HTO Shore Game 9’6” MLM 7-35g Lure Rod – Review

HTO, a sister brand of the UK tackle distributor and manufacturer TronixPro have been producing some excellent entry level lure rods for quite some time now.

However, it is with their new range of “Shore Game” rods that saw them step into the premium rod market, producing rods specifically designed for our Bass lure fishing here in the UK.

I first saw the rods in my local tackle shop Basstastic and fell in love with the range straight away, their 8’8″ felt sublime but was very similar to the Major Craft Skyroad I was using at the time so I held out to see what the 9’6 offered and if it would fit the criteria of a more powerful, longer rod that I could fish amongst the waves, while gaining further distances and control of my lures and really work where the Skyroad seemed to tail out towards the 20g+ range. I had the cash spare and decided “bugger it”…a  week later the rod arrived and from day one of owning it was challenged to “earn its stripes”.

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A slim handle is used that fits in the hand well

First impressions are that the finish is sublime.

Something that can often be worrying when picking up some modern rods is the light, almost flimsy feel that can sometimes give a feeling of being weak and un-durable to the inexperienced. With these Shore Game rods, all questions of this are washed from your mind once you see and feel the quality of carbon used, these are mega light rods and no idea of “flimsy” can even come to mind, emphasised with its unground finish akin to the finish of premium beach casters giving a feel of the quality workmanship and durability of the rod.

So how is the rod to fish with?

Having owned the rod since June 2016 and having spent countless hours fishing out fishing with it, I can confidently say that for me fishing exposed rocky coastlines the rod is nothing short of superb to fish with.I’ve always stuck around the eight to nine-foot mark for my lure rods, finding that this length suits my needs perfectly, but since fishing with this rod, I would place myself on the 9′-9’6 bandwagon, finding that a little extra length can go a long way (no pun intended). I find the length of a 9’6 especially useful when it comes to fishing round exposed rocks and shallow ground that I so often find myself fishing, helping with added leverage and ability to steer fish once hooked.

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An early season Bass that nailed a DoLive fished slow on the Shore Game

The casting rating for the rod is spot on, it has been my go-to for two seasons and despite feeling very fast and poker on the initial wiggle, it launches small soft plastics such as Spindle Worms and DoLive Sticks with ease. I thought that with this rod I may be compromising the distances I can put soft plastics and lighter lures due to it feeling more suited to hard plastics when it arrived. Wow, I couldn’t have been more wrong, I will happily swing and retrieve soft plastics on this rod all day long (or night as is often the case with my fishing), I can put them as far as I need and still have a good amount of feel as to what’s going on the other end transmitted back down the rod. However, where this rod really comes into its own for me and why it suits my fishing so well, is for launching hard plastics and larger surface lures such as my beloved Patchinko to the horizon and into turbulent water, no joke catch it right on this rod and your jaw will drop.

Another strength of the rod is bumping weighted soft plastics such as x-layers and Fiiish Black Minnows around in a flow of current, a tactic I find myself doing a lot both here in the UK and Ireland. In fact, it was during a trip to Ireland fishing a well-known mark with a run of current that I hooked is still to this day the best fight I have had off a Bass. I was letting my x-layer swing round in the flow as every bump and trundle of the lure was being transmitted to my hand with every shockwave down the rod feeling it skipping along the ridges in the sand when…WHACK a plumb near on 8lber took off in the current before kiting across the breaking waves and thrashing its bucket mouth on the surface. The real power in the rod could be felt here as the couple knots of current raged past me with the Bass using this to its full advantage. Yes, I could have caught the fish on any rod but man was I glad it was my Shore Game allowing me to have the backbone and assertive power over the Bass to bring it in both tame and within a safe time to avoid exhausting the fish.

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An Irish Bass while bumping a weighted soft plastic on the 9’6 SG

A review wouldn’t be fair though without giving the rod some constructive feedback and having fished with it for so long I feel I am in a good position to give my opinions on improvement.

Firstly I have a real love-hate relationship with the foregrip…it is the perfect length for the way I hold a rod (three fingers above the reel one below) and I love the way they have cut it with a curve to fit in the hand. When you start fishing with it at the start of the session it is superb, it is only after a while on surface lures that it begins to slightly bug me, you see it is quite a slim handle and what I personally find is that the slimness leaves me gripping quite tight with my hand and cramp starts to set in, but nothing a few minutes rest can cure but the only thing that for me makes it not quite 100% perfect. I also have a small issue with the finish to the butt of the rod, an overhanging lip of cork has been used and with the amount of wading I do, what I found was that when I force the rod into the belt of my bumbag to unhook fish the cork was chipping away and left it looking unfortunate.

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One other area where the rod is slightly lacking is with small surface lures such as the IMA Pugachev Cobra and Xorus Patchinko 100, it launches them with absolute ease, but the fast tip sometimes leaves you wanting that little extra softness to suit these little lures and keep them skipping along. However, if I wanted a rod to excel solely with these I would have gone for the 8’8 and have no doubt that is what it was designed to fit the gap for.

These are minor things I felt worth mentioning and the cork issue can simply be solved by cutting the cork flush to the butt and giving a thin coat of superglue along the edge to prevent chipping as I recommended to my friend Sam who has not had to encounter the same problem.

 

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Stunning FUJI Titanium Torzite guides are used throughout the Shore Game range

 

To me, this rod was the perfect step from my much loved Major Craft Skyroad and the right balance of power and feel for my fishing. It is 90% close to being the perfect lure rod for me. I respect the testing and thought that HTO put choosing the supplier for the blanks. With credit to the HTO team who fished hard with it for over a year before its release, pushing it hard and trying a few different blanks over the development period.

I love fishing with the rod knowing that I am supporting a UK based company so keen to push the UK Lure Fishing scene and as always the customer care from HTO is superb. I have heard rumours that there is a 9’3 model soon to be launched and I am eagerly waiting with baited breath to see how this compares and fishes. Although I can’t see me parting with this 9’6 anytime soon.

You can find the rod for sale in the UK from:

Art of Fishing

Lure Hub

Veals

…and many more, to find your local HTO retailer click here.

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