Text and images by Craig Smith
Stroud Tackle recently started stocking the new for 2023 Redington Wrangler series rods and combo kits. In the Redington lineup this series replaces the long lasting Path series rods and outfit combos. I opted to put a 6 wt though some testing, including fishing, and picked the Wrangler 690-4S rod as a subject. This rod is four sections as designated by the "-4". The "S" stands for saltwater which must means the rod has a fighting butt. There is also a 690-4 model without the fighting butt. I prefer to have a fighting butt on all of my 6wt rods. A 6wt rod is a good all around choice for local fresh and light saltwater fishing as well as fishing streamers, nymph rigs, and larger dry flies in rivers and lakes wherever one may go. While I tested a 690-4S model, all of the following comments would apply to the standard 690-4 model with the exception of the grip shape.
The main points:
I asked the Redington rep if this was just a Path rod in new clothing but he told me the tapers were different with the tips a bit softer compared to the Path series. In my testing I felt that indeed this was the case. It makes for a better rod for close distance fishing, especially for novice casters who are a primary target for this series of rods (though anglers of all skill levels may find the rods in this series pleasurable to use). The Wrangler Outfit Combo Kit comes with a rod, newest version of the Redington Crosswater reel, Rio Mainstream weight forward floating fly line, leader, backing, and a covered rod/reel case - everything an angler needs to get started on the water except for some flies and tools.
The rod blank is a glossy gray color with charcoal wraps and has an anodized black aluminum reel seat with the rod's line weight rating later etched on the top. Reel seats with wood inserts are pretty to look at but anodized aluminum will last longer and hold up to salty environments. There are alignment dots at the ferrules of each section to assist with assembly. A hook keeper is right in front of the grip. Redington describes the rods as having a medium-fast action and I concur. This is a good action for newbies to learn casting and it is a good action for an all purpose fly rods. The rod isn't as light as some other 6wt rods with fighting butts that I have, but those rods cost at least three times as much. The rod doesn't feel particularly heavy either. Redington doesn't list a weight (mass - in ounces) on their website. I didn't bother to put it on a scale. I tried more than a dozen different floating and sinking lines on the rod and spent some time fishing San Diego bay with it.
For most floating line work the rod performs well with a WF-6-F line. I tried the Cortland 444 Peach, Rio Mainstream, Rio Gold, and Rio Grand. The front 30 feet of the Mainstream is about 1/2 line weight heavier than the AFFTA standard and the Grand is a full line weight heavier. The rod has enough reserve power that you could go up to an 8wt line, even with the Grand, and cast bass bugs short to medium distances out to about 50 feet with no problems.
If you have a good casting stroke, the rod is pretty accurate at short to medium casting distances. With a floating line I had no problem hitting a 12” target out to about 50 feet away when there was no breeze. Even in a cross breeze measured at 8 mph with a handheld gauge I was able consistently hit the target at 40 feet. Most trout and panfish angling will be at this distance or closer. Beyond 50 feet I started to lose some of my accuracy with this rod. Was this the result of something in the rod design or was it due to a fault with my casting stroke? I don’t know. I didn’t become wildly inaccurate and accuracy is more difficult to maintain at long distances anyway. I was able make both positive and negative curve casts and aerial mends with no problem and execute various types of slack line casts with no issues.
With intermediate (slow) sinking lines I found a WF-7-I line to be better than a WF-6-I at short to medium distances as I have found to be the case with most graphite rods that I have used for the last 30 years. I would be comfortable with either size.
For 10 or 12 foot sink tip lines a WF-6-F/S or WF-7-F/S were fine ("F/S" stands for floating/sinking).
With full length sinking lines a WF-8-S seemed optimal, a WF-7-S ok, and a WF-6-S harder to cast unless I got about 35 to 40 feet of line outside the rod tip. Again, this matches my experience with other rods in the past. The first 30 ft of a WF-8-S line weighs about the same as the first 30 feet of many integrated shooting taper lines so I don’t consider this a negative observation on my part. All three sizes work well with the rod but my personal preference would be to go up at least one size from the rod’s rating when using a full length sinking line. Your preference may be different.
The rod handles heavy integrated shooting tapers just fine. The rod really responded well with a 24 or 30 foot 200 or 250 grain head line. I tested with a Teeny T-200 and Rio Avid 24 foot sink tip (older 200 grain or current 6/7 wt version) as well as an older Rio 200 grain Striper line. I also cast and fished with Rio Outbound Short 6wt lines with different sink rates. These are also integrated shooting taper lines. The Outbound Short 30 foot head weight is actually about 3 line weights above the AFFTA standard so you don't want to go up a line size with these. In fact, a 5wt Outbound Short also worked well with this rod. I still would opt for a 6wt Outbound Short line though. I had no problem launching 75 ft casts with any of the integrated shooting tapers I just called out. Even casters new to the sport can make longer casts with integrated shooting tapers than they usually can with standard weight forward lines. I didn’t try to cast any farther since longer casts are not necessary for most fly fishing. I have no doubt that I could have reached out farther if I wanted to.
Some nits to pick (none of which would keep me from recommending the rod):
- There is only one stripping guide on the 690-4S. I believe this can cut a few feet off distance that can be achieved. The single stripping guide is typical for 6wt and lighter rods in the lower price ranges so this is not a big gripe though it would be nice to have the second stripping guide.
- The rod seems to have a bit more swing weight (feeling a bit tip heavy) compared to rods that cost 2X or more. This is inline with similar priced sticks. This is not a deal breaker and I didn't notice it much when casting unless I was focusing my attention on that aspect of the rod’s behavior. I didn't find myself opening up formed line loops due to swing weight issues.
- The rod tip has a bit of bounce on recovery after the stop at the completion of the cast. I could see this sometimes when casting. It shows up more prominently in slow motion video. It is more noticeable when making long distance casts or using heavy sinking lines. This can cause some slack and loss of distance as the line shoots out. Still, the rod is less prone to this than most lower priced rods in the past. You might not even notice unless you compare against some rods that cost 2x to 3x as much or more.
Some nice features of note:
- The Wrangler has what I consider a better reel seat than the Redington Vice which costs $50 more. The Wrangler seat has two locking rings which secured tightly with finger tips. The Vice has only a single locking ring that I find difficult to secure tightly with my aging finger tips. The engraved line weight rating is a nice touch that will help quickly identify a rod if you have several lined up and ready to go. This is a feature that Redington has included with several of their rod series over the last few years.
- The softer tip compared to the Path was helpful for short casts and I think will help novice to intermediate anglers better feel the rod load. The Path rods were not bad, they too had good performance for value, I just think the Wrangler is an improvement.
- During a 4 hour session on San Diego Bay casting heavy lines none of the ferrules loosened up. I'm used to ferrules loosening with rods in the lower end of the price spectrum. Loose ferrules can lead to poor casts or broken rods so I check them regularly when fishing, no matter the cost of the rod. I didn’t have to re-seat any sections during the outing.
- The rod is finished nicely. The guide wraps were even and clean. The handle cork is lower quality with lots of filler compared to high end rods, but consistent with similarly priced current rods on the market and even some more costly models. I expect that the grip will last a long time. The 690-4S has a full well grip which I prefer to the reversed half wells on the standard 690-4 model. The full wells grip adds a swelled section in front that provides better thumb support for a long day of casting.
- I believe the Wrangler 690-4S is the lowest priced 6wt rod with a fighting butt. Yeah!
The sum up:
The rod works for me really well out to about 75 feet. That is plenty for most fly fishing. I can cast farther with it but that required a bit more work compared to my more expensive rods. If you are going to be primarily fishing in the 50-100 foot range the Redington Vice would be a better option but that's not typical for most folks.
During my time fishing with the rod it didn’t get in my way.
If you are going to be doing primarily panfish and trout fishing on small streams and small ponds the Redington Classic Trout series, which is the same price, might be a better choice as its more moderate action is often preferred by many for dry fly work. The Wrangler is a better all purpose rod though and would be fine for fishing dry flies, nymphs, streamers, and poppers. It is available 4wt through 8wt models, all 9 feet in length. There is also a 10 foot 7wt model that will appeal to some steelhead anglers.
The Wrangler series retails for $159.99 which is $30 more than the Path retailed for. It includes a covered rod tube with divided liner. In my opinion the improvements are worth the higher price even not accounting for economic inflation. The outfit combo kits retail for for $249.99 (saves about $60 over purchasing components separately). The 690-4S is only available as a separate rod and is not available in a combo kit.
The Wrangler 690-4S is a good all around rod for trout, bass, panfish, carp, and light saltwater work and I would be happy to take it as a backup for a flats bonefish trip where smaller bonefish are a primary quarry. Heck, if my primary rod was a higher end 7wt or 8wt and I wanted to have a 6wt along for smaller fish I would take it as my primary 6wt. I haven't tried all of the sub-$200 rods on the market, but I wouldn't consider any that I have tried to be better all purpose rods.
The other Wrangler models are also good rods for the price and worth your consideration if you are in search of a rod for less than $200, and maybe even if your budget is larger.