and below zero at night. Any bite in these conditions was going to be a real bonus so we set up shop, cast out and waited patiently for something to happen.
The main target area and a proven fish hold spot was at 80 yard down a shelf next to a massive bed of dormant bull rushes, fishing in 9 feet of water, the second rod was located down the middle of a deep channel that runs around the lake roughly 20 yards from the bank. Once clipped up we cast to the spots, once again our rigs landed straight on the money with the slightest of effort, even though we were casting into a 10 MPH head on wind. After what seemed an eternity (6 hours later) my rod located near the massive rush bed screamed off to the charge of a very surprise and even more angry carp. As soon as I leaned into the fish I was able to steer it out into the open water away from the snagging potentials of the huge marginal rushes and took control of the battle. After a scrappy battle that lasted a few minutes an upper double slid over the edge of the landing net, job done!!
Not the biggest fish in the lake by a long shot but taking into consideration the sudden drop in temperature and the first severe frost of the winter the night before, any bite was a bonus. Yet again the SONK SK4XTR3.25 test curve rods showed they were more than up to the job allowing e to take control of the running fish and them keep it exactly where I wanted it, in open water and as far away from any potential snags with total authority.
After several session, using numerous different reels and types of reel lines, whilst targeting many species of big fish. The UKMA team have discovered that the SK3XTR 3.25 test curve rods are a great all rounder. Yes they were slightly heavy for conventional barbel tactics but for the flood water conditions we faced, they proved to be the difference between being able to present a static bait and not.
For all still water situations they perform as well as many rods we have tested that would cost you twice as much. As for value for money, you’ll have to go a long way to match these stylish and very functional rods as all SONIK SPORTS dealers offer a buy two get one free deal, which means you should only have to pay roughly £300 for a set of three superb all round rods, that the UKMA team can highly recommend to any angler looking for versatility and superb all round performance from their rods.
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